I hear the cello call to me, pulling me to the window where I listen to the notes swirling around me, leaning close for a brief kiss then pulling away. It ends too soon, this lovely melody, and I sit as always staring out the window remembering happier days when all things seemed possible. My cat Sam comes to sit beside me, my most faithful companion now that my dancing days are over. Some nights I see you dancing in the melody and I reach out my arms, but once the music fades away,you too disappear. 

“I miss you,” I whisper.

But Sam’s purring is my only answer.

Music in the Night

Sugarplum’s Gift

“What’s that sound? Is it the cat? She sounds like she’s having a hairball!”

“That’s not her hairball noise. She probably saw a bird at the window. Go back to sleep. I have to shower.”

Gary pushed back the covers. Emily settled back and began to drift toward sleep. Down the hall, Sofie was already moving around; she didn’t hear Logan yet, but he always was the last up. Just ten minutes more.

She heard the shower go on and began to drift.

“Hagggh. Hagggh.”

She heard the sound again. It didn’t sound normal at all. Maybe something had gotten into the house. She didn’t know what kind of creature made that noise. She hated living out here in the woods. Sometimes she felt under assault by all the critters that wandered the perimeter of her home. She liked the city. Concrete, car exhaust, people. She understood those things. Ticks, raccoons, foxes, deer, and all the other things that inhabited their property were aliens; moreover, since they were there first, they seemed disinclined to give way to the people who came to live there. Emily didn’t blame them.

She wished the land had stayed house free.

Sugarplum trotted into the room, her head down, shoulders hunched. She began to play in the corner, and Emily settled back under the covers. In the bathroom, she heard Gary turn off the shower and knew she’d have to get up. He always drove Sophie, while she took Logan. Emily hated mornings. She closed her eyes. Five more minutes.

Sugarplum jumped on the bed and slowly walked up toward her. Sugarplum loved to cuddle, and Emily smiled.


Something dropped on her shoulder, something small and furry, and alive. Emily heard herself screaming before she recognized the field mouse scambling through the covers. Sugarplum was on it at once.

Emily heard the pounding of feet. Greg stood in the doorway, water still running down his face. “What the hell happened?”

“Sugarplum has a mouse! Just get it!” She could still feel the damn thing dropping down on her bare shoulder.

“Jesus Christ, I thought someone attacked you,” Gary said. She could see he was trying not to laugh. He grabbed Sugarplum who still had the mouse clamped in her jaws. “Well, it’s dead now.” He held it up by its tail and walked downstairs in his towel.

Sophie popped her head in the doorway, eyes wide. “Eww, a mouse?” She looked at Sugarplum who was circling the bed looking for her prize. “Well, I guess Sugarplum brought a gift for you, Mom.” She glanced away. “Dad really needs to hurry up.”

Logan pushed past her. His hair stuck out in all directions; his eyes were blurry from lack of sleep. “Mom, I never even knew your voice went that high,” he said. That was impressive.”

“Everyone get dressed,” Gary said as he came back into the room. “We’ve got to get moving.”

Emily pulled herself out of bed. She wanted a shower, but now there wasn’t time. She’d do it when she got back. In fact, she’d drive Logan to school in her pajamas. She just needed to brush her teeth and scrub her arm. Her skin crawled, and for the hundredth time she wished she lived someplace else.

She glanced down at Sugarplum who still prowled the sheets. Sugarplum looked up. Her orange fur bristled, and her green eyes glittered. It was her hunter’s posture.

“Hagggh. Haggggh.”

Emily backed away and went to the bathroom to get ready.



They gave him her favorite toy, and he tore at it until the corner ripped and bits of catnip spilled over the kitchen floor. Now he looked up at her with his eager eyes as if asking her to play. The fur on her back rose, and she moved closer to the edge of the counter.

Lulu doesn’t play.

In another room, someone said, “I’d better check the puppy. I can’t find Lulu.”

She leaped.

Lulu doesn’t share.

Someone pulled her off the whimpering intruder and carried her into the bedroom.

“Bad, Lulu. You scared the puppy.”

Lulu doesn’t care.

Ken’s Bad Day

“Damn it, Ken, the city says we need permits for the building. They shut down construction.” Ralph stormed around the room, his face red, his hands waving. “What are we gonna do?”

Ken wanted a martini extra dry, but he knew he’d spend the rest of the day hunting down the right people in the city to begin to process of getting the permits quickly. “I’ll expedite the situation.”

“You should have seen this coming,” Ralph said.

Ken resisted the urge to tell him that he had seen it coming, and he had warned Ralph in writing. It wouldn’t matter. Life was cruel that way.

It was close to five, and the city offices were closing. But it didn’t matter. Ken still had to go over all the plans for the building site. He had to talk to the architect, the engineer, and the construction manager. When he left at seven-thirty, he figured the roads would be clear, but there was a Phillies game and a rare Thursday Night Football game. Traffic was a mess. It was as if all the mystic forces in the universe were conspiring against him tonight, along with Ralph, the city, and every motorist in Philadelphia. He let a string of curses fly when a taxi cut him off.

When he pulled into his driveway, it was almost nine.  In the gloom of the solar lights he could see a bunch of deer roaming through the back lawn munching on the bushes, and he wished he had a crossbow. The damn things had overrun the area. They looked pretty, but they were dumb and destructive. He was tired of dealing with dumb and destructive things and people.

The front door jerked open, and wife greeted him. “You missed dinner.”

“Yeah. We had a problem with the permits for the site.”

Caroline’s mouth tightened, but her voice remained even. “It would have been helpful if you called.”

He didn’t answer. He pushed past her and dropped his briefcase on the bench by the door. With the kids away at college it was just the two of them, so at least it the house would be quiet.

The kitchen smelled like burned chicken, and he wondered why she hadn’t kept a better eye on it. Then he decided he didn’t care because he didn’t feel like chicken, burned or otherwise. He just wanted that martini.

He dealt with morons all day; he didn’t have any obligation to satisfy them at night. He wasn’t a goddamn fireman there to solve every single catastrophe in the world, but when he wasn’t around everything went to hell. All he wanted was some peace and quiet and a martini or two, but he heard the continual unspoken accusation from Caroline radiating in his ears.

You’re late. You’re inadequate. Why don’t you get a better job?

It was always there running like a counterpoint to everything. He wanted to tell her, “If you hadn’t let yourself get pregnant so fast, if you hadn’t insisted on three kids, maybe I could have got a master’s and got a better job. If your job paid more, we wouldn’t always be short. If you didn’t spend so much on the kids, we could go on vacations. If I got a break one in a while, life would be easier.”

He glanced around to see if she was behind him, but she wasn’t. He mixed himself a martini, heavy on the gin. He dropped in three olives, brought the shaker, a glass, and the bottle of olives, shuffled into his office, and slammed the door. He settled into his recliner and put up his feet. Lately he hated coming home, but tonight, he thought he might turn on the television and settle in here and relax to the mayhem of Thursday Night Football. Dallas vs. the Eagles. Sweet.

After all, Caroline had taken over the bedroom, decorated it in fluffy white with pink flowers, and that stupid cat of hers always slept in the middle of the bed. God forbid he should try to come between Caroline and her goddamn Sam. He was a big bastard too, half Maine Coon and half alley cat. She rescued him from the SPCA, and he loved Caroline and only Caroline.

Ken swallowed his drink. Damn he hated that cat. He poured a second martini. He finished that drink a little slower and thought about mixing a third, but he felt a little woozy. Where the hell was Caroline that she couldn’t fix him something to eat?

He shuffled out into the hall. “Caroline!”

When she didn’t answer, he didn’t bother with the lights; he just started up the stairs. Goddamn Caroline. He felt his foot collide with something soft, and an unearthly screech sounded in his ears. Two glowing green lights launched themselves at him and he stepped back into air.

Ken hit his head against the wall then rolled limply to the bottom of the stairs. The cat stood on his chest hissing furiously.

“What the hell!” He heard Caroline, but her voice seemed far away.

The hall light snapped on. Feet clattered down the stairs. He felt the cat leap off his chest and land on the floor with a thud.

“Oh my God! Are you all right?” Caroline’s voice barely penetrated the fog. “Oh, darling. Oh baby, that was a bad, bad fall.”

Ken waited for her to lean close, but she didn’t. He opened one eye to see her cradling Sam and kissing him as if he were the most precious thing in her life. For a moment, just before everything went black, he swore the cat winked.           


My Last Cat

Image This is Flynn, and he is a sweet-tempered cat who came to us from the SPCA. We think he was abused because he is terrified of being picked up, and he has a peculiar gate. For a cat, he walks like a horse. Flynn is not very bright. he’s been known to run into walls and chase his tail until he’s exhausted. He gets high on catnip. He has claws but never uses them unless he has to go into the cat carrier for the annual trip to the vet.

I adopted Flynn because I lost Sam, my darling, neurotic baby, whose ashes I still keep in a box in my office. (I know it’s a little gruesome.) Sam was my cat. He waited for me to come home. He slept with me. He talked to me. People say cats don’t feel affection for people the way dogs do, but they’re wrong. Any cat lover can tell you that.

Flynn looks a little like Sam, but he’s smaller and really prefers my youngest daughter’s company to mine. I don’t mind. The woman at the SPCA told me that black cats are much more likely to be abused than any other color of cat. People are afraid of them because of old superstitions. Not me. I love black cats. Like the Romans I believe they bring good luck.

I tell myself that Flynn is my last baby, but I expect if and when he goes, I’ll find myself back at the SPCA looking for another black cat.