Dolly lays on her back in the living room, arms and legs akimbo, a fuzzy and most un-seaworthy canoe.
Her eyes riveted on the television, her NCAA Mens Divisional Basketball Championship bracket lies near her head.
“I’m surprised you’re putting yourself through this again.”
The cat, a long-haired Siamese/badger/speed bump mixture, sighs.
It happens every year: Dolly Gee Squeakers, formerly of the Humane
Society Squeakers, bets more than she can afford on college sports.
And like last year, she is about to lose her cigarette money.
“It’s probably time to quit anyway,” I say.
She looks at me, expressionless.
“Smoking,” I say.
She turns back to the TV.
“It’s too early to be worried,” I soothe. “Your teams are all still, um…” I trail off. I know nothing of sports, scoring, or brackets.
Dolly’s got good reason to be concerned, though. There’s precedent.
It is pathetic, really. After last year’s loss, her two-cigs a day habit had, out of necessity, been reduced to one a day. For days after the Jayhawks lost to the Wild Cats, she had smoked in four- and five-hit increments morosely sitting at the kitchen table, a figure of loss and self-doubt. Last year’s system had been based on her love of birds, despite having had a successful year prior to that going with big mascots beating small mascots.
“I didn’t thtick to my thythem,” she whispers.
Teased as a kitten for her lisp, it is rare that we hear from Dolly.
I follow her gaze to the television.
playing Florida. “Wait.
You went with Minnesota?”
The cat meets my eye and dips her chin, a brief, somehow fatalistic gesture.
“But,” I frown, “I thought you were going back to big mascots over little mascots. A Florida Gator is bigger than a Minnesota Gopher.”
Dolly Gee Squeakers fixes her brilliantly blue, ever-so-slightly crossed eyes on me. “I know that,” she says, “but the gopher...” She stops abruptly with a faraway look in her eye. “I love them,” she whispers, a scarcely audible whisper full of longing. “Tho help me, I love the little gopherth.”
I lean toward her, run a finger between her silky ears. “Who you got going all the way?”
Dolly thinks before speaking. “A particular college in
I smile. “
Dolly smiles, a charming thing in a cat. “Orangemen,” she says dreamily. “Orangemen.”