Jennifer O'Riordan

The Screeching Of Cats In Thessalonica: Jennifer O’Riordan

The Screeching of Cats in Thessalonica

There was a big storm here last night.
And another one due tonight.
And tomorrow night. And the next night.
There are loads of cats that hang around here.
A big lustrous black cat, a healthy looking white one,
two marmalades—one skinny and miserable looking,
the other one bold. There is also a multi-patterned fluffy
black and grey cat, who sets up shop beneath the post box.
There are others as well. They are wild but apparently
there are four people who come to the neighborhood
to feed them. People who don’t live here.
So the bottom line is: The cats are well fed
and don’t have to hunt for food. I’m not a cat fan,
but I thought, sure they will keep mice and rats away.
But I guess they won’t if they’re being fed till they’re stuffed.

Anyway, last night I woke up, wondering why I was awake,
only to hear the screeching of cats. It was awful, banshee-like.
Then of course I was wide awake. And then, the storm: the thunder,
the lightning. I’m admitting to you I was rendered
unsettled. I was imagining the ancient Greeks
and how they believed the thunder and lightning
were created by the gods in their anger,
roaring and hurling down the crackling and thundering
of sound and light. I could understand why they thought that.

Then some of the doors in this house
started to bang and bang, and bang again.
I thought what in the name of god
am I doing here? None of the doors in the house
in America ever banged. Ever. (Because there was no wind,
of course). So I lay awake, thinking scary thoughts from 2 to 5 a.m.

I fell half asleep eventually only to get up at 7a.m.
I am looking forward to going home to Ballinora,
to my parents, and just sleeping there.

Jennifer O’Riordan, originally from Cork, Ireland, now lives in Greece. Until 2019, she was the Assistant Director of Irish Studies at Catholic University, where she also taught French and Irish.