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issue two

 
      ur tortoise-striped tabby has a fine taste for the outdoors. We found him that way, nose to the trash bins, scrawny bones covered in matted fur. We took him in only because he loved to be held, seemed most content with his body against ours, like a baby needing to feel the heartbeat of another.

But even though it's late January, I can see him pining, longing. I see the discontent stirring more violently. It will erupt come spring. We let him out to our screened-in porch, and he settles himself high on the old bookshelf there, his head to the screen, his tail slashing at the corners that constrain him.

Tonight you let him out again, and somehow, you tell me, he has escaped. It's raining. I can smell the wetness high in my nose and my heartbeat quickens. I want Spooky back, and everything is all your fault.

I'm angry with you so often now. We were married only a few months ago, and this horrible lurching dread, like too much water in my stomach, has me near terror with what-ifs. Once I was a writer, a dreamer, childish. Once upon a time I could move whenever, wherever. I could take old books to three coffee shops in one day and get high on caffeine and people-watching and the madness within my brain. Reading to the point of starvation; dropping my need like fishing line, hoping someone would bite.

But you swallowed me wholeÂ…

The days are long and dark now, full of scheduled time and responsibility. I am wife, one day mother. I am eating again and yet the weight of even white rice seems to suffocate me. Smells are more distinct: the old onion peels in the trash, garlic engrained in the cutting board. The smell of rain drowning Spooky.

You tell me he's just a little bit wild. You say a run in the dark will be good for him; it was bound to happen. He'll come back. You suggest we look for him.

I breathe in and let it out. The rain smells like wet leather, like attic books, like the change you find wedged between car seats. It smells like ash. I think of Spooky. He's no longer nosing in the trash bins - he's flying over wet ground and running rats. The longer he stays away, the more the old life seeps in. The lap, the closed door, and the punctual dinners are only memories.

"Wanna get in the car and look for him? He can't have gone far," you say.

"No. Let him go."

fine taste
by Mandy Jessup
MCR

This work copyrighted by Mandy Jessup. All rights reserved.
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