What the Cat Knows–Andy Barker


I pick up Frankie’s glass and gulp down the remaining Prosecco. I mean, why waste it?

There must have been something else besides the shoes that set her off. I don’t get it, I thought those Converse high tops were totally her. “Jesus Christ, Jeremy. Really? I mean really?” That’s all she said.

Converse calls the color “Midnight Turq,” but basically the shoes are teal. Frankie’s favorite color. And she loves ankle-high shoes, boots, whatever. I even emailed the link to her mom before buying them, and she confirmed it was a good color. So what’s with these Chuck Taylors, tossed from the box in front of me on the living room floor in a pile of wrinkled tissue?

On the coffee table in front of me: wrapping paper (teal paisleys!), gold ribbon with the bow still intact, two empty glasses, a bottle of Prosecco in a bucket of ice. Orange Kitty stares at me from the shelf by the window, twitching his thick tail back and forth. “I really thought she was the one,” I tell him. “I’m getting too old for this.” The cat turns his head and looks out the window. Maybe he’s watching her get into the Prius and drive away. My Prius, actually. Crap.

So where do I start? Over? As in trying to start over with Jackie? Figuring out what the Hell I did this time so I can make sure it doesn’t happen again? Or over, as in starting my life over? Again?

Orange Kitty jumps down and bats at the ribbon dangling from the table.  I grab the Prosecco from the ice bucket and pour a cool fresh glass. Delicate streams of bubbles rise to the rim. My nose tingles. Glad I’ve got Prime, at least. Free return, just box the shoes back up, print out the bar code, and take it down to the Fed Ex next to Trader Joe’s.

Last weekend, it wasn’t really a fight. We were out on the coast, hiking a trail. I remember Jackie in front of me, ponytail swinging back and forth over the day pack. I don’t know how the topic came up or why I even pursued it. Because there’s nothing to argue about—it’s never been more than a matter of logic and design. You load a dishwasher from back to front. The dishes stack better, plus you don’t have to reach over other dirty dishes and clank around in there to put new ones in. Also, bowls go on the bottom drawer, not the top. A bowl face down on the top shelf takes up space where three cups could go, whereas there are slots on the lower drawer designed to set bowls at an angle on their sides. I totally get that she hadn’t used dishwashers much before meeting me, but how long does she need to figure it out? And what’s with the silverware? Jeez. When you shove spoons upside down in the basket, they don’t get clean. Who wants to pick pieces of granola off a spoon when putting it away? The basket is designed to hold the handle, so that the dirty part sticks up and gets full exposure to the water jets.

If nothing else, I can look forward to tomorrow morning. For the first time in months, when leaving for work, I will open the dishwasher, and without having to rearrange everything first, simply slide my coffee mug into an appropriate spot.

Andy Barker taught creative writing as a high school teacher before retiring a few years ago. He now spends most of his time in Manzanita where he volunteers in the Hoffman Center’s Writing Programs. His stories have appeared in journals including the North Coast Squid and Rain Magazine.