With a handful of joint-swollen fingers, Cathy chased away the trampy cat that lived downstairs from off her fire escape, not wishing to share today’s solemn moment with either man or beast. Seeing Donald Isaacs sweeping the front stoop of his fish market, she shouted down after it, “Your owner is a jackass.”
“And you’re crazy!” he shouted up to her, breaking the somber swishing of his broom in the early summer morning.
“Uh oh,” said old-timer Trevor Haroldsen, crossing the street while on his way to the corner cafe, “another disagreement?”
“Not another one,” Donald shrugged. “The same old one.”
“That’s a shame,” the old timer chuckled. “And such a perfect combination: cats and fish.”
“Gout and fur balls, more like it,” Cathy heard Donald mumble above his sweeping, once the old man had turned the corner.
Cathy’s apartment above the fish market had, over the past twenty years, increased in occupancy, never decreasing. With each passing cat, instead of leaving them with the vet to dispose of the remains, she would, instead, have each one’s ashes fill a customized urn.
She was now stacking and ranking them, top to bottom, according to favorability. Today, Bot’m Finny, a three-times abandoned gray tabby, thought by the folks at the shelter to have the luck of the Irish, held the peak position. Cathy had her own notions, imagining he had possessed a feline version of demeanor similar to “the most interesting man in the world” seen in all those Dos Equis TV commercials. She had always imagined him running with the town’s wild crowd and partaking in all sorts of adventures. She now recalled a time, while looking out the window, seeing him engaged, flirtatiously, with the downstairs trampy cat. Irked, she moved his urn from its place atop the catem pole.
St’enge, short for Stonehenge, was now on top. Cathy thought of how precarious her urn looked. She had always been a quiet, slow-motion kitty, suggesting a world-worn life, finally reduced to an ageless monumental circle of broken orange and white stripes, always resting in her usual place, a brittle antique chair, under the high sun. She fell asleep forever in that spot the same day the Mayans had predicted the end of the world and Donald had asked for her hand in marriage, with conditions. Now she felt like St’enge, done in and done with.
She reached for the urn with its tin-etchings of Druid imagery. “We’re sisters, you and I.”
“Must you talk to those cannisters, outdoors?”
Cathy ignored the question. It was easy to ignore the man who had cut off hers and her four living cats’ food source. ‘First rule in running a business,’ he had told her, ‘don’t eat up the profits. So if we marry, all cats must go.’
Donald quickly swept and stepped till he was beneath the fire escape.
Cathy continued to ignore him.
“I really want to marry you, you know,” he said barely above a whisper.
She looked down, through the grating, at the top of his bald head, shifting right to left, back and forth like a confidence man, and she his ‘mark’. “Whatever you’re selling, fishmonger, I’m not buying!”
“Not so loud,” said Donald while striking the bottom of the fire escape with the end of his broom.
Before Cathy could reach for it, the urn of St’enge slowly slid from its perch, knocking against the railing, dislodging the cover and spilling ash down upon Donald.
Donald looked up, clearing his eyes with his index fingers. “What’d you do that for?!” Now he could see her face, shock-filled, with a dissolving fuse.
“Cat was already dead, woman!”
“Don’t move! I’m coming right down!”
A man stood frozen, with cat on his face, while a woman ran down a flight of steps to save a dead animal. Meanwhile, the heart of a small town beat to the drum of a common note uncommonly known as absurdity.