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Friday, July 19, 2002
Rebecca Dravos' first contribution to Ftrain. A story of pet ownership and potential love, or at least lust, frustrated by circumstances.
There was once a cat named Rockstar and a dog named Elephant. The cat was a tortoiseshell, which meant she was black and brown. She was a little fat and had a very soft belly that was sheer ecstasy to poke with your fingers. The dog was a German Shepherd, which meant that he was brown and strong and his forefathers had shepherded sheep in Germany, and hopefully nothing worse. The best thing to do with him was scratch behind his stick-up ears.
Rockstar and Elephant lived, mostly in peace, in a third floor one-bedroom apartment with their owner Rebecca. The apartment was not far from Prospect Park, in Brooklyn. It did not have a lot of room. A one-bedroom apartment has a bedroom, a living room, some sort of kitchenette, and a bathroom. But even in tight quarters, they got along very well.
Rebecca was not Elephant and Rockstar's owner as much as their friend. During the day, she was a librarian. When she left for work she would say, “everyone be good.” And Elephant and Rockstar would be good.
Every night Rebecca would come home to poke bellies, scratch ears, fill up bowls with water and food, change the litter, and take Elephant for walks. In fact, she had done this almost too many nights. For nearly a year, she had been at home almost every night, except when she went to visit her parents in Vermont for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Rebecca decided that had to change, so she began to go to the YMCA near her house, and stopped smoking cigarettes. She began to develop firm arm muscles, which was good, because her job at the library did not encourage the development of firm arm muscles. It encouraged the development of great big ass.
Anyway, when Rebecca would come home Elephant would jump up and down. He was the happiest ever right then, when Rebecca came home. But he did not jump on Rebecca, because he was very polite even when he was excited and knew not to jump on people, and he would give Rebecca a big kiss when she leaned down to grab his ears and squeeze his back. Rebecca would put on his leash, they would both say goodbye to Rockstar, and they would go to the park. Sometimes Elephant would get excited and pull on the leash and Rebecca would have to explain to him that he should calm down and walk, and he would.
Rockstar, on the other hand, stayed inside all the time. He liked that, he never even tried to run out the door. He had a pink nose and pink toes, and long whiskers. He was very aloof, whereas Elephant was very excitable.
The park was a wonderful place. It had squirrels, the most exciting of all God's creatures. It had a lawn to sit on and a place for dogs to congregate. Sometimes Rebecca would meet cute girls there. Rebecca was a very shy librarian who didn't like men as much as she liked cute girls with button noses and, sometimes, tattoos. She even developed her arm muscles at the local gym and made them firm and strong in order to look better in nice tops so that cute girls would want to talk to her more often. Having nice arms was a big deal to Rebecca.
One day she met a woman named Kathy who was there with her friend's Boston Terrier. Kathy was not only cute but was getting an advanced degree in comparative literature at New York University, and wanted to talk about the current state of the Spanish novel, which Rebecca also wanted to discuss. Kathy clearly respected Rebecca for working at a large public university library in Manhattan, which was good, because not everyone respects librarians, even though they should, because I have it from many different sources that librarians will kick your ass thoroughly.
Elephant played nicely with the other dogs, sniffing but almost never making a move. Whether he was shy or simply a gentleman, or if his snipping at the vets killed the urge, is open to debate, but as with dogs, so with people, Rebecca noticed - it was the aggressive little mutts and the over-coiffed poodles who got the most action with the bitches, and noble, more-or-less pureblooded Elephant looked on uninvited, left out of the haunch-on-haunch action. Rebecca found herself talking more and more to Kathy, who had said “my last girlfriend and I” at an important juncture in the conversation, and under the pretense of shared interest, but also out of lust, at least on Rebecca's part, they gave each other their email addresses. Over the next few days, Rebecca wrote to Kathy often from work at the library during the quiet times in her day. Often Rebecca wished that her cat and dog had email so she could write them as well. Her inbox would then look like this:
Kathy and Rebecca decided to meet dinner and have a drink. Rebecca felt this might lead to a visit from Kathy at the end of the night, since Kathy had a roommate and had, in email, liberally discussed “being totally and painfully removed from the pool of potentially sweet ass.” So Rebecca cleaned the apartment the night before work, after walking Elephant, and made sure the sheets smelled good, and put some flowers in a vase on the mantle. She even plumped up the pillows in the morning and made sure to hide some of her sleazier books. She made arrangements with her friend Scott Rahin to walk Elephant through the park. She felt very prepared for anything that might happen. Scott would come by at 6 and be gone before they got home. He knew what to do, as he'd apartment-sat at least a dozen times before.
Rebecca went to work and thought about Kathy all day. Her work was boring that day, and mostly consisted of making phone calls to coordinate a tour for the board of trustees, and approving some acquisitions for books from professors in the pre-law program. So she thought of Kathy all day.
They met in the city, near Rebecca's place of work. And kissed.
“How was your day?” asked Kathy. Rebecca realized that no one had asked her about her day in over a year and meant it. And that no one had given her a backrub in at least that time, or scrubbed her with a loofah sponge, or sat around with Rebecca in underwear on a Saturday morning and played with the dog and cat. Kathy looked liked the answer to a lot of problems. If Kathy paid for at least one of her own drinks, Rebecca was ready to propose long-term domestic partnership.
They went out and had a wonderful time. Kathy was sparkling and kept touching Rebecca's upper arms, where they were strongest, and when she quoted a Neruda poem, Rebecca recognized it, and Kathy said, “I just want to kiss you for knowing that.” A little hokey, Rebecca acknowledged to herself, but Rebecca also said “I wouldn't mind that one bit,” and there was a long quiet meaningful pause with locked eyes, the only noise the noise of the restaurant around them, and Rebecca felt as if she might be the bravest and most attractive woman in the entire universe.
They took the train back to Prospect Park. When they got off the train they had a long hug, and Rebecca said, “do you want to go for a drink? Or come home and meet the family?”
“Definitely the family,” said Kathy. Kathy had been very excited that there would be a tortoiseshell cat at Rebecca's house, because Kathy had grown up with a “torty,” and wished she could have one but her roommate was allergic. So of course she wanted to come by and pet a kitten. She didn't have much to say about Elephant, though.
Kathy and Rebecca left the restaurant about 10 and took the Ftrain back to Rebecca's place, then got off on 7th Avenue. Right before they entered the apartment, as Rebecca was turning the key, Kathy put her arms around Rebecca and Rebecca felt Kathy's face against Rebecca's back, and breathed deeply.
That was when the smell hit her. She opened the door to a scene of catastrophe. Elephant had left something huge and terrible, the sort of thing that earned him his name, in the middle of Rebecca's nice faux-Persian carpet. And there had been some sort of terrible fight between species, because a vase had crashed to the floor from the false mantle and spilled water and carefully bought flowers all over a leather-bound Edgar Allen Poe set from 1890 that had belonged to Rebecca's grandfather.
“Oh God,” said Rebecca. Kathy entered, and made a face. “I asked Scott, he's my friend, to walk Elephant, but of course he didn't. Such a shithead.” Elephant himself was not to be seen, hiding and expecting punishment. Poor beast.
“Whoosh,” said Kathy. “That's pretty awful. Of him.” Rebecca noticed she didn't offer to help with the vase, or with anything. Rebecca wouldn't have let her help, but.
“Oh, the books,” Rebecca said.
“What happened,” asked Kathy?
“My Poe,” it's pretty bad.
“Well, they're just books. It's what's in them, right?”
Rebecca felt a sudden closing of her heart at these words. “Scott fucking Rahin, I should have known,” she said. “I'm so sorry about this.”
“Scott who?” asked Kathy.
“Does he live in Brooklyn?”
“Yes, near Red Hook.”
“He totally screwed over my friend Carly. He stole $400 from her.”
Rebecca was in the kitchen getting a broom, dustpan, paper towels, and carpet cleaner. She knelt to the floor and said, “What?”
“He took all this money from my friend Carly. $400.”
“I remember that. She didn't pay rent and left so he kept part of the security deposit.”
“No fucking way. That's the story he told. He's a thief.”
“He's” - she had to think of Scott's qualities, and decide. “No, he's not a thief. They broke up and she left. I remember it.”
“I met that guy. He's your friend, though.”
“Scott? He's one of my best friends.” She hit the answering machine. On it, of course, was Scott, who couldn't make it tonight for some undisclosed reason. He had called Paul. This was followed by a message from Paul at 9:30 saying that he would be there at 10:30 when he got in from the city and would take Elephant out, and wondering why she was out of town of if Scott was insane.
“Who was that?” Asked Kathy.
“My friend Paul.”
“Big brown-haired guy?”
“You know him too?” It figured that where Scott went Paul was also.
“He was really awful at a party at Carly's. He kept singing along and dancing with Scott. It was unpleasant.”
“He's not bad.”
“He was making fun of this girl who was making a documentary.”
“To her face?”
“No, but it was just rude.”
“What was the documentary about?”
“Elephants who paint.”
Rebecca snorted. “Well, he's going to be here in, 10 minutes or so, to walk the dog. Sorry.” She took a mess to the toilet and flushed it, sprayed the carpet.
“Oh, wow. I don't know if I want to - oh, there she is! What a cutie.”
Rockstar had finally wandered out, seen Kathy, and run back into the bedroom. Kathy began to follow him.
“Better to go easy with him,” said Rebecca. “He gets nervous with strangers.” Kathy made a pissed-off face at this. She wanted to pet the cat. There was a knock. It was likely Paul, who would let himself in in a few seconds. Rebecca walked across the floor to open the door.
“Oh, hey, said Paul. Scott said you were out of town. You got - ”
“Yes, I got it. It was a mixup.”
“Oh, hey,” said Paul, “ I'm Paul.”
“I'm Kathy,” said Kathy. He didn't recognize her. “You know, Rebecca, I've got to get home,” she said.
“Oh, well, okay, you're sure,” said Rebecca.
“I'm sorry,” said Paul. “I'm going to be gone in a minute....”
“You should be,” said Kathy, then gave an uncomfortable laugh to show it was a joke. She gave Rebecca a hug and kiss and nodded goodbye to Paul.
“Who was that bitch?” asked Paul, after a moment, right as there was a knock on the unlatched door and it opened again, and Kathy came in brightly to get her backpack, which she'd forgotten. Paul looked at the ground, not knowing if she'd heard. Rebecca looked at the water damage on her books. The door closed again.
“I hate everything,” said Rebecca. “Everything is bad and my friends are not my friends.”
“It kind of smells like shit in here,” said Paul. “Can we open the window?”