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Purrz, Baby

Vicki Hendricks 


When Mary Lou came to the door in a red velvet robe, exactly like mine-- except for the size--I knew it was no coincidence. What I’d been suspecting for months was clear. How smart of Jack to save time on Christmas shopping by making one stop at the department store, a robe for his wife and one for his lover! I saw the competition in her eyes as she boldly sized me up, thinking she could snatch him away from me on sheer intelligence, never mind looks. She was only wondering how long it would take. I saw his eyes flick down the front of her robe, which was loosely tied, although there wasn’t much to see in there. She must have worn the robe to taunt me, secretly, not figuring that I had one just like it. Of course, mine didn’t have embroidered initials. That ML stuck in my mind.

It was early morning, and we were dropping Purrzie off before we flew out to visit my mother. Jack had suggested that ML, as a cat lover whose elderly pet had just passed away, would take good care of our little sweetheart. After seeing the robe, I wouldn’t have entrusted my beloved Purrzie to her, but we barely had time to get to the airport, and Purrz seemed comfortable sniffing around her living room, which was the most important consideration, after all.

I had to wonder what Jack’s motivation could be in taking me to this lair. Did he want to get caught? More likely he thought I was too stupid to have a clue. His underestimating my intelligence had been an issue for years, mainly because I didn’t read continuously like he did or appreciate the arts. I was proud of my down-to-earth personality, but he just got snootier as the years went by. He’d been spending a lot of time away from home lately, but I wouldn’t have figured on a lover if I hadn’t seen that robe and the calculating look on ML’s face.

Maybe ML had suggested the idea of watching Purrzie, so she could check me out. Of course, Jack wouldn’t have thought she’d wear the robe. On the way to the airport I mentioned the identical style, and he shrugged as if he was barely listening. His acting was decent when he was desperate.

I forced myself to put all my feelings aside while we were at Mother’s. After the trip when we picked Purrzie up, I looked around her place. She had her Ph. D. diploma on the wall, and tons of books, Shakespeare plays and novels and poetry I was supposed to read in high school but never had time for because I had to work. She had a lot of female poetry writers that I never heard of, Marilyn Hacker, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, many more. I glanced into the kitchen. Only a toaster on the counter. She was no doubt a feminist who couldn’t cook. Women’s poetry was her specialty. While ML and Jack were discussing "school business," I scribbled down a few of the poets’ names, thinking I might catch up.

Back at home, I’d kept my suspicions to myself for a couple of weeks, when I heard Jack having a quiet phone call. "Who was it, honey?" I asked him.

"Somebody from school about a meeting. Nothing."

I let it go, but my guard was up. I heard him again, with that same tone, two days later. Then one morning he was on the phone before I even got out to the kitchen. I punched *69 on the extension, and checked ML’s number on information. I was no fool.

Jack was slathering cream cheese on a bagel when I confronted him.

"Why were you talking to Mary Lou so early?" I asked him.

"What?" He looked up from the newspaper like he was dazed.

"I just did *69 on the phone."


"Six-nine. It redials the last caller."

"Oh. Why’d you do that?"

"I wanted to know who called so early. So answer my question."

"Mary Lou is having trouble with her department head. I was just giving her advice."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, Georgia. What’s your problem?"

Of course, I shouldn’t have tipped. He was too fast to get caught like that. However, he wasn’t aware that I could hear the change in his voice, the soft tone like he used to use on me, and I kept that to myself.

By afternoon I started to feel bitter. I tried to concentrate on reading e-mail, but it was tough. I slopped a shot of Wild Turkey into my chamomile tea, and took a long gulp. Son of a bitch. For fifteen years, I’d cooked, waited on him, and took care of the home, so he could keep his nose buried in print. Now he’s sniffing up another woman. In the fall when ML took the job teaching English literature, he mentioned that they had known each other in college. I should have been more alert. I remembered her name from years before. She was a fantasy that never came true. Now was his chance.

I heard Purrzie’s toenails trickling down the wood hall floor and called his name. He always came when I called him, unlike Jack. He stopped at the doorway of the office and yawned. This cat was a beauty, streamlined and muscular, a lovable, perfectly marked tabby, and smart as all get out.

"Oh, did I wake my sweetie? Com’ere, sweetie."

He came to me and I petted his back and gave him smooches on the head. He was warm all over, probably just got up from his window ledge. "Oh, precious sweetheart. How’s my sweetie?"

He took a leap and settled on my lap. He loved me more than anything else in the world, including food. You couldn’t say that about any dog, or dog’s best friend.

I started down the Spam awaiting my attention, deleting the hundred or so about Viagra, penis enlargement, and the latest assortment of sleazy sexual promotions. "Masturbate to dilated teen rectum movies," "Mature lesbians rubbing their vulvas," "See me playing with my rectum." Christ. Rectums? I couldn’t really understand the attraction. Nobody would have believed this five years ago, or twenty years ago, when Jack tried to woo ML.

It was bad luck that she’d turned up now, when adultery seemed minor compared to the popular sexual perversions. ML wasn’t gorgeous, but different from me. Neither of us was a spring chicken at forty-five. I was stocky and muscular with a round face and dark hair, while she was a tall blonde, thin, and sleepy eyed, with narrow shoulders and dangling arms that seemed to lack solid bone or muscle, the feminine kind of woman Jack always looked at. ML had a slight edge that gave the impression she was only interested in what life could do for her, and the world could go fuck itself otherwise. I might’ve enjoyed her attitude if she wasn’t enjoying Jack.

I closed off the e-mail window and started typing up a list of Jack’s new behaviors and the times and dates of the calls when he’d walk into another room to talk. I realized that lately, he’d mentioned going on a diet. Damn, that made sense. Bony ML wouldn’t like sweaty flab interfering with her breathing, and Jack was smart enough to figure he’d better get rid of some before the newness of the sex wore off. Of course, he hadn’t yet managed to cut his food intake. I could probably end their relationship if I just kept cooking his favorites, but it wasn’t a sure bet, and could take a while.

Had he started getting haircuts more often? Tweezing the hairs from his nose and ears? I wasn’t sure, but in general he was a little more attractive these days. It didn’t look good for him.

I made a note to keep track of the crossword puzzles. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Jack with his pencil poised over the newspaper in weeks—so romantic for the two of them, fact master and wordsmith, the perfect couple.

I had counted the condoms, the stash in his nightstand. I was sure he’d bought a full dozen in the month when I’d forgotten to take my pills, and his sex drive hadn’t been that strong. Now there were only three left. He was thrifty enough to finish up the open box rather than buy a separate supply for ML. I hadn’t had the sense to check the quantity before I confronted him about the phone calls. Since then the three hadn’t been touched.

I went back and continued to delete Spam. It was comforting to know that if I ever needed sex, of any kind, I could find it easily. I’d put dinner in the oven earlier, lasagna, rich with cheese and tomato and bechamel sauce and it began to send its aroma my way. I’d also gotten in a couple bottles of good Chianti. Italian food was Jack’s favorite. I planned to start over that night, convincing him that my suspicions were gone so he’d be off guard. I wanted to catch him for pure shock value and to show him how smart I was, in spite of what he thought. Then maybe we could restart our marriage on more equal ground, him being in the hole he dug with his guilt.

I used to think Jack was cute and funny when he got into a rant, but now I realized that most of the joy he got from our marriage was by emphasizing my stupidity, and more than that, he enjoyed the company of somebody on his own level. I began to resent his intellectual monologues and use of words I didn’t know. He was a professor of history, with his endless stories and details about wars and slavery. On a weekly basis, I listened to repeated critiques of Dee Brown’s bad writing and poor research in Creek Mary’s Blood. ML was, no doubt, impressed that Jack knew the facts better than the guys who wrote the books.

I hadn’t attended college, but my life never lacked for it, until now. I had my restaurant and made a much better living than Jack did teaching, but I knew deep down that he was only concerned with facts, how many he knew and how many I didn’t. He’d always thrown me crumbs about how our differences made us so good together, but being smarter than me was what puffed him up, besides eating the great food I cooked. I think those were the reasons he was keeping me around, since he’d found ML again.

I tried to pay the phone bill online, but I was so upset I kept misspelling my password. I pictured her and Jack together in the library at school, fondling each other under the table, her reciting poetry or him explaining how the Indians ate six pounds of meat a day in winter, because they had no vegetables--Indians as thin as her, he’d say, and poke her in her flat stomach. It would be his dream to have a woman who enjoyed listening to all his factual crap. I poured the empty teacup full of Wild Turkey, chugged it. I wondered if they snickered together about all the things they figured I couldn’t understand.

Purrzie stretched and jumped off my lap. I followed him into the kitchen to heat his rotisserie chicken. I shredded it into tiny bits so he wouldn’t gobble big pieces and choke. He wasn’t piggish by nature, but I wanted to make his life safer and more enjoyable in any way I could.

I looked into the oven. The lasagna was beautiful, but couldn’t compete with ML. Besides being an intellectual who shared Jack’s tedious book interests, she was the lost love of his life, and now he had a chance to regain his self-esteem. Years before she surfaced, he’d told me they’d once smoked dope and had sex. Now he probably didn’t remember telling me, or more likely never realized I would put together the name with the information after so long.

I’d made the salad and was just sliding the bread into the oven when the keys rattled in the door. I reminded myself to keep a lid on conversation about M L.

Jack came in and gave me a big hug and kiss, and I sniffed his mustache and neck for any unfamiliar scents. I wasn’t sure. He started to sniff too, maybe at the Wild Turkey, another thing he was always on my case about.

"Lasagna, your favorite," I said. "Garlic bread on the way."

"Yum. I don’t deserve you, Georgia."

"Why not?"

He kissed me quick and headed into the bathroom, his mind already elsewhere.

The Wild Turkey had a kick. I realized I’d better calm down. I wanted to ask him if Mary Lou could cook, although I knew it didn’t matter to him anyway. It’s one of those things you list when you’re judging your pros and cons, but it doesn’t weigh a feather against that hot rod of wild passion. I’d been riding the hot rod less and less.

I was pulling the pan of lasagna out of the oven when the phone rang. Jack was still in the bathroom. I shoved the pan on the counter and answered it.

"Is this Mrs. Brown?"

"There is no Mrs. Brown," I said. Telemarketers. Shit.

"Oh, sorry."

I’d been pretty harsh and I could hear apology in her tone. Maybe she thought Mrs. Brown was dead, or else that I wanted to be Mrs. Brown and couldn’t get Jack to marry me. The truth was I’d never changed my name. Whatever she thought, she hung up fast--something to remember for future use.

Jack yelled from the bedroom. "Who was that, sweetie?"


"What were they selling?"

"I don’t know. They asked for Mrs. Brown and I said there wasn’t one."


"Yeah. She hung up."

"Good job." Jack came strolling out in his jeans and ivy-league shirt, looking his casual academic self, his face a little too happy for a weekday. It could have been because I was pouring the wine, and the lasagna was browned perfectly and bubbling in the center of the table, but I started to think. We’d had a telemarketing call a week earlier, and about an hour later he went to the gym and didn’t come home until near midnight, after supposedly meeting friends and having a few beers. I fell for it at the time, but now I realized the call could be a trick, in case I answered the phone, or a signal that ML was waiting for him.

I remembered something else too. Jack had been keeping his cell phone turned off while we were together. That way he could get back to her at his leisure. Fucking asshole. He thought he had it made because I was such a dope.

I set the garlic bread on the table, sliced out a chunk of lasagna and put it on Jack’s plate. It was oozing cheese and red sauce and he licked his lips. He was so good at this. Getting ready to chow down and enjoy his dinner, then take off for some poetry and wild sex, leaving me with the mess.

He held out his wine glass and toasted me for the nice dinner. It started to gnaw at me, the way he was so cool. I used to admire that in a man, but now I saw the down side. They never flinch, no matter what you do. Teflon personalities. Nothing sticks--until the Teflon gets scratched.

I got involved in my plate as he started up a lecture about slaves. Topics were always swimming around in Jack’s head. I nodded and chewed.

"I was reading the other day about cat-hauling."

"Cat-hauling?" The word cat caught my attention. "A service to take Purrzie to the vet?"

"No, the slave owners did it before the Civil War as a form of punishment, to make examples of the tough, hard-to-coerce slaves. It’s in Charles Ball’s slave narrative.

"Were the cats all right?"

"I guess. You might not want to hear about this during dinner."

"As long as the cats were fine."

"The idea was to tie a man down on his stomach, naked, with his arms and legs staked out, drop a big tomcat on his back, and pull it by its tail. The cat clawed and ripped into the skin and muscle, trying for a foothold to get away."

"I can imagine."

"They would do this until the slave was unconscious from the shock. Of course, there were no antibiotics so the infection was often deadly.

"Holding the cat by the tail. Ooh." I cringed. "Brutal." I looked over at Purrzie on the windowsill, who was licking his asshole peacefully. "God, that’s horrible."

"Certainly was. Imagine getting ripped to shreds then left to get infected and die."

"The cats were probably scared to death." I took a big slug of my wine to get past the vision of an agonizing cat, screaming and being yanked, not having done anything wrong, not knowing why he was being punished. I shivered. "I didn’t know cats were kept as pets back then."

"I don’t think they cared for them like we do." He looked at Purrzie still licking himself and shook his head. "Not like His Majesty. Cats were kept to kill mice."

I ignored his cut at Purrzie, but it registered in my brain. He started up about some Civil War battle tactics, where the Union army made tunnels like mice, but there was no further mention of cats so I lost attention. When he stopped talking, I smiled. Now I was just waiting to see how long he’d hang around.

"There’s ice cream for dessert."

"No thanks. I’m stuffed. I’m going to head over to the gym after I digest this great dinner."

It was an hour and a half between the time of the telemarketing call and when he left the house. I figured he didn’t want to jump up from the table immediately and risk trouble. I thought of telling him I was going along to the gym, but I hadn’t worked out in two years and I knew he’d be suspicious. I didn’t want to follow and risk getting caught. I was biding my time to figure out a better plan.

He came home late again that night and said the guys wanted to make racket ball and drinks a weekly thing. He had showered, so there wasn’t any evidence to sniff. These were guys I hadn’t met, so I couldn’t call to check anything out. I didn’t bother objecting. The jig would soon be up.

The next morning he made love to me, pay back for the lasagna, no doubt, so he wouldn’t feel guilty. I started to think maybe I was making too big a deal out of all this, and I could win him back.

"I was thinking we could take a long weekend and go to Cancun or somewhere to get away from the cold," I said.

"I don’t know. I have to keep up with my syllabus."

"Oh, take a day or two! The students will be happy. My treat." I knew ML, being a teacher, couldn’t compete when it came to money.

"We practically just got back from Christmas. How can you take more time off from the restaurant?"

"I trust my new manager completely." I studied his face to see if the word trust made him flinch, but it didn’t.

"I’ll think about it. It’s true we have Mary Lou to take care of Purrzie now. She still hasn’t gotten another cat." He smiled. His whole demeanor brightened up at the thought of ML watching Purrzie. So why didn’t the cunt get a new cat? I bet she couldn’t wait to have Purrzie to herself again.

He was off to school early. Said he had papers to grade and had forgotten to bring them home. I bet they were meeting for coffee. My stomach started to burn as his car backed down the drive. So that was it. Purrzie was his ace in the hole--working better than what he had in the hole during his younger years. He knew I’d never let Purrz go, but ML didn’t. ML knew a one-of-a-kind cat when she saw it, and Jack was a fringe benefit.

I couldn’t take it any longer. I wasn’t a wimp who could live like that, waiting and hoping. I took another day off at the restaurant so I had time to work out my scheme. I sat down at the computer and looked at my e-mail. All crap. Not a single note from a friend or relative. Nobody I could talk to.

I deleted more rectal Spam as I formulated the details to catch Jack and ML. I closed my AOL and used Jack’s password to open his account. Sure enough, there was e-mail from mljonson45. What luck! It had to be Mary Lou, and she was on AOL too. I wouldn’t have to pay for another server.

The mail wasn’t anything interesting, just a fast note:

Don’t worry. I have a great idea. Will talk to you at school.

It didn’t sound like good news for me. I deleted it. I’d heard about setting up false accounts where the address was one letter off from the real address. If I used a capital I instead of a small L, and pretended to write from Mary Lou, Jack would never know the difference, and I would receive his reply. I went back to my account and added a new screen name, mIjonson45. Only the computer could tell what letter that line stood for. I was damn smart.

I decided to keep the note to Jack plain and mysterious, since I didn’t know their little love names, or what fancy expressions an English professor might use.

Come to my place at 8 pm tonight. I have a secret surprise for you.

I thought about the word secret. Was it too much? Surprise sounded too ordinary. I wanted him to build up anticipation so when I answered her door, his balls would shrivel into prunes.

I also wanted to be sure ML was home that night or I wouldn’t have any way of getting inside. It was complicated. Jack’s e-mail address was historybuff1860@aol, which I changed to historybutt1860@aol, and sent the message to ML:

Busy with grading today. I can come to your place tonight at 7:00. Let me know if it’s okay.

The address change was little risky, but it was too cute to resist. If ML thought it was a hoax, she might still be home anyway. At worst, I was wasting my time and would have to try something else.

I knew Jack would check his e-mail a few times from school. I sometimes left him messages there instead of calling. I was a little worried that he might say something to ML, but she was in a different building, and if they thought they had secret plans for later, they’d be unlikely to look for each other. Worst case, he would mention the e-mail and they would figure it was some kind of mistake. It might give them the creeps, but they couldn’t trace it to me.

I took the gun from my panty drawer and tucked it into my big purse. My brother had given me the Glock when Jack and I moved to the big city. Jack didn’t know I had it. He’d never have let me keep it. My gun in his face would show him I was serious, and teach him a good lesson. He would see how smart I was and never try anything again. I found a roll of duct tape to use on M L. I loved it. A dope like me teaching two professors a lesson.

ML’s reply came back to historybutt within the hour: Okay. I’ll be home tonight. See you!

She was already excited, the tart. I checked the other screen name at noon and still nothing. I needed to know whether my plan had worked, so I could beat Jack to her place, surprise ML, and get her out of the way. Finally, at 3 o’clock Jack’s reply was there. It was also brief: Why so mysterious? See you there.

I had defrosted homemade minestrone soup and bread from the restaurant for dinner. I wasn’t in the mood to cook. Jack came home acting normal, as he was so skilled at doing, and we ate and he talked some facts about the Seminoles’ turbans and jewelry. I couldn’t really pay much attention. I thought I heard the name Mary Lou, and almost questioned him, but then I realized it was my imagination playing tricks. My mind kept racing over my plan and my feet were in a nervous jitter under the table.

Jack ate two full bowls of soup and I thought he’d never get done. When he finished, I said I had to help out at the restaurant for the evening. Actually, since I hadn’t been there for two days, there was plenty I should have been doing. I slugged down some Wild Turkey in a corner of the kitchen, and then put Purrz in his carrier. Jack knew Purrzie always sat on my lap while I did bookwork.

It was 6:45 when I left. I’d be a little late to ML’s but she wouldn’t expect Jack exactly at seven. He seemed relieved to see me go, so I knew he was planning to keep his date at eight o’clock.

It was dark when I arrived. I walked to the porch, set the cat carrier down, pulled out the gun, and rang the bell. Footsteps started up immediately and ML opened the door. She gasped. Her face was priceless.

I had the gun pointed at her skimpy chest. "Keep quiet and move backwards into the house."

She was good at taking orders. I kept the door open with my foot as I picked up Purrz and stepped inside. I set him on the couch and closed the door behind me.

"We’re going to play a little trick on Jack," I said.

She started to disagree, but I poked at her small tit with the Glock and directed her to sit on a chair. She didn’t put up a fuss, not that I gave her much chance. I pulled a piece of tape off the roll and slapped it over her mouth. She knew it was her own damn fault for starting up with Jack. I made her tape her own legs and one wrist to a wooden chair so I could continue to hold the gun. I put the gun down, wrapped the last wrist and tightened up the rest, then scooted her into the bedroom and moved Purrzie into the kitchen.

It wasn’t long until I heard a car pull up. I got into position behind the door, expecting that Jack had a key, but he rang the bell—as formal as ever. I opened the door. He started sputtering something when he saw my face behind the Glock, but I barked my order, "Not a sound. Get in here or die," and he moved fast. I kept the gun on him and told him to march into the bedroom. He acted like he didn’t know where to move, but I mentioned that the gun was loaded, and he backed up till he nearly fell over ML’s chair. He looked at her all taped.

"Why are you doing this, Georgia?" he said in a controlled scream.

"You know damned well why!" I yelled back.

"No, I don’t. What kind of stupidity is this? Put that gun down. You don’t know how to use it."

He couldn’t resist bringing up my "stupidity" and that set my head on fire. Any regard for him or my own good burned up with those hateful words. At this point I would have expected him to be begging my forgiveness, so I would put the gun down. I couldn’t believe he would continue to insult me and play out the lie this far. I was going to get a confession, one way or another.

I pointed the gun toward his chest. "Sit."

He sat on the bed and I tossed him the roll of tape I’d been wearing on my wrist. ML’s bed was perfect for the job, kind of old-fashioned like I expected a poetry reader to have. "Lay down and tape your ankles to the bed posts," I said. I glanced back at ML wondering if the word should have been lie, knowing she would catch that kind of error, but she just looked terrified. Jack gave me a look like he was humoring me, but he started unreeling the tape. It was a double bed, so his legs reached okay, but he was slow at taping and the result didn’t look too secure. I wouldn’t dare let go of the gun to help, so I pointed it at ML’s head.

"Hurry up, and tape it right, or your girlfriend’s gonna git it." I was starting to enjoy my role.

"Girlfriend? What?" He looked at ML, blank for a second. "She’s gay!"

ML started to squeal behind the tape, like she wanted to tear him to pieces for calling her a lesbian.

I had to laugh. "Good try. Keep it up, asshole. What are you doing here then?"

"I told you I was stopping by."

I could see him searching his head for another lie. His mouth moved, but despite his intelligence, nothing came out of it. Finally, he took a breath. "Look, we can clear this up. Put the gun down so we can talk. This is ridiculous."

"Oh, Mr. Information can’t come up with a lie fast enough!" I pointed the gun back at him. "Tape your wrist to the top post."

He followed orders clumsily, and the time he took enraged me more. He was muttering that he didn’t deserve any of this and that I was insane, but I ignored him as usual.

"This is nothing compared to what they do on the internet," I told him. I had him tear off a long piece of tape so I could hold the gun and finish the last wrist. Finally I set the gun down, slapped a piece of tape over his mouth, double taped the wrists, and then went back over the ankles.

Now that he was taped up solid, I realized I had wanted him face down, but there was no way I was about to start over. Face up might even work better to get a confession. However, it was impossible to get his shirt off like that.

I went into the kitchen to look for scissors and also found a bottle of Cuervo Gold. Two quick shots and I felt adequate to the job. Jack went white as the bedspread when he saw scissors in my hand. The shirt was an ugly striped golf shirt, so I enjoyed cutting straight up the front, watching his chin quiver. I pushed both halves back over his arms to expose his chest. I opened his zipper and slid his pants partially down his thighs and took my time snipping off the Fruit of the Looms. Mostly I wanted to freak him out, not hurt him too much. He wouldn’t have the nerve to press charges once his lies were exposed. I looked at ML to see how she liked the look of lover boy’s balls right now, but she had her eyes closed tight. She might have thought I was about to cut those balls right off.

I heard yowling from the kitchen and went to get Purrzie. I felt terrible I’d left him in that carrier so long. I took a second to pour myself another shot. When I stepped back into the bedroom with Purrzie, Jack’s eyes popped. He knew what I had planned—we were going to do a little cat-hauling. "See, I remember everything you tell me," I said. "This form of torture comes from so and so’s slave narrative."

I slugged from the bottle of tequila that I found I’d carried with me and lifted Purrzie from the carrier. Jack was squirming, a frown on his face, and I knew he was itching to name the slave I couldn’t remember. No doubt, he thought I was drunk too, and I’d taped him wrong side up in my usual dumb-ass way. "We’ll be working on your chest, so you can watch," I told him, to set the record straight.

As mad as I was, I couldn’t imagine grabbing Purrzie by his tail, so I held him under his armpits. "Now we’ll see if you have something to confess." I pulled Purrz down Jack’s chest noticing the evenly spaced stripes that immediately began to bleed. Jack moaned. Purrz was squirming and sure enough trying to get a grip with all four paws, just like the history book said. I held him a little lower to extend the rows of scratches and realized he’d got a foothold into one of Jack’s balls. It was an accident. The son of a bitch moaned real loud. Purrzie was yowling even louder in my face, but even as I pulled the claws from Jack’s right ball one by one, not a single word of confession came from those lips. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth in frustration. "I’m listening--whenever you want to start!" I yelled.

Purrzie dug his left front paw into Jack’s dick before I could lift him to threaten again, and it took some time to detach each hooked claw without further injury. I didn’t want to ruin Jack for life. I had just pulled out the last claw when Purrz broke loose, scrambled up Jack’s chest, and leapt to the floor. I watched him dash into the kitchen to hide.

Jack was still quiet, the damn fool. I looked back. "Shit!" The tape was covering Jack’s mouth and he couldn’t say a word.

He looked to be passed out, so I ripped off the tape and gave him a few slaps. His mouth fell open and some minestrone fell out.

I gave him a few more slaps. "Wake up, Jack," I said. "Now it’s time for your fucking confession." I decided to play it like I’d planned it this way, rather than have him think I’d been too stupid to take off the tape.

In a minute, I realized he wasn’t going to wake up. I didn’t figure he’d lost that much blood, but he must have choked on those words I wanted to hear. That minestrone had backed up and clogged his windpipe and nose. My cooking had killed him. I felt a black mood come over me.

ML was conscious. I ripped off her tape and stuck the gun in her face to think, but I knew I had to kill her to get away with this.

She started to cry. "Okay, she said. "I’m sorry. I confess everything. Please don’t kill me!"

Her confession was meaningless by now. I was in big trouble, and my gun hand fell down by my side. The deed was done. The victory was shallow.

I left her taped there sobbing and coaxed Purrzie out from under the kitchen table. Cat-hauling was better in the telling than in the doing. The facts hadn’t given a clear picture. I realized I would miss Jack when the shock wore off, even his stories. I put Purrzie in his carrier and drove home.


The food is lousy in prison and the restroom facilities are primitive, but I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on my reading. I even found some of ML’s women poets in the prison library. Come to find out, they’re all lesbians. Thinking back to the look ML gave me, I’m sure she was sizing me up in a different way from what I thought. It’s possible I imagined all the evidence.

However, one thing is sure. ML came out on top. She wrote to me that she adopted Purrzie from the animal shelter--at least he has a good home. Despite my mistakes, I feel like the smartest person here at the prison. Being smart just isn’t the daily thrill I expected.

Vicki Hendricks is the author of Sky Blues, and three previous erotic-noir novels. She lives in South Florida, where she combines work and pleasure as often as possible, through diligent research in sex and adventure.

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