Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Friday, the day in which we ask ourselves “Is it too late to marry well and quit our jobs?”
And the answer?
"Yes, I’m sorry. It is too late."
But never mind that.
In keeping with tradition, let us consult the songs on my iPod from this morning’s commute to determine the direction of our weekend, shall we?
Mr. Tough by Yo La Tengo
All Alone by Gorillaz
Suite – Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Tighten Up by The Bamboos
Cult of Personality by Living Colour
Too Much Love by LCD Soundsystem
Freddies’ Dead by Curtis Mayfield
Yikes! That little "group" you were thinking of joining this weekend? Don't do it!
Today's post? A bit of a re-run, I'm afraid, as I work on resting/getting better. I used a neti pot last night for the first time, and you'll be pleased to know there was no drama, no fuss. It's easy, and I think I feel better.
And now? A tale of domestic intrigue, of blurred loyalties and well-groomed kitties. Enjoy.
Part One, Wherein There is a Loss in the Family
It is a solemn day, a day in which no fish flakes will be sprinkled.
Yang, beloved oranda, has died.
Yang, friend to Ying, James Earl, Goldie Hawn, Comet, Lydia O Lydia and Sir George Martin (the Fifth Goldfish), began dying with the turning on of the fishtank light on Monday and had finished by the time he was flushed later that afternoon.
“Will The Circle Be Unbroken” was played on the clarinet in his memory, despite the cats’ objections.
Yang was three years old.
Known for his gentle humor and big orange head, Yang lived a sheltered life, never leaving the tank in which he took up residence with Ying after his move from PetSmart in 2007. The couple had their differences, however; and after Yang's much-publicized battle with alcoholism two years ago and a weekend in detox after picking a fight with a large-ish moss-covered rock, Ying left Yang for James Earl, a showy black oranda with a way with the wimmins.
A memorial was held Monday morning: tales were told of Yang’s good nature and both sides of his favorite album – Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” – were played, after which there was a church basement potluck, the keg was tapped, and a bottle of Jameson produced.
Eddie the Plecostomus, just before bursting into tears, proclaimed it the best wake he’d ever been to, stating that he could only hope for as nice a send-off.
Neither Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) or Dolly Gee Squeakers (formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers) could be reached for comment, although a note left on the fridge in Liza’s spiky script read:
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Swim swiftly, swim happily, Yang. You will be missed.
Part Two: Really, If They Got Any Bigger, You Couldn’t Keep Them In The House
Inquiries into the death of Yang, one-time mate to Ying and full-time goldfish, have begun.
Word on the pet street has it that the death was anything but natural.
I found Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys), perched delicately atop a stack of books. A cat who has alluded more than once that a well-placed shrimp cocktail would loosen her tongue, the worry in Liza Bean’s eye belies the hereto for neutral stance she has taken on the subject of Yang’s death.
“What would a humble being like myself know about such violent goings on?” she purrs, her back leg extended gracefully forward as she bites and pulls on her exposed and flexing claws. “Rumors abound, of course. In such living quarters –“ and here she directs a flat and inscrutable gaze at the garage-sale arm chair in the corner – “one does not expect an over-abundance of decency, of course. But murder?”
When pressed, Liza Bean Bitey, abruptly and uncharacteristically, ceases to speak and walks into the kitchen. Perched on the table, her little black lips part almost imperceptibly. “I’ve said too much,” she hisses. “Talk to the plecostomus. He knows more than he tells.”
She wraps her tail around herself, stares thoughtfully at its tip. “I myself would never have guessed,” she whispers.
The plecostomus is found suctioned to the tank wall. A fish of few words, he directs a black eye at me, then to Dolly Gee Squeakers (formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers), then back at me.
He raises what passes for an eyebrow in the fish community, looks back at Dolly Gee, back at me, and closes his eyes.
The interview is over.
Dolly Gee, in the meantime, seems to have come into a little money, has bought herself a fancy new collar; and the phrase “Keep your friends close – and your enemies closer” comes unbidden to my mind.
Part Three, or The Puppet Master Revealed
It is three days following the death of Yang.
The more I think about it, the less inclined I am to believe that Dolly has had anything to do with Yang’s death. Her hard-luck upbringing and sweet nature are not in keeping with what one would expect from a killer.
I have approached Ying. Positioned next to the bubbling deep sea diver since the funeral, her fins hang from her fat-bellied body, her lips opening and closing in repeated “O”s.
“Can I talk to you?”
Ying’s sad eyes fall on me, then fall away. I am no stranger to mourning, but I press on.
“Ying, is there anything you want to tell me about Yang?”
Ying’s eyes meet my own and she opens her mouth again. “We were talking again, you know. We were trying to –”
“We would like time to grieve, if you don’t mind.” It’s James Earl. He sweeps in, wrapping a large and flowing fin over Ying. He guides her, over her protestations, past the deep sea diver and into the castle.
I do not like where this is going.
Can opener in hand, I go to the pantry; and ten minutes later, Dolly Gee Squeakers (formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers) is licking her lips and talking freely.
“Thith really ith thum lovely fith,” she purrs. Dolly Gee was teased for her lisp mercilessly as a kitten and rarely speaks, preferring to use the words “meow-meow” in varying inflections to get her point across.
The tuna has done its job.
“It is lovely fish, isn’t it?” I murmur, brushing her hair. “That’s the real stuff, too. Albacore.” Dolly Gee licks the last of the tuna from the tiny China plate she prefers, whispers “albacore” as if practicing the word. She cocks her head to one side as she scans the plate’s surface carefully, looks for anything she may have missed.
The plate is clean.
Dolly Gee stands and stretches, first one back leg jutting straight behind her, then the other. She positions herself on my lap. Her bright blue eyes, slightly crossed, are focused on either me or the lamp just behind me. I choose to believe that they are focused on me.
“That’s a lovely collar you have there, Dolly.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“Bought it.” She climbs off my lap, flops on to her side and stretches again. I slide from the couch to the floor and continue brushing.
“Online. Jameth Earl let me uthe hith debit card.”
James Earl? Who would give an oranda a debit card?
And once he had it, why would a fish allow a cat to use it?
“Really?” I say softly. I put a finger under her chin, lift her pretty, simple face up. “Why?”
She frowns in concentration, then smiles. “I did him a favor. He thed if I would help him that I could have thumthing pretty. Ithn’t it pretty?”
I feel the blood in my veins slow. I swallow. The words come out slowly, quietly. “What did you do for him, Dolly?”
“I pulled Yang out of the water, like he wanted. You know, for Fith Liberathun Day.”
Fish Liberation Day.
“Did he like it?”
Dolly Gee shrugs. “He danthed, for a while.” She smiles at me, her bright blue eyes a study in vacant prettiness, and then, remembering something, she stops smiling. “I didn’t mean to, but I kinda bit him in the head. By hith gillth. I couldn’t help it, he wath tho pretty. I wath thorry after I did that, and I put him back in the water.”
“And James Earl told you to do this? James Earl told you about Fish Liberation Day?”
“Hmm?” Dolly has lost sight of the conversation, has wandered over to the fish tank where James Earl watches us from behind a bubbling treasure chest.
“Never mind,” I say, scratching her behind a pretty, pointed ear. “You’re a good girl.”
The horrible pieces fall into place: Ying was going to go back to Yang, but James Earl couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand the thought of losing Ying. Knowing Dolly's weakness for pretty/shiny/smelly, he got the weakest link in the pet chain to do his dirty work, knowing no matter how Yang died that his own fins would be clean.
Eddie must’ve witnessed the conversation. No one ever notices the sucker hanging around on the outskirts of the tank.
And Liza Bean? Does she know Dolly has been duped? Does she believe Dolly to be a hit man? Is this why she is planning a trip overseas?
I stare at Dolly Gee as she wanders into the bathroom, no doubt to lick whatever moisture clings to the inside of the sink.
The inside of my mouth has gone dry.
We take them in. We feed them, caress them.
But in the end, do we know them?
Do we ever really know our pets?
1 hour ago