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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book If Only She Hadn't Winked
by Stadd, Arlene
Right Book

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Language: English

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He is all I ever longed for in a man-she's my forever friend. He and I on the same wavelength from the first, agreeing on everything but her. He loves my cooking, I love his wrists. He makes me laugh. So does she. Just being around him keeps me breathless. When he's anywhere near her, so is he. He truly can't breathe. The inside of his nose swells, cutting off his air. His eyes tear. He sneezes chronically and relentlessly.

She is my own dear powderpuff of love, my Lisette. He is allergic. To her.

I suggest vitamins. He glowers. Soon the ultimate ultimatum: "It's her or me."

"Hold on a second--what do you expect me to do, I'm responsible for her."

He stands in my living room, on the verge of moving in, his eyes beginning to redden. I can't resist petting his arm, rubbing his cheek with my fingers.

I see the way it used to be. The Sunday papers on his Saturday night bed. Ambling arm in arm through a calendar of street festivals. Halves of grapefruits coming out even. It could go on. I lull myself through days of anticipation, nights of bliss.

I offer to brush her, bathe her, everything but bounce her.

No go.

Kah-choo! Dropping his suit bag, ravaging my tissue box, Kah-choo! "She's just a cat, for God's sake." Kah-choo! "Find her a home--" Kah-choo! "Get her outta my life-"KAH-CHOO-OO!

I look down to where she sits so neatly, her front paws tucked in. She winks.

We've had years together--she's no longer young--people adopt kittens, not older cats--years of her waiting til I'm almost asleep before plopping onto my stomach, taking me by surprise. It never fails. She smirks. She's outwitted me.

If I don't keep the litter box to her strict standards, she positions herself over the bathtub drain. Guiltless. Hasn't she done the refined thing?

Years of a velvet paw patting my chin and motorized purrs when I need comfort. The times her fur blotted my tears.

She's no toy. Living with her is Real Life. She throws up on the carpet and scratches the silk upholstery on my one elegant chair. Vet bills never fail to descend when money's tight and cat food shows up constantly on the register tapes. Ungodly wails from a cat carrier in a rented car. Sneaking her into hotel rooms. Watching her eyes grow huge with terror when she's locked inside an airline kennel and the dumbwaiter-elevator starts to ascend. The guilt. The reunion. She forgives me, washing my hair with her raspberry tongue.

I look up at him. Then down at her. I look over at the Christmas tree lights.

And I remember an old Russian story my grandfather told about the little boy who asked,"Why are you building that sled, Papa?"

"My father. He's lived a long time. Now he's old and sick. It's best to send him away."

The child doesn't comment, but twenty-five years later, his father sees how busy the young man is. "What are you doing, son?"

"Why, Papa, it's time. Time to build you a sled."

Cat or kin, it's just a question of degree.

So I smile at my lover. "It's a good thing you didn't give up your apartment. Before I can live with you or anyone, I have to live with myself."

"Are you saying what I think you're saying?!"

"I'm saying life is not always 'either or'. But don't give up. We'll figure it out. Somehow," I answer.

He looks at me in astonishment, You're serious?"

I am. Categorically.

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