28 Aug Christopher S. Bell
When you first came along, you made more sense than the others. As you cradled me and all of their eyes shot towards us, I understood. No matter how big I got, you still held me that same way, even when I didn’t want you to. It was less frequent in that first house with the scratched porch. I’d watch the screen door swing back and forth, eager for something to get in. I killed so many that you never found out about. The first time I squeezed through the crack in the basement window, my heart wouldn’t stop pounding. Maybe I’d get stuck there, or you’d pull me back in, and then we’d stare and relate to one another. You called me Gemma before he started calling me Germa and sticking his tongue out.
Bill smelt like smoky sweat and always showed his teeth. He wasn’t gentle, black boots kicking me into the hallway before you moaned under your breath. You talked to him about things I was sick of hearing. He left early at first, but then stayed longer until that house faded without us. I missed the neighbor’s yard most, all that long grass full of goobers diving in holes or up trees. They were only kind enough to say hello, never goodbye.
It became hard ground for a while, both upstairs and when I’d get out, blinking lights and sharp noises before they all ignored me. Bill got so good at it; I wondered how you took him seriously. It was difficult for me, especially when his friends blew white clouds in all directions, laughing as I ran away. Times were good when he left for a while, or you came back early and let me walk all over you on the couch. I slept at your feet in the winter when he had work early. Sometimes he took the sofa, said it was tough dreaming next to you most nights. I never had that problem.
Bill eventually blended in with the others as they stomped about with senseless words. Listening, I wondered how they spoke with such convictions over matters of little consequence. It was different when I stared into their eyes and neither of us looked away. The one you called Stuart was quiet like me and usually ran his fingers lightly through my fur until you sat down. Then he’d talk about all of the same dumb things before you got up again. We’d watch you walk into the kitchen, each of us hesitant to follow. People were already waiting for you in there between the fridge and my bowl.
I got sick of chasing things up and down, then in circles, all of that shouting before Bill gathered what he could, and you cried in front of the TV or computer. What did you see in that dumb folding box? How did it make you happy sometimes then a mess again, scooping me up from the carpet, nestling me in your breasts, rubbing your chin against my forehead, while my neck bounced, unsure if any of these movements would help.
Ray only made it worse with his ratty hair and torn jeans. When he was around, I bathed frequently to help ease my opinions, white and brown strands getting caught in my throat then clumping together all over the apartment. You never made me feel small for this, and would often throw them away without so much as a sigh. Maybe I was breathing too much for both of us, getting lightheaded when Ray made the little red spec dance from floor to curtains then back again. I only chased it because there was nothing better to do.
You ran out of distractions quickly, Bill right on your screen, but now with another set of sharp teeth keeping him company. I started longing for parts of him as well, the inevitable comparisons almost too much sometimes. Ray lacked all of Bill’s character, but only I heard the tonal difference in your laugh, how you uncomfortably adjusted as he explained unnecessary plot devices. I took to hiding upstairs or in the bathroom, staring through him from the tub as he pissed so close to my box. Scratching him would only make the itch worse.
I grew worried when you started packing your bags again. There was a rising suspicion that you wouldn’t take me with you, perhaps I’d gotten too old or inactive. I didn’t want to see Ray’s apartment, unable to gauge what little space remained for us. If he was permanent, then I could run away for a while, at least until you really missed me. Independence was the only way two souls could truly connect; otherwise there’d be too many bodies in the mix, searching for the same feelings. You liked browsing almost as much as everyone else, but deep down, we both knew it only made us stronger.
The goodbyes got to you one by one until I was in the front seat and then on the floor, feeling the breeze on my whiskers. You talked to me about everything, while we relaxed with the radio. Never have I seen so many things all mysteriously spaced together. Different rooms and TV’s full of menus, your voice stretching far past its durability on the phone, reassuring another that this is the right decision. If only I had my say, we’d be so much better off instead of past our breaking point. You’d know how it feels to make sense of it all, and I wouldn’t have to idly watch as my life automatically becomes yours.
Christopher S. Bell has been writing and releasing literary and musical works through My Idea of Fun since 2008. His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones and Fine Wives. My Idea of Fun is an art and music archive focused on digital preservation with roots in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (www.myideaoffun.org). Christopher’s work has recently been published in Linden Avenue, Noctua Review, Heavy Athletics, Queen’s Mob Teahouse, Crab Fat Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Lime Hawk, and Talking Book among others. He has also contributed to Entropy and Fogged Clarity.