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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Retribution by Cat

It’s story time again.  This one. Like Day at the Beach, is based on reality.  Like that post, I wasn't present for any of the event, so I made up a lot of stuff.  That means the actions and conversations are not entirely accurate, but the story is absolutely true. (I appologize to one and all for the paragraphing here.  Blogspot seems to be having some formatting difficulties today, and after an hour, I'm just going to let this stand.  TY.)

Retribution by Cat

She called and said she was coming to pick up the rest of her stuff.  Again.  She’d called once a month for the past three months.  He’d rearrange his schedule, and then she’d cancel.  He supposed, when the appointed day came she just couldn’t be bothered making the drive.  Perhaps fourth time was, well, Jim would hardly call it the charm. 

After each of the three calls, Jim cried and braced himself to see her, and each time she canceled, he cried again, whether from relief or disappointment, he did not know.  On top of that, whenever she called, she cried, as if he should comfort her and assure her what she’d done was all right.  It wasn't all right.  He didn't think his life would ever be all right again. 

She’d turned five years into a lie as if their life together had been nothing more for her than a recreational interlude.  She’d lived with him, dreamed with him, married him.  They were supposed to be a year away from a house and a baby.  He’d always wanted babies; it had been their plan.

When she said she wanted to leave, he begged and cajoled her into counseling where she admitted, “I never wanted children.  I knew they were a deal breaker for you, so I said I did, but I didn't.  I don’t.” 

Really?  Jim had thought, shocked at the admission and then said out loud, “Really?  You thought lying about it would give us a solid future?” 

Eliding over children as if they were a desk accessory they’d thought about buying at Ikea, she added, “And I want to see other people.”  As a footnote to clarity, she added, “You can, too.  If you want.  I mean, I would be okay with that.  I would stay if we could both date other people.”

“And by date, you mean?”

“I mean sleep with.  I want to sleep with other people.”

“Oh.”  He mentally reviewed their bedroom and then their friends.  “Anyone in particular?” 

“No,” with a little shrug.

So nonchalant.  It was just a little something she wanted; add it to the Christmas list.

It was then the counselor said gently, “Usually, usually my couples stay together, but only if both people are completely committed to it.” 

Jim was completely committed to it, but that was the moment he realized she was committed to leaving. 

The next day she packed some clothes.  “I’ll get the rest in a couple of weeks.”  When she he rolled her suitcase to the door, he held the cat in outstretched arms, not sure how he could handle the double loss. “Are you taking him?”  

The cat had a natural buzz cut.  You could almost see skin through the hairs.  Four years before, when they’d gone to the animal shelter, she had chosen him partly because he was so funny looking. 

“Look, he has no hair!   And his little tummy is all round, like the bear in that rhyme.  I'll call him Fuzzy Wuzzy.”  She’d looked at Jim with love -- or he’d thought it was love.  “He’ll be our practice baby.”  Hah!  There’s irony.

Maybe the lack of hair made Fuzzy extra-affectionate, burrowing into a lap just to get warm.  He slept between them until she decided she couldn't rest well with anyone else in the bed.

She moved to the other room, spreading a mattress on the floor.  He’d been disappointed, but he understood.  She was a light sleeper; she needed a full night before heading off to work in the morning.  Yeah, he always understood. 

Fuzzy had alternated bedrooms at first, but at the end, slept mostly with Jim.  Jim was bigger and supposed he gave off more body heat.  He’d liked having Fuzzy’s little body snuggled against him.  He liked hearing the purr as he drifted off to sleep.  He liked the company.  

Jim had gone out while she packed, and purposely didn't return until after she left.  He’d taken one quick look at the chaos in her room and shut the door.  Whenever he walked by, he thought of all the things behind it:  her bed, her lamp, her clothes on the floor.  It didn't matter that she never hung up her clothes; once she put something on it held her own style, unique and bohemian.  Her sketching materials were there, he supposed, and probably a lot of shoes.  He figured that after she took the rest of her stuff, he’d still keep her door shut.  Shut on his empty dreams, shut on the house and the kids and the freaking white picket fence.

Fuzzy dangled limply.  “Are you taking him?”   

“No, you keep Fuzzy, for now,” and his heart lightened a little.  “And maybe you can see it my way and things will work out for us.  Think about it.”

 She’d said it carelessly like he and the cat like were among the things she stored in the apartment.  She couldn't be bothered with them right now, but if she changed her mind, they could be retrieved at her convenience. 

She’d threw her suitcase and duffel bag into the car and drove off.  No backward glances.  How had he never seen she was so shallow?  

Jim buried his face in short, sparse fur and bawled.  Fuzzy had burrowed into his neck and purred him back to composure.  

Over the winter, Fuzzy had saved him.  Fuzzy sat with him at breakfast and waited for him to come home in the waning light.  Fuzzy played feather in the evenings and chase-the-paper-ball, silly Fuzzy with his funny fur and his green eyes.  But she had picked Fuzzy out, had selected cat food and chosen a vet.  Theoretically Fuzzy was hers. 

After she called the fourth time, she actually showed up.  Jim stood at the end of the hall watching Fuzzy watch her stuff the last of her clothes into the last of his garbage bags.  Tears glistened in her eyes.  He couldn't understand why she always cried when she’d gotten what she wanted.  She set the bag down before slowly walking into the hall.

 “Hi, Fuzzy,” she said gently, extending her fingers to scratch his neck.

Fuzzy jumped into the air and yowled, all four legs splayed like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  His tail, his sad, skinny tail, burst out to almost normal size.  Four paws landed in a blur, and he shot under Jim’s bed. 

She stood, stunned.  “I guess he’ll stay with you,” she said uncertainly.

After she dragged the last garbage bag through the front door, Jim clicked the lock.  He turned his back to the door and saw Fuzzy’s head poke warily around the bedroom jamb.

Jim slid down to the floor.  He smiled his first real smile in months.  “Good kitty,” he whispered, “Good kitty.”

 The real cat obviously has sufficient hair, but he is the hero of our tale.