I’ve lived in this house since I was a pup, which is a hell of a lot longer than that cat’s been here. Francine, the woman who lives here with me, is getting old and strange, smelling like the stuff in her bathroom that she rubs all over herself. She spends a lot of time with that feline on her lap and thinks it’s the funniest thing to call her PJ, “because she’s the cat’s pajamas.”
Freaking cat. Francine treats her like she’s some kind of princess, but I know PJ’s just running a con. A year ago, she was scrounging in open dumpsters, getting screwed by whatever came her way. But Francine “saved” her, and now she has full run of this place.
Her food is on the counter by the sink, so I can’t get at it, but she steals my chow. She doesn’t even eat it. She licks it and gets her cat stench all over it. And when I growl at her, Francine treats me like I’m the bad guy.
“Curly,” she says. “You mustn’t growl at PJ.”
I hang my head, and that damn cat taunts me with that high-pitched whine of hers.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Francine and it’s up to me to take care of her. It’s not her fault this feral fur-ball, this gray-eyed grifter has her brainwashed. PJ runs a good con, I’ll admit that, but she doesn’t have my history with Francine. I go back to when Gus lived here. He was the only one who called Francine Franny .
I remember how he’d tap her on the rump and say, “That’s my Franny’s fanny.” I liked Gus. Francine did, too, and when he went cold and still, I was the one who cheered her up.
Gus would never have fallen for PJ’s cheap tricks, like that rumble in her stomach she does to get attention. When I try making that sound, Francine takes me for a walk and brings her pooper scooper.
The fact is I can’t compete with the cat. I’m too big and fat to jump on Francine’s lap the way PJ does. And since she fell, Francine can hardly play with me. Besides, I’m too old to chase sticks or catch Frisbees. It was Gus who did that stuff with me, anyway. I miss the way he smelled like he’d just eaten bacon.
When he couldn’t get around anymore, I stayed close. I even slept under his bed. He’d let his hand hang down and I’d lick it. Gus would tickle me under my chin and tell me I was a good boy.
One morning, he woke me coughing. He took in enough breath to say. “Take care of Franny, boy.”
Then his hand tasted cold and stopped smelling like bacon. It just hung there, like it didn’t belong to him. I cried, and Francine came to see what was wrong and she cried, too. I licked her tears to remind her I was still here for her.
But that was a long time ago, before the feline invasion. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting too old to take care of Francine. My hips hurt, and I sleep a lot. So maybe it’s good that Francine has her PJ, her cat’s pajamas.
I just wish that damn cat would stay away from my food.
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He’s published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories. His short story, “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film.