Chapter III

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‘I’m going to clean’ she said to herself with great determination and a positive, uplifting attitude. All around, random piles of junk of various provenances defied her proudly. ‘Who lives here?’ she wondered, in disbelief that she could actually make such a mess all by herself. ‘Later’, she figured, and brewed some fresh coffee.

She swept a dubious mix of junk paper and food wrappers off the kitchen table and set up a couple of square feet for her writing pad. She wrote ‘Chapter Three’ in big bold letters at the top of the page and underlined it. One might ask what was the title of her book, and what was in chapters one and two. Jessica would have liked to know that herself, since the first two chapters had not yet been written. She just jumped directly into chapter three, to shortcut her writer’s block.

Ok, what is this book about? She couldn’t see it yet, she was still struggling with her ‘process’. She had just a very vivid image that took hold of her mind: a relatively plump middle aged lady being dragged in three different directions by the clowder of cats she was walking on leash. The cats walked her would be a more appropriate description. Jessica was very clear on the cats: two American shorthairs, one tabby, one calico, and a beautiful chocolate brown Birman with sparkling blue eyes. The story took place somewhere in a big city, with cabs and buses and busy people and honking horns and stoplights.

‘Cats?’ she thought. ‘Who walks cats? I guess you kind of have to if you live in the city.’

The cats completely took over and words started flowing faster than she could write them down. Missy, Kitty and Gulliver, those were their names, and their curvy momma was called Lucy.

‘What am I doing letting the cats write the book?’ Jessica asked herself.

The cats had a story, even if one starting directly in chapter three. Apparently the four lived in a one bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a building that was smack dab in the middle of downtown, great location, I tell you. Jessica looked around her own kitchen again, acknowledged the mess and wondered how does one survive in a one bedroom apartment with three cats. A little plastic container hesitated for a couple of seconds, hanging on for dear life on the edge of the sink and finally abandoned the fight and fell on the floor next to the ketchup stain.

‘I really should be cleaning now, really!’

The thought was dismissed with utmost disdain by Kitty and Missy, who apparently narrated the story, while Gulliver, the youngest, guarded a prized window sill with great view to the city street. A cat doesn’t even realize until a cat spends a few hours next to the window how many pigeons are flying wild in the city. Quite a treat, even from a distance.

Kitty, Missy and Gulliver graciously accepted Lucy’s presence as one of those facts that a well behaved cat doesn’t question. She was all right, they thought, not too bothersome, and she made sure the water and the food were fresh and the kitty box was clean, most of the time. Gulliver really would have liked it to be cleaned more often, but it was just his persnickety personality. Missy and Kitty often exchanged glances during his hour and a half grooming sessions, mostly justified by his long hair, wink-wink.

Not that the kitty cats weren’t very neat themselves, mind you, they even learned to live with the weekly shampoos in the bathroom sink, a great source of distress and really so unnecessary. Kitty and Missy just hoped against hope that someone would tell Lucy how cats clean themselves rather well and water really doesn’t suit them. Kitty and Missy sometimes wished they lived somewhere in the countryside, within walking distance of field mice and warm flagstones where they could groom themselves in peace and never see water again. ‘Perish the thought, heathens!’ Gulliver shuddered, nervously licking his spotless left paw at the thought of unpaved roads and outdoor living. The imagined chagrin of having to remove dust and dirt from his fur made him choke, so he took the opportunity to cough up a hairball. The little indignities of living.

The lady of the house walked through the door and three pairs of round eyes pinned down her location with quiet intensity.

“Hi, babies, my pretties! Who are the most beautiful kitty cats in the world!”

The cats accepted the daily kiss with slightly embarrassed enjoyment, stretching their necks to be scratched under the chin and pretending to yawn so they didn’t seem overly enthused. Gulliver’s neck hairs stuck up as he slanted his eyes, an attitude that made him look morose despite the fact that he was quite content, thank you very much.

Lucy quickly appraised the room, noticed a couple of fringes out of place and straightened them out immediately, out of habit. She dropped the bags on the countertop, put the groceries in the fridge and opened a couple of cans of cat food. The cats pitched their ears and got up really slowly, stretching plenty and apparently getting distracted by other things before finally starting towards the kitchen. They weren’t really hungry but it was the family tradition to respect dinner time since Lucy went through the trouble to serve it every day precisely at six.

Jessica stopped writing for a second and wondered if she should get a cat, then shrugged and continued.

‘A white one perhaps’, she thought.

She remembered that white cats tend to be hard of hearing, still nice, though. The coffee was ready and smelled like heaven, one had to be a coffee lover to understand her delighted anticipation. Almost ritually Jessica turned a cup upside up, poured a little milk, dropped in a sugar cube and topped everything up three quarters to the brim with wispy aromatic goodness. A soft rain licked the window panes, making the afternoon seem somehow mellower all dressed up in coffee fragrance.

‘Maybe a coffee colored Birman… Gulliver! She’ll name it Gulliver. What if it’s a female cat? You can’t name a female cat Gulliver.’

Her best friend had a cat. Jessica decided she liked cats, put the cup down and continued.

She wrote a few more paragraphs on Lucy’s work at the framing center, a job a lot more glamorous than people thought. Lucy got to appreciate and make observations on artwork all day long as she stretched painted canvases on their frames, almost like a museum curator with manual labor duties. She had a sensitive nature and art made a strong impression on her, fact well dissimulated by a well organized hard working attitude. Sometimes in the middle of work she was stopped in her tracks by a detail she never noticed before or by a color hue only brought to life at a certain time of day. She considered herself so lucky to be surrounded by beauty every day that she never paid attention to well meaning friends or relatives who thought she didn’t apply herself enough to whatever it was that she was supposed to be doing instead.

Lucy liked her life, her boyfriend, her job, her downtown apartment and her cats. ‘That would work!’ Jessica thought, suddenly in a great mood. She placed an end chapter sign, closed the notepad, finished her coffee, put the cup in the sink and started cleaning the kitchen.

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