Original writing by MK Murray
Published in Catch, Fall 2013
I should’ve been thinking of the possible health implications of delusions in combination with dehydration and a high fever. Instead, I stumbled down the block to your house and stole your cat.
It didn’t have to happen this way–I’ve never really had a problem with your cat. But I had a crowbar and was too drugged up on NyQuil to think of any alternative.
I found a window of reasonable height next to your bed of hydrangeas. They were wet, and got the bottoms of my jeans damp. The window was unlocked, but I still used the crowbar to open it because I didn’t want the crowbar to feel useless. I think I scratched the paint on your windowsill.
I fell into your living room, and when I stood up, I felt like I was inside some obscure meta-twisted horror film made in the sixties. Everything was real woozy, and the swirling patterns on your carpet confused me a lot. I might’ve puked.
The pictures on your mantle really weirded me out, too. There used to be one of me and you, and now there’s just this old woman, smiling. Is she your grandma? Your grandma’s a freaky lady. Her wrinkles were folded all over her face. Where were her eyes? I couldn’t find her eyes. But she was staring at me, I know she was. I wouldn’t accept cookies from that grandma.
I tripped down the hall to your kitchen where your cat was sitting on top of your refrigerator. I don’t think he was scared. I looked at him for a really long time, and he looked back at me. It wasn’t a normal look he gave me. It was a cat look. You know the look cats have sometimes where they peer right through your eyes and into your soul, like they’re trying to communicate to you the meaning of life, but they can’t because they’re cats? That’s the look your cat gave me. He cared more about me in that moment than you ever did. I even thought he was going to prance right down into my arms, and we would be on our merry way, to a life without you or your freaky-ass grandma. But he didn’t. So I scaled your fridge.
It took a while to grab him. Once I maneuvered myself with one foot on either side of the refrigerator, he slinked back into the corner and hissed at me. He was scared then. His eyes were a little less soul-searchy, and a little more get-the-hell-off-my-fridge. He scratched me a couple times, but I was wearing the hoodie you gave me from the Mountain Goats concert, so that’s ripped up now, but my arms are fine. I scooped him up on my fifth swat at him, and then fell backward, flat onto your kitchen floor. Your cat’s claws were so far imbedded in my chest that I thought he was trying to rip my heart out, Indiana Jones style. I couldn’t really feel it, though. Maybe it was because the fall knocked the wind out of me, and I was concentrated on re-learning to breathe. Or maybe it was the NyQuil, or that fever I told you about earlier. Anyway, I hit a bunch of letter magnets off your fridge in the entire process, and left them as spilled alphabet soup. I had your cat and a dull pain in my chest; that was all that mattered.
On the way back down the hall, I found your thermostat, turned to a comfortable seventy-four degrees and thought about crushing it with the crowbar, but I was holding the cat and not the crowbar, so I moved on. I didn’t think it was fair to take your cat and your cool air. Especially when I knew how it felt to sleep alone and hot.
I went back out through your living room window and tried not to look at your grandma. It was hard to climb out with Marvin (Marvin is what I renamed your cat). I’m pretty sure I crushed every single hydrangea in the flowerbed outside.
As I walked back home, Mrs. Wallin was watering her lawn. She yelled over and asked if I was okay because I guess I must have looked sick–all sweaty with purple bags under my eyes, walking fast, clutching a squirming cat. I said I was fine, which, to me, wasn’t a lie.
At home, I locked the doors, and set Marvin down on the floor. He followed along by my feet. He wasn’t at home anymore, so he was curious. Cautious.
In the kitchen, I ran a glass of cold water and drank it. I pulled off your scratched-up hoodie, stripped out of my hydrangea-damp jeans, and stood in my underwear, staring at the ceiling fan you threw your shoe at right before the last time you walked out of my house. I couldn’t remember why you threw your shoe, but I remembered yelling at you and you yelling back at me, and after being together three years, there was just a lot of noise. The old fan wasn’t helping any with its groaning and clicking as it spun. In the moment, I’m sure you thought throwing your shoe at it was the right thing to do. The fan was totally broken, one of the blades bent, and I’d been sitting under it the past three days, not sleeping, hoping it would miraculously turn back on, or that you would come over and invite me to your air conditioned house, and tell me that you didn’t mean to throw your shoe. That it was a mistake. That you’d help me fix the fan, eventually.
Marvin sleeps on my table now, curled up in your old Mountain Goats sweatshirt, and every once in a while, he looks up at me with that cat look, and I wonder if he’s trying to tell me that I did something wrong by taking him, or if he’s just staring because he’s a cat and that’s what cats do. Either way, I scratch under his chin and he purrs.