The Girl with the Cat Tattoo
Copyright 2012, Theresa Weir
Max had been a cat as long as he could remember, but he was pretty sure he’d been a rock star in one of his previous lives. He just had that kind of cool about him. Right now he was sitting in the middle of the floor in Saint Paul, Minnesota, feeling hostile while staring at the strange man in his mistress’s bed.
“Does your cat have a name?” the man asked. The sheet was draped across the guy’s hips, and it hurt Max’s eyes to look at so much naked flesh and hairy chest.
“Maxwell,” Max’s mistress shouted from the bathroom. Her name was Melody and she took good care of Max. He didn’t know who her dealer was, but she got him some primo stuff. Organic, no stems, and a high that kept him bouncing off the walls for a good full hour.
But Max was fed up with the strange men she kept bringing home, and they were definitely putting a damper on his relationship with Melody.
The guy held out his hand. “Here, kitty-kitty.” He smelled like sweat, cigarettes, and old beer. And Melody. Max hated that he also smelled like Melody. Max sniffed around and found a pile of clothes that gave off the same odor as the man in the bed. Without digging or circling, he squatted over the fabric. Keeping his gaze locked on the stranger, Max let go with a stream of urine. It just seemed the thing to do.
The man shouted, and Melody came running from the bathroom, toothbrush in her hand. “Max!”
Max jumped off the pile of clothes, pleased to see a wet spot on both pants and shirt.
“Goddamn cat!” The guy dove from the bed. Max flicked his tail and zoomed out of the room, skidding as he took a corner, giving a quick jump when he hit the wall, corrected, then a straight shot through the living room and kitchen, to the basement where he’d be safe. But voices carried through the floor vents.
“He pissed all over my clothes!”
“He’s never done that before,” Melody said. “I don’t know what got into him.”
“I’ll have to wear cat-piss clothes to work.”
The noise finally settled down, and Max began to wonder if he was missing out on anything. He inched his way back upstairs, each step silent and smooth. He peeked around the corner.
The guy was dressed, getting ready to leave.
“Here’s my phone number.” Melody handed him a business card. It had a picture of Max on it. A box of them had arrived at the house one day, and Melody had shown them to him. “What do you think of this handsome guy?” she’d asked. “Do you like having your face on my card?”
He’d liked it a lot.
She’d had another cat before Max. Max had seen pictures. He didn’t like to think of that other cat. It made his tummy feel funny.
“You’re a librarian?” The guy sounded disgusted.
“Children’s librarian. At the Hamline Midway Library, to be exact.”
Max wasn’t crazy about kids, but he lifted his nose in a haughty way just to demonstrate support of his mistress.
“Would it be better if I were a stripper?”
The guy nodded. “That would be hot.”
She grabbed the card. “Get out.”
“I’m trying.” He stuffed his feet into a pair of sneakers and bent to tie them. The rapidly moving laces were almost impossible for Max to resist, but he managed to control himself. As the man straightened, he spotted Max. “There you are, you idiot cat.”
Max gave him a hard stare even though his heart was pounding. Suddenly Melody scooped him up and pressed him to her chest. “Get out,” she told the man.
He looked from her to Max and back. “Crazy cat lady.” Then he was gone with a slam of the kitchen door.
“I just have one cat,” Melody shouted after him. “Just one! Cat ladies have a lot of cats!”
Max pushed his paws against her chest so he could lean back and look up at her.
“Oh, Max.” Remnants of yesterday’s mascara smudged her blue eyes, and her dark hair fell against her neck in the spot Max liked to nuzzle. She smelled like the strange stuff she drank when she was away from home. Something sweet and curious, a secret scent that drifted between them when she talked, that found a home on her skin where it would linger for days. A scent that spoke of a world Max knew nothing about, a world that scared him with its mysteries and possible dangers.
“Why do I bring these losers home?” Melody was wearing her pink pajamas. The ones with the black cats. Max smiled at her. She smiled back and massaged his head. “When am I going to realize that you’re the only guy I need in my life?”
She’d said the same thing before. Max knew that soon she would meet her friends for drinks and there would be another morning and another loser. It had been fourteen cat years since David had died, but fourteen of Max’s years translated to two of Melody’s. It was time she met a decent guy, and Max was beginning to think he’d have to take it upon himself to find one.
Max was a cat of action. The very next day after Melody left for work, he moved forward with his plan. He would go out into the world and return with a man for Melody. Leaving home was easy. All he had to do was slip out the doggy door that had been installed by the previous homeowners. When Melody and David moved into the place, there had been some discussion about the door.
“Max won’t leave the yard,” David had predicted.
He’d been right. In fact, just thinking of what might dwell beyond the solid fence scared the beejesus out of Max. Now, as he sat in the safety of his backyard kingdom, doubt crept in and he briefly wondered about the practicality of his matchmaking plan. But the trepidation didn’t last long. His spontaneous nature kicked in and he scaled the fence, then perched casually on a post, fake-licking a paw to give the impression that he had all day and was not on a mission. A cat, especially a cat like him, had to retain an outward appearance of cool at all times.
Upon occasion, he’d had the misfortune of spending time with cats that cried and begged and generally made fools of themselves. He would never be one of those cats.
With a vague plan in mind, he dove headfirst off the post, the pads of his feet contacting the rough surface of the fence boards, the ground rising to meet him. A fraction of a second later, he was upright in a clump of the neighbor’s yellow flowers.
They smelled heavenly.
He briefly forgot his mission. He touched the tip of his nose to the soft petals and sniffed, the flower’s sweet scent filling his head with the dreamiest of sensations that left him so transported that he collapsed in the deep grass.
His head gradually cleared, his awareness expanding beyond the gently bobbing yellow flowers. Daffodils? Were they daffodils? Melody had mentioned something about spring, but Max hadn’t paid much attention. He’d just been