I arrive home to find Dolly at the kitchen table. Hunched over a sheet of paper, she looks up as I enter the room – and hastily blows her cigarette smoke out the window.
I thought we had discussed how I feel about smoking in the house.
I frown at her.
Dolly Gee Squeakers, formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers, grins sheepishly, stubs out her Virginia Slim. The ashtray, just one of many, is shaped like an unshelled peanut.
Dolly is a collector.
I reach a hand out, scratch her behind one little black ear. “What’s goin’ on, Dolly?”
Dolly leans into my hand and shrugs, a charming gesture in a cat, and points at the paper she’s been working on.
NCAA Basketball Tournament.
“Can’t control yourself, huh?” I say this affectionately, but her gambling has gotten out of control in the past.
She shrugs again. Teased relentless as a kitten for her lisp, she studiously circumvents all sibilant syntax.
I shake my head, go back into the living room. “You lost your treat money last year,” I say over my shoulder. “Remember? You had to smoke your little ‘grits there in three-hit increments for a while. And there wasn’t tuna for weeks.” I put my purse on the chair, turn around. “You sure you can afford this?”
Dolly clears her throat, pushes the sheet toward me, pointing.
I step back into the kitchen. “Michigan State,” I read. “The Spartans? Are you sure?”
She nods, grinning, her tiny little teeth visible.
“What about the Wildcats?” I ask. “They were all you could talk about at dinner last night.”
It’s true. Dolly spoke so incessantly on the subject that Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) finally arose, went to the kitchen sink and turned the hose on her.
She shrugs again.
“Do you have a system this year? Are you back to big mascots versus little mascots?”
She nods. “I got a thythtem.”
I pat her on the head, go back into the living room. I finish taking off my coat, my shoes.
And then I check my sock drawer, where I’ve hidden a can of tuna in Dolly’s name.
In celebration or consolation, only time will tell.