At the end of a long day, one often spent figuratively chained to a corporation, I find it refreshing to arrive home in time to find one’s pet at the kitchen table. Perched atop a stool and hunched over a sheet of paper, Dolly Gee looks up as I enter – and hastily blows her cigarette smoke out the window.
I thought we had discussed how I feel about smoking in the house.
Dolly Gee Squeakers, formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers, grins sheepishly. On an income derived primarily of her Ebay sales of collectible, souvenir ashtrays and matchbooks, she has recently taken to rolling her own. She takes one last, hasty hit, then leans forward, extinguishes a tiny zeppelin-shaped smoke. The ashtray, just one of many, is a turquoise blue sombrero.
I reach a hand out, scratch her behind a little black ear. “What’s goin’ on, Dolly?”
Dolly leans into my hand, nose first, runs the side of her face along it in a fashion I know to be territorial yet prefer to believe is merely affectionate. She shrugs, a charming gesture in a small, fuzzy animal, and points at the paper she’d been working on Wednesday.
NCAA Basketball Tournament.
I shake my head, then stop myself. Last year’s debacle, wherein the cat had bet more than she could afford to lose, left her smoking cigarettes in two- and three-hit increments, snubbing them out only to relight them later. “Can’t control yourself, huh?”
She shrugs again. Teased relentless as a kitten for her lisp, she studiously circumvents all sibilant syntax.
I turn, head back into the living room. “You lived from paw to maw last year,” I say over my shoulder. “Remember? There wasn’t tuna for weeks.” I put my purse on the chair, turn back. We stare at each other, each of us framed by the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. “You know I don’t mean to interfere,” I say softly. “But you turned that in, didn’t you? What did it cost you?”
Dolly clears her throat, raises a paw and presses it silently against her lips. Shhhhhhh. She pushes the sheet toward me, pointing.
I step back into the kitchen. “Kentucky Wildcats,” I read.
I look at her. “Everyone’s picking the Wildcats,” I say.
She nods, grinning, her tiny little teeth visible.
“What about the Badgers?” I ask. “They were all you could talk about at dinner last night.”
It’s true. Dolly spoke so incessantly on the subject, including assertions that became rather hysterical on the theory that she, Dolly, was surely part badger, that Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) finally arose, went to the kitchen sink, and turned the hose on her.
She shrugs again.
I sigh. You can raise them, but you can’t tell them what to do. “So do you have a system this year? Are you back to big mascots versus little mascots? Attractive uniforms over non?”
Dolly taps the side of her nose with one fuzzy paw. “I got a thythtem.”
I shake my head, smiling, head back into the living room. I finish taking off my coat, my shoes. And then I head into my bedroom, where I check my sock drawer to ensure that, as I do every year, there’s a hidden can of tuna in Dolly’s name.
In celebration or consolation, only time will tell.