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People Can’t Appreciate What I Say

September 16, 2014

Onward my daily chores, I am unconscious of most passing salutations strangers offer me. I also forget those I more often first exchange with them. We may never see each other again; such is the life of the rare pedestrian in Los Angeles. That brief moment we do acknowledge each others presence, we stay civil, sometimes vocalize then go both our ways.

The truncated encounters are a mercy this September heatwave. Here in the hills atop San Fernando Valley, the temperature reached one hundred and three a second day in a row. It was hot the week before this miserable blight exacerbated a more terrible drought. And the forecast predicts the weather will only be more bearable the rest of the month. The weather-people make no promises so Californians conserve their water. Human-wise, we people stink.

My laundry needs to be done, so what little two-day-worn clothing I wear is usually soaked with sweat. This morning, every article I selected had been waved through the air until all the moisture evaporated and nothing smelled worst than anything dirtier I might wear.

“I don’t care what I wear,” I tell myself. I have yet to do laundry but my excuse has been, “It’s too hot.”

Understand, the washing machines the tenants of my apartment building use to do laundry are in a separate structure, one that looks like an adobe shed accommodated with electricity, water and no doors. Doing laundry involves lingering outdoors.

My point is, “It’s been and still is hot.”

At six-thirty this morning, the temperature was already seventy-three. The “Real Feel” common on websites reporting the weather (a reading that indicates how warm the air and its humidity feels against bare skin), that one suggested eighty degrees. That wasn’t right, but those “Real Feel” approximations were always wrong.

The morning feels like a griddle that has just been placed upon a burning gas stove. Whereas the metal is not hot, the surface was getting undeniably warmer by the moment. If one stood outside in place until noon, the soles of his or her shoes would certainly melt against the concrete or asphalt – as this town is, again, LA, and its parks are paved.

Knowing because of my residency and middle-age about the broiling heat that was to come, I cope and I still exercise everyday. I am at that age when men no longer pay attention to fashion, but I do exercise. I don’t want a heart attack or stroke. ‘Me’ is where I draw the line before I decide, “I don’t care.”

My clothes might be sweaty and unclean, and I am often late to shave, but I am healthier than most of you. I pretty well guarantee that. Mine is the plight of a man who is not married and will never have children.

Youth.

I preserve my youth and refuse the refuges of obesity and substance abuse. Yes, I have smoked marijuana and drank beers and wines, downed hard alcohol and carbonated coolers. I will again, but these do not lift me from the remorse of raising a hopeless child to a wasted world. These sins exist purely for their own joy.

Instead of passing a horrible legacy onto another generation, I decide I will die with the vigor of the young. I will truly be ravaged before I die exhausted; probably of yet another accident or a filthy disease. Until then, I dream I will suffer none of those pangs, not while I am full of energy and I am strong.

Exercise is a foundation of such health. Diet is a second firmament. Motion and what one eats keep the machinery of people perpetually alive. So, I start my cardiovascular activity before the sun rises too high. I put a dark baseball cap on my unwashed head, hiding the whiskers on my chin in shadows even when I face east, and go outside.

The printed black T-shirt I have looks foolish on a man my age. The bankrupt business its white print advertises is not a consideration taken into account by any fashion panelist; printed T-shirts on middle-aged men are just ridiculous. This one with all it’s moth-made holes is especially stupid.

“I don’t care,” I tell myself. “It doesn’t smell.”

The black dress slacks I hacked off above the knees don’t stink, either. I suppose the pair never needed to be punished and amputated, but I did want ‘shorts.’ I yet needed to do my laundry, and it was, “Hot.”

Dressed in these black tatters, I stroll a memorized course through the neighborhood. There is only me walking outside, everyone else travels to work with the windows of their vehicles rolled up. They horde their own personal cool air conditioning. I cook in my own skin near the roads.

I stay under shadows where I find them. Truly, I planned my route because I knew where the dark spots fall this time of day. My path was optimized for darkness.

I rarely encounter anyone when I hike. When I do, they are usually standing over their dogs and near neighbors’ yards. The weather this week helps to keep even these people indoors so the past couple days had been markedly lonesome.

When I do see someone, I am surprised.

A woman comes outside.

The old lady leaves her house wearing a clean white T-shirt and pale polyester slacks. The lady goes the same way I go. Although she started down the sidewalk fifty feet ahead of me, I overtake the woman sooner than I expect. Noon also approaches more quickly than I anticipated, rapidly shortening the shade available to hapless pedestrians like us. The ancient lady and I are cramped nearer each other so we might avoid the scorching daylight. We are not touching, but when I glance at her, I see she holds her nose.

My thought, “It’s probably me,” is immediately replaced with, “It’s probably both of us.”

I don’t smell the woman but I do hold my breath – my age and experience had taught me a lesson I am too often reminded about. This time of year, the people in LA smell bad.

My own odor is a better musk. I think to myself, “I exercise and I try and eat wholesome food.”

“You, poor woman, probably eat frozen dinners and drink soda pop.”

I feel sympathetic and I imagine I say to her, “Oh, look at you who lost her youth. You’ve had children, more than one or two. That’s obvious.”

Instead, I tell her from beneath the rim of my baseball cap, “We can share the shadow.”

She gasps at me then falls back and into her home.

– Mr. Binger

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The Corpus Cat Chapter Ten of Thirteen

September 16, 2014

The Corpus Cat

Mr. Binger

Chapter Ten of Thirteen

More cryptic than the moment when Dana walked through the front door of this establishment, Rainbow tells her, “Time is the same across all the dimensions.”

“This is about you?” Dana asks the oracle. She remembers this psychic woman was eager about reciting her biography.

Madame Rainbow of the Aurelius nods her head and she continues to speak. “In the past and in another reality, my soul was cursed.”

Dana cracks beneath her breath, “That is unfortunate.”

Rainbow speaks without hearing her client mutter. “And I was a small girl there, I was touched by evil.”

“Hmm.”

“I died again and again,” Rainbows says with a glum sneer. Her mood then brightens richer than the flickering atmospheric lighting. “That’s how I received my powers of divination. I am highly specialized.”

“I’m sure,” Dana replies polite. “But I do wonder if you can help me – us. This is for us, Barry and me.”

“I’m listening. Forget about payment at the moment. I’m curious what you’re too dense about that you just can’t come out and say. Would you like some tea?”

“What’s in it?” Dana asks. Because the sight and smell of this place and the woman, she feels justified and inquires.

“Camomile,” Rainbow answers with innocence.

“Sure.”

Rainbow disappears through the drapery she and Dana entered and yells back through her house. “I’ll only be a second, the pot is hot. Tell me your story, I can hear you.”

“Okay,” yells the truth-seeker. Alone in the room, Dana speaks loudly to herself.

“We have a cat – me and my husband, Barry, do.”

Rainbow’s voice comes through the wall. “Uh-huh.”

“Well,” Dana tells herself then pauses. “He did something unusual.”

“Unusual?” Rainbow’s voice now makes her plea nearer and in the air.

“He started writing.”

Dana Corpus swallows a dry lump then states, “He says he is our dead son.”

“Oh, boy,” Rainbow comments behind the curtain then appears. Two steaming ceramic mugs precede the spiritualist.”

“Are you a medium?” Dana asks her outright. Based on television alone, she has an idea what one from the supernatural profession does.

“I have gifts,” Rainbow claims and sets a mug of hot tea for Dana on the glass-covered table top. “You telling me you have a dead son and a talking cat are big give-aways.”

“He only spoke once,” Dana clarifies. “And to me.”

“Ah.”

The noise Rainbow makes helps Dana feel hopeful. “Do you know what’s going on?”

“I told you, it’s the moon.”

“You certainly did,” Dana answers visibly dejected.

“Don’t blow off the obvious,” Rainbow insists. “Remember the law of parsimony.”

“What’s that?”

“Occam’s Razor.”

Dana shrugs her shoulders. When the spiritualist does not sense she is prompted to reply, the client nods her head and raises her brow.

Rainbow takes a deep breath then explains the letter of the law. “The most simple explanation is usually the most correct, like ninety-five percent of the time.”

Seeing plainly that her client is not convinced, the spiritualist tells her, “Listen, I got an idea what this is. The name of your son was Charlie, right?”

Dana is shocked. “How?”

Rainbow now raises her brow and nods her head. “I told you.”

Suddenly unconscious of an aching tension, Dana relaxes in her stiff chair and speaks slowly so she is not mistaken. “Can you tell me if Dodgie is our son?”

“Dodgie?” Rainbow quickly inquires. The psychic is just as fast and she answers her own question. “Ah, your pet cat.”

Numb as she makes herself, the charlatanry and pageantry of the woman’s announcement inspires Dana with confidence. And yet more urgent, she listens carefully for the name of her son or any reference to his passing away. Dana remains disappointed at the moment and she suffers the frustration.

Rainbow asks her, “How old is your cat?”

“Two years and he’s still growing.” Dana adds, “He joined me and Barry after Charlie died.”

The spiritualist glares overlong at her client and holds an exaggerated disapproving frown then finally states, “His size is probably because what he is eating. Girth is not growth, length is a more accurate measure.”

Dana exempts her cat. “He’s not unhealthy.”

“He’s young,” Rainbow explains.

“Well, he’s at the age where he’s stopped finding new things and how old he is is all we have to say to people.”

“I’m sure your friends are grateful,” replies Rainbow as prickly as she senses Dana is becoming. “Tell me, is your cat excreting a lot?”

“No,” says Dana. “But there have been awful smells. And coincidentally, Dodgie wrote my son’s name in his cat box. I didn’t see it, but that’s what my husband told me.”

She gasps after finishing her explanation. And after she allows mental images of a little funeral to float over her head, Dana returns to the vulgar and base discussion. She reports, “Barry dumps the cat boxes.”

Rainbow nods her knotted head and intones, “The odor.”

The psychic then makes a very important revelation. “Some cultures say the intestines are the path one’s soul travels to heaven or hell.”

“Which direction are you suppose to go, up or down?” Dana asks light-minded.

Rainbow tells her, “It depends on your preference.” And that is all she she says concerning the subject. Having never sat again, she steps around her seated client and retrieves an untouched, lukewarm mug of tea.

“I want to see your cat.”

Dana twists in her chair. “Do you want me to bring him here?”

Rainbow says, “I want to visit your house. I must investigate the environment – no charge.”

“No charge?” Dana wonders once she is on her feet.

Rainbow claims, “I haven’t done anything for you yet. But I think I can help. And the experience will be very enriching for all of us.”

“I do wonder about you,” Dana tells the psychic and follows the woman out the front door, out of the otherworldly Aurelius. Rainbow leads their way wearing nothing extra than the clothes over her shoulders.

“Can we take your car?” the spiritualists asks her when they are outside.

“I suppose,” Dana replies. “I don’t remember I said ‘yes’ to anything. There’s no charge, right?”

“No charge.”

Settling the agreement, the two women get into Dana’s sedan and they go to Lovespark.

Rainbow complains. “You didn’t tell me it’s so far.”

Dana replies, “You didn’t ask where I live. I thought you knew.” This time, her comment implies nothing more than the simple, concrete truth.

Invited into the Corpus house already, when Rainbow comes home with Dana Corpus, the spiritualist trots directly inside. She arrives wearing her anorak and her robes and Dana assumes she is cold. Dana shivers when she steps out of her car and onto the clean concrete drive. A wind blows and she goes from cold to freezing.

She jogs over a hard lawn and toward the house after the front door already once opened and closed. The porch light comes on before Dana reaches the first concrete stair. And the door opens when she almost touches its knob with a gloved hand.

“Who is this?” Barry shouts in panic.

“That’s the spiritualist I told you about,” Dana claims and shoves him inside so she can enter. She thinks only of warmth at this very instance. When the door is closed, she has extra time and tells her husband, “She knew the name of our son. She knows something about Dodgie’s farts. Her name is Rainbow.”

“Ahem,” Barry enunciates clearly.

He’s caught Rainbow before she got further into the house than the interior entryway. Her apprehension is conducive to her warming up and the woman is content where she stands. When Dana walks inside, she presses them all toward the living room.

Her husband speaks to the spiritualist. He extends his hand but lets it drop when Rainbow misses the gesture and leaves her own arms hang loose. “I’m Barry Corpus. I’m happy for your visit.”

“This is Rainbow, sweetie,” Dana tells her husband while she disrobes her outerwear.

“The Rainbow of Aurelius,” says the spiritualist.

Barry goes, “Oh.”

She adverts, “I also do counseling for Tantric meditation. If you and your wife are interested…”

“What?” he wonders.

His wife says, “That’s the sex thing. No, I brought you here for our son.”

“Dodgie,” Barry amends.

Rainbow is as forward with the couple as she’s been so far. “Have you thought about having another child?”

Barry answers too eagerly. “Yes.”

“That could be a problem,” the tiny, aloof psychic predicts. Her comment makes Barry defensive.

“Doctors don’t think so.”

“Honey, she’s talking about Dodgie,” interprets his wife. Dana informs him, “She jumps around a bit.”

Rainbow glares at her and insists she is, “Spry.”

Resuming her professional demeanor, the spiritualist asks, “Okay, where’s the cat?”

“Do you want to look at anything else first,” Barry offers for no other reason than he acts cordial.

“No, let’s get down to it.”

“When are you going to start the meter?” Dana asks the woman.

Barry also asks, “Is there a charge?” His wife nods her head.

Rainbow lowers her voice. “Let’s see who this is, first. I don’t want to have to sue you for my money if I hightail and run.”

… continued tomorrow…

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The Corpus Cat Chapter Nine of Thirteen

September 15, 2014

The Corpus Cat

Mr. Binger

Chapter Nine of Thirteen

Coming from her detour past the veterinarian, Dana Corpus wonders if she helped Dr. Peters understand exactly what she wanted. She first asked him, “What would make feline doo-doo move?”

She held up the transparent pickle jar and shook the stiff, sparkling feces inside. Dr. Peters raised his brow and never answered the question. She specifically remembers then telling him, “Can you look for a parasite? Dodgie is acting odd.”

Hours later and close to noon, the overhead speakers at the Superscript supermarket page an employee. “Dana, line three. Your doctor is trying to get a hold of you.”

“Why does Margaret do that?” Dana complains to Nicole, her favorite goth-chick bagger.

Busy overfilling plastic grocery bags, Nicole replies over her shoulder. “She is the manager.”

“We’re working,” Dana tells a customer by mistake. She then speaks to Nicole. “Why is she telling everyone? What’s wrong with her?”

“She’s the boss, so it must be the right thing.”

“Excuse me, a moment,” Dana tells her next customer, an old woman layered in thin jackets. She picks up her extension and presses the number ‘3.’

The old woman sounds empathetic and asks her, “Is it serious, dearie?”

“It’s my veterinarian,” answers Dana.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the lady expresses. She turns to the fidgeting gentleman behind her and says, “Let the young girl take this call.”

“Thank you?” Dana wonders a moment. She goes on break and takes the call at her station there in the lit check-out aisle.

After that moment, Dr. Peters exclaims, “Human poo. Is this a joke?”

“Dr. Peters?” she wonders before hanging up and calling the real veterinarian. He stops her.

“I hope you’re not being funny. I won’t waste my time.”

“What’s funny about it? Barry took that sample out of the litter box.”

Dr. Peters grumpily recommends, “You should talk to your husband about this.”

He is also curious. “And what are these unidentified crystals?”

Dana knows what he talks about. All the same, she answers dazed.“That’s the cat litter.”

“Yeah, what brand?”

“I forget.”

Looking away, and yet blessed with a sharp talent at eavesdropping, Nicole makes an offer to her coworker. “I can run and look. It’s the shiny stuff, right? Fifth graders snort that shit and they think they hallucinate. Brain damage, for real.”

Nicole disappears before Dana comprehends what the girl just said.

“Well, I’m sorry, doctor,” she says when she apologizes to the veterinarian.

“You should be,” he tells her. “Good day,” Dr. Peters wishes the woman and hangs up.

Dana puts down her phone and spends a second looking about puzzled. The old lady next in line wakes her and promises, “Everything will be fine.”

“Thanks,” Dana says then apologizes.

Nicole returns and states. “It’s called Asterisk with an ‘x.’ Oh, he hung up.”

“Thanks, Nicole,” Dana replies absentminded. The checker grabs and scans more merchandise off the conveyor belt. She tells her bagger what her husband has been telling her. “I don’t know.”

Nicole asks straightforward. “Do you blame Barry?”

Dana frowns and the woman’s chin dips below the collar of her blouse. “How far is too far?”

“Do you think this all a joke?”

“I don’t know.”

Before the next customer is sorted and sent on his way, Dana begs Nicole. “How do I know if I’m going crazy?”

“Obviously, when you think your cat can actually talk to you.” The straight expression on the goth girl’s face betrays none of her typical facetiousness.

After more work and biting her bottom lip until it is numb, Dana asks her assistant, “Do you have the number for that spiritualist?”

“Madame Rainbow? You’re going to spend the seventy five bucks on her?”

“I don’t know. Do you know her telephone number?”

“No,” Nicole states and exhales. “Uh!”

She tells Dana, “Just drive past or look the place up in the phone book – Aurelius.”

“Maybe we do need an exorcism.”

“Shh,” Nicole advises. “Take it from an expert like me, talking like that isn’t good when you’re in public places or at work.”

There comes a break when no customers stand ready to buy groceries. Dana spends that short while continuing her conversation. “Oh, but palm reading and talking to dead people is okay?”

Nicole provides a thoughtful answer. “People around here are still scared of anything close to Satan. Denial, the Protestant work ethic.”

“You’re over my head,” Dana responds. She often tells the bagger the same whenever she can’t understand the girl or the topic makes her uncomfortable.

Nicole is accustomed to rejection. “So you know before you open your mouth, people get jumpy. I used to work at Bentry. Remember?”

Dana nods her head only because she is polite. She, herself, has never been to the rival supermarket and she knew nothing about Nicole until the girl arrived for her job. Here at Superscript, the entry-level worker spends most her time at the end of Dana’s aisle.

Officially later on a designated break, Dana sits in the back room and searches Web directories on her mobile phone. She finds the Rainbow of Aurelius, located on North Springfield Avenue. When she calls its listed number – Dana guesses so she might make an appointment – Madame Rainbow never answers the telephone.

“I suppose you don’t need messages when you’re a psychic,” she tells herself and ends the unanswered call.

After work and before going home, Dana drives west on Auburn Road and turns left toward the home-based business of the adverted spiritualist. She checked online maps while she was still at work, and examined satellite and street-view photographs on her phone, and instantly learned how she might reach her destination. Consequently, she noted the poor state of the neighborhood in pictures before she arrived.

And it is night when she stops two blocks south on North Springfield, so the dilapidated houses don’t look bad. In fact, given a frigid blowing wind, the warm lights in their windows promise their interiors are quite comfortable. Even the Rainbow of Aurelius looks cozy despite a white fluorescent spotlight shining on poor black script scrawled over a wall of the one-story residence declaring the name of this juncture into an other-world.

Dana goes straight inside the Aurelius and instantly drowns in heat and aroma. Immediately, she meets Madame Rainbow. Guiltless and instantly, she judges herself prettier and skinnier. The younger lady, here with her long unwashed hair pulled into a frayed knot on the top of her head, looks average – an ordinary Midwesterner. But, as Dana was also born in the Midwest, she considers herself that more or less.

“Welcome,” Madame Rainbow says in greeting. “I knew you were coming here.”

Dana reacts with suspicion. “You did?”

“I saw your car pull up and I unlocked my door.”

“Thank you,” Dana grants the strange, smelly woman. Madame Rainbow reeks like dusty patchouli and ammonia. Dana thinks she smells salt, too, but she figures that’s just the taste in her mouth the odors manufacture when they drift together.

“I’m Dana Corpus,” she tells the shorter lady when she introduces herself. “I have a sort of special request.”

“Oh?” Madame Rainbow straightens her back and does not appear much taller, certainly no taller than Dana. “You sound interesting already. Come in, come into my parlor and you can tell me what you would like me to do for you. I’m special, too.”

The strange woman, whom Dana now sees dressed in priestly white robes beneath a striped blue and gray Latin American anorak, takes her beneath blue velvet curtains and into an adjacent room. The walls in this space are completely draped in sallow bed sheets and fisherman nets. Electric candles – decorations suited for window dressing this past Christmas holiday – flicker from the four soft corners of the room and spread erratic illumination.

“Did you see the moon tonight?” the odd Madame asks Dana as the two women sit in opposite plastic high-back chairs.

“Yes,” she replies matter-of-fact.

“It brings something for everyone.”

Dana does not ask about the ominous prediction. Based on her experience at the Rainbow of Aurelius so far, she doesn’t want to be disappointed. Doubting this experience, she tells her host outright, “I don’t know about that seventy-five dollar fee.”

“Well, let’s hear what you have to say,” insists Madame Rainbow.

“Okay,” she relents. “How do I say your name, madame is a little…”

“Brothel?”

“If you say so.”

The Madame tells Dana, “Relax, guys come in here looking for a massage. They leave with their palms read, if you know what I mean.”

“I’m afraid not,” she confesses but Madame Rainbow won’t hear it.

The strange lady says, “Call me Rainbow.”

Dana quips, “I see a lot of blue….”

And Rainbow ignores the remark. She exacts from her prospective customer, “Tell me your special case.”

Sitting here staying warm, Dana contemplates the woman and possibilities. She soon says, “Hold on, I have to let my husband know where I am. Let me call him.”

“Of course, go ahead. No charge,” Rainbow expresses magnanimous.

Excavating the phone from her laminated clothe purse, her client mistakes stray thoughts for small talk. “At first, I wanted to blame my husband.”

“Oh, don’t do that. If this is evil, that’s what it wants you to do.”

“Let me tell you something about me,” Rainbow offers Dana while the mobile phone rings.

When Barry answers his end, Dana says, “Shh.”

Before her husband asks what they are doing for dinner, she lets him know, “I’m coming home. I’m investigating someone who might talk to Dodgie. I’ll let you know when I get back. I love you.”

… continued tomorrow…

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Culpabiity

September 14, 2014

A reddit post posed a question I seriously pondered. I paraphrase when I state the query was about being culpable in someone’s death. I’ve got ghosts, more than a couple, but there is one experience I feel actually possesses substance. I think I was the last person to speak to a girl who killed herself.

This was long ago, back in southern Wisconsin in the early nineties. I was a manager at a group home for the mentally ill. They were functioning adults and given access to the small town where we all lived. Some were suicidal, yes, but I never witnessed someone die until I moved to Los Angeles. The girl I spoke with then worked at the group home I managed and she was late for her shift. Second shift.

I called her because I needed coverage and this was not the first time she was tardy or absent. Given my experience with the woman, I had been mean. She was being written up. She did sound distraught but promised she would come to work. I think her name was Karen, I don’t recall, but Karen told me what I wanted to hear.

When I hung up the phone, I heard the fire alarm activate over at the fire station. The station was downtown and the group home was out of the tiny city but they were yet near each other enough that the alarm was clear. I could hear it if I were even further out in the country.

Karen’s friend called the group home and asked if she was there at work. I answered the phone and told her, “No.” Her friend reported Karen’s apartment was on fire. And I know personally Karen never arrived for her shift.

Later, I heard from people, who were also Karen’s friends and who also worked at the group home, they said Karen had lit fires all around her apartment. They were vague but I think her crisis involved a relationship. She had hung herself, they told me. That’s what killed her. I said I talked to her on the phone. I heard the only fire alarm in town go off the moment I hung up my angry summons.

There was nothing I could have said, I imagine. I never respected empathy. I lack appreciation for the emotions of other people to this day. I think the fires were already lit before I talked to her. The rope was probably around her neck.

- Matthew Sawyer

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The Corpus Cat Chapter Eight of Thirteen

September 14, 2014

The Corpus Cat

Mr. Binger

Chapter Eight of Thirteen

Before the Corpus couple break apart on Tuesday morning and drive their individual vehicles to work, they quiz their pet cat. A pickle jar, one where the label has been peeled from the clear glass, stands on the kitchen table between Barry and Dana. A torpid cat turd lives inside.

The Corpus say ‘live’ because they believe the whole piece must be alive and does not move only because something is living inside. It could be dead, the feces hasn’t budged since midnight. Dana plans she will take this sample to a vet and a professional can tell her what is born from the intestines of a male cat. Barry has one question for her.

“Are you sure you don’t want to take Dodgie?”

“No, you see how tough it is this morning to get his cooperation. Besides, he hasn’t said anything to me since yesterday.”

It’s true, Dodgie did not wake the Corpus couple as they were accustomed before the alarm clock buzzed. Only today, he did not beg for breakfast even when Barry thought he could be lured from his hole in the wall after opening a new can of cat food. A spoonful of real tuna fish finally brought the golden feline into daylight. Dodgie had nothing to say then and he has yet this morning to speak human words or any other.

Also on the floor next a porcelain food dish, one of the Corpus has distributed children blocks. Letters are printed on each side of the twelve wooden cubes. These were not meant for their deceased boy and they’ve actually followed Dana throughout her life. They’ve never been used for play. She has kept them all this time and now is the first occasion they are practically used.

“Dodgie, what do they say? What do they spell?” Barry asks his cat. Dodgie acts like he does not hear and he sniffs his empty food dish far too long.

The human people wait a while. They have time before starting their days because they woke early for this experiment. The alarm was especially set. Very soon, when anxious nerves prick her, Dana suggests, “Maybe he’s more comfortable arranging the blocks himself.”

“He spoke to you,” Barry nitpicks. “Look at him, he’s just eating.”

Dana corrects his impression, “He’s done.”

“Good.” Her husband picks up their pet and drops him among the blocks. Opposed arranging the letters into something he really wants to hear Dodgie say, Barry spelled his own proper name. The blocks read ‘Barrett.’

Once the cat is tossed into the spelling arena, Dona repeats herself. “Let him pick his own word.”

Barry persists. “C’mon, look at it. That’s your daddy’s name. Say my name, kiddo.”

“You’re pressuring him.”

“What do I have to do?” Barry bends and rests his hands on his knees. “Rub the blocks with fish oil?”

“Let him try, honey.”

“Okay, Dodge. What do you want to tell us?”

The cat says nothing. Instead, Dodgie looks as if he plots how to jump between Barry’s feet and not either direction around a nagging obstacle. He sinks low to the ground with his chin millimeters above the tile and stays put an undue time.

“Go on,” Barry prompts him and scratches his ears.

Dana expresses her opinion. “Maybe he doesn’t have anything to say. I’ll take his poo to Dr. Peters. We’ll find out something then.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Barry opines then regrets he said anything, even while he feels indignant.

His wife raises her voice. “This whole thing is ridiculous. How about we stop?”

“One more thing,” Barry promises her. And he thinks aloud. “I only have to catch his attention.”

Still part of the event, Dana rummages into a drawer under the kitchen counter. She finds and produces a pigeon feather. “Remember this?”

“It’s special,” Dana says when she shows Barry her token taken from the silvery belly of a unique gray bird. He was there. “Don’t break it.”

He takes the plume between a thumb and forefinger and suspends its tip within the cupped palm of his hand. Before he acts, Barry first asks, “What’s your mommy’s name? Her name is Dana. Can you say her name?”

Herself frustrated, she tells Barry, “Stop playing around and just ask.”

She asks the cat herself, “Dodgie, are you Charlie?”

The animal responds to her voice and the sound of his name but he gives the woman no other reply than his jade gaze. Dana blows him a kiss. With no words between, she tries and rescues the cat. “Barry, maybe it is the cat litter”

“You’re saying he’s a mutant,” he chortles.

“That’s not nice, Barry.”

“No, I mean you mean he’s a radical jump in evolution. Something in his environment triggered his next hundred steps. In this instance, it’s those crystals he poops on.”

Arrogant and yet hurt because his cat refuses to recognize him, Barry brags, “My alien hypothesis is just as viable. We talked about all this last night instead of making love.”

“We’ll see,” she wagers. Dana ignores talk about intimacy for no other reason than her husband behaves childish and jealous.

“Okay, you win. You get the last word. Just be honest with me and tell me what the vet says. Will you do that?”

“Barry?” she asks aghast. “Do you think I lie?”

Half-joking and more malicious, he answers, “You could.”

“Is that permission?” Dana shouts.

“No.”

“What? How do I know you haven’t made all of this up?”

“I agreed to spend money on a veterinarian, didn’t I? This is an expensive joke we can’t afford.”

“I suppose,” she submits.

“Then let’s stop arguing, please,” Barry begs her.

“Of course, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too. I apologize. I said before, neither of us know what to believe.”

Sometime in the track of the argument, Dodgie got away. The cat vanished and neither human have a clue when or where he went. Based on habit, Dana and Barry would agree he likely went back into the hole in the wall.

Dana collects her special delivery before she and her husband leave the house together. And as always, they lock Dodgie somewhere inside. Barry has been commuting to work with Joel so his truck is in the garage and Dana’s sedan is outdoors on the drive. Regardless, Barry follows his wife outside. They wear gloves and jackets and neither mind the crisp cold.

Tortured and sorry, he pleads to his spouse for mercy. “What is the last thing we’re going to do, Dana? I’m about ready to take him to a Catholic priest. We’re going all the way back to that.”

“Barry…”

Dana holds her tongue. Once she’s seated in the driver seat of her car and ready to close the door, she warns her husband. “Leave Dodgie alone.”

“I will.”

“Okay,” she says distrusting the man. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Barry tells her. He sounds honest and sincere.

She backs the sedan from the drive. And after her husband waves and while she is still nearby on the street, Dana presses the garage opener above her window visor. She then leaves. Barry goes into the house through the automated door.

Traveling to work at the Superscript, Dana Corpus sees the biggest pedigree moon she’s ever seen. Hovering above the horizon, the ancient mythical goddess can’t be ignored nor overlooked. Being full, she comes out wholly unclothed and into the full broadness of normal daylight. Like lightning in winter, her appearance opposite the rising sun is uncommon but not unusual.

The prominence of the celestial object almost alarms Dana, but Barry did say the moon was getting closer, which is a little scary in itself. That moon being so close today, its flat matted landscape shines – the whole surface and not some flickering man-made flake resting in space above the lunar dust.

The vibrant gray matches that special feather from that unique pigeon. Dana suddenly regrets she handed the keepsake to Barry so he might entertain the cat. She hopes her husband doesn’t lose it. The feather is a souvenir of the magic in this world.

“It’s beautiful,”she says aloud and almost arrived at her job. “Sublime.”

… continued tomorrow…

h1

The Corpus Cat Chapter Seven of Thirteen

September 13, 2014

The Corpus Cat

Mr. Binger

Chapter Seven of Thirteen

When Barry is home at night and in the master bedroom with his wife, he mentions, “That lightning the other evening, I read online it’s because the same reason we don’t get snow. Global warming, people think, but the moon is actually getting closer, and not further away like it’s suppose to.”

“You think?” she answers him. Her disinterest is rigid.

“It’s not gasoline,” he concludes. There is no point made; the words sound enough to end a one-sided discussion of a pastime diversion.

There is one more interruption. He asks Dana, “Oh, did you feed Dodgie the rest of his can?

“And some water,” she tells him and walks from the attached bath wearing a robe and pale lingerie.

“Thank you for this evening,”she coos.

“The linguine was nice, and so was the wine.”

“White wine,” he notes.

“Yes.”

“There’s more,” Barry says.

“No, thanks.”

Dana crawls atop the bed her husband stands beside full-clothed. He is compelled and states, “I should confess, Joel gave me the idea.”

“The cream cheese,” she states.

“Yeah, that was you,” Barry grants her. “But Joel thought up a lot.”

Dana ends his apologies and disclaimers. “I married you.”

Once she’s spun her lithe self onto her back, he tells his wife, “I’m happy you did.” And he kisses the woman.

Barry straightens and begins to disrobe. Once he is naked in bed with Dana, the married couple set about making love. Self-conscious and courteous, she tells her husband, “I think I’m done, but I won’t get pregnant.”

After kisses, he tries consoling her. “You make me happy that you’re willing to try.”

“I love you, Dana,” he says and the table lamp is turned off.

Interrupted by a peck on on her lips, she tells him, “I humph, too.”

Barry starts slowing removing her robe. She helps but the motion is slow and staggered. In the course, the couple sense Dodgie jump atop the bedspread and they feel him circling at the foot of the foam-cushion mattress. They carry-on without giving the animal any attention; his joining them on the bed is not uncommon and is, in fact, an established thing. He never peeps.

Except this night, the cat hunches and he feels heavy, as if shifting his weight increases the pull of gravity on the small creature. The mattress sinks in the spot where the animal is posed. Dodgie then shakes his haunches and he pees.

At first, the Corpus detect nothing. Barry heard a whishing sound, but being fully engaged in his endeavor with Dana, he imagined they produced the noise themselves – probably as their feet slipped beneath fresh linen sheets. Passing over a cold spot on the bed, Dana feels her toes touch something wet and warm.

“Barry…”

“What?” he asks then himself touches the sinking urine with his bare foot. He instantly knows what Dana worked out.

“Dodgie, dang it!”

The couple sit upright and Dana immediately states, “That was a first.”

Barry rolls forward and crawls over the mattress on his hands and knees. Dodgie is gone, but the human male pats the comforter with his hands and he measures the radius of the spill. Finding the dimensions and giving himself a damp palm, he makes an accusation.

“How much water did you give him?”

Dana ignores the wriggling and states “What do you think he’s trying to tell us?”

The question is somewhat rhetorical. Nonetheless, Barry thinks he knows.

“Check the litter box.”

He jumps up and into the dark room when his wife tells him, “Oh, don’t.”

She can’t see him and doesn’t know if he has paused, and suddenly reconsiders. “Maybe you should.”

Outraged and shivering, Barry makes a rude speculation. “A period doesn’t compare to his mess.”

Dana turns on the bedside light and states, “I’ll change the sheets.”

“Thank you,” her husband grumbles.

Once she goes about re-dressing the bed, the woman pulls on her robe completely and she gripes about their pet. “That stinker.”

“Dana,” calls Barry. His tone is foreboding.

She stops what she’s doing and wonders, “Do I want to see?”

“No, yeah,” her husband says.

“Which is it?” She asks him and goes into the stark-lit bathroom. Both people squint and appreciate the soft glow in the bedroom even more.

“God,” she states when she sees what has confused her spouse.

Cat turds jump in the litter just like Mexican Jumping Beans. Glossy pellets and dust are brushed up and twinkle under the sink where they float low to the ground. Conjugating High School Spanish nouns, Dana states “Frijoles saltarines.”

She then excuses herself. “My Spanish is rusty. I’m better at sign language.”

“Don’t touch it,” warns Barry. Complementing his wife’s knowledge, he adds a piece of his own. “Those are just seeds pods, moth larva live in them. They’re called Cydia Deshaisiana. They’re native to Mexico”

Feeling ecumenical, Dana states, “I think we’re both right.”

Barry is argumentative. “Not these, these aren’t beans. And you fed him what?”

“Out of the can,” she answers. “I don’t know what else he could have eaten around here.”

“Oh, Christ,” Barry evokes. “I can’t look at that. I’m going to dump it.”

His wife sounds desperate. “Save one, let’s see if he is sick.”

A sidelong glance later, he tells her, “Get a jar with a lid on it.”

She goes while he occupies himself with the riddle in the bath. Barry uses a slit plastic scoop and wrangles wriggling cat feces that won’t stay put on the closed, oversized fork. “Make it fast,” he yells for his wife. He curses, gives up and twice washes his hands. Then he finally searches for his robe.

Downstairs, Dana sees Dodgie. “Naughty,” she scolds him.

Responding to nonsense, he tells the woman, “Meow.”

“You know what you did,” she maintains.

She smiles. “Are you jealous? Of who? We didn’t even bring Charlie home.”

And the happy smile falls away upon uttering the name of their lost child.

“Behave,” is all she next tells the cat.

He grooms his stubbly lips when he speaks – and he’s probably eaten more of what makes his shit skip – but Dana clearly hears Dodgie say, “Am Arlie.”

“Who?” she asks and the domestic animal says nothing.

Dana frets. “What to do you want?”

He does not answer.

“Barry?” she shouts.

“I don’t know where you keep the empty jars,” he yells down the stairs.

“It’s not that. Come down here.”

He uselessly objects. “My slippers.”

Summoned down to the kitchen against his will, he asks Dana, “Is the downstairs one doing it, too?”

“I didn’t look,” she confesses. “But Dodgie talked.”

“I bet. I bet he didn’t have anything to say in his defense.”

Dana presses her hand against her husband’s chest and stops him from walking into the nearby toilet. “No, he talked.”

“What, like words?”

“Yes.”

Barry fills with scorn. “Our cat writes and talks – He IS a space alien.”

“Huh?” Dana wonders.

“Something I didn’t tell you about.”

Baffled, he states, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

She instantly suggests, “Give him a test.”

“Where is he?” Barry asks and scans for his absent cat.

“Not now,” Dana promises. “We’ll just go to bed. I don’t think he likes us making love.”

Barry is addled. “Did he say that?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

She pauses then says, “He said he is Charlie. Barry, what if he our son? What if our cat is his soul?”

“You’re right,” Barry tells her. “We’ll find out in the morning. We still need a lid for the shit.”

… continued tomorrow…

h1

The Corpus Cat Chapter Six of Thirteen

September 12, 2014

The Corpus Cat

Mr. Binger

Chapter Six of Thirteen

Faithful to a promise to himself, Barry takes a doughnut to his wife in the Superscript on the other side of Rockford. Inside the supermarket, there is an in-store deli at the center of the retail space. Shopping aisles bend around the sandwich shop and adjacent seating area. This is where the Corpus sit and speak with each other. In kindness to dining patrons, the Muzak is turned down and plays only contemporary instrumentals.

“I’m glad I pack my own lunch,” Dana tells her husband when he presents his offering. She thanks him, anyway.

Barry justifies his romance. “I love you is supposed to be sweet.”

“If you say. I might give this to Nicole, and you aren’t suppose to be eating these, either.”

“I know, but for you, today is an exception.”

She reminds him, “I like flowers and letters, too.”

“I know you do. It’s only, today, Joel and I were at the Corner Cafe and I thought about you.”

Dana smiles. “Honey, that’s sweet, but you always do. What did you talk about to Joel? I’m sure he had lots to say.”

“He didn’t,” Barry answers his wife knowing she acted sarcastic. “I mentioned Dodgie.”

Dana straightens her back, making the vertebra pop with the sound of a snapping twig. The woman is visibly suspicious. “Did you tell him anything?”

“Nothing. What, you didn’t mention anything unusual to anybody?”

“I did,” she confesses. “I told Nicole something and she said we should summon a witch.”

“Huh?”

“A psychic, a specialized cat-whisper.”

“I don’t think so,” Barry answers and hopes his decision is final. Based on her tone, he believes Dana agrees with him.

She muses, “Maybe going to church isn’t enough.”

Her husband is exasperated and honest. “I don’t know if this is His league.”

Dana says through her clenched teeth, “We are led to believe…”

“I don’t know what to believe,” Barry says after an empty pause. “Maybe we should just give him away.”

“Dodgie? No.”

Dana’s mobile phone buzzes in her front jeans pocket. She reaches under her uniform’s apron and squirms while she digs out her device with only the tips of two fingers. Before she raises its flat panel into sight, Barry asks her, “Who is that?”

She shrugs her shoulders and before she answers the call, Dana tells her husband, “Not you.”

And before she says, “Hello,” Barry mentions, “I hope you can appreciate my concern.”

“Who is this?” Dana demands from the caller after she did not recognize the number.

In the interest of courtesy and openness, she answered her phone with its speaker turned on. The first noise returned is a familiar, “Mew-ow.”

“It’s Dodgie,” she says and Barry nods his head.

Her husband asks her, “Is he using our phone?”

The expression on her face tells him she doesn’t know. The number is unlisted – their phone number. But counter her impression, Dana says, “Obviously.”

Barry asks himself, “Did I ever call you from home?”

Unsatisfied not knowing, he queries his wife. “Have you called yourself?”

“Let’s find out,” she tells him and listens to her device more closely.

Yet on speaker, the cat wonders what he hears and Dodgie asks, “Meow?”

“Oh, that’s cute,” Barry says annoyed.

His wife adds, “It is.”

“It’s bizarre.”

Dana withholds her suspicions. “Barry, things like this happen all the time.”

“Yeah, when people sit on their phones and dial with their butts.”

Dodgie goes, “Mew-ow,” one more time. And as if reminded, Barry sounds urgent when he instructs his wife, “Ask him to solve an equation.”

“What?”

“It’s just an idea,” Barry promises her.

She moves tentative, at first, and acts uncertain about doing as she is asked. His squint convinces her. “Okay, I’ll start with a simple question.”

She asks their pet cat on the other end of the connection, “Dodgie, what’s one plus one?”

The cat says, “Meow, meow.”

“Oh,” Dana mentions impressed.

Barry is tougher and says, “Oh, that’s too easy. Try a trick question.”

“Okay,” she intimates. “Dodgie, what’s five divided by five?”

“Come one,” Barry shouts.

The cat tells them, “Meow,” the same time the human man insists. “That’s too easy.”

Dana complains. “I don’t want to hurt his brain.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, we haven’t plugged wires into his head.” Barry stands then leans across the convenient, two-seater dining area table. Rather than continue relaying requests through his wife, he talks loudly to her bent wrist.

“Dodgie, what’s two plus three minus one?”

Dana tells him, “Oh, heavens, Barry.”

He insists. “Give him a minute.”

After a moment, Dodgie says away from the phone, “Meow.”

“He sounds further away,” Dana tells her husband.

He replies, “Give him a minute. Is he done?”

The cat makes no more noises and Dana says, “I think he is.”

The phone call is disconnected and the human interrogators can no longer quiz their animal suspect. Unable to distinguish the flat tone from the dominant silence throughout the previous call, Barry prompts their pet. “Do you know, Dodgie? Can you tap something instead of talking?”

Dana is flippant. “We can get him a bell.”

“That might help.”

“I think he hung up,” his wife reports.

The news makes Barry grumpy. “I didn’t raise a quitter.”

“Honey, Dodgie is almost fully grown and I think that’s all he’s ever going to know.”

Barry can’t deny the reality. Spontaneously amorous, he whispers to Dana, “We should stick to our own species.”

“I’m at work,” she says when she scolds her husband.

He proposes, “Tonight.”

“We’ll see.” She flirts.

“I have to punch-in,” Dana states. She adds hints for her husband. “If there was a special reason for tonight and the mood is right…”

He replies, “I’ll pick-up some strawberry cream cheese.”

Barry sends his wife back to her job with a kiss and an adventurous squeeze. He takes a parallel aisle toward the front of the store and stops half a shelf-length from the end of the row. Before his wife is too far away because she never stops moving, Barry shouts beyond canned kidney beans and turkey chili and into the adjacent lane.

“While I’m here, I’ll get Dodgie some real tuna.”

He thinks he hears Dana say, “Do it,” but he can’t honestly quote her. Nevertheless, Barry retrieves two four-ounce cans of fish before he goes and hunts for the aphrodisiacal cream cheese. Directionless, he’s drawn into an aisle with colorful breakfast cereals.

Aliens from outer space surround him, colorful yet primarily green caricatures hawking chunks of powdery corn syrup and artificial vitamins. And kids crave both the cartoons and the subsequent cavities. An overwhelming fruity aroma and all the extra-gooey hues distract Barry and he almost forgets he was thinking about sex.

“Raspberry cream cheese,” he chants while walking down the striped aisle, A few verses pass unnoticed before he corrects himself. “No, straw-cherry”

That moment, he acknowledges why there is so much green. Space aliens are a national ‘thing’ right now. Barry and Dana skip commercials when they do watch television – only with their digital video recorder – but they have both seen still images. They still see printed advertisements on other product purchases and on their receipts. Everywhere, there is a gimmick with creatures from other worlds – plural because there is a plethora of products being pushed. No one has monopolized all the aliens on earth.

And as expected per market screens and projections, kids readily adopted the fad. Although, these extraterrestrials are getting old and a New Year has already come. Last year’s addicted children will grow up and another generation will soon be lead by corporations to demand something new.

Reflecting upon anything lost, there is a brief moment when Barry’s heart jumps and he wholly empathizes with his wife. He assesses what his dead son has missed. He does mourn. Unlike Dana, he is also eager to move forward and share the future with another child – a boy or a girl. After losing their first, neither had thought one moment about the gender of their next baby.

Intermittently hypnotized, Barry finds himself stalled before a breakfast cereal he recognizes – UFO’s, a purple box of popped oat grains, there between analogous containers of Strawberry Saucers and Chocolate Comets. And he knows about UFO’s because he’s watched a documentary.

Kids created the crunchy confection, a bowl of substitute food no healthier than the doughnut Barry had given Dana. They imagined the cartoon spaceman and designed the UFO’s cereal box for an eighth-grade class project. And doing all that, they also uploaded homemade commercials onto the Internet. A big food cooperation believed the kids had a marketing success and made them all wealthy with tens of thousands of dollars.

Barry has no clue if the investment paid-off, other than seeing a physical product he first spotted online then now in real-life. That he remembers and has any interest in a kid’s food is because he recalls who produced the documentary. The story of UFO’s was made by UFO’s itself and presented by the punky, juvenile inventors and artists. Barry wishes for his kid something big like that.

In the meanwhile, he and Dana have a cat. And they both worry about him. He and she are intelligent people, they precluded demonic possession immediately. So, what Barry has left is, “Dodgie might be a space alien.”

He chuckles and starts moving again. Mumbling and giggling, he goes, “It would explain his unnatural intelligent. He is one sharp kitty.”

The logical alternative never invades his thoughts again and Barry states, “I trust my wife.” His dependable business partner told him as much.

… continued tomorrow…

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