Lucinda Kempe ~ Platooning

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.