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  • Ezra Bell

Melanie

When I got back, most of the paintings were gone from the walls. Jack was sitting on the couch and looked at me as if to say, yeah, I know. ‘Melanie took the paintings back. She’s moving to Cuba with a photographer she met at a bike shop.’ ‘She needs giant paintings of dead whales in Cuba?’ ‘She’s putting them in storage. She just doesn’t want ME to have them anymore. She said ‘this,’ he gestured to the air around himself, ‘was just a big waste of time…. She’s probably right. I mean, what isn’t?’ He was in one of his moods. I wasn’t too sad about the paintings. In truth, I looked at it as an opportunity. I don’t tell many people this but, I really enjoy decorating. ‘Where’s Alice? She coming over tonight? Should I go hide in my room and put in my earplugs while you two do whatever the fuck it is you two do while I’m hiding in my room with my earplugs in?’ I almost lied just to get rid of him. ‘No, not tonight, she’s watching some movie about a shark with some friend, the sex of whom I am unaware, but knowing Alice, it’s probably a man.’ ‘Jaws?’ ’No, its a new release.’ ‘Oh, that. You’re not missing much. Some monolithic shark who was de-animated and left to hibernate in the Mariana Trench. Then some guy who is pretty upset with the way humans are treating the oceans, makes his way down there and flips the ON switch. From there on out it’s just Jaws with environmental overtones.’ ‘Don’t worry, it’s not really a cuddling movie. Seriously, if Alice is really the girl for you, she’ll leave halfway through.’ Just then, someone tried the doorknob behind me. Finding it locked, they knocked and I opened it to find Alice. Her hair was wet. Her hair was almost always wet. ‘What, you were just gonna walk in?’ Jack said from the couch, ‘What if we’d been molesting a child?’ I gave him the look and he rolled his eyes, closed his book, picked up his drink, and slinked off towards his room. I took Alice dancing and then we kissed beneath a streetlamp until an old woman threatened to call our parents from a second story window. When we got back, Jack was on the couch petting a cat. ’Sarah gave us her cat.’ ‘You could have consulted me.’ ‘Why? It was her dying wish, I was going to grant it no matter what you had to say about our acquisition of this little guy.’ ‘I didn’t know she was dying.’ ‘Why would she talk to you about it? You hardly even knew her.’ Alice tugged at the sleeve of my corduroy wind breaker and asked if Jack was consistently this abrasive. I shook my head. ‘No, sometimes he gets pretty sentimental and tells everyone how grateful he is to have them around.’ ‘Don’t talk about me like I’m not here. I’m going to miss Sara. We’re going to treat this little guy with a lot of love.’ He picked the cat up from underneath its forelegs and brought its face really close to his own. He made a solemn promise to make an honest effort to give the cat the life it deserved. Then he brought it to each of us and insisted that we do the same. ‘This little guy has been through some tough times. You know Sarah suffered from Celiac? Bi Polar? Hair loss? Poverty? Did she put on a strong face? Grin and bear it? No. She cried hysterically and hid in her apartment. She went days without speaking to anyone. Here is the lone witness to her woe.’ The cat didn’t talk much but, it seemed pretty stable… The opposite of the fool sitting on the couch in front of us who couldn’t seem to take the hint that all we wanted was to go lie in bed and stare at each other. ‘The only time Sarah was even happy was on Halloween. She couldn’t afford candy but she was a great skateboarder. Zumiez offered to sponsor her once.’ The cat scoffed. ‘She never told you that? She turned them down. I think she regretted it. She mused about it sometimes when our legs were dangling from some tree we’d just climbed and she felt like poking that particular bruise to see if it still smarted.’ ‘Anyway. On Halloween when the kids showed up in their silly little disguises… she always answered their questions with ‘trick!’ Then she dusted off her board and regaled them with kick flips and Ollies… but this little guy here,’ the cat looked up at him, ‘would take the opportunity to rush out the door…and disappear into the night. The masterful display would be abruptly called off and poor Sarah would be forced to spend the rest of the night prowling the neighborhood with a golf club to punish the coyotes who had probably eaten him.’ ‘You put her through a lot,’ he said, giving the cat an affectionate jab in its rear. ‘Yesterday Sarah found out she had cancer. Yeah, I know, not good news for anyone…. How do you think she took it?’ ‘Do you think she’s going quietly to suffer while patting everyone’s head and reassuring them that it ‘isn’t that bad’ while her hair falls out and they pump her with poison every morning? Eking out what little dew drops of joy she can between the miserable tempests the cruel world dumps on her?’ ‘Not her style.’ Alice looks absolutely beautiful when she’s concerned, which is always ‘cause she genuinely cares about people. ‘How long does she have,’ she asked. Jack did some rough calculations in his head. ‘Without food or water? Exposed to the elements? I’m no expert, but, I’d give her 4 or 5 days.’ When Alice’s shirt is off and she turns away from me and the blue light from the television hits her back during just the right scene? I challenge anyone to show me something easier to look at. ‘She doesn’t have food or water in her apartment?’ ‘Oh, she won’t be at her apartment. Today, she quietly gave away her possessions… As we speak, she’s on a bus to her childhood home where she’s going to stop taking her meds once and for all… She’s going to wander naked into the high desert, out amongst the cactus and tumbleweed, in the hopes of one last time catching a glimpse of the beautiful kind earth that loves us and wants us to be happy. The earth that ‘they’... always told her she was crazy for seeing before.’ ‘Your old lady was a very brave woman,’ he told the cat, who was crying. ‘Anyway, we didn’t just get this little soldier. I have a bunch of her other stuff in my room. We can divvy it up later.' 'Alice, do you need a futon? Do you like to knit? What size are you? Did you two have fun dancing?’

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