Sunday in Smyrnings With Strays
The second installment of our Smyrna-Vinings Patch fiction column.
It wasn't quite 90 degrees. Downright nice for a July Sunday in Vinings, and Parmelia Mobley was out enjoying her new used blue New Beetle. Right now she was enjoying it in the drive-through at the Steak 'n Shake.
Out of her bag burst "Cum on Feel the Noize." She dug out her phone and looked at the Caller ID, though it couldn't be anyone but Shane. She flipped it open. "It's been a while since I heard Slade coming out of my phone."
* * *
Shane Bledsoe had the big orange cat secured, at the cost of a scratch. Nearly secured.
"Parmie, Hi! Let me put you on speaker," He set the phone down on the hammock slung between two trees, and snugged down the second strap. "I need advice from a D.D.S."
Parmie's chittering monkey laugh came out of the little speaker and Shane felt a sweet pain in his chest.
"You mean D.V.M.?"
"Right! Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. God dang, I hate initials."
"Wishes bring home another stray animal? It's not a coyote, is it?"
Shane glanced around, at the convalescent wren looking out of his birdhouse, the three-legged terrier napping under the tree, and the hutch.
"No, just summerizing the cat." On impulse he added, "I'm in my back yard. Back of the house."
"Cats I can do. I'll just come over. Wait a sec." He heard her ordering a steakburger. "Extra bacon!"
"Baby, would you get me chili fries? I mean Parmie. Dr. Mobley. I'll pay you." Shane wished he'd shaved, or brushed his hair, or brushed his teeth, or showered. He looked down to see what tee shirt he was wearing. More stupid letters, and upside-down.
"You know, some fellas actually take a woman out to eat."
"Gah — yeah, but we —" We broke up, after that thing. Didn't we? "Let me pay for your lunch?"
The cat sounded like a model airplane engine. In the hutch, the massive European hare shifted warily. Shane's housemate Wishes had inexplicably found the animal by the river, birdshot in its haunch.
Parmelia asked, "What exactly is summerizing a cat?"
"That's why I need you." That's not why I need you. "Cat! Hold still." The cat had a name, but Shane never used it. Except this time. "Caliban! I'll sell you for medical experiments. Big tub of guts."
"Don't do anything to Caliban, I'm on my way." She was shouting over the engine and rush of wind. Parmie drove fast, whenever possible, and liked the window open. Shane listened to the mingled sound. It was soothing. If Caliban weren't in the way, he could lie in the hammock and doze.
"Oh, Pamie, don't forget to turn on Spring."
"I'm already on Spring."
"Not Spring Road, Spring Street."
"Oops, I'm almost at Jonquil already, where that pastries place used to be but before you get to the Dairy Queen."
"Turn there. Smyrna's called the Jonquil City."
"I don't know why, ask Wishes."
* * *
Parmelia pulled into the tree-shaded driveway at Shane's grandmother's house. She heard Caliban complaining as soon as the engine stopped. She grabbed a container of fries and opened the gate to the backyard.
Shane looked like an unmade bed, as usual, but he still had the lopsided smile she liked. "Hi! Long time. I mean, since you were here. Look, we got a hare!"
She looked. "What's that doing in Georgia? Never mind -- what the hell have you done to Caliban?" She approached the hammock. Shane's arms twitched up in an awkward incipient hug; she stepped in and gave him a quick squeeze, then turned to the grumbling cat.
"What is this? You've turned an innocent hammock into a cat bondage sling." She stroked Caliban's head. His alarm clock growl turned into grunting and finally a reluctant purr.
The cat was strapped down supine in the hammock's lowest part, his legs hanging through holes in the canvas, treading air. "That's really good needlework, how you sewed the straps in."
"It was Wishes' idea, but I did the work."
"Right, you sew those things for your Auntie's fetish business."
"Those are respectable corsets, they're ordered by nice ladies and certain middle-aged men who need support. See how I reinforced the openings? Measuring the cat was the hardest part." He thumped Caliban's belly through taut fabric. "I thought I'd do his heartworm medicine, vitamins, and claws all at once."
"And you'd like me to do what?" She took a mouthful of fries.
"Maybe check his hiney, just a quick once-over? His hiney smells funny. Not funny, really." They were side-by-side, standing over the racked cat, their legs touching.
"That's the anal sacs, Sweetie. He's outdoors, and eating God knows what, it's not surprising." She lifted Caliban's tail. "See, those glands there express stinky oil when he poops, to mark his territory."
"Smells like death."
"That's normal. Any worms in his stool?"
"I assume not."
"Okay, let's eat! He's not goin' anywhere."
They sat in lawn chairs and had lunch, not talking about why he hadn't called her in two months. They shared respective family gossip. His Mamaw had hit a Peachtree City police car with her golf cart; her brother and a friend had auditioned for work as a pantomime horse, but only one of them had been hired.
Shane never met her eyes for more than a few seconds. He was always shy that way, like a gorilla.
Caliban, grunting rhythmically, let her feed two strips of bacon into his maw while Shane smeared heartworm medicine on the skin between his shoulder blades. Parmelia asked, "So, what's 'summerize'?"
"Thought I'd shave him down with the clippers."
"He'll love that. Let's paint his claws pink; I've got some in my bag."
Shane blurted, "I'm glad Wishes brought this stupid cat home. Gave me an excuse to call you. "
"You need an excuse?"
"Well, we broke up." He made eye contact. "Didn't we, Parmie, after that thing? I thought we did."
"You just stopped calling."
"Well, so did you. I think about calling you every day."
"So call. Don't wait for Wishes to bring home another stray."
They both turned at the sound of another car pulling into the driveway. Dusty green Toyota. Wishes Tanager got out and waved at her. "Parmelia!"
"Aloysius! Still wearing that coin changer."
Wishes opened the driver side door and a woman got out. Maybe 25, a good six feet. Chopped-off black hair. Looked a little dazed.
Wishes pointed at her and called to Shane. "This is Ronnie. I said she could live here."