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How to Beat Your Heartache

Michelle got a cat. She’d wanted to name him Purry (“’Cause he’s a cat. Duh.”), but her therapist told her to change it because it was too close to her ex’s name (Murray). So Mr. Whiskers it was. Except Michelle was then compelled to call herself Mrs. Whiskers, so then it was just Whiskers. Of course, that reminded her of Murray’s moustache, so that was out. Eventually, he became Kat.

Michelle vowed to be there for her darling feline always, whether his nose was warm or cool, whether he was eating Fancy Feast or sardine oil. “I have only one rule,” she’d said when he moved in. “Love.” And she did love him. She let him sleep on the pillow right next to her head. She let him strut around on the breakfast table while she ate. She didn’t even care when she found her unworn white dress with shred tracks, like it was crying frayed threads.

“Hold on a moment, love,” she said to Kat one morning as the phone rang. “Hello?”

“Sweetie, it’s me.”

“Oh, hi, Mom.”

“Hi, hun.” Pause. “Do you have plans this weekend?”

“I’m taking Kat to be photographed, at that place downtown on the corner?”

“Yes, dear, I know.” Pause. “Why don’t you come visit?”

“And leave Kat all by himself? You can’t ask me to do that.”

A sigh. “I know I can’t, dear.”

And God knows you’ve tried, Michelle thought. “Well, bye, Mom.”

“Bye dear. I love yo—”

A few weeks later Michelle saw Kat clawing white paint off the front door; through the door’s window she saw a feral calico sitting outside. “Slut,” she muttered. Then she bought an ID collar for Kat in case he ran off, and a shotgun in case she needed one. She only wished she’d bought it when Murray first started scratching at the door for his own calico pussycat.

The months passed between Michelle and Kat. Mice were killed and no one shed tears; litter boxes were dutifully filled with scented sand; eventually, Michelle could no longer distinguish copper fur from the rest of her furniture, and she didn’t care. One afternoon a few days after their nine month anniversary, Michelle arrived with a cardboard box full of holes. She set it down and released a gray tom cat. “Sylvester,” she called him affectionately. Kat and Sylvester sniffed each other cautiously. “I’ll take care of you boys,” she assured. They both looked at her and didn’t answer, though she wished they did. Or that they could. What’s one more cat around here? she thought. Maybe I’ll get another, or two or three. “You must be hungry!” She went to open the tin can of Fancy Feast Fish Medley. She caught a whiff of it like usual, but for the first time realized how scrumptious it smelled.




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