by Elaine Faber
It didn’t matter what she thought. He always got his way. If it felt good, he did it, if he wanted it, he took it. When he was finished, he threw it away, or in this case, walked away. He could still hear her shrieks as he slammed his car door and sped away. He wouldn’t come back. Women were like new shoes. In about three months, the shine wore off and he’d get a new pair. Jenny had shined for four months, almost a record, but it was time to move on. Tom twisted his rear view mirror, grinned at his reflection and ran his hands through his carrot-red hair. Jenny would be harder to forget, but why stick around? Commitment wasn’t his cup of tea. Not to worry. Another would take Jenny’s place, probably within the week.
Jenny clutched her arms across breasts, tears streaking her cheeks.
“I should have known better. They’re all alike.” She leaned and picked up her coffee cup. “Lord knows, I’ve got enough already. I really don’t need another one.” A smile touched her lips. “Then again, perhaps an orange one would look good with the others.”
She reached back and patted the black cat curled on the top of the sofa. He raised his head, blinked and yawned. “I’ll get you guys a snack. Then, I’m going shopping.”
She wiped her eyes and stood. The black cat followed her to the kitchen. A brown Manx and a creamy white Persian tumbled down from the counter and from the top of the refrigerator. A mixed blue-eyed cat with perhaps a Siamese ancestor popped out from under the cupboard. Like the spokes of a wheel, the four cats arranged themselves around the Friskies bowl, each a different color, a different personality and a different story to tell…
“Yes, I think I could use an orange one.”
After a few calls, Jenny learned of Tom’s plan to meet a friend for lunch. She began to prepare for her shopping trip. A box from a top shelf in the garage revealed a black hat with a long red feather. Jenny drew her finger from the tip to the nib. She blew on the feather and dust wisped across the garage. “This will have to do.” She carried the hatbox into her bedroom. Next, she rummaged through her closet. She found a particular garment tucked between a tweed suit and a leather jacket. “Here it is.” Shoulder pads, huge buttons and bellbottom legs?all the rage in the 1970s.
She shook the wrinkles from the black pantsuit and checked the material. Her finger stuck through a tiny moth hole in the left sleeve. “Has it been that long since the last one? I could have sworn it was just a couple of years ago.”
Jenny donned the pantsuit and the black hat, keeping an eye on the clock. Timing was the key to success. She glanced in the mirror and added bangle bracelets and a gold hoop earring. Just the look she desired.
At 1:00, Jenny stood peering into the window of Marvelous Marvin’s Magic Shop. Tom sauntered toward her. He looked startled when he saw her. He waved. The red feather on her hat dipped as she turned and hurried into the magic shop. He trailed her into the shop. “Jenny, is that you?” Tom shadowed her down the aisle, into a dark corner stacked with capes, black lights and baskets heaped with magic paraphernalia. Eerie music, screeches and shrieks bounced around the room.
Jenny turned. “Hello, Tom.” The feather in her hat drifted from side to side, caressed by the breeze from the air conditioner.
Tom eyes tracked the drifting feather, back and forth, back and forth…“Jenny? What are you doing here? Are you going to a Halloween party?”
“Would you like to come with me?”
“I…I…How did you know I’d be here?”
“I know everything about you.”
Jenny’s long red fingernail tapped three times on the top of a stack of black shopping bags stacked on the floor. “Dinkle, Dinkle, Catzenwinkle.” With a poof, Tom disappeared. The shopping bag, no longer black, displayed a vivid orange cat staring wide-eyed from its paper prison. Jenny carried the bag to the register. “I believe I’ll take this one.”
“That will be $.95 with tax. Do you want a bag?”
Jenny shook her head and handed the clerk a dollar. “No, thank you. This will be fine, just as it is.”
Jenny unlocked the door of her apartment, “Come boys, I have a treat for you.”
They came from all corners of the apartment?from under the table, off the top of the sofa, out from under the bed, down off the fireplace, stretching and yawning, until the four cats had gathered around the shopping bag decorated with the face of the vivid orange cat. The blue-eyed mixed breed cat pawed at the bag. Perhaps he expected a catnip mouse? Jenny flipped the bag upside. “This is Tom.” An orange striped cat with big round eyes tumbled out.
He looked frantically around the room. The four cats crouched around him, like five spokes of a wheel.
“Tom has come to live with us.” Jenny folded the large black bag and shoved it into the wastebasket.