Jeremy or Jacob or Whoever
Based upon true events
I started calling him Bobo. Bobo was a name like a normal cat would have. Didn't like the one he had before. Jeremy or Jacob or whoever. Some J name that didn't suit him. Threw out his collar so he wouldn't remember.
I found him crouched on all fours at the edge of his front yard watching two squirrels trying to do the dirty up against a tree. Hello handsome, I said. He sniffed at my hand but didn't say nothing, didn't motion for a pet. You shy or just being rude? I said. He swatted at me, leaving tiny slices along my wrist. Quit drawing attention here, he said. You're raising suspicion. I was a taken aback by such a flippant attitude on a perfectly sunny day, so I kept walking up the street, pushing my stroller.
Five or six houses along I stopped and turned around. An old lady across the street was bent over some flowers wiggling her bum in the air. That bad cat, I thought. I watched him chew at his paw. Hey, I whispered. He ignored me. Hey, I whispered again. He yawned. So I darted forward, grabbed him round the tummy, covered him with my jacket, squirming and hissing as I strapped him in the stroller. Then I walked, fast as I could in heels, down an alley beside the street. My little crying baby.
I kept him on the floor by the couch beneath a laundry basket. Nailed down the corners. Kept getting loose and hiding on me. Drew the curtains to keep it dark. I'm gonna go find you some nice fish, I said. I took off my wig and dress. Didn't wanna get them dirty. Snaked around the corner, went digging through the dumpster behind the Korean restaurant.
I've got my Monday-Wednesday dress, my Tuesday-Thursday dress, and on Fridays I wear something unexpected. Bobo smelled clean like dish soap and his orange fur wasn't greasy like the other street cats. He was like a furry little Paul Newman. Blue eyes and everything.
You're gonna be reborn, I told him. And we spent days and days getting acquainted. Told him about my past life as a war nurse. My first true love, Emilio. He told me about hunting spiders in the bathroom, torturing them, chewing off their legs. I plucked hairs from between my eyes with tweezers. He tongued his fur. I caught mice in the kitchen with traps and chopped them up into tiny pieces. Dropped them through the holes in the basket. Chew your food like a gentleman, I'd say. He'd stick his paws through and claw. Draw blood from my fingertips. Hiss whenever the subway rumbled beneath us.
At night I read to him from Charlotte's Web. Watched him till I knew he was dreaming. Wished I could get in there, see what he could see.
After a week I started sewing Bobo a dress to match mine from the living room curtains. That morning I was planning on adding the final touches (a collar made from an old doily, some buttons I found at the laundry mat), strapping him in the stroller, and showing him off to everyone I knew.
I was in the washroom trimming my whiskers and applying some rouge when I heard him calling: Maria! Maria! He was lying on his side beneath the basket. Bobo, I said, Are you alright? It's not time for our soaps yet, Bobo, what on earth could you be crying about? He coughed and heaved. Bobo, I said, Do you have a hairball? Do you want some chocolate milk? Open up, I said, as I stuck a straw through a hole. He sniffed the air then dropped his head back to the table. Bobo, I said. I can't help you if you don't open your mouth. He didn't respond.
I found a knife and started sawing at the plastic. It snapped at each weave until I could lift it off. I picked him up, weak and small in my arms, breathing in tiny spurts. Bobo, I said, I made you a Monday-Wednesday outfit to match mine. His head lolled against my chest. Bobo, I said, We were gonna be the talk of the town.
In my black accoutrement, I walked back to the yard where I found him. Perfectly sunny day. Wrapped him tight in his curtains and tossed him like a newspaper. You go catch those dirty squirrels, Bobo. I said, You kill them nasty things. I won't raise anymore suspicions. Then I went on alone, passing them signs like gunshots to my heart. Picking at the scabby parts of my arms. Drawing blood.
JEREMY OR JACOB OR WHOEVER
EXTREMELY LOVED AND MISSED BY FAMILY
Sara Flemington completed her Honours BA in English and Creative Writing at York University, where she received the Sorbara Award for Creative Writing, the Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Prize for Poetry, and honourable mention for the President's Prize for Short Fiction. She has featured at numerous reading series around Toronto, and her work has appeared in Sassafras Literary Magazine. Her first chapbook of poems, humidity, was released with Bitterzoet Magazinein January, 2014. Sara lives in Toronto.
Illustration by Seth Young.