- La Gata
After we rented the rambling shack in Costa Rica where the ocean at high tide lapped our outdoor dining room floor, a feral tabby moved in with her three kittens. Gringos ate better meat, which meant better scraps. She never allowed me to touch her, but when she wasn’t off hunting, she lay within ten feet from wherever I sat. She punished her kittens when they attempted to get to know me and vice versa. Whatever she scrounged or killed, she fed first to her kittens. Her most impressive kill was a poisonous sea snake. She not only dragged the serpent up from the surf, but up the open staircase to the balcony outside our bedroom. Whenever I tried to sweep it off, she would attack me, so for four days, I skirted the bloody shrinking carcass. Her defense of her kittens was vicious. When a dog ambled by, she would sneak up on it, like a cougar, gaining speed for her pounce on the surprised dog’s flank. Bystanders laughed while the dog whimpered under her strong claws. The native Ticos called her La Gata, an honorific to distinguish this she-cat from an ordinary el gato. Later, when she became pregnant, she watched me through breakfast, waiting for me to put my plate down with a bit of leftover egg. Her kittens, grown to adolescence, still ate before she did. She birthed her new litter in my kitchen cabinet. The day after her kittens were born, she killed them, and forced their older siblings to eat them. She finished what they left. [End Page 30]
Sara Backer, author of the novel, American Fuji, has been awarded Norton Island and Djerassi Artist Residencies. Her recent poems, stories, and plays are out or forthcoming in Gargoyle, The Pedestal Magazine, Clockhouse Review, Ellipsis, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. She lived in Costa Rica in the early 1980s and still misses the beach.