By Elizabeth Varadan
Nicole finds Cat sitting under the mailbox again. Cat’s black fur is matted, her small black body appearing long from leanness. Nicole thinks of the cat pictured on shoe polish cans. She sends an accusing glance at the condo across the street where rose bushes have grown scruffy and grass has overrun the Corsican mint. Glenn, the former tenant, took his gardening skills to his new love in another part of town.
Poppy, Glenn’s partner for three years, took her cooking arts and appliances to a downtown apartment she sometimes shares with a state senator. Neither of them took Cat, and the condo’s new tenants, a lobbyist and a computer saleswoman, don’t seem to notice her piteous meows.
Cat follows Nicole down the walk to her door. After a moment’s hesitation, Nicole lets the pitiful creature inside. In the kitchen she sets the mail on the counter, then opens and puts out a new tin of food, purchased yesterday. She and her husband Ralph thought of calling the pound then decided against it. Cat could be put to sleep. Now Cat runs to the food with a gurgling, crying sound. Anger overrides Nicole’s former sympathy for Poppy.
Cat used to belong to neighbors down the street. Then Poppy began setting food out by the spa for Cat to encounter in her wanderings. This was after Poppy had moved in with Glenn. She started with small pieces of fresh fish. Next, shrimp. Later, salmon. Finally smoked oysters. When Cat ceased to come home for several days, Cat’s owners visited to formally acknowledge their pet’s change of loyalties. Soon after, they moved.
Poppy had laughed, telling Nicole this. Cat was hers, now.
Glenn, though, didn’t much like Cat. As he put it, he was not a cat person. He was not a dog person, either. Actually, Nicole muses, watching Cat gobble down her food, Glenn was a woman person. He never missed an opportunity to use the long, lingering glance, the half smile, the offer of wine, the invitation to the hot tub. She knows he found her own polite rebuffs disappointing. But Poppy had been restless in her marriage and was dazzled by the attention. Nicole learned all this after she and Poppy started having morning coffee together.
It occurs to Nicole that Glenn seduced Poppy away from her husband with the same systematized effort Poppy later used on Cat: He took Poppy to France, to Greece, to Bali. (Her previous husband had only managed Mexico.) Being a travel writer, Glenn took other trips, too, without her. Later, during parties, Glenn wooed other women in the spa—even in the living room—while Poppy blithely created hors d’oeuvres and main courses in the plant-filled kitchen.
Recently Glenn has moved in with the woman he met on a flight to Italy. Apparently her divorce is not yet final. Nicole has had this news from Poppy—whose own divorce is final.
Nicole had lunch with Poppy last week, intending to bring up the question of Cat. Instead, she found herself listening to anecdotes about the senator. A married senator. After a third glass of wine, tears streamed down Poppy’s face. Nicole ended up feverishly patting her hand, assuring her that everything, everything would turn out all right. She didn’t have the heart to bring up Cat.
The new people have been in the condo two weeks. Nicole keeps hoping they’ll do something about Cat; that they’ll realize she comes with the condo.
Apparently they are not cat people either.
Who is? Nicole wonders. Her niece, but she lives out of state. Her best friend, but her apartment building doesn’t allow pets. Maybe a veterinarian would know someone.
Cat rubs against Nicole’s leg, purring, and Nicole picks her up. The unblinking green eyes look so trustful. Nicole sighs.
"I suppose we’re cat people," she admits, then worries, "But who will take Poppy?"
Elizabeth: I am a retired teacher and live in Sacramento, CA with my husband and our lovable mutt, Cezar. Contact Elizabeth.