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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Her profile said she LOVED CATS and HATED MEAN PEOPLE, but she looked so sexy in her profile photos. She looked peachy and ripe, not big-featured or vulgar. Maybe it was the cats in the photos that kept her from looking too slutty. Or maybe it was the cats in the photos that made her look so sexy. I didn’t know what we’d talk about. I’m more of a dog person, really, but I had changed my profile before messaging her to say that I was a veterinarian specializing in Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Cat AIDS. It’s serious. Google it.
An hour after the time we’d agreed to meet, I ordered a fourth beer and smiled like well-here-we-are at the damp-faced, bleach-blond bartender. She told me I owed her an impossible amount of money, and just as I was obligingly slapping my dollars onto the sloppy surface of the bar, my little pussycat rubbed up against my leg.
The smell of sugary perfume wafting up from her cleavage cut through the sour stench of beer-rotted wood. We said “You must be…” at the same time, and she presented the back of her hand to be kissed like a princess. At that point I felt confident that this date would be very easy.
Two cherry choco-tinis later, Lucy was draping herself all over me, as loose-limbed as a leaky blow-up doll at the ragged end of a bachelor party. I was drunk enough to grin and raise my eyebrows at her charming clumsiness and apologies: “Woops, there goes my hand in your lap again.” My bladder was threatening to explode, but I didn’t want to leave her leaning against the sticky bar unattended. There were many other men in the bar who’d been prowling and glaring, licking their drooping chops, wolf-like.
I paid our tab and ushered her out. She purred her encouragement, and looked up at me with what could be called bedroom eyes if the bed was a waterbed filled with vodka and cherry choco-tini mix. Her lips were unruly, and I couldn’t think of what to say next so I kissed her, right there on the street. She pulled away with a wobble and slurred at me with her face close to mine, her syrupy breath billowing into my nose and mouth. I threw my arm up for a cab and when we tumbled into the back seat, she blurted her address like it was one long word. She crept her fingers up my thigh and into the crotch of my jeans. I still hadn’t found my way to a bathroom, and the urgency was turning into pain, but I wasn’t complaining. She was murmuring dirtily into my ear. I wasn’t really listening, just enjoying the heat of her mouth near my face. At one point I thought I heard her say something about tools from an online vet supplier, but I imagined she meant it in a kinky context and continued to fantasize about her warm mouth.
At her apartment, she briefly worked on my belt before stopping to mewl out a saccharine coo. She sank onto all-fours on the dusty floor and nuzzled her face into the face of a gray cat. The cat looked up at me and meowed weakly. Lucy introduced me to Rocky, explaining his condition, Cat AIDS. As she pouted down at the cat and up at me, I felt a lame, icy blanket fall over all hope of getting naked with this woman. She looked at me with sudden sobriety and demanded that I operate on her ill pet. She’d prepared for this and, cat in arms, she directed me to the kitchen.
I blinked at the situation in there. It had been transformed from an innocuous place of food preparation to a much less pleasant environment. On a baking sheet lined with a folded paper towel, small steel tools were arranged neatly next to a syringe. I thought I might vomit. Lucy gestured at a pair of clean latex gloves and said she’d sanitized the counter for the operation.
To my credit, I had taken an online course in preparation for the date (in case she came to my place and wanted to see my credentials), but I’d fudged my practicum and my certificate said, at the bottom, in very small print: SURGERY INCOMPLETE. In the kitchen, Lucy got Rocky comfortable on the counter, snapped on her own pair of gloves, and gently emptied the contents of a hypodermic needle into the top of Rocky’s paw. With a single whimper, the animal went limp on the table. I held the shiny sharp instruments above the soft and bloated stomach of her anesthetized cat. A thin skin of sweat slicked over my body, my bladder finally relieved itself of its rotten contents, warmly, down my left leg, and I penetrated the poor beast’s flesh.
Polly Duff Bresnick is the author of the chapbook Old Gus Eats (Publishing Genius, July 2012), which contains stanzas excerpted from her visual translation of Homer’s The Odyssey. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Collagist, elimae, The Agriculture Reader, Dossier, Monkeybicycle