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Observer Sept 16, 2004

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When The Observer met Spouse, she was already in a long-term relationship. Specifically, with a hateful tabby cat named Fluffy Booty (her name owed at least in part to her mother, Fluffy Tail). Spouse has had FB since she was 17 (Spouse, not FB), having picked her from a litter of kittens born in a shed belonging to her best friend. “This one is weird,” her friend told her, and — Spouse being a little weird sometimes herself — FB came home to stay. FB had long-since been spayed by the time The Observer came into the picture. Unburdened by the urge to spawn, FB apparently saw no reason why Future Spouse/Owner should dabble in such nonsense either. As such, FB began ritualistically spraying anything that belonged to me anytime I left it for more than a few minutes in Spouse’s abode, leading to some embarrassing late-night episodes; me trying to look dignified while all the clothes I had in that part of the world tumbled in the dryer and FB peered, almost chuckling, around the edge of the refrigerator. Finally, in a fit of spite, I had had enough. I put my jacket on the bed, turned out the lights, then hid. When I heard the patter of feet on the bed, I jumped up with loud Ooga-Boogas, and scared the bejesus out of one old cat, who left there approaching the speed of sound. After that, a truce was called. No more clothes got peed on, and The Observer and FB had to resign ourselves to steely glances across a floating demilitarized zone, always waiting for the other to strike. Fluffy Booty was 18 years old this year, Future Spouse long since Spouse, Junior sired, The Observer and Co. installed in our little casa, but FB still wary of my tread. She wasn’t the lady she used to be. Her fluid leaps became brittle hops awhile back, and her strut more of a hobble. In wet weather, she curled up on a towel and stayed there, every trip to the water bowl a study in pain. Those days, she would even consent to a scratch between the ears by me. To pick her up was like hefting a sack, odd bones and bits of muscle rolling around inside. Her eyes — once as green and terrible as a dragon’s — had grown as cloudy as old plates, her teeth nubs of pearl. She had started yowling at night, waking the darkened house, and leaving sad little puddles behind. I knew she couldn’t help it this time. Last week, Spouse decided to have her put to sleep. It wasn’t up to me. Spouse has had FB much longer than she has had The Observer, so it was her call. Other than a few photographs and trinkets, FB is the last link Spouse has to who she was before Junior and I came along and tacked “wife” and “mother” onto her resume. Last Tuesday was the day. A final scratch between the ears and an I.V. solution, Spouse said, then FB deflated slow as a beach ball and went to where the streams are always full of fish. Though The Observer had times, not so long ago, when I could have very easily put my hands around FB’s neck and throttled the life out of her, recent years have found my feeling differently — maybe even approaching something like respect. While I’ve not known her as long as Spouse has, FB is still someone I’ve known a long time. Somewhere along the line, as you sometimes do with those you can’t stand but are forced to tolerate, I came to like her — for her stubbornness, for her willfulness, for her bad attitude — maybe even to love her. I hope that, in some small measure, she felt the same about me. Apropos of nothing, The Observer feels compelled to relate what we found in a corner junkshop in Memphis last week. It was a small leatherbound and ancient address book. The entries included a lot of “Bro. Jones,” for example and perhaps belonged to the wife of a preacher. We say wife because the cover of the little book was stamped: Park Avenue Brassieres Do More for You Naturally P.O. Box 123 Tyronza, Ark. 501-487-2334 A whole store dedicated to brassieres in Tyronza? The highway map says only 900 souls live in Tyronza now. The town must have been better off when the little address book was new. Naturally.

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