The damn cat has disappeared again. Truth is, I’d turned the hose on him as I was cleaning the cat box outside during a spell of warmer weather.
“Get the fuck out Orayo,” I’d bellowed.
I clean the cats’ boxes, vacuum their litter off the floor, buy them high-end cat food made by Wellness and have weaned them off kibble, which bloats their guts. Just call me a pathological caretaker — maid, bottle-washer, cook, mom, wife, mate and the keeper of the things.
Dear God, but I am tired of my inheritance – the armoire, the breakfront, the butacca chair with its flat arms of Santo Domingo mahogany; the portraits of the ancestors, the slave owners, defenders and warriors of the Confederacy; and Mama’s Confederate flag sequestered at the very bottom of the bookcase in the parlor under thousands of baby pictures I never look at anymore.
What do you do with all that once you’ve finished writing about it? Burn it, sell it or bury it with the dead? Mama was always selling. She sold almost everything because she didn’t want to go to work. I thought she would have sold me if she could have gotten the right price.
I’d like to sell that cat, the one I sprayed with the hose. He pisses all over the house, has to be sequestered in a crate in the den at night, the way the flag is in the parlor. Someone else, someone colder, with a heart of steel, would have euthanized the comely Rag Doll for bad behavior. But I rescued him from a bag lady who didn’t care, and I hadn’t the heart to get rid of him.
I keep them – the cat, the relics—Mama’s ancient Electrolux with the dog hair still inside; Uncle Ike’s Marine Corp jacket from Tien Sien, China, where he was stationed with his company; my grandfather’s legal correspondence from the 20s; my diaries from 1973 onwards with my screw-ups galore; oh, and the letters stretching back to the Civil War. Yes, I keep them all, a platoon of memory; the embarrassing, the tarnished, the forgotten, the misbehaving, the abused and neglected parts of me, of history, of who I was and what I came from.
I found the cat, of course. Actually my husband, who hates the pisser, found the cat, who hates my husband, after I’d spent an hour wandering the neighborhood calling his name in Greek. “Orayo! Orayo! Handsome, handsome, where are you?” Nothing, then boom – as soon as my husband steps into the yard, the hated comes for the hater, and I, the savoir, am spared from feeling criminal for having sprayed the cat, hoping it would just disappear.
Lucinda Kempe exorcises with words. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Frigg, r.kv.r.y., the Summerset Review, and Jellyfish Review. The recipient of the Joseph Kelly Prize for creative writing in 2015, she’s an M.F.A. candidate in writing and creative literature at Stony Brook University. Her narrative nonfiction, Sam Soss Had Sex, was a semi-finalist in the Under the Gum Tree’s 2016 inaugural contest.