Archive for June, 2010

Egg Poacher

I was at breakfast with my brother, Steven, and his daughter, Sarah, when I asked Steven if he remembered the egg poaching pot our mother had when we were growing up.

“You mean for soft-boiled eggs?” he asked.

“No, no. That’s different. Poached eggs. They’re like, how do I explain it. They’re round,” I said.

“Are they like hard boiled eggs?”

“No. The yolks are soft, like sunny side up eggs,” I said. “Anyway, the pan is like a saucepan, but it has this little disc that holds these little cups.”

He was showing no recognition. I continued.

“The cups go in the little holes, and you drop the eggs into those little cups,” I said. I paused. “I have no idea why I just told you all that.”  I felt a little dizzy.

“You were telling us about poached eggs,” Sarah said.

“Yeah, but why?” I was stumped. “Really. I have no idea why.”

“I don’t know. But when you said poached, all I could think about was a guy with a gun,” Steven said. “Maybe you poached someone’s eggs.”

“I did,” I said.

As we left the restaurant, I felt light-headed. We went into one of the shops across the street. It was a combination soap store and bookstore. I looked through the provencal soaps, smelling so many I could no longer detect a scent. Steven and Sarah went into the book side of the store. By the time I walked over there, I was so tired, I had to sit down. The heat outside was oppressive. I felt like I had to rest.

We left that store and went into a candy store. And then a souvineer shop. By the time we got to the postcard store, I had to sit down again.

“I’m so tired,” I said.

“Drink some water,” Steven said. “You’re probably dehydrated.”

We had ice cream and went into an antique store and then headed home. By the time we got there, I was ready to crash on the couch. I lay there while Steven packed up his car to leave.

I got up to send him off and then went back to the couch. About half an hour later, the nurse from  Cornell called with my blood test results.

“How are you feeling?”

“Pretty tired. But you tell me. How am I feeling?” I asked.

“Well, everything looks good. Your hCG level is 5,278,” she said. “Last time, it was only 377.”


“Yeah. It’s pretty high. I’m not surprised you’re tired,” she said.

“Wow. Is that too high?”

“No, it’s fine. It looks good,” she said. “It’s possible you’re carrying twins.”


“Well, sometimes when it’s that high,” she said. “Don’t hold me to it. We won’t know until the ultrasound.”

“But you think its twins?”

“If I was forced to make a guess,” she said.

“I’m forcing you to make a guess,” I said.

“Well, if forced, I’d say it could be twins,” she said.

“Twins, huh?”

I hung up the phone and drifted off to sleep. I thought about a young girl in the waiting room at Quest who kept stomping her feet and yelling at her mother, “I hate you, Mommy. I hate you.” I imagined having not one daughter but two. I hoped at least one of them wouldn’t hate me.

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I’ve already yelled, sobbed and repented, and it’s not even 9.00 a.m.  I pulled into the parking lot of Quest, the diagnostic center where I get my twice-weekly blood tests. I got out of the car, walked into the building and pressed the button for the elevator, and as I waited, an elderly couple came in. The woman stood next to me by the elevator. The old man leapt up the stairs like a grasshopper. I’d never seen an octogenarian bound up stairs like that.

By the time I walked into Quest’s office upstairs, old grasshopper legs was at the sign-in sheet, not just  signing himself in but his wife as well –putting two people in front of me on a day I was trying to get out of there quickly. My brother and his daughter were visiting me from out of town, and they were waiting for me at my house. We were going to spend the morning together before they set off on their five-and-a-half hour journey home. I told my brother I’d only be about 25 minutes. The elderly couple set me back about 15.

As I sat there in the waiting room, I kept looking over at them and could feel the mercury rising inside me. What right did that man have to leap in front of me? I clearly arrived before they had, and by all rights, I should be seen by the nurses first. But not only had he cut in front of me, he planted his wife in front of me as well. They stole 15 minutes of my life. I stared at the side of his age-spotted face wanting to say something, but I knew how it would end. There are times in life when you’re right, dead right, but to say something makes you look stupid, not the offending party.

The nurse came out and walked over to the sign-in sheet.


They both stood up. I seethed. I wanted to put my leg out and trip them as they walked by.

“Can she come in with me?” the old man asked.

“Sure,” the nurse said.

I hoped their doubling up would make the line move faster. It didn’t. I arrived at 8.12 a.m., and I sat there until 8.20, 8.25, 8.30, 8.45, nearly 9.00. I tried to quell the impatient chatter in my mind by watching television, but there was a young girl sitting behind me kicking and crying, “I hate you, mommy. I hate you,” so loudly, I couldn’t hear the news program.

By this time, the nurses had begun calling people who had appointments ahead of those who had just walked in, like me. You usually don’t have to make an appointment at Quest, at least not at this time of day, but by cutting me in line, old grasshopper legs put me in the teeth of the Quest rush. I watched four people go in front of me because they had appointments.

The nurse came out and walked over to the sign in sheet.

“Perez?” the nurse called.

“Now hold on,” I said, standing up. “I’ve been sitting here since 8.12 a.m.”

“I’m sorry. These people made appointments,” the nurse said, all but shooing me away and escorting Perez into Room number 1.

“I was here before them,”  I yelled to no one in particular.

Just then, the old couple emerged along with another nurse.

“I’ve been waiting here since 8.12. And if it weren’t for those people cutting in front of me,” I said, pointing to the elderly couple. “He ran up the stairs when I was waiting for the elevator.”

A small part of me was aware of how stupid I sounded, but a bigger part of me, the insane, angry part, was in charge now.

“Well, there’s nothing I can do about that,” the nurse said, as she walked over to the sign in sheet.

“Alvarez?” she said.

“How long am I supposed to wait here?”

It was nearly 9.00 a.m. now.

“There are two people ahead of you,” she said. “They have appointments.”

“Well that’s not right,” I said.

“Maybe you should make an appointment,” she said, as she escorted Alvarez down the hall to Room number 1.

I stormed over to the sign in sheet and crossed my name out. I stomped down the stairs, not waiting for the elevator this time, and walked out of the building toward my car, looking around first to see if the old couple was still in their car. If they were, I had a mind to bang on their window and yell at them. Thankfully, they were gone. I got into my car and slumped in my seat and sobbed. After a moment, I composed myself, turned on the car and took off.

As I drove farther and farther from Quest, I thought, well now what? I’m supposed to be getting a blood test today. I need to know whether my hCG is still rising, an indication that my pregnancy is moving along nicely. So far, I’d seen little evidence that I was pregnant, aside from the odd pings and pangs in my uterus. But heck, I could feel pings and pangs anywhere if I listen hard enough. I thought I’m not going all the way in to Cornell just for a blood test. Besides, their daily monitoring sessions for bloodwork end at 8.45 a.m. I’d have to wait until tomorrow. And what about the other 20-some odd blood tests I’m likely to need over the next several months. Am I now going to have to go into Cornell for all of them?

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee. I brought it back to my car and sat there for a moment, thinking I know what I need to do. I need to bite the bullet and go back to Quest, no matter how long it takes today. There was only one other person in the waiting room when I stormed out. How long could it be? And from now on, I’ll make an appointment. Hopefully, the next time, my appointment will be for 8.15, and at 8.14, the old couple will saunter in and expect to be taken right away. The nurse will walk over to the sign in sheet, and say, “”Chesler?” I’ll follow her back to Room number 1, and once in there, I’ll make like a screaming kid whose mother tries to drag him out of a store, but he makes his body go limp so she can’t move him. I’ll relax, maybe take my shoes off, and try to make my blood come out really slowly, as I make idle chit chat with the nurse –if she ever speaks to me again.

I put the car in gear and drove back to Quest. When I walked in, one of the nurses was standing at the sign-in sheet.

“I, uh, crossed my name out. I need to put it back,” I said. I hoped she didn’t see how hard I’d pressed down with the pen. Nobody likes a hysteric.

“Okay, come on in,” she said.

I followed her down the hallway and mumbled “Sorry” under my breath. As I walked into Room 1, I felt all was forgiven.

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Frank unexpectedly dropped by with a new lady friend, Theresa, just as we were about to have dinner. Seems no matter how liberated I am or how emancipated women become,  the preparation of a meal always plays out the same: the men are outside by the grill holding bottles of beer and talking baseball while the women are inside cutting vegetables, marinating the meat, preparing the salads, basically doing all the things a meal requires outside of dousing the coals with lighter fluid and setting them afire.

I enjoyed chatting with Theresa and found her to be funny and sharp. I was surprised she was with Frank — not because I thought Frank should be with someone boring and stupid but because Frank already had a girlfriend. But I could see what Frank saw in Theresa.  She knew how to roast peppers and that it’s good to put grated cheese into tomato sauce. She told stories about her mother and her ex-husband and how she drove out to Bridgehampton one weekend from Jersey and didn’t come back for two years. I couldn’t really talk to Frank’s current girlfriend, Joanne. She drank too much. The first time I met her, she came by to show me how to wallpaper because I’d botched the job I was doing in my bathroom. But she was drunk and kept leaving the pieces soaking in the water for so long, nearly all the glue came off. She’d then slap them on the wall in such a way that everything veered to the right. At least the patterns matched from one piece to the next. Not. The next time she came by, we had just bought these 1960s-style teacup chairs. We had friends over, and Joanne once again drank too much. She sang loudly, talked too much, and kept spinning our 80-year old neighbor, Emily, round and round in one of the teacup chairs.

As I was toasting the bread to serve with pesto, Bruce walked into the kitchen holding our cat.

“I told you she’d come back,” he said, spilling the cat into my arms.


I took the cat in my arms and kept rubbing her back with my hand as the girl who’d found her explained what happened. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.  All I could see was Fish, and all I could feel was how she lay in my arms like a wilted flower. It was like holding syrup. She was maleable. This is what trauma looks like, I thought. She must be exhausted. But she was loving, and gentle, a much nicer cat than the one who’d ran away from our house five days earlier. Whatever she’d been through had made her a better pet. She was downright docile.

Over the next three days, I kept asking our neighbor, Trish, who was a party to Fish’s rescue, to tell me the story about how Fish was found because for some reason the information simply wasn’t sinking in. They found her by which  house? She was sitting in grass or ivy? Apparently, the young woman who’d found her was walking on the street parallel to ours with her husband, her daughter and her dog, when she spotted Fish lying in the grass. They’d just come from the ice cream shop and had seen one of the posters I’d put up there.

“Isn’t that the lost cat from the poster?” the woman said to her husband.

She started calling out Fish’s name and the cat responded. She asked the man who lived the across the street, Kevin, if he knew the cat and if perhaps it was the cat that had gone missing. Kevin still had one of the flyers I had stuck in people’s mailboxes a few days earlier. His wife called the phone number listed there but got no answer (while I’d stapled flyers to every utility pole in town, I left my cell phone at the bottom of my knapsack where I couldn’t hear it). Knowing approximately where I lived, Kevin took the young woman came around the corner to my block and found my neighbor, Trish, standing outside. They asked her if she could identify my cat.

As Trish followed them back around the corner, the young woman said, “She’s very friendly.”

Trish said when she heard that, she thought, “That’s not Fish.”

But when she looked at the cat lying in the grass, Trish said, “Huh. That is Fish.”

As they carried her around the corner and got closer to my house, Fish began to meow loudly and squirm impatiently in the young woman’s arms.

“She obviously knew where she lived,” Trish said as she recounted the story to me, for the third time.

“Do you think she was meowing like that because she wanted to come home, or because she didn’t want to come home?” I asked.”

“I don’t know,” Trish said. 

That night, Fish slept peacefully on the couch, like a lamb. I brushed her head and her back with a wire brush. She even let me brush her pear-shaped belly. As she lay there, I watched her breathe and thought, what horrors has she seen? My little kitty is only two years old, and she’s only ever lived inside.  She wasn’t used to being out in the wild when she found herself outside on her own for five days amongst the raccoons and the wild cat. Was she attacked by another cat? Did she have to hide during the day and sneak out only at night for fear of being ripped apart? Was she scared? What did she eat? As her little body rose and fell as she breathed, I thought she now knows evil. The horror. My cat had lost her innocence.  And the experience has tamed her. Humbled her.
The next morning, I came downstairs and found her lying on the same couch, in the same spot. But now she was laying on her side. She looked like a little baby. I ran my hand along the top of her head and as it slid down her back, swack! She scratched my arm.
“Fucker,” I said, looking down at the tiny line of blood forming.
My cat’s back.

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I fell in the toilet this morning. If I were 12, I’d take my tiny little texting fingers and tell my friends, “HDPSD,” which in texting language means, “Husband Didn’t Put Seat Down.”

I’ve always wondered why most consider it the husband’s responsibility to flip the toilet seat back down. Some women yell at their husbands when they leave it up. But I imagine it’s the same women who talk about their husbands as something you train, like a monkey or a seal.  Me, I usually don’t say anything  —until I fall in the toilet.  Then I usually exclaim, “WTF?!”

Admittedly, I was a little pre-occupied this morning. There was a “Fish” sighting yesterday evening around sunset, a few blocks from the boardwalk, and I was rushing to get back over there. I had a plan: I packed a bag with some smoked salmon — one of her favorite dishes — a small plate, and some additional flyers with her photo on them. I walked around the blocks where she was seen sprinkling little pieces of lox on the sidewalk and near places where she could get under someone’s porch, all the while calling, “Here, Fishy, Fishy. Here, Fish.” My fingertips stunk like fish by the time I was done.

I brought the little plate with me in case I saw her and wanted to lure her over. No sense in having her eat off the ground. It was, after all, smoked salmon. I also brought a pair of rubber contractor’s gloves with me because an internet site I found last night said cats lost outside may scratch and bite even their owners when they try to go near them. They advised heavy gloves. I didn’t have any.

Truth be told, Fish would scratch and bite before she was lost. Our friend Gary, our neighbor Jan, our contractor, Dominic, the appliance man, Earl, they have all left our house with a slight laceration, usually on the arm or hand. The problem was, Fish was so darned cute, you had to pet her. She was a fluffy Maine Coon Cat. I keep describing her to people by saying, “If you had a cat you’d want to use to dust your house, this would be it.”

She was shaped like a pear or a bell, so when she would lay on her back — which she did all the time — she looked like the McDonald’s character, Grimace. But if you went to pet her, slam! She would snap shut on your hand like a bear trap, biting and scratching at the same time. She was like the sirens who would sit out on boulders in the middle of the ocean singing beautiful songs, luring in the sailors, whose boats would then smash against the rocks. When Fish would lay on her back, showing off that matted gray underbelly on her little bell-shaped body, she was almost impossible to resist. When I played with her, I would wear oven mitts.

I drove down to the block where Fish was sighted last night and canvassed the area, looking for Fish and looking for anyone who might have seen Fish. And as I did this, I left small pieces of smoked salmon all along the way. Until last night, the conversation with neighbors would go like this:

“I think I saw your cat!”


“She was walking right along the street there,” they’d say, pointing.

“Did she have white paws?”

“Yeah!”” they’d say, thinking they were making my day.

“That’s Ginny’s cat. Fish was solid gray,” I’d say, trying not to look too profoundly disappointed. They already felt bad enough.

But last night, as I stapled a flyer to a utility pole by the ice cream shoppe, half a dozen people watched me and read the flyer over my shoulder. I told them about Fish. Yes, she’s gray. Puffy tail, yes. Like a skunk. No, all gray. Little fleck of beige on her nose.  Will she let you pick her up? I pause. It’s critical. I need them to hang on to her til I get there. “I’d pick her up by the back of her neck,” I said. I’d seen Bruce pick her up like that. Her little fists would go inert when he did that.

Lost Gato

I walked away from the ice cream shoppe toward the boardwalk, and about five minutes later, I got an excited call.

“We saw your cat! She walked right by us!”


“Fluffy tail, right?”

“Yes. Real fluffy.”

“Yeah, she walked right down the middle of the road by the ice cream shop and then took a left on that first block there, with the two blue houses, one on each side. She headed toward the beach,” the man said.

“Thanks so much,” I said. Bruce and I ran over there and walked up and down the block about 10 times, calling her name, putting up more flyers, asking people if they’d seen her. No luck.

When I went over there this morning, I found someone else who’d seen Fish last night, on the same street at about the same time. So now I’m waiting for that time of night again when the sky turns orange and people wear white linen and walk barefoot on the sand, and cats afraid of the day begin to prowl the night.

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I was awakened by a noise in the backyard about 5.00 a.m. I got up and went outside into the yard in my nightgown and started calling out to the cat. No sign of her. When I woke up at 7 a.m., I looked out the window into the yard and could clearly see the smoked salmon I had put out in a bowl was gone. That meant either Fish was in the vicinity and had eaten it, or it was scoffed down by any one of 100 stray cats living in our neighborhood. The one thing I knew for sure: I had fallen asleep with my contacts lenses in. There’s no way I should have been able to see the bowl from my bedroom window.

The disappearance of the cat has completely obscured my good news, which is that I’m more pregnant now than I was on Monday. I went to Quest yesterday for a blood test and my hCG went from 100-and-something to 300-and-something. HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is an indicator of pregnancy because a placenta begins producing it, and it starts entering the blood stream, just after the embryo implants. And one’s hCG levels are supposed to double and triple and quadruple in the days that follow, so doctors keep an eye on it. But like a fickle lover, it can rise one moment and fall the next, breaking the hearts of women across the globe. For now, my boyfriend is still interested.

After I  returned from Quest, I started putting flyers into people’s mailboxes on the three blocks surrounding our home. I made 100 flyers on Tuesday and Bruce began the process of distributing them before he went to work. I was on the second shift and finished the job. Every time I saw someone outside, I asked if they had seen the cat, and they said no but had a story to tell about how a cat they knew once got stuck in someone’s celler or their house. Sarah, around the corner, found her cat in a sewerage drain two days after she lost it. She heard the cat crying from beneath the grate. Mauro once found a cat in a storage space in his house. He’d left the door open to get items out for a garage sale and then closed it, inadvertently locking the cat inside. He didn’t find her until the next day, when they were putting the unsold items back into the storage space. Regina’s cat got into the basement of the house behind her when they were installing a washer dryer. When she went knocking on neighbors’ doors, looking for her cat, the woman in the house behind her said she hadn’t heard anything and that her dog probably would have detected it if a cat were inside the house. But she kindly invited Regina to come in and look. As soon as Regina entered the basement, her cat began to cry, Regina grabbed her and left.

After talking to Regina, I went over to the woman’s house to see if maybe my cat was inside. A woman who was very pregnant answered the door with a bowl of cereal in her hand. I asked if perhaps my cat was stuck in her basement. She said she hadn’t heard anything and that their basement door hadn’t been open to the outside since the washer dryer was installed two years earlier. She paused. 

“You’re welcome to come in and check,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said.

I went down into the basement hoping for the same ending Regina had, but I found no crying cat. Just a pregnant woman whose cereal was getting very soggy. 

Someone suggested I run the can opener. Cats come from far and wide when they hear that sound. My cat ate only dry food –and oddly enough, organic greens. So I walked around the neighborhood for an hour and a half shaking an orange bag of Iams like a maracas until my arms were tired. At one point, a black cat started following me, wanting to be fed. I asked if he knew where my cat was. He meowed in that self-centered way men do, pretending to give thought to my question but really having just one goal in mind: getting a piece of what was in my bag. After half a block, I stopped, scooped out a handful and set it on the sidewalk for him.

“Now beat it,” I said. As I walked away, I could hear him feasting on my cat’s food.

It’s strange the way Fish has just vanished. Were it not for her food bowl still sitting there in the living room, and her little toys — the ratty yellow bear with the hood I got from Citibank, and the little beige horse/donkey, or whatever the heck it is  — I’d start to wonder whether she ever existed. I mean of course I know she existed, but when you lose someone, you enter this surreal world, and each day without them makes the memory of them fade just a tiny bit more. Bruce said he dreamt of Fish last night, but in the dream, he wasn’t sure it was her because he couldn’t remember what she looked like.

The Horse/Donkey

It must be similar to what a parent would feel if their child just vanished, — but on a smaller level, of course (it isn’t politically correct to equate pets with children). I keep replaying the last time I saw Fish. Bruce and I were walking into the house after having a Father’s Day dinner at his sister’s. Bruce walked in the door ahead of me and said, “Ooh, she surprised me. She’s up so high.” Fish was standing on top of one of our living room chairs, which we’d moved near the front door because I’d found a great couch at a garage sale, and it displaced the chairs that were already in the living room. When Bruce walked in, Fish was at about eye level. By the time I got in the door, Fish was running down from the top of the chair, and that’s the last I remember of her. I thought she came up on the couch as I lay there icing myself in preparation for my progesterone shot that night, but I think that may have been the night before. I was laying on my stomach and she sat her big, furry Maine Coon cat of a body on the couch right by my face, prompting me to turn my head the other way if I wanted to continue breathing.

I keep thinking about a haunting book I read years ago called “The Child in Time” by Ian McEwan, in which a father brings his daughter to the supermarket, and that’s the last he sees of her. She was kidnapped while he was momentarily distracted at the check out. As he grieves, he drinks scotch all day long and watches the Olympics. The loss is so overwhelming, it begins to alter his sense of time.

When my father got sick, it altered my sense of everything — time, space, goals, commitments, routine. It had all felt so definite and rigid before that. But when he got sick, it all felt more fluid, surreal, like when you shake a snow globe and the sediment along the bottom becomes dislodged and floats aimlessly.

It was so hot yesterday even into the evening that we went to the beach at about 6 p.m. Bruce went for a swim, and I fell asleep, thinking about Fish and being pregnant and wondering if lying on my stomach in the sand could squish the tiny embryo. Even if it could, I was too tired to move. Walking around all day in the heat had exhausted me. As we were leaving, we saw people pointing out into the water. There were black dolphins swimming by, five of them. First you’d see the head, then the fin, then the tail before they’d disappear under the surface. Then several yards down, you’d again see the head, the fin, the tail. It was as if there were a disc revolving just under the surface, and every time the black silhouette reached the top of the rotation, the dolphin would appear for a moment before plunging back into the water and disappearing. Something about the dolphin reminded me of Fish. But then everything does.

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My life’s a bucket with a hole in it. Pour in new water. The old water leaks out. I’m told I’m pregnant. I lose the cat. With my luck,  if I find the cat, I lose the baby.  

I spent much of the day looking for Fish, calling her name, taping up signs that said, “Lost Cat. Please Call.” At one point, I dropped a few pieces of smoked salmon into a bowl, one of her favorite meals, and put it out in the backyard. When I returned, it was uneaten and covered in ants.  

It’s strange she hasn’t come home. I fear she’s trapped somewhere in a tin box like the Exxon executive who was kidnapped, and every moment we don’t find her, she inches closer to death.  

I called the police looking for Fish, and they directed me to the Humane Society, which said they had a whole room full of cats. Come down and see if mine was there, the woman on the phone said. I felt a sense of relief. Of course that’s where she is. It was too weird that she just disappeared. She should have made her way back home by now. I threw the cat crate in my car and drove over there. 

When I pulled into the small parking lot, I nearly hit a young 20-something, who was backing his car out of a parking space without looking –no doubt texting. I walked quickly into the building and latched onto a group of people looking to adopt a pet as they were about to be taken into the back room marked “Small Animals.” As soon as they opened the door, my eyes darted from cage to cage. No. No. No. No. Second row. No. No. No. I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate. By the time I reached the section with the dogs, I started to cry. I stayed back in the “small animal” room holding the empty cat crate after all the others had left in order to compose myself. After a couple of minutes, I went into the main office area and asked what happens now? My cat wasn’t in there, but what if she does arrive, say, tomorrow? How do I keep these — I believe I said “people” and not “‘parasites’  — from walking away with my cat? The woman told me to fill out a “Lost Animal” form and leave them with a photo. They’d look out for her. I could also come back once a week to see if someone brought her in. 

I quickly filled out the form and  added to it one of my “Lost Cat” flyers with Fish’s photo. I tried to hand it back to the woman.

“Here,” I said, extending the paperwork through the window. 

“Just leave it there,” she said, pointing to some non-descript place that not even she was looking at.   

Empty Cat Crate

Every time I go into my house, I think I see Fish through the glass panel of our front door. She used to stand there on two legs when she heard us coming. She’d grab onto the lace curtains for balance, making them shake back and forth as she’d claw at them to maintain her stance.

 I used to love  when I’d water the garden, and she’d run from window to window, depending on where I was standing in the yard,  meowing big loud meows. But because it was through a heavy pane of glass, I couldn’t hear a sound. All I could see was her mouth opening really wide, in the shape of a “E-E-E-O-W.”  

Our town has a local blog, and we put a notice on it about Fish. Someone wrote me saying she was sorry to hear our cat was lost and offered up the fact that her cat often gets trapped in her neighbors’ basements or garages, and perhaps that’s what happened to Fish.  

After I received the message, I walked up and down my block, circling every house to determine whether any of the basement windows were open. When I reached the corner, I found a house with a basement window covered by painted plywood. The wood was slightly ajar, and where it met the ground, I could see a tuft of fur sticking out. A fly landed on the tuft. The animal didn’t move. Just then, I saw Bruce’s car go by. He was returning from work. I went home to get him before unveiling my discovery. If Fish was dead, I needed to know, but I didn’t want to see it alone. Bruce and I returned to the makeshift plywood door, and as he pryed it open, I braced myself for fear the animal would bolt right into me. But it just lay there. Motionless.

“A possum,” Bruce said with authority. 

Bruce keeps telling me cats are resourceful, that if Fish were trapped somewhere, she’d be able to get out. I keep thinking even Einstein couldn’t get out of a basement if the window from which he entered was eight feet up in the air. 

“The possum was trapped and just died there,” I said.

“Possum are stupid,” Bruce said. 

We live about eight blocks from the ocean. After dinner, we sat on a bench on the boardwalk and stared out at the water. There was orange lightening flickering low in the sky behind the clouds. No thunder, just lightening. It was strange to see the lightening without thunder. It was like watching people argue through a window, their arms gesticulating  wildy, their lips moving rapidly, and yet there’s no sound. It made me think of all the things I can no longer hear.

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Now if I could just find that damn cat.

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My cat has disappeared. I’ve looked everywhere from the basement to the attic, checking all the places she might have gotten trapped, the cabinets, the laundry bag, even the clothes dryer. She’s an indoor cat. The only time she goes outside is when she escapes, and even then, it’s brief, until we can find her. I usually let her smell my herb garden and chomp on some of parsley leaves before I carry her back inside and put her on lockdown.

My cat, "Fish"

I should have suspected something last night when she didn’t take her customary place in the bay window behind the headboard of our bed. She likes to sleep there or on my side of the bed, lying on her side in front of me, her head on her arm, just as I have mine. By morning, she’s usually up before we are, stomping around our bedroom making a menace of herself, knocking my eyeglasses on the floor or walking across the top of the clock radio, shutting off the alarm or turning on the music as she steps across the buttons with her paws.

But I realize now I didn’t see her this morning, either. I didn’t even notice because I was pre-occupied with going to get my pregnancy test. Now, I’ve returned from the lab, and she’s nowhere to be found.

I’m concerned because I remember being awakened at about 2.30 a.m. by a noise out our bedroom window.  It sounded like someone walking across rocks. I could hear them clicking against each other from the weight. But when I got up to look outside, I saw nothing. I did hear a rustling in the corner of the yard, but I assumed it was one or two of the raccoons that have been terrorizing our town of late. A young boy on the other side of town was attacked last week. He now calls himself Raccoon Man and shows everyone his scars as he recounts the day of the attack. Our neighbor said she’d heard the raccoons fighting the other night, and that’s what I figured the rustling was last night, but now I fear it was my cat being chased away, or worse, being ripped to shreds by a vicious raccoon.

Every 15 minutes, when I get up to do something like go to the bathroom, answer the phone, get something to eat, I do a lap around the house, checking in corners, searching in spots I’ve already looked two and three times, until I return to our back patio door. I then go out on the deck, call the cat’s name four or five times, peak around the yard, and then go back in the house, making sure to leave the door open so that if she finds her way home, she can walk right back in. I just hope she shows up by dinner. I can’t bear to lose a cat and a pregnancy in one day.

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The Quest Diagnostics’ office near my house is a smooth operation, though they always seem to get bogged down with the paperwork. You’re taken into an examining room so fast, they practically call your name before you’ve finished parking your car. But once they seat you in the room, you sit there for about five solid minutes as the lab technician clicks through various pages on the computer, printing out five, six, seven sheets of paper that are  stamped, stapled, highlighted and then attached together with a paper clip. It reminds me of the when I was a kid and would go to work with my father. I’d play “office” with the stapler and hole punch and the ink pad and stamper that said “Invoice Past Due. Please Remit,” stamping it on everything from scrap paper to my hand, despite not knowing what the word ‘remit’ meant.

I don’t know why this part of the Quest process always takes so long, but I’ve come here enough to know not to put my newspaper away, even though they gently try to tug it out of my hand when they seat me.

“I’ll keep it thanks,” I say, tugging back on the paper.

But this morning, the lab technician’s long french manicured nails clicked rapidly on the keyboard like talons and before I’d even unfolded my newspaper, she was thrusting the forms in front of me to sign.

“Wow, that was fast,” I said.

“Coffee,” she said.

“Geez, I bet you’ve got tomorrow’s work done already as well,” I said, thinking I was real cute. She said nothing.

What she gained in speed she lost in gentleness. When she jabbed the needle into my arm for my blood test, it pinched more than when I get it done by the woman with the old face and the young ponytail, or the tall thin woman who looks like Scooby Doo’s owner.

The deed is done. And now I wait.

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We drove to Bruce’s sister’s house this evening for Father’s Day, and on the way out there we realized the car was infested with ants. We caught more than a dozen. Almost all of them were on the driver’s side window, which made for an unpleasant journey because every Bruce would see one race across the window and onto the dashboard, he’d slap it with his hand, and the car would veer sharply to the left toward the oncoming traffic.

“Will you stop it!” I said. “You keep swerving!”

“That wasn’t a swerve. A swerve is much bigger,” Bruce said, as he smashed another one against the window with his hand.

We suspected they were coming from the plant in the back seat that we had brought for Bruce’s mother –a belated mother’s day gift. We decided not to tell her about the infestation.

We had a nice dinner, and Bruce’s father liked the book we got him. I actually bought it for myself, but since we hadn’t bought him a gift, and it seemed like a book he’d like, I relinquished it. As we handed it to him, I said, “I want to borrow it when you’re done!” but he didn’t say anything. His hearing is not that good.

On the ride home, I kept trying to understand how the math works: If Cornell’s pregnancy success rate is about 70%, and acupuncture increases the success rate of IVF by 65%, does that mean the probability of me becoming pregnant is about 115%? That’s so high, I could give birth and STILL be pregnant.

But I don’t take much comfort from statistics, to be honest. When my father was diagnosed with late stage esophageal cancer, he went into a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan-Kettering that had a 66% success rate, which is pretty good. He died three months later. I guess they need to get the other 34% from somewhere.  

I had an old boyfriend who said one of the most heartbreaking things in the world is to hear a kid say, “I don’t care,” because it usually means they care very deeply. They’re just protecting themselves.

Today is Father’s Day.

I don’t care. 


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