When You’re Away

When you’re away, the cat howls at the ceiling like a wolf. Hours and hours he’ll go on like that. I don’t know how to make him stop.

“Jack,” I’ll say. “Jack Jack.” I’ll check the food and the water. I’ll pet his glorious dark ruff, pull the tail that looks like a duster until he chirps and glares at me with gold-piece eyes. I’ll sleep in the space you usually sleep and turn off the light at the same time we do every night. But he is not so easily fooled. The other kitty, the dopey one we say loves me, is purring devotionals at my feet, all warmth and fuzz. “Jack,” I say, “Jack Jack.”

This is how we speak to them: purely in names. But I don’t know if he even hears me; he has buried himself in a pile of your clothes in the next room. He is wearing your underwear and has barricaded the door. He’s smoking your stash and fucking up your recycling; I hear the paper bin crash. All of the neighbors will know you are gone tonight.

Howl! Howl, howl!

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