My cat Bruwyn ran away. He never came back.
A neighbor said that he had seen a dead black cat with a checkerboard collar along the side of the road, but didn’t see the MISSING poster until the city had swept up the body.
I find myself looking at old photos of Bruwyn, trying to figure out what we did wrong.
Was there any clue that he was unhappy? Or felt neglected?
No. He looks like a cat. A happy cat.
Despite having a camera’s flash going off every time I photographed him.
He looks like a cat.
Every day, Colin changes the sheets on the bed.
Some days, he changes them into ghosts. The flaps them around the room, making scary sounds.
Other times, he changes them into sails. He’s sailed all seven of the Seven Seas on his bed that way.
Once, he changed them into Klan robes. He claims that he was going to infiltrate a meeting in order to uncover all the racists and haters in town. But nobody’s buying that cock-and-bull story of his.
Bad, bad Colin.
An angry mob killed Colin.
So, we’re changing the sheets into his burial shroud.
Down on Earth, kids are taught that Heaven is up and Hell is down.
But in orbit, even with spin gravity, up and down lose meaning.
You live on the inside of a gigantic spinning barrel.
So, down is out, and up is in.
To help with the confusion, The Brotherhood maintains a presence everywhere.
They watch for signs of rebellion and independence.
And teach the kids about Heaven and Hell.
Kids that resist get put in the airlock.
Until they scream for mercy.
Make sure to open the internal door this time.
We lose too many kids that way.
Cindy and Candy.
Perfect twins, and they’re perfect.
They don’t come cheap.
But they’re worth every dollar.
And worth the three month waiting list.
“Candy has the clit ring,” says one girl.
She must be Cindy.
And we begin.
Seven hours later, I can’t remember who is who.
Or anything else.
Everything hurts. It hurts so good.
I can barely walk to the shower.
Their smell, the stickiness.
I watch the drain.
A year from now, some guy murders the twins.
He takes the ring as a souvenir.
The cops never mind him.
Or the ring.
The toughest thing in the world is a dying cat.
If you take the cat to the vet, you distress the cat.
And most of the time, the vet can’t or won’t do anything.
But if you don’t take the cat to the vet, you are letting the cat suffer.
Whatever you do, you feel guilty.
For doing something. Or not doing something.
And after your cat is dead, you feel stupid for doing what you did.
Or guilty for not doing anything.
A few hundred… or thousand dollars poorer.
And what do people do?
“Would you like a kitten?”
The Voludani hid outside of our sensor ranges, sat, and listened.
They got to know us. Better than we knew ourselves.
They put together their plans, and surprised the hell out of us.
A perfect replica of Jesus, Moses, and the Twelfth Imam appeared.
Along with the messiah of every other religion or cult.
They announced that these were The End Times, and they assembled their armies.
Every nation, every community, and every culture were turned upside down and against each other.
Fire, blood, and death swept over the globe.
The Voludani cheered, and flew off to the next show.
We called our first maid Jane.
I don’t remember what her name was, but we called her Jane.
She wasn’t a very good maid, so we replaced her.
We called that maid Jane, too.
As the family grew, we hired more maids.
We called all of our maids Jane.
It didn’t matter which maid came, as long as one came to do what we wanted or needed.
The maids called us Master or Miss.
It didn’t matter, really.
Divorces and deaths, births and marriages.
We’re all the same to them, in the end.
It’s just a job to do.
When I was little, I wore pajamas to bed.
Bright-colored pajamas with racing cars and trains and zoo animals on them.
As I grew up, or the pajamas wore out, I’d get new pajamas.
And the old clothes ended up in the rag basket.
For wiping up spills in the kitchen or drying my dad’s car after we washed it.
I’d pick out the familiar tatters out of the basket and remember wearing them.
These days, I don’t wear pajamas.
And I use sponges and paper towels for spills.
And use the automated car wash at the gas station.
put on your pajamas
brush your teeth
drape tomorrow’s clothes
over the back of the chair
lay your slippers on the floor
and get into bed
i will read you a bedtime story
kiss you on the forehead
fluff your pillow
and smother you with it
no more goodnight moon
or little red riding hood
or three little pigs
tomorrow, we’ll put your body
in the old wooden trunk
strip the sheets from the bed
wash out the filth
tidy up the room
greet the van from the orphanage
and welcome a new little boy
or new little girl
I grew up in the Shermer of John Hughes’ movies.
Deerfield, Upper Arlington, Glencoe, and Northbrook.
There was a great Chicago Dog place called Ira’s in Northbrook.
The ketchup bottles at the counters were there for fries.
And you did not dare get ketchup near the dogs.
You got yelled at by the owner if you put ketchup on the dogs.
Ketchup was on the menu, between relish and mustard.
But you never asked for it. Ever.
When I go to Minutemaid for a game, I’ll get cheese and onions and mustard.
But never, ever ketchup.