she fed the cats.
there were two of them, really, but only one that mattered: dusty rose, the cat would follow her from room to room, mewing softly but plaintively when his bowl was empty, who would rub up against her unshaven legs in appreciation when the bowl was full, prostrating his soft little gray head against her bosom.
she fed the cats amidst coffeepots and junk mail; she balanced dusty's bowl on the counter more deftly and more often than she did her checkbook. musingly she remembered being called kitty as a girl; now her full name, catherine, streched out before her, as long as a life with two grown children and a husband whose flat blue eyes regarded her with as much comprehension as they did the foreign language stations he came across while channel-surfing.
she fed the cats, and a ringing phone did not deter her; how could she answer "hello" to the garden club president or a credit card salesman or even one of her own children - bright voices full of landlords, new jobs and live-in girlfriends - when dusty's pleading eyes, all pupil with unbroken bands of yellow-gold at the edges, were looking up at her? even knowing she would be late to work did not stop cathering from filling that plastic bowl. the grind of the can opener left her in rhythmic reverie; the smell of the soupy brown substance did not even reach her nostrils anymore. sometimes she was called into the office on her day off: "mrs. derosier, we need you to fill in for megan today." that was the sort of names those girls had - megan, angie, christina. fresh out of college, they were administrative assistants, while she would always be a secretary. had her job been that of an ER doctor, catherine suspected she would still defer going in to work to complete her task at hand: giving the tiny pink mouth with the sandpaper tongue what it begged for.
on thursday night she cooked a filet of sole; after the plates were cleared and the fish torn away down to its slender bones, she retired to her room with a library book. it was a mystery novel; the dark ominous letters and illustrated blood adorning the cover, other people's coffee spills and a weak, worn-out spine afflicting the pages. catherine could never seem to concentrate on reading - the words conglomerated and danced rhythmlessly across the page, letters turning into meaningless scratches of printed ink. dusty rose curled against her side, his white paws kneading her flesh the way he had once obtained nourishment from his own feline mother. from downstairs the television leaked its canned laughter and at catherine's side dusty shifted, claws out for traction, leaving a somber, deep red scratch on catherine's forearm that she did not feel.