You can touch Shax, but only by “appointment.” First you have to establish eye contact with the old tom and at the same time make a “scratchies” gesture with your index finger. If you correctly spy permission in his imperious gold eyes, then, and only then, may you apply a “scratchie” to the surprisingly short distance between his ears. Any failure to comply with this procedure will result in a personal math system based on the number nine.
I sat a long time before going up to the house. Vanessa lived on the left side of a duplex behind the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. There was a pink beauty salon chair on the white paint chipped front porch. Weathered cardboard boxes filled with National Geographic magazines and empty Marlboro 100 packs were stacked in the corner. After I knocked at the door, it opened and I saw Vanessa standing there before me. I knew her as the regular who always asked for extra soymilk in her reusable coffee mugs but my manager called her Fat Madonna. I didn’t get the joke until he showed me a picture on his phone one day.
The cat was fat.
It was a fat cat.
Enormous and relaxed like a giant Panda on Quaaludes.
There’s a wrinkle of land in Stone County, an isolated pocket valley so remote you can hardly find the sky. My wife Sarah and I were happy there. A nearly feral cat lived there too, a scruffy calico that hung around to avoid coyotes. Sarah called her Josie. That cat was neurotic, delusional, paranoid and pathologically afraid of me though I never gave her cause. For three years all I ever saw was a flash of motion or the tip of her tail disappearing around a corner. The exception was anytime my wife ventured outside. Josie would glare death at me and sidle by on stiff legs, back arched and tail fluffed, to get to Sarah’s lap. I didn’t resent it. Sarah could talk tadpoles from a puddle, chant clouds from the sky, charm ticks from a mule’s hide. She surely charmed that cat, and the cat was good for Sarah. I’d leave them to practice their healing magics on each other and go find something useful to do.
#1: Put a mirror in front of your feeding bowl. Cucumbers generally approach from directly behind and often attack while the victim is eating. Make sure the mirror is above you and tilted downwards so that you can clearly see the floor behind you. Should you spot a cucumber sneaking up, turn around to face the cucumber and back slowly out of the room. Whatever you do, do not panic and jump wildly into the air! You’re likely to come down directly on top of the cucumber.
My cat suffocated in my hair last night. I could not feel her struggle in my sleep, paralyzed by sleeping pills and anxiety. She loved me with all her life. I was followed no matter where I went. Even when I showered, she sat on the sink and waited. I used to set her on my shoulder while I planted celery seeds.