Excerpt: Cremains of the Cat

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This is an excerpt from my story Cremains of the Cat, which is included in the anthology From the Fingerlakes published by Cayuga Lake Books. The anthology is available on Amazon.

I didn’t intend to take my dead cat on the cruise. I didn’t even intend to go on the cruise. Not that cruise or any other cruise. Buffet meals. Organized pool games for the over-fifty crowd. Sing-along cabaret. Folks who call other people “folks.” Sightseeing trips devoted to the well-beaten path around the marina and past the gift shop. The squishy, moist, boundaryless sound of the word itself. Cruise. Can’t you just hear the too-sincere smiles and the eyes open just a little wider than sane.

I won the cruise tickets from my ex-husband in a bet we made at the long conference table in the divorce lawyer’s office suite as we undid our fifteen years of marriage. I could barely remember the early days when we were just turned thirty, freshly married, and hadn’t yet slept with that woman from the bank (him), brought a kitten home from the SPCA (me), or had that same kitten-now-cat cremated and the ashes stored in the emptied bottle of Bowmore 1982 Scotch the ex accused me of stealing.

In Catholic school you learn to sort your sins. The big groupings are for punishment; venial sins are good for Our Fathers or a rosary, and mortal sins are good for the burning flames of Hell. Unless you repent. Repenting is the soul reset button. Do it and you can go blithely forth. (Until the next time.) Whoever invented the repent clause really didn’t understand the concept of deterrence, but their heart was in the right place, which is an excellent quality for a Creator/Divine Ruler/Overlord and much higher on my list of “Required Skills for the Position of God” than are smiting or flooding-unto-the-very-ends-of-the-earth.

After the punishment groups, you can divide your sins into categories and then give them labels like Idolatry, Coveting, Sexy Things You Did in the Dark Alone, and Foul Language. Sorting sins is useful to help you ballpark the state of your eternal soul—time to repent or can it slide for a few more days—and also for keeping the conversation in the confessional organized and as brief as possible.

I sorted the bottle of Bowmore situation into the category of Lies (venial). Knowing where something had been hidden in a spiteful moment months before a divorce and then willfully concealing the location during a divorce is not theft. During previous lawyer-led conversations about joint possessions, my ex had tried several times to force me to sort the Bowmore into the stealing category, but at that point in our non-relationship I was having trouble caring what he thought and was utterly uninterested in doing what he said.

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