Jan/Feb 2002  •   Spotlight


by Duncan White

Jane came running in. She looked very afraid. Jane is about six or seven.

Ed looked at her.

"What is it?"

"It's Molly," she said.

I watched Jane. She stood still and looked at Ed across the table. Ed and I were sitting at the table. Ed put down his drink.

"What about Molly?" he said.

Jane looked at Ed. She wouldn't look at me.

I looked back past Jane through the door. The door led outside. It was getting dark.

"I don't know," she said.

"What do you mean?"

"It's Molly," she said again. Jane still looked very afraid. "I think it's Molly."

"Alright," said Ed. He stood up. "Show me."

Ed was a tall man. And standing there, he made Jane look very small. He walked past Jane. Then stopped.

"Where?" he said.

Jane turned and walked ahead of him. They were heading for the door.

I stood up and followed.

Jane was standing outside, not far from the open door. Ed stood beside her. It was dark but the light from inside helped us see.

I looked around. There was no Molly. Molly was their cat.

They were still looking at the ground.

I went over.

Ed looked at me and winked. Jane was looking at the floor. She didn't see Ed wink.

A dead rat was on the ground between them. It was a large rat. And it was dirty. In the bad light its fur looked sticky and blue.

The rat's belly was open. You could see its insides.

"Molly did it," Jane said.

Ed nodded.

"Do you think she did?" Jane said.

I looked at Ed.

"Yes," he said.

Jane looked down again.

"We'll have to bury it," Jane said.

Ed looked at me. Then he looked at Jane. It was cold out there. I could see Ed's breath.

"Bury it?" he said.

Jane looked up at Ed.

"We have to," she said.

"I see," said Ed.

He crouched to look at the rat more closely. I don't know why. Jane looked at her father crouching beside the rat.

Then Ed stood up.

He looked around. Ed saw something. He walked into the dark of the small garden. He came back with a shovel.

In the day, the shovel leant against the wall.

"I'll get a stick," Jane said.

She disappeared.

Ed stooped and got the rat up on the shovel.

"Want to help?" he said.

"No," I said.

He grinned.

Jane was back with a stick. And they walked together toward a bank in the dark by the wall.

I went inside. Sat back down. It was cold with the door open. But I left it like that.

I didn't look at anything.

Then Molly came in. She was a large tabby with big black spots. The spots looked like bruises.

She walked across the floor.

Then she stopped. She looked at me. I looked back. She looked like a cat that had just killed a rat.

She kept on walking.

I sat there. Then Jane came in. She didn't have the stick.

"We buried it," she said.

"Well done," I said.

"Did Molly come in?"

"No," I said.

She looked at me.

Then she walked off the same way Molly had gone. Jane would find the cat. After all, she had found the rat.

Ed didn't come back in.

I looked at my watch. It was late. I stood up. Went over to the door and looked outside.

Ed was sitting there. On the step. He was smoking.

I looked at him.

"Ground's frozen," he said. "We didn't bury it very deep. I'll have to dig it up."

I nodded.

He looked at me. Then looked away.

"Jane stuck her stick in the ground. It meant a lot to her."

"Right," I said.

Ed looked at the dark. It was very dark. He went on smoking.

I didn't sit down. I looked at my watch. I had to go.

The cat had been proud of the rat she'd caught. You could tell. Jane had been horrified. Burying it had helped.

Ed would have to dig it up. I said goodbye.

And Ed kept on smoking. I left Ed sitting there not thinking about the rat, the cat, or any of it.