Read by Rhik Samadder & Gloria Sanders
From this angle she could be anyone. Face obscured by pillow and strands of sticky hair. The curve of her waist as it balloons out into her hips, a novice attempt at blown glass. I used to think she looked like a cello, but now it's slightly more double bass. Not that I’m moaning, no sir, not me. I like a bit of purchase. If I squint hard enough and I mean really squint she could even be Shakira. Bet Shakira wouldn't tut if I accidentally pinned her excess arm skin to the bed with my elbow. In fact, I bet Shakira doesn't have any excess arm skin so I imagine this probably wouldn't be an issue. And her hips don't lie. Although I'm fairly sure Karen's don't either. Unless there’s something she’s not telling me.
She's started on the ahhing sounds now, like she's just discovered a lost Cornetto in the back of the freezer. I'm Tower Bridge with a tonk on, the Gherkin lit up at night, no, fuck it, I'm the Shard and there ain’t nothing you can do to stop me. Or rather, I would be if I hadn’t eaten that massive slice of strudel. I didn't even want dessert but Karen made me order, so she could eat around the pastry. Pastry is bad. Pastry is the devil. Pastry makes Karen flash her hand up at me and declare: Not. In. My. Colon and that’s exactly how she says it – punching the air between the words with doughy full stops.
‘Can I think about it?’ she said casually. Like I just asked her what colour we should paint the hallway. ‘Can I think about it?’ she said, and kissed me on the cheek. A cheek that flamed with embarrassment as I stumbled back up off my knee and onto the chair, fishing out my grandmother’s ring from the bottom of a flute. ‘Take all the time you need.’ I said, wiping my hand on my thigh. ‘All the time you need.’
Her hands grip the faux iron bed frame we bought from IKEA. We had an argument that day over some hessian storage baskets which ended quite badly with her calling me a futon fucker. It was apparently the first thing that sprang to mind. We laughed about it later over a couple of anaemic looking broiled hotdogs we ate in the car. I got mustard on my shirt. She was right, it never did come out.
Number of hairs (non pubic) that I've counted on his pillow: five, mottled and pricking the edge of my lip. So not only are they falling out, the ones that are falling out are also going grey. That’s harsh. I’ve left out my Truly Fabulous volume enhancing conditioner, but I don’t think he’s taken the hint. To be honest, I’m not sure my Truly Fabulous volume enhancing conditioner is truly fabulous. And I don’t want to be one of these women who bully their men into tattooing their scalp or shit but the way things are going, I might not have a choice. I mean, he’s not even thirty. Imagine what it’ll be like when he’s fifty. That is, if I say yes.
Anyway there's not much I can do about it, it's all in the genes. At least that's what Alice says. Alice wouldn't dream of fellating anyone until she’d met his paternal father and made a quick assessment of his hair follicles. You’ve got to admire that. Strange thing is though, Nigel’s dad still has a full head. I mean, he’s no Bryan May but there’s definite hair. Perhaps he’s adopted. That would make sense. Must remember to tell Alice.
I’d probably get into this a bit more if Rodney wasn't sat on top of the portable staring at us with a shitty smirk on his fuzzy little face. I‘ve tried to keep the door closed, but he always manages to find a way in, creeping out from underneath the bed or announcing himself to the room with a paw behind the curtain.
Rodney appeared at the window one morning and never really went away. I came home from work one afternoon and found him in the hallway shitting into the Cheese plant. I swear he was smiling as he squeezed his skinny little cat plop into the planter. He was wearing a left-over Christmas bow and had a Post-it note flapping on his backside that read 'Please don't call the RSPCA'. This was Nigel's idea of a romantic gesture. Apparently owning a diary with Matisse's Cat on the front, (a present from Nigel’s Dad, WHSmiths 2 for 1 sticker still intact) meant that I definitely wanted a moggy of my own with a tendency to shit wherever he pleases. I don’t even like cats. I’m not even a cat person.
‘Are you okay?’ He looks up between my thighs. I can only see the top part of his head, the off whites of his eyes rolling upwards.
‘You’ve gone a bit starey?’
‘Sorry, it's just, well, Rodney, he’s behind you.’
‘Oh no he isn’t!’
‘It’s not funny. I don’t like the way he looks at me.'
'He's a cat, that's just way he looks.'
'There’s definite smirkage. It’s like he knows exactly what we’re doing.’
‘He has no concept of what we’re doing.’
‘How do you know?’
‘He’s a cat.’
‘So, why does he only ever come in when we're having sex then?'
‘He’s probably just … curious.'
‘He should be outside, hiding out in alleyways with his kitty mates or something.”
‘He’s not Top Cat.’
'I know he’s not fucking Top Cat, but he makes me feel uncomfortable.' I fold my arms across my boobs, one makes a break for freedom, rolling under my pit. We both ignore it.
‘Why are you whispering?’
‘In case he hears us.’
‘Are you for fucking real?’
‘Yes. I’m for fucking real.’
Nigel scrabbles under the duvet with a free arm and produces a rolled up pair of socks. Flipping onto his side, he launches the elasticated ball towards Rodney. It catches the top corner of one of his ears. Rodney dismisses the flying object with a slow blink. He turns his head slowly to look at the offending missile that has landed on the floor and turns back to look at us defiantly.
“See? That's what I'm talking about. It’s just not normal.”
I'm not sure if she even understands what normal is, I mean, is this normal? Stopping me halfway through a shag to tell me our cat is smirking at us? You've got to feel sorry for Rodney really, I mean, he's probably retarded or something. My theory, right, is that he’s got abandonment issues. That's why he just stares - he's terrified we're going to leave. I mean that would make sense wouldn't it? You don't need a degree in Pet Psychology to work that fucker out. Karen reckons Rodney is the reincarnated soul of Pol Pot. That's what you get for having a girlfriend who teaches amateur dramatics to recovering addicts.
I'm just about to hit my final strides when a thud next to me stops me dead. We turn to face Rodney, who has jumped Parkour fashion onto the bed, neck all go-go gadgety and eyes bulging like a frightened manga heroine way, way out of his face.
Rodney's diaphragm spazzes uncontrollably, mouth open wide as a clear droplet of kitty drool taps the pillow. Karen runs across the room shouting something indecipherable about Sigourney Weaver as Rodney gives one final wheeze. His entire ribcage rising and falling like a hospital ventilator as a hairy mound flies out of his tummy, landing in a biley puddle on Karen's pillow.
'It's just a hairball!' I yell over at Karen, who is using the giant hessian laundry basket to hide behind. 'It’s just a hairball!' I repeat, somewhat relieved as Rodney resumes normal business with his non-existent nuts. ‘Perfectly natural. They puke these up all the time.' I assure her, grabbing my boxers from the floor.
'Oh yeah? she asks, moving over for closer inspection and poking about the clumpy mass with the end of a wooden hanger. ‘What's this then?'
‘This. There’s something poking out, some kind of receipt.' She pinches the piece of paper between her forefingers, wiping kitty spitty on her dressing gown. ‘Sophisticats?’
‘Sophisti-fucking-cats.’ It’s a receipt for a strip club.’
‘Is that all you can say? Our cat has just up-chucked a receipt for a strip club.’
‘Well, it certainly isn’t mine.’
‘Don’t look at me! He probably picked it up the floor or something.’
‘Was that before or after he had a lap dance?’
‘No, I meant-‘
‘Sophisticats is miles away. He would have had to have got on a tube. Are you saying Rodney has an Oyster card?’ She supresses a burp through the corner of her mouth, it whooshes past my nose. Pork, sage, toothpaste.
‘I’m saying he found the receipt on the floor somewhere.’
'And ate it?'
'Yes and ate it.’
‘And then threw it up again.'
'It’s perfectly plausible.'
‘Why would Rodney eat it?’
‘I don’t know! Why did your brother's dog eat your mum's HRT tablets? Sometimes animals eat things.’
She stares at the receipt hard looking for further evidence.
‘It says here five rum and cokes.’
‘You drink rum and coke.’
‘So do like a million other people, some of whom live in the capital and probably go to strip clubs.’
‘Oh, so that's it then, is it? That explains everything. Rodney's a rum-swilling, strip-club-loving perv, who’s so ashamed of his double life he eats receipts to hide the evidence.'
‘Earth to fucking Karen! Rodney is a cat. Cats play outside. Sometimes they venture into other people’s gardens, sometimes they eat things off the ground.'
‘Your eyebrows are twitching.’
‘Lying signal. I’ve seen fucking Oprah you know!’
The slamming of the door was, in my opinion, probably better executed by a woman. And before you get all Femidom on me, I don't mean to be offensive, but it's just not very manly is it? I bet that's what she's thinking. Bet she's on the phone to Alice right now telling her how emotionally stunted I am or some other Psychologies magazine bullshit.
So here I am heading balls deep into Friday night. Sneering in through windows at the entangled limbs of couples who haven't just had their cat puke up a receipt to a strip club and trying to catch my breath as two icy fingers squeeze my throat. I reach into my pocket for my inhaler, the canister cold to the touch. It ppfttts out into the night air and as if by some freakish genie steroid magic, Rodney appears.
'Fuck me Rodney, mate.' I wheeze, dropping the inhaler onto the floor. I picture Karen grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and throwing him out the back door as if he was a split bin liner full of scraps. My breathing shallows as Rodney bats the inhaler between his paws, left to right, right to left, clattering between the concrete slabs. I bend down to snatch it back, but he’s far too quick. Panic balloons inside my lungs just as Rodney slaps a paw over my hand, the leathery sole of his pad cool against my wrist, the tiniest threat of claw should I make a sudden move. He picks up the inhaler with his mouth clanging the metal with his teeth. I watch his tail disappear around the corner as he caterwauls into the night.
Balls. Should have got her a dog.
Nicki Le Masurier is a Producer for Literary Death Match London. Her day job as a Fashion Publicist has left her with the ability to describe everything as amaaazzzzing with utmost sincerity. At night she writes, she reads, she blogs. She does not bake.