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Ramsey Mark Elias
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girlandherkitty.jpg
Art by Jeff Fallow 2011

The Girl and Her Kitty

 

Ramsey Mark Elias

          Miriam spun around the kitchen, clutching a sauce-stained wooden spoon while her cat, Sheila – standing a bit taller and dressed all in black –sampled all the flavors and carried on both their shares of the conversation.  I had to wonder how sanitary it all was, with her feet on the counter, but I never complain in someone’s home.  Instead I took it as an opportunity to at least share Miriam’s family of germs.

          “If we go, we could take Dan with us too,” Sheila suggested.

          “Who’s Dan?” I asked.

          “Oh, Dan lives next door.  He has kind of a bad temper.”

          “Well, then… why would we invite him?”

          Now Miriam finally looked up, devilishly.  “Oh, Sheila has a way with him.  Don’t you, Sheila?”

          “I know how to bring out the good in anybody, I guess.”

          “Volcano!” Miriam boomed.

          Sheila chimed in, “Volcano!” and they both shook their arms like triumphant cartoon villains. 

          The evening proceeded and we had dinner but I couldn’t get that out of my head.  Even though I had no idea what they meant, I knew exactly what they meant.  And even though I had no idea where I was going, I liked where I was being led.  I kept ruminating over it until after we finished eating, when I heard them whispering in the bathroom. 

          I yawned and stretched in anticipation.  For what?  I don’t know.  Too much norepinephrine.  All the blood in my limbs, flushing, coursing, and ready for action.  Even if I had wanted to, there was no way for me to hide the conspicuous bulging of my muscles or the drawing cavity where my stomach used to be.  I’ll show you a volcano, I thought.

          Sheila called from the hallway, amid a jangle of keys.  “Nice meeting you!  Have a nice night.”

          “Nice to meet you, Sheila!”

          When Miriam came back in, she looked deep and unabashedly into my eyes, smiling in a way that loved me through and through.  Her teeth and eyes and hair were all shining on me.  I wanted to get closer to it.  Closer, closer, until we pressed as flat against each other as two pieces of glass and where it was hard to line our mouths up.  That was our first kiss.

          She pulled away from me, gleaming as she left my arms.  “Hmmm…I planned on giving you dessert first.  There should be a baking sheet in there,” she motioned.  “In the broiler.”

          I had to get down on all fours and lower my head into the narrow space in front of her oven.  She was playing a dominance game here and I went along - in part willfully, but also just because my brain wasn’t contributing anymore.  Her floor was vaguely sticky like the counters of a Chinese take-out joint. 

          Behind me, a chair creaked as she sat down.  I turned and the first thing I saw was her underwear crumpled on the ground – still glowing like a screen-printed Christmas tree.  She was beside the breakfast table, one foot propped up on the chair to unveil the beckoning fold of her leg.

          “Cliss my kitty,” she said.

          I walked over to her on my hands and knees.

 

          Sheila stepped into the bathroom through an open window and sat on the counter.  Her skirt and makeup were mussed and tussled, like she had been in a string of fights all night.  When she saw the bathwater, her eyes dilated as wide as saucers.  Her tail twitched.  “What in God’s name are you two doing?”

          “Taking a bath.”

          “Crazy talk.  That’ll never work.”

          I considered for a moment that we were essentially swimming deeper into our own juices and adding a few dashes of cigarette ash, but certainly never rinsing it off.  And frankly, not even wanting to.  Filthy.  Stinking.  Steaming.  Beautiful.  Lust with a side of grimy residue.

          “Getting clean is hardly the point… Y’know, if you keep staring like that I’m gonna pull you in.”

          The cat turned her head, “No way.”  She still didn’t move from her perch.

          Miriam was oblivious to the whole conversation.  She lit another cigarette and gave me a puff.  She did that amazing trick again where she placed it between my lips and pulled it out in perfect cadence with my inhale.  She couldn’t have impressed me more.  As usual, just when things can’t get any better, they got worse.  She bumped the wine glass with her elbow and it shattered across the floor tiles.  I exhaled my lungful of smoke. 

          I said it was stupid of me to put the glass there, I said it was my fault, I said I could lay a towel down so we would be safe getting out.  But really I was terrified to moist, helpless, little pieces.  I imagined my soaked, slippery feet trying to negotiate with the wet tiles and broken glass.  No thanks. 

          Up she stood and out, clutching a towel halfway around herself and saying a few sensible words that I completely disregarded.  Squatting down, she trashed the big fragments and wiped and wiped until the floor was safe.  So plainly, doubtlessly safe now.  No more glass.  No more red wine on the tiles.  And somehow she made it through without a single cut.  Not one scratch or amputation.  She got back in, curled into my chest hair, and even offered to get the wine stain out my jeans.  No thanks.

          Sheila had disappeared sometime during the ordeal.  She was waiting for us on Miriam’s bed when we got there, sprawled out in a black nightgown and diamond necklace, her seductive eyes lustrous in the dark.

          This time when Miriam and I finished, all I heard in my ear was Sheila purring.  She was in the height of her meditative trance, eyes closed but throat revving with the power of a motorcycle. 

          It roused me from sleep

 

          In the morning, I got up and started looking for my clothes.  The wine stain on my jeans wasn’t even noticeable.  The cat was gone.  And Miriam, with her face smashed into the pillow, looked like a deranged child.  I slipped out as quietly as I could, ready with the excuse that I was going to get us coffee and cigarettes.  She didn’t have my number anyway.

          I eased the door closed behind me until it silently touched the wooden jamb, one quick jerk to make the latch catch and I was officially gone.  Outside in a brand new universe.  Different sounds.  Different rules.  Fresh daylight.  I dangled the last unlit cigarette in my lips and relived all those smells and tastes from our night together, now something under cellophane in the morning air. 

          That’s when the blood started swelling and filling my muscles again, making me uneasy, coiled.  I thought of how she gave me a drag of her cigarette.  What skill, what dexterity, what execution!  Delicacy that couldn’t be any more profound.  I wonder if she’d do it again.  If anybody could. 

          I drew up my shoulders and jammed my hands into my pockets.  My right hand jumped back out, screaming that my finger had been stabbed down there in the dark.  My last cigarette flopped down into a shallow gray puddle.  Wet paper on the street. 

          Wet ashes in the bathtub.

          The glass stuck out from the flesh of my fingertip, smiling brilliantly like a gem.  I plucked him out.  Sparing no indulgent detail, he proudly told me the story of how he had stowed away in my jeans while I was taking a bath.  I plucked the little sucker out and tossed him into traffic.  I heard him giggling as he bounced away.

          My morning thoroughly ruined now, I walked straight to my place, wiping blood into denim every few paces.  I’d find the jeans crumpled on the floor later, blood turned brown.  It was far more than I would expect from such a little cut.  

 

Ramsey Mark Elias grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received both his Bachelor of Science and his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.  His work has appeared in Thieves Jargon, Word Catalyst Magazine, Gloom Cupboard, and Boston Literary Magazine.  Ramsey is the author of one novel, The Dogcatcher’s Kid.  He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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