The Corpus Cat Chapter Three of ThirteenSeptember 9, 2014
The Corpus Cat
Chapter Three of Thirteen
This cloudy Sunday morning, the Corpus couple come back together in his SUV from a Protestant church service at Saint Luke’s. They go once every month. Neither Dana nor Barry are religious people. They are not, as Barry always imagines the comic book icon, Stan Lee, would say, “True believers.”
And when Barry inks the sketches of the merry fatherly figure in his mind, he always imagines an animated Mr. Lee brandishes a silver cross and simultaneously expels bloodsuckers.
Suddenly guilty that he allows a childhood Satanic temptation to distract him so soon after sitting an hour on an uncomfortable wooden bench under the presence of God, Barry attends his original thought. He thinks as if seized in prayer.
Spiritually, he and Dana pledged to each other their own negotiated understanding of the popular and maligned Pascal Wager. Neither of them ever speak about God, they are not evangelical, not in the least. And if they were ever asked – and they never have been and they do not fear they ever will be – they would not deny His existence.
If He exists, Barry is certain he will know after being dead. And he will gladly shake the Lord’s hand and ask Him when his wife will be arriving. He is confidant they both deserve heaven. Nothing about this daydream is morbid, and merely a curiosity until he and wife arrive at home.
An unusual lightning snap whitens the sky the same second Barry raises the automatic garage door. A nearby boom rocks the stalled vehicle. Inside the SUV, Dana goes, “Whoa, that was bizarre.”
“It’s a winter lightning storm,” Barry tells her with no emotion. He takes the vehicle inside. The garage door closes as the couple open their own. He comments with a drawl, “It’s rare but not uncommon.”
“What?” Dana laughs.
Her husband continues his indistinct impression. “It’s a backwards expression from the rurals of these parts.”
“A backward education, it sounds like,” she judges.
They go into the house while Barry explains, “It means something happens sometimes.”
Dana submits her criticism to her husband when they are in the kitchen. “Who can call this winter, there hasn’t been snow all year. It’s just been cold.”
“It’s because the dry air.”
The Corpus exchange their thick jackets for thicker sweaters and automatically gather leftover meals from the days before the end of the week. Joining the couple in the living room, and appearing as fluffy as the two human beings, Dodgie comes in sniffing the air.
Outdoors, the wind suddenly sounds faster and more fierce. This force of nature presses the house the opposite direction and makes its walls creak. The windows rattle, too, but because the wind is constant, most of the glass panes clack against their sills once and stay pinned against their braces. Dodgie stops in his immaculate tracks and stares out the window.
“Ooo,” Dana expresses for everyone. Dodgie stays absolutely quiet and does not recognize the people in the room – two things the cat does best.
Blown debris flies past the undrawn window and Dana asks the animal, “Dodgie, did you see that?”
He obviously had and the cat trots into the center of the room then jumps onto the shelf below the opening. Barry broadcasts the event action. “There he goes.”
Clearly visible over the cat’s hunched shoulders, Dana and Barry watch in high clarity as late and forgotten holiday decorations are torn off houses, lifted into the sky and scattered throughout the neighborhood. Given the rage outside, the paper trash will likely go blown all over the city. And given the strength of its wind, the ornaments probably come all the way from Des Moines, Iowa. Dodgie lies rapt and scrutinizes the transformed landscape.
Indeed, the cat transforms himself into furry brick. And when a bolt of lightning hits so close to the house, and when all the windows tick as if pelted with gravel, and when the whole interior of the house is injected with white light, Dodgie remains at the glass unbothered.
“Holy!” Barry shouts after the thunder settles and he, all himself, tries to make a louder crack. Dodgie doesn’t bother with even that.
“Did you see?” Barry asks his wife. “Dodgie didn’t budge. He is either blind and deaf or he’s got balls of steel.”
Blinking her eyes, Dana inquires, “Isn’t he neutered?”
“I didn’t have the faith to take him to Bris.”
She scolds him. “Barry…”
Dodgie apparently hears her say a name and he turns his head almost completely around. The cat looks at Dana. His green eyes tell her he expects she will show him something interesting. And neither the cat nor Dana know what that something might be.
Barry makes a projection. “I think he wants to grow up in one piece.”
His wife slaps him on his shoulder and Barry argues, “We did, and keeping all of our parts was good enough for us.”
Without warning, Dana suddenly feels she will drop the smile from her face. The woman’s flush cheeks pale and droop and the corners of her lips quiver. Her husband instantly sees the depressed affect and he changes the subject. Barry points her attention to something odd and obvious. Distractions like these more often seem to help swing her mood.
“Dodgie has been scratching in his litter box a long time.”
The Corpus couple had not noticed when their pet cat jumped from in front of the window. And accustomed to his sneaking around, they weren’t particular concerned where he had gone. Outside, the wind dies and the storm has already passed. They missed its last gasp.
“I know,” Dana says dazed and more chipper. “What is he doing? You look, Barry. Whatever he covered up, he’s probably uncovered it.”
And in spite of being assigned the foul chore, Barry is aware he now investigates anything unusual in the bathrooms now and ever after. His wife calls from the living room while he passes through the kitchen. “I love you.”
“Yeah. I love you, too, sweetie,” he replies then goes into the downstairs half-bath alone.
A sulfurous odor identical to that one last night makes the air in this potty-cupboard humid and acidic. Barry thinks aloud, and maybe for Dodgie’s understanding, “Damned if it is the tofu tuna, it’s probably those treats for your teeth.”
Barry switches on the overheard fan with the same motion he uses when he flips on a light. The man is shocked. Certainly, there are cat turds in the litter box and there is more. Dodgie’s silhouette dashes away in a radiant blur. Barely catching the image, Barry assumes it’s all part of one cat. He then resumes acting aghast.
When he gazes into the litter once more, he sees the feces is stale and embedded with saturated silica crystals. The fossilized feline pellets don’t truly smell but they should have been flushed when they were fresh two days ago.
Cat scatology aside, Barry sees the name of his deceased son. “Again?”
Dana overhears him ask himself in a loud voice. She already knows the answer but she repeats the question and asks her husband, “Again?”
“Yes,” he says beneath his breath. He meant not to say anything even if this reply went unheard.
The name today is written in cursive, drawn across the ragged lumps of litter. The writing confuses him and appears written by someone other than the artist who printed the bloody letters upstairs. The script has been etched much better than indicated by the crosshatch scratches the Corpus had heard from the other room.
Acting on instinct as much as the damned admission slipped out of his mouth because alarm, Barry drags the sole of his dress shoe through the glass beads, digging up stiff logs of poop and setting them on their ends. He chides himself, “Hey, you, remember to dump this one, too, when you do the box upstairs.”
Eager for an answer, Dana asks her husband again, “Really?”
His answer is stalled so long, she joins him in the kitchen. Dana stands directly behind the man and pokes her nose against the back of his neck. Unexpected of her, she insists, “Don’t erase it.”
“You want to see it?” Barry had not wished it for himself, and he is surprised his wife wants to view the evidence.
“Too late,” he says before she discovers he’s wiped the writing away.
“Why?” Dana asks him before she sees what he’s done. Her question is the same but she does not repeat herself. When she sees, she says, “Oh, Barry.”
He tells her, “I’m sorry. I was thinking of you…”
“I know,” she says when she interrupts him. Dana rolls her head and grasps her husband’s arm. He wraps his other around her back and hugs the woman.
“Are you sure it was there?” she asks him. Barry starts wondering about himself.
Dana points at the overfilled litter box. “Dump that, please.”
… continued tomorrow…