Having chosen the Kansas Jayhawks to win this year’s NCAA Basketball Championship – and having watched their stunning loss to Virginia Commonwealth – Dolly Gee Squeakers (formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers), is now flat broke.
“I thould never have wagered it all.”
I’ve walked into the kitchen, pre-dawn, to find her sitting at the kitchen table, blowing cigarette smoke out an open window. Seeing me, she nervously stubs the cigarette out.
From here I can see that she is using yet another of her souvenir ashtrays, this one shaped like Clearwater County (Headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi!).
How many times do I have to ask her not to smoke in the house?
But wait. Where are my manners? You remember Dolly Gee Squeakers, don’t you? When we last caught up with her, she was in this very spot, working on her March Madness basketball picks. A cross-eyed, Siamese mix with a penchant for Virginia Slims, WWE Smackdowns, and karaoke, Dolly has been with us for almost four years now.
And speaking of her karaoke, if you ever get a chance to run up to the Vegas Lounge on a Thursday night, you’ll want to get an early seat: her version of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” is legendary.
“Trouble?” I say. I don’t really have time in the morning to be of much help, but I like to give the impression of being there for the kitties.
“Me?” she says quietly. “No. I’m fine.”
“You don’t happen to have a couple buckth, do you?”
I frown. The look of worry on her face is touching, but since lending quite a large sum to someone who no longer returns my phone calls, I’ve adopted a strict hell-no policy on money-lending.
“No, sorry,” I say.
Her attention is momentarily diverted to a handful of sparrows alighting on the roof next door, and her jaw bounces as she chatters with desire, her bright blue eyes on them as they hop from shingle to shingle.
She turns. “Hmm?”
“You gonna be okay?”
“Hmm,” she says. Her eyes wander back to the sparrows, who flee in a burst of winged chaos. From her stool on the second floor, Dolly Gee Squeakers, formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers, sighs.
“I’ve been a fool,” she says.
I stand still, mentally calculating the time left before I absolutely must leave for the bus. “How so?”
She shakes her head. “I let mythelf get dithtracted by the thingth I love. I thould’ve gone with my original method of determining who wath gonna win: big animalth beating thmaller animalth. Of courth Virginia’th Ramth were gonna beat the Jayhawkth.”
She fixes her blue eyes on me. “Theep are much bigger than birdth.”
A handful of birds land on the roof next door and hop down to the gutter, where they splash. She turns away from me to watch. “I jutht love the birdieth, you know?”
I consider my own recent money-losing venture. “We’re all suckers for something, aren’t we?” I say.
But Dolly is done talking. Her eyes on the birds, I watch her absentmindedly light up another cigarette, toss the spent match into the ashtray.
We’re all suckers for something.
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