Nonfiction—Snakes and Spiders
When I wake, the cats are at the door – they want to slip into bed and lie in my warm vacancy. One is black with a teacup on her chest, the other gray as elephant's breath with muted stripes. In the darkness, I fumble against their fur, locating rump, scruff, finally head, and I pet what I can find until they roll over and expose their tummies – a trap. Under the bluing shade of early morning they are furry dead spiders.
Cats aren't the only parasite squirming in the bedwaters – my wife, snorting like the Union Pacific, snakes her cold fingers and toes toward me, seeking flickers of heat like sausages over a campfire.
Shower. Toothpaste. Size 40 pants instead of last year's 38. An XLT button-down that's starting to hug. The cats follow me to the living room as I pick up a satchel and keys. Jenny lets me pet her back – she has a funny habit of bursting forward when my hand reaches her tail, to circle around for another run. Remy sits on the couch, feet tucked under his chest like a chicken in a coop. I think of saying goodbye to the snoring pile of hair in the other room, but my wife doesn't work until 9. Still, what if I never see her again?
I open the door and step into a world devoid of Julie and Jenny and Remy and the little routines of morning before the light.
Todd bangs the door open, making Jezebel leap off the couch and bolt for the kitchen. He follows her with an armful of grocery bags which he dumps unceremoniously onto the floor. Jezebel huddles over two large food bowls in the corner. He drags a bag of cat food over to her and she backs away, a snarl gathering in her throat.
“Shut up,” he says as he pours the kibble into a bowl. The bag is heavy and the bowl soon overflows, sending brown pellets flying everywhere. Jezebel sits back on her haunches and waits. He scrapes the congealed substances out of three cans into the second bowl. Finally, he takes out a zip-locked bag of chopped steak from the fridge and garnishes the two dishes with a flourish.
She waits until he moves away to waddle over to the bowls. She watches him as she settles her mass over the bowls and wolfs down the food.
There is a knock on the door, a muffled voice, and he groans. The doorknob shakes furiously and the knocking grows more insistent.
“Toddy? I forgot my keys and I’m running late—”
He picks up the two bowls and hides them underneath the sink. Jezebel hisses and lashes out and he kicks her hard. His foot connects solidly into her soft middle and launches her, yowling, into the air. She streaks out of the kitchen.
“What’re you doing? Open the door!”
He runs out the kitchen and through the living room. Someone is pounding on the other side now and he quickly unlocks the door and throws it open.
“What took you so long?” she asks and freezes, her eyes narrowing. She is a large woman, pale, with blonde hair corkscrewing down her back. Her tight dress compresses her large breasts into soft, white mounds that spill over a low-cut neckline, reminding him of pillows and snowdrifts and other things that necessitate face-planting.
Todd follows her gaze to the trail of scattered kibble on the kitchen floor.
“Todd! You know she’s on a diet. The vet said every pound gained—”
“—is a year lost,” Todd said, grinning.
She shoves his shoulder. “This is serious!”
He quickly rearranges his features into a more serious mien.
“I’m really sorry, honey,” he says. “I just want to try to make friends with it. You know how pets are with food.”
“I think that’s more of a dog thing,” she says.
“Yeah, well, I’ll win her over some day.” He puts his arms around her and pulls her towards him. His hands wander over the protruding swells of her breasts, in what he used to call his mammary gland inspection, and she pushes him away and says, “Todd, I can’t be late,” when he feels an ascending trail of fire, as claws pierce the soft flesh of his calf like grappling hooks and scale up his back.
He yells out as he flails his arms behind him in an awkward backwards grapple.
“Fucking thing!” he says and manages to spear his fingers into the loose fat of Jezebel’s neck, and pitch her over his head and onto the floor.
“Todd!” Tonya shrieks and picks up the cat, while Jezebel trembles and meows pitifully.
“Did you see that?” he says, before she could say anything. “It attacked me!”
"You are unbelievable,” she says and turns her back on him. He knows that this move signals the conclusion of the incident, but the injustice of it all burns within him as bad as the lacerated flesh on his back, and he attempts to rectify the situation by speaking in what he hopes is a calm and reasonable tone.
“Oh, so this is my fault now? It’s my fault when your cat tries to tear me a new asshole?”
He flinches as she about-faces suddenly.
“You threw her!” she says. The cat meows loudly in her arms as if in gloating affirmation, and for an unnerving moment he is confronted by two identical faces, large and white and hostile.
He holds out his hands in a placating gesture.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” he says.
After she leaves, Todd slumps on the couch.
He sees the cat slink over to him slowly, tail lashing. It has something in its mouth. He can’t see what it is until the cat deposits it on his naked foot and even then he stares down at it in blank surprise until he realizes that the thing is a decapitated, disemboweled carcass of a rat, still warm, and he leaps up from the couch, the thing falling off in little bloody droplets onto the carpet. Jezebel saunters off into the kitchen, tail held high.
He sways on his feet, shaking uncontrollably, and takes several deep breaths to try to quell the rising bubbles of nausea. He listens to the meows get louder and more insistent.
There is a new sound now, a faint scrabbling that he cannot locate. After a while, he walks into the kitchen and retrieves the hidden bowls. He adds another bowl on the floor next to them and pours a mixture of wet and dry cat food in it and stands back and watches the cat make the food disappear.
Tonya is in the bathroom getting ready for bed when he finally asks her.
“Have you smelled cigarette smoke lately?”
She addresses his reflection in the mirror. “No, I don’t think so. Why?”
He watches her brush her teeth.
She spits and says, “Maybe it’s coming from next door.”
When they get into bed, he nuzzles her neck and leans in for a kiss. She rolls away just as Jezebel leaps up on the bed between them. He feels her raspy purring through the sheets. He moves as far away as he can on the bed and turns away. But he still feels that green gaze burning into him, and it is a long time before he falls asleep.
In the morning he wakes up to Tonya calling to him from the bathroom.
“I can’t believe this,” Tonya says. She walks into the bedroom cradling the cat to her chest like an infant. The cat turns its surly face toward Todd.
“Doesn’t she look bigger to you? I think she’s gaining weight.”
“Looks the same to me,” Todd says.
“Todd, what if it’s serious? It could be a tumor or something.”
“Honey, it’s nothing,” Todd says. “Don’t worry about it. You know most diets make you gain before you lose.” He has no idea if this is true or not. She looks at him skeptically.
“She’s going to be fine,” he says. “Trust me.”
Todd sees the cat sidling over in his direction and he clutches at the yardstick at his side. It was a valuable discovery, the yardstick; hard and pliant, emitting satisfying sounds as it comes into contact. He has already tried it out on Jezebel that morning when she had ambushed him with another rodent corpse. Now the cat watches him warily and approaches with a slow caution.
The infestation gets worse. The scurrying noises in the walls start after dusk and continue throughout the night. Todd yardsticks Jezebel so often that she takes to hiding the rat bodies underneath the bed. On hot days the stench of rot is overwhelming. They call over Frank, the apartment manager, who is also the maintenance man; although Todd secretly sneers at those acclaimed jack-of-all-trades kind of fellows. He wanders around in the kitchen and gets on his hands and knees to check underneath the panels. Todd watches him. When Frank stands back up and walks towards him, Todd looks at the bulging front of his jeans and then looks up and realizes that Frank is watching him, watching him stare at his crotch. He clears his throat.
“So—ah, how bad is it?” he asks.
He finally confronts her and watches, wretchedly, as she cries and cries.
“How can you accuse me of that?” she sobs, as tears pour down her cheeks and create black rivulets of eyeliner. So he apologizes. Then he goes on his knees and begs for forgiveness. She smiles through her tears and he feels the familiar surge of relief and love bursting through his chest.
So they continue. He picks up her messes, he watches her lie in bed with the cat marooned on the round island that is Tonya’s stomach, and in her scolding presence he measures out careful amounts of vegan cat food for Jezebel, which she eats reluctantly. He basks in the familiar musky scent of her, his wife, and in return she allows him to touch her soft body the way a supplicant will tentatively reach out to an idol, his hands tracing her curves and cupping the areas she doesn’t want noticed, until she yells at him and stands in front of the mirror crying about how fat she is. It becomes a perfunctory routine, along with concocting daily fatty dishes for the cat to eat.
When Tonya goes out, which is often, he sits on the couch and stares into space or follows Jezebel around, in hopes of finding evidence. He stops this when he notices that the cat gets more exercise this way—the more his presence unnerves her, the more she runs around the apartment in an attempt to avoid him. He increases her daily portions.
He walks out of work one morning without telling anyone, and when he gets home he creeps through the door. Jezebel, accustom to his more explosive entrances, fails to hear him and continues to lick herself by the couch. The windows are open and he smells cigarette smoke, sees the mug converted to ashtray on the coffee table, the two empty wine glasses. The bedroom door is closed. He runs his hand over his wife’s discarded jacket on the couch.
Jezebel has one leg over her head as she tries to reach the soft white fur on her engorged underbelly. Her head snaps up at his approach and she hisses and lashes out with her declawed paws. Glutted with food and lethargy, she fails to move fast enough.
There is a long wailing sound like a siren; a crescendo of screeching that goes on and on before it cuts off abruptly.
He goes back to the couch and turns on the TV. With one hand tapping the yardstick against his thigh, he settles back into the couch and waits.
Come to my tribal dance
of barefoot paradise.
My name is Cat.
You can’t escape
from the dimensions
of my tawny skin.
I lick the cream
the burning heat
between my loins.
Slip through my echo,
hear my liquid purr
my heated jungle.
Hear the roar
of the earth
of silver moon,
stitched out of
My name is Cat.
Here Kitty, Kitty
I find it purr-fectly reasonable,
inking lines to purr-suade you
that no purr-son, place, or thing
could ever purr-manently replace
(purr-haps not even temporarily)
the feline fur-ball purr-ched upon
your windowsill. She neither purr-forms
special tricks, nor purr-uses books
on your shelf for purr-poseful
discussion. The rules that purr-tain
to others never purr-vade her domain.
She rules as queen. Purr-nicious
tales of purr-forated curtains, shredded,
or muddy tracks, purr-ambulated
across the kitchen floor? Purr-ely
coincidental - most likely canine purr-fidy
meant to slander. Widen your purr-view
to include claims (purr-fectly
purr-missable) of past and present
owners. Do not purr-sist in your
unbelief, but believe. Purr-chase or adopt
today, and let the purr-ported party - begin.
The Loveable Pet/Non-human.
Will not chase mice. The phrase when the cat's away-the mice will play doesn't work at all for this cat. In fact, when the cat's at home even more the likely chance that the mice wouldn't mind being around the house.
For you see-this particular cat loves to eat not cat food but LASAGNA. Or
rather let's just say Human food.
Do not even expect this cat to go on a Diet. That won't work. You'll end up regretting telling it to do so.
In fact, you'll end up regretting because your meals will be consumed before you even say Grace. It's a real wonder how the beloved non-human keeps fit.
It could be that all the naps it takes count as a way of staying active or a way to keep it from eating all day long.
This cat has a funny animated show. & in the show-most of the time the dog, Odie-the adorable, sweet, kind other pet is treated badly by the fellow pet.
There is no other cat on earth like Garfield!
What IS A Cat?
a. A carnivorous mammal (Felis catus) long domesticated as a pet and for catching rats and mice .
b . Any of a family (Felidae) of carnivorous usually solitary and nocturnal mammals (as the domestic cat, lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, cougar, wildcat, lynx, and cheetah)."
That's it?! Presley licked his taupe nose with his pink tongue, the roughness analogous to his mood. What about 'royalty'? What about 'king of all he surveys' (that was how he got his name, after all!)? What about 'god of the world, humans hear me roar'?!
He started bathing himself, his tongue picking off extra tufts of white fur, to later be belched up in a ball. 'Mammal? MAMMAL'?! I am no mere mammal! I am the he above all else, bow before me! Presley growled to himself, discontent with the severely-lacking "definition" of 'cat' that he'd seen in his human's book. We felines are as good as it gets! We are what all other animals, mammal and otherwise, aspire to be! We, the cats of the world, are the apex of existence! He sniffed haughtily. 'Mammal', indeed!
And with that, the apex of existence tiredly laid down for his afternoon cat nap, the better to dream of catching rats and mice.