By Robin Lovelace
I have a black cat named Sphinx. Actually, she is Antoine’s cat. But Sphinx still lives here, Antoine does not. A three year marriage and I loved Antoine, truly loved him, but he didn’t believe me. He said I couldn’t really love him . . . or anybody else for that matter.
I met Antoine when I needed a lawyer to defend me from a hit and run charge. Yes I was guilty. Yes I hit someone and left the scene. Only because I was late for work and I didn’t need an arrest on my record and I sure didn’t need the insurance problems. Later on, we discovered the guy I hit was drunk. He was riding a moped. Swerved out in the street before I could push on the brakes and I had no previous record. The drunken moped driver lived but had to be in a wheelchair. Actually, it worked out pretty good for him. He didn’t die and he was eligible for disability checks so he could sit in his little house and drink up the rest of his little life. I got six months suspended and had to pay a thousand dollar fine.
Last spring, Antoine met someone else. A fat girl that was three years older than him, with frizzy, brown hair. He didn’t tell me about her, ever. No, he said he was working out at the gym when he was gone so much and I found a restaurant receipt in his jacket pocket. After that, I followed him. I never mentioned it, never confronted Antoine, never brought it up to anyone.
Antoine wants to go to Miami. He didn’t tell me that either, but I saw on his laptop the history of all the things he was looking up. Apartments for rent in Miami popped up a half dozen times. He said I could have the house that was almost paid off and all the furnishings. He was starting a new life, without me and if I didn’t bother him again and just let him go, I could have the house and everything in it.
He told me he figured me out. That he thought I was a sociopath and on a couple occasions, he saw me drop my guard and that my eyes looked dead, like I had no soul and that he was stupid for not seeing that a long time ago. He brought up the time I was really angry at his mother for trying to stop us from getting married, and she was hospitalized because of food poisoning soon after.
Ahhh, but he didn’t know about the time my assistant manager called me a name under her breath, and the next week, she had four flat tires in the parking lot, after the mall closed. In the dark. And her cell phone was mysteriously missing from her purse.
Of course I never let him know about the time I broke into my old boyfriend’s apartment and unplugged his fridge when he was gone for ten days on his Hawaiian honeymoon (I thought that was rather creative). Wow. Maybe Antoine is right. That all sounds really mean.
Antoine never said his new life was with a fat, frizzy haired, almost middle aged bitch. Why do some guys go for the fat bitches? I don’t understand it. I have a trim body, no jelly rolls, and I run every morning and my hair is definitely not frizzy. Anyway it’s over between us. I have the house and the five acres of land and all the beautiful furnishings and a black cat that I don’t like very much.
I know of no other black man that owned a cat, but Antoine is an unusual black man, in some ways. He likes rock more than he likes blues or rap. And he is a big fan of Saul Bellow, some Jewish writer that I think is dead now. And he likes golf and living in a house that sits on a secluded plot of land, with a large swatch of dense woods behind it, snug between the suburbs and the rural corn fields of Indiana. I wonder if he likes Miami now.
I do like dogs. Dogs are sweet and dogs adore their masters. Dogs are useful for something. Not cats. Sphinx hardly acknowledges me unless she’s hungry. She is a good hunter though, and graceful. Like a ballet dancer. Walking in that light footed, elegant way. She has a habit of walking toward me, moving semi-speedily, paws positioned just so. When I turn to watch her, she stops. She meows at me. She walks under my desk and pops her head out to look at me. Yellow eyes surrounded by inky black fur. Why the hell does she do that?
Sphinx rarely goes outside but when she does, she always comes back with an animal in her mouth. She has brought back a sparrow, a mourning dove, a baby rabbit, and one time she brought nothing back, but a couple hours later she vomited up three half-digested baby mice. I almost lost my cookies when I saw that mess and cleaning it up was the second most disgusting thing I ever had to do.
After that incident, I have decided to not let her out . . . ever. She would have to be an indoor cat from now on. Doomed to only hunt down those sporadic, annoying crickets that find their way into Antoine’s, I mean my beautiful house. Sphinx will have to stay inside, eating only dry cat food and the occasional can of sardines. Fur balls were all I planned to clean up and hopefully those would be few and far between.
This evening, I opened the door to go out on the back deck and when I swung open the screen door, Sphinx ran out before I could stop her. She streaked down the deck steps and across the back yard and into the woods that grew not twenty yards from Antoine’s, excuse me, my back door.
Damn. Hard telling what she was running after and what she would bring back to me.
While I waited for her return, I swept some fallen leaves off of the deck and killed a fat, brown, evil looking spider with a little black and white triangle on its stomach that spun a web between a bough of the pink rose bush I had planted just a year before and the edge of a deck railing. I have a device that looks like a small tennis racket but when you press and hold in two red buttons on the handle simultaneously, the wires turn electrified and spark burns any bug it touches. I bought it at the hardware store a few years ago, when I knew I’d be living next to a swatch of bug-filled trees and damp undergrowth. It took a half a minute to shock the spider to death on the wires of my deadly tennis racket, but I am a patient person and when its spindly legs stopped twitching I carried it to the toilet, dropped it in and flushed it.
After I sent the spider to the sewer, I researched big, brown spiders with black and white markings on its stomach. The internet told me it was an Orb Spider. Not poisonous. I had killed an innocent spider. Still, Sphinx had not returned.
I went back in the house but left the door open. Just the screen door was shut and Sphinx had torn a hole through the bottom of the screen to get in last Spring, when Antoine was sleeping late one morning (Antoine is a very successful lawyer and he worked long hours during the week) and I was at work. We replaced the screen and she eventually scratched a hole in the new screen too. After that, I decided that if Sphinx wanted out that bad, I wouldn’t replace the screen again. So I left the torn screen with the hole. She could let herself back in the house.
My favorite crime show was on. I learned a lot from watching it and the main character was my kind of tough guy. Tonight was the second to the last episode so I did not want to be disturbed by having to get up and let a meowing cat back into the house, so I left the door open and the screen door locked. A thought about raccoons walking through the hole in the screen flashed through my mind for a moment, but the TV started playing the opening theme music and I had my cup of tea getting cold on the coffee table and my blueberry scone sitting on a plate, right next to it. Anyway, the chance of an actual raccoon walking in was little to none. I watched the show. It was my addiction, and I needed my weekly dose.
After the show was over and I was waiting for the previews, Sphinx came padding through the hole in the screen door and into the living room. She had something muddy in her mouth. She dropped it on the beige carpet in front of me as I sat, legs tucked under, on Antoine’s (now mine) eggshell colored suede leather sofa. I scooted closer and took a good look at what awful thing Sphinx had brought to me. It was a piece of something fleshy and sticky wet. It stank.Crap, I thought, what else was out there stinking up the woods? If a cat could find it so could one of those damn, drooling bloodhounds. I wanted to kick Sphinx, but I didn’t. Actually, I was thankful she brought it to me. I flushed it.
Robin Lovelace was born and raised in Indianapolis, lived in Evansville for a few years and now lives in Plainfield with her husband and her dog. She has been writing stories on and off for at least 30 years. Three short stories were published in various literary magazines in the 1990s, and she won second place in the Ohio Valley Fiction Contest in 2000. Her novel Secret Ravens: A Fountain Square Story, was published in October 2013. Robin is currently working on a science fiction story set in Memphis.