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I was a jaundiced baby.
It’s no excuse, he says.
But I was born yellow. Is it yellow or green?
Green, he says.
Yes of course. Green. You can’t help how you’re born, you know. And I drank too much. That’s why.
Stop it, he says. You need to see someone.
I’m seeing you.
You know what I mean.
Why do you take so many baths?
I like baths, he says.
I had a cat, you know. A big, yellow tomcat. His name was Angel.
Was he yellow or orange?
Does it matter? Orange, I suppose. Orange-yellow.
Angel is no name for a male cat, he says.
But it was the prettiest name I knew. And it’s not that often you get to name something. I think I would have a baby just to name it.
There you go with that baby talk again. That’s all you ever think about. It’s your hormones, he says.
His name was Angel and I wrote lots and lots of stories about him. But I could never remember how to spell it. Was it E-L or L-E? I have to think to this day. My mom used to make fun of me. She’d say you and your cat Angle. It’s not funny.
I didn’t say it was.
E-L or L-E who cares?
It makes a difference, he says.
I suppose. I think he was my first sexual experience.
You think your first sexual experience was with a cat.
I think so.
A cat named Angle.
They have a name for that, you know.
They have a name for everything and that’s not what I mean. You’re not listening.
I am listening. Will you scrub my back?
You’re like a kid. I just remember it was a hot day and I was wearing shorts or a nightgown or something and we had these leather sofas and I could feel them on the backs of my legs. I may have been watching television. It may or may not have been a love scene.
Okay, stop. You’re making me uncomfortable. A little lower. To the right. Yeah, right there.
Anyway, Angel was on top of me. He was very long for a cat.
I mean his length. Head to toe or whatever. He was on top of me, all stretched out and I just remember feeling very sexy.
Is that it?
Well, what did you think about?
What do you mean what did I think about? I didn’t think about anything. It was a love scene. He was my cat. I loved him and that’s it.
Come on. Get in. Get in with me, he says.
You take a lot of baths.
I like baths.
Is it like a rebirth?
It’s more like a death. Come on. Take a bath with me.
There’s not enough room.
There’s plenty of room.
And besides I might get an infection.
You used to take baths with me, he says.
I had a lot of infections.
* * *
I was a jaundiced baby.
Here. You have to inhale.
Who is she?
She is no one.
Is she pretty?
No. Did you inhale?
Yes, I inhaled. If we were first together would you have said yes?
Yes, but I learned.
So she is pretty.
Must we always?
I was born green.
It’s getting old, he says.
I’m getting old.
It’s never enough.
I know, he says.
You should teach me, you know.
What do you mean teach you?
You know, so I know how on my own.
You don’t like it this way? he says.
I didn’t say that. It would just be nice to know. Just in case.
Just in case what?
I don’t know. You’re the one that said I should be more independent. Or is it that we’re saving it this way? It is isn’t it?
No. Besides I’m the one who buys it.
Well, I buy my birth control every month. You’ve never offered to pay for that. Same thing.
It’s not the same thing.
It lowers your sperm count.
Yeah, but it’s not the same thing. Why can’t you just get all giggly like you used to? I like it when you get all giggly.
I thought it annoyed you.
Why’d you think that?
You said so.
Maybe it was just that once. Here.
Do you know I killed a cat once?
Did you dry it?
Did you dry it? My sister put her cat in the dryer once after she gave it a bath.
She gave the cat a bath?
Yeah, but that’s not the point. She dried it.
What happened to it?
What do you mean what happened to it? It died.
Was the dryer on high?
How should I know? It killed the fucking cat. It would have killed the cat on high or low.
What about air dry?
For Christ sake.
Well, I didn’t dry the cat. I slammed the sliding glass door on it and broke its neck.
Was it Angel?
Well, what happened to Angel?
He just disappeared.
What do you mean he just disappeared?
We lived in the country. In the country, things disappear.
Things don’t just disappear, he says.
Well, they probably get eaten or killed, but no one tells you that when you’re a kid. They say Angel’s probably just tomcatting around and you believe them and after a while you just forget.
I thought you loved that cat.
But you just forgot?
I didn’t just forget. I forgot after a time. I was sad and then I forgot. That feels good.
Yeah. Do you know sometimes I cut myself.
Not deep. Just little cat-scratches to see if you notice. Just so that when we make love I’ll know if you’re really seeing me.
I don’t make love, he says. I fuck.
Come on. Be serious.
Why do we have to be so serious all the time?
We can’t do this forever you know. You can’t do this when you have kids.
Yes you can.
You can around infants just not around children.
You know, I held the cat in a towel. It must have been dying and I held it. We drove it to the vet. It was bloody. It must have been bloody and that’s why we had it in the towel. I couldn’t do something like that now even if I had to. I just couldn’t. Are you listening?
Yes, I’m listening.
Let’s make love. Do you want to make love? Remember when we could make love without asking?
Yes. No. Hold on. I want to see this, he says.
It’s like saying I love you. You say I love you until it means nothing. It means nothing when it should mean everything. And then love is in the way of the I and the you. We should be closer. I you. Get it? But the longer you love someone, the farther you are away. I you.
Here. Did you inhale?
Yes, I inhaled. Is she pretty?
* * *
I was a jaundiced baby.
Stop, he says.
I was. I am.
That’s why this will never work.
Who is she?
No one. Don’t touch me, he says. I said stop. You’re going to cause an accident. I’m sorry. Please. I’m sorry.
Okay, you’re sorry. Just not right now.
You know I had two cats once named Iggy and Piggy.
Jesus, another one.
It’s important. Don’t you want to know everything about me? We should know everything about each other. All of our scars. Everything. Don’t you think?
No. But I know you do.
Their names were Iggy and Piggy. We didn’t get to name them. We got them from the vet. It was when we first moved to the country. It was when we first moved and all the cats kept dying out.
I thought they disappeared.
Well, they did. They disappeared because they were dead.
So disappeared is a euphemism.
Yes. No. I mean I assume they were dead. But how can you ever really know?
No heartbeat. No pulse. Cold, stiff body.
But we never found them.
They were probably eaten, he says. Hungry coyote. Don’t look at me like that. You’re the one that broke your cat’s neck. I’m sorry.
Can I tell my story now?
Tell your story.
Are you going to listen?
I’m listening, he says.
So their names were Iggy and Piggy. Were you supposed to turn there? I think you were supposed to turn there.
No. I know exactly where I’m going.
And their mother or someone had abandoned them. Well, they were so young and the instinct to survive and all that so Iggy nursed on Piggy.
What do you mean? Piggy was a female cat?
No. They were brothers. Both male. And someone found them like that. That’s why they were at the vet and the vet knew my dad and I overheard my dad one time telling the story and kind of laughing about it. I was still very young then, but I had the sense I wasn’t supposed to listen so of course I listened.
See this is my turn right here.
You want to know what happened to them?
Iggy and Piggy.
What? They disappeared?
No. About a week later Cotton killed them both one right after the other. Shook them and broke their necks. I stood there watching. Maybe I was screaming. Maybe I was crying. It all happened so fast.
Okay. You got everything. I look all right? he says.
It doesn’t matter. Your mother cuts off my head in all the pictures anyway.
You’re a tall girl, he says.
Well, you’re taller and she doesn’t cut off your head.
What can I say? You have a nice neck. I’m sorry. You’re very pretty and you know what?
If you were an ounce less pretty, I wouldn’t put up with all those damn stories.
How many ounces pretty am I?
* * *
I was not a jaundiced baby.
I am not. Who is she?
She is no one.
Will you tell her about me? Enough to make her yellow? Make her green?
You are green.
You are yellow.
Anyway, it’s over, he says. I’m not going to stand here while we call each other colors. I’m going to take a bath.
Now you’re not making any sense. I’m going to take a bath. Need to relax.
I’ll take a bath too. Let me take a bath with you.
No, he says. I need to relax by myself. Alone.
Please. I’ll do anything. Please let me take a bath with you. I’ll do anything.
Okay, he says.
I’m fat. But I feel skeletal. It all feels so skeletal. Like old bone with no insides.
You’re not fat, he says. Get in.
Maybe not fat, but swollen.
Okay, swollen. Get in.
I want to tell you a story first.
Not now, he says.
Please. Let me tell it. It will mean nothing. I’ll scrub your back. You’ll enjoy it.
Okay, he says. But hurry up.
I saw this cat on TV the other day. It was one of those special interest stories. And she could walk just like a person and she walked that way because she didn’t have front legs. A guy had her on a leash, he was so proud, and there she was completely deformed walking around just like a person. And the best part was the cat had no idea. She was so happy like she was doing exactly what every cat was born to do. It was so beautiful I started crying.
Is that it?
Yes, that’s it.
Is it supposed to be funny?
No. Yes. Not at all.
It’s your hormones, he says. You’re hysterical.
Will you ever forgive me?
Let’s take a bath. Let’s make love. I promise I won’t get an infection.
We’ll take a bath, he says. And that’s all.
Tria Andrews has published fiction, poetry, and photography in red, Eyeshot, The Strip, See You Next Tuesday, and Fiction International.
This story is included in issue #40: Animals. Copyright © 2007 by Fiction International. Authors of individual works retain copyright, with the restriction that subsequent publication of any text be accompanied by notice of prior publication in Fiction International. Please contact the editor for reprinting information.
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