Translated by Rusanka Ljapova
The woman shouted joyously:
- Hey, there's Lola!
- I told you he'd come back - a voice replied from inside the house.
- He always comes back.
The man came out onto the threshold and held out his hand to take the dishes that his wife was carrying. He smiled at her:
- Tomcats always come back for their slice of meat, you should know that much about us.
She responded with one of those smiles the full meaning of which is understood only by people sharing the same bed. They both stood there for a while, as if in a freeze-frame, watching their big yellow tomcat. He was finishing his meal loudly and voraciously. Then, presumably feeling full up, he turned abruptly away from his bowl and started licking himself meticulously. He licked his paw first, and then slid it over his entire lithe body. He contorted impossibly, managing to touch even the remotest parts of his back, belly and tail with his tongue.
- He looks OK - the woman said.
- He appears to be in one piece, his ears and eyes are all in place, his tail is intact, Mr Lola seems to have got away with it this time as well.
- Why, of course - her husband said entering the house.
- You worry about him too much. I'll make us some coffee.
The woman went back to the table, in the shade of the tall linden-tree. It was a warm April day. There were tulips and narcissi all around, it was their time to bloom. She looked at the bushes that needed pruning, the places that seemed to lack a flower or two, then she looked at Lola again, who was lying quite peacefully now on a worn blanket, blinking at her with his yellow eyes. She knew he would fall asleep soon and sleep for hours. It always happened like that. People never slept so peacefully, she thought with a little envy. Not even while they were children. Even then, all sorts of monsters appeared in their dreams. But Lola slept without a worry or care. One could see him breathe, the rhythmic up-and-down motion of his belly. Occasionally, one of his ears twitched away a fly or some insect. Sometimes, without opening his eyes, he stood up, arched his back, changed his position and went on sleeping. And that was all. He had no worries. He did not think about what had happened the day before, had no plans, was not plagued by envy, did not have any ambitions, felt no apprehension. And who knows, she thought, maybe I am wrong, maybe he does have some tomcat worries of his own? Still, it seemed highly unlikely to her. Asleep as he was, Lola seemed the perfect image of absolute calm. Full up, licked clean and carefree. Perfectly safe in his own yard. She wondered whether he knew at all what safety was. Or perhaps he knew only fear, at the moment when lie felt it.