Two Short Stories
I Dreamt We Were Saved
We were so hungry, I said, We will have to eat our cat, though we'd had him seven years. You got him from a friend’s farm, from the litter of stray. I’d wanted a short-haired cat; they shed less. This one was thick as a lamb. All his brothers wiggled and hissed, you explained. He was the only one who purred when I held him by the scruff. You slipped him under my sweater, and he nibbled my shoulder and mewed. All right, I sighed, imagining Sundays spent with broom. But he never shed much.
The cat liked to sleep in our bed, one ear cocked, listening to our whisperings. Sometimes he’d spring awake and bat my hair. A good mouser, he grew fat despite our troubles. In the mornings, we lay naked and I’d ask you, Do you love me? With each Yes you grew a little thinner. The muscles I’d admired turned to bone. Your ribs sought to intersect mine. Your hips bore into my belly.
The cat climbed onto our table as though he understood. He lay on his back, feet splayed, paws resting at his sides. He posed as if he were bathing. You looked down at your sneakers and mumbled a prayer, Blessed is our Father . . . while I raised the knife. I paused and waited for a voice to say, Stop! but the cat’s green eyes said, Go ahead. Carefully, I slit him down the middle. I pulled strips of meat from his ribs, one for you, one for me. In this way, we became one.
Not My Scent
You smell like sweat, marijuana, campfire, clover --- like a weekend spent in the mountains with an old friend. And there's a flower scent laced through your hair. Which flower? Startling pink peonies come to mind, but those smell like air. Marigolds are melted butter, and lilacs, cotton candy. Yellows and purples float through the room; I jump and try to catch them while you sleep. It's like trying to pluck Monet's water lilies off the canvas. By morning when your eyelids flutter open, I'll have filled a vase with roses from my garden. My lips will be painted scarlet that sticks to your cheek with my kiss. You’re not going anywhere without my signature.
On my thirtieth birthday, our friend Bill bought me --- eight? --- tequila shots and I fled the bar in a stupor, fell in the snow, and cried. You wrapped me in parka-thick arms and swiveled me home. You tucked me in and whispered, No, you're not a failure. But the cats inhaled the acid in my pores and shunned me. The tabby hid under the cast-iron bathtub. The Siamese chose a cabinet full of pots and pans. They wouldn’t know me the next day, until all poison had drained away, and the needles piercing my forehead clanked to the floor. Now, both cats, yours and mine, smell an unfamiliar woman's scent on your skin. They cuddle together in the attic, in a box you unpacked when you moved in.
Deborah Diemont lives in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico with her husband and two-year-old daughter. She is translating poems by poets from Chiapas State for a bilingual English-Spanish anthology, and works as a translator for the Mayan Medicine Museum. Her poems have previously appeared in The Texas Review and on Literarymama.com. She writes reviews for Newpages.com.
Copyright 2005 Deborah Diemont.