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Cat and Spouse

by David Westheimer

 

Grizzolo, our cat,
Is a treacherous cat.
He sprawls on the carpet
Feigning somnolence.
My wife walks by him,
Preoccupied.
He attacks her from behind,
Leaping up and wrapping his paws
Around her leg and bites her, high up.
She yells at him and shakes her fist.
He darts under the table
Pretending to be frightened. But I know he is
Chuckling

Cats do not know their names
But do they have memories?
The cat who sits sleek, fat and purring
In my lap, does he remember when
He was a stray kitten mewing
Pitiably on our patio,
Licking our hands and arching his back
To be stroked when my wife fed him,
Hand out past the screen.
Sleeping in the cardboard box
She set out for him.
And the vet we took him to for demanning
And boarding when we went away for two weeks.
And how she took him inside
When we returned
And how he has been here since
In the lap of luxury And grown used to it?
Does he remember any of it?
How sad if he doesnt.

I call his name, coaxing.
He does not deign to turn his head.
A flick of his tail, maybe.
I cluck my tongue,
Make mewing sounds.
He stares into space.
Space that does not contain me.
I scratch the sofa beside me,
Pat my lap and coo.
Something more inviting holds his attention.
Tell me, do cats know their names?
Or are they deaf?
Or just dont give a hoot?
We lie stretched out on the wide bed,
My wife, Grizzolo and me.
Catnapping.
He is better at it than we,
Understandably.
But we are learning

The radio plays Forty Second Street.
My wife of more than 50 years
Dances in her nightgown for the cat.
He is puzzled and unimpressed,
But I am charmed.

In the kitchen, he sprawls closely behind her.

When she moves backward she steps on his tail.
He yowls indignantly, as if she has done it on purpose.
Which makes her madder than she was before.
"Get outta here!" she yells.
"Dont you know better than to always
Be underfoot!"
It is not a question, and anyway
He has already answered with a yowl.
And he does not know better.
She turns her back and he lounges
At her heels again.
He will never learn,
And neither will she.
Its fun to watch.

Sixty years ago,
In the hospital the first time ever.
Appendicitis.
Lonely there, I asked my mother
Why this girl I liked never came to see me.
And she did.
The radio was playing, Deep Purple.
But I was in pain and wouldnt see her.
And while there never got another chance.
The radio is playing Deep Purple.
I look at my wife of fifty one years and say,
"Theyre playing our song."

My wife criticizes the way I walk.
"Youre not walking good," she says
In a scolding voice.
"Pick up your foot, keep your legs
Closer together."
I start to shout at her,
"Im doing the best I can!"
But I remember she drives me everywhere,
Takes out the trash and cat litter,
Brings in the mail and buttons my left sleeve
So I say in my sweetest voice,
"Yes, dear." Makes her mad.
I knew it would.

My wife buys peanuts in the shell,
The cats admission to the squirrel show.
She puts a handful on our patio
And the squirrels climb the fence
Singly and in pairs to feast on them
Almost nose to nose with Grizzolo and Paddy,
Who crouch just inside the screen,
Vibrating. Is it entertainment for them or
Torment

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