Friday, October 27, 2006

Just before dawn...

Because I couldn't have you...

He saw her five days a week.

When she transferred in from Vancouver, he'd been with his girlfriend for a few years and it looked like it would be that way forever. But stuff happens. People move on. His GF moved on -- to a "real" job in another state. She wrote. He wrote. They visited each other, she awkwardly showing him the bars she'd found in her new city, he taking her to their familiar haunts at her request, feeling ever more separate. He knew she knew it was inevitable. And it was.

Not reeling but feeling a bit empty and tired from the long time coming breakup, he tried to keep his focus on his job, asking for more work and ending up leading a team creating a proposal for a big client. The team included the girl from the Vancouver branch and he found himself noticing what he thought of as her subtle charms, the way her bright green eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, the slightest spray of freckles across her cheeks, the businesslike but distinctly feminine way she carried herself when they met with clients. He decided to ask her out after the proposal project was finished, about six weeks away. The decision gave him license, somehow, to secretly luxuriate in all the little ways her everyday behavior charmed him.

The proposal was finally done and the initial response was favorable. That night, the entire team went out to dinner and most of them stayed to drink.

Late in the evening, just four people besides himself, clustered in an over-sized booth in the cocktail lounge, conversation drifted, then fell into a lull.

"I think I may have met someone," the girl from the Vancouver office finally said. "He works in Garrison's legal. We've only gone out once. But he's nice."

The proposal was eventually accepted, which ultimately would make the company an extra 60 million so. Not too much later, he found himself in a rented tux, marvelling at the perfect dynamic of rental price vs retail price factored by changing styles that kept him from owning his own formal attire. "Just buy a good one with muted styling and ignore the fashions," his older brother would tell him. Which sounded pretty good until you saw how it worked out on his brother.

There were maybe a hundred people in the banquet room. He found himself impressed, in spite of himself, by the appointments, and the glimmering pond beyond the tall leaded windows. He caught sight of himself in a mirror and steeled himself for the evening to come. Then, in the mirror, over his shoulder he saw the girl from Vancouver and the handsome young lawyer she been seeing. It was impossible for him not to think of the guy in just that way: the handsome young lawyer. He figured he was probably a hell of a nice guy and it made him hate the sap even more.

Not long before dinner, a flurry of activity by the entrance drew his attention. As he looked he saw male heads pivot like the heads on mechanical dolls and he followed their eyes.

The girl walking in alone was almost spectacular. Hell, she was spectacular. Long legs that tapered down to long, spiky heels, a shimmery gown that bared cream-colored shoulders, brown hair with a sunny hint of red cascading across those shoulders, and a beautiful face that seemed, even at a distance, to be strangely familiar...

Her eyes scanned the room, brightening for a moment as she made her way toward the apparent focus of her attention. Her path carried her past him -- and for a moment her green eyes met his and he knew without anyone having to tell him that it was the Vancouver girl's sister.

He wasn't sure how it happened.

He found himself dancing with her, the sister. Her body was slim and seemed to fit against him perfectly as they danced. The song ended and he started to walk her back to the table she was sharing with her sister and her sister's handsome young lawyer -- but she said, "Wait... won't you dance another dance with me?" Her green eyes held his but all he could see in them was the glow of short term promise and the impenetrable depth of long term mystery.

They danced almost all night and then walked along the shore of the lake under an impossibly big moon and a starry sky. Her body pressed against his side, tightly, her arm holding his own against her, as their steps seemed to rhyme effortlessly.

They found themselves in his flat, moonlight fading through the second floor window, tangled in sheets and each other, making love for what seemed like hours until, just before dawn, the phone rang. He cursed himself when he realized the volume was up, even as the oddness of a 5 am call began to register.

The girl in his bed held her fingers to his lips. At first he assumed she simply meant that he shouldn't get up to answer the phone -- an unnecessary injunction, from his point of view -- but later he wondered if maybe she wasn't shushing him so that she could hear his machine

The girl, who had been moving gently against him as his outgoing message played, stopped dead as she recognized her sister's voice.

"I'm sorry to call so late," the girl from Vancouver said after she identified herself, a bit awkwardly. "I know I've never called you like this before but I wanted to talk."

Talking, he thought, was not an option.

"I guess you're not there. I'll call you at the office, later... or something," said the hesitant voice on the machine, even as its owner's beautiful young sister rolled off him onto her back and pulled the sheets up over her naked body.

He followed her gaze up to the ceiling but all he saw was ceiling.

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April 8, 2006 version
Jan 15, 2006 version

I Slept with Your Sister

I slept with your sister
cause I couldn't have you
She was younger she was prettier
and she wanted me too

we rolled and we tumbled
all night long
and then the phone rang
just before dawn
It was you on the line
from the phone downstairs
maybe you were lonely
maybe you were scared
and maybe I'll never know
why you were there

I slept with your sister
'cause I couldn't have you
she was younger she was prettier
but it didn't ring true

we rolled and we tumbled
all night long
and when the phone rang
just before dawn

It was you on the line
from the phone downstairs
maybe you were lonely
maybe you were scared
and maybe I'll never know
why you were there

(C)2003, TK Major

Monday, October 23, 2006


Duke at SunsetHe was thin and white when I found him in my backyard. He was sick and so tired he couldn't even bring himself to run away.

I brought him a bowl of water and came back out in 15 minutes and it was all but gone. In for a penny, in for a pound. I brought out some food -- not too much, since he looked so thin, I was afraid he might not be able to handle it. 15 minutes later that was gone.

I figured I had a new cat.

He also had one blue eye and one green eye, like David Bowie. Since he was thin and white, I decided to call him Duke, after Bowie's Thin White Duke persona.

But those were probably the only things about him like the flamboyant Bowie.

Duke was essentially a quiet cat -- though when he was still living outdoors at my old house, he would meow insistently for food -- and to try to get indoor privileges. Since I Duke closeupalready had two highly territorial male sibling cats, George and Dave, I elected to leave Duke as my outside cat.

But around the time that Dave passed away after a long bout with kidney disease, I noticed Duke acting funny when he ate, tossing his head to one side every few bites. Over the course of a few days, the behavior became more pronounced. Finally, I gave a good look in his mouth.

A trip to the vets ended up with most of his teeth removed, which meant he was coming inside. There was a huge raccoon in my old neighborhood and I wasn't leaving Duke out there nearly defenseless. George, my remaining inside cat (well, sorta, actually George's mother D'Kiki was living in my back apartment with two foster cats... it was a complex scene, cat-wise) did not take to the new interloper at first. He'd always bossed his brother around -- even though his brother, a smaller tiger, was the better fighter -- but a whole new cat... that was an insult he had a hard time accepting.

But eventually Duke and George became good friends. D'Kiki passed on, my foster cats went back to their original owner, I was able to adopt out the three rescue kittens who were born to a feral mother in or near my backyard, and when I moved, it was only Duke and George who made the move. By that time, George, who had been born with his brother Dave, their late sister Heidi, and three other kittens in a computer monitor box in a corner of my living room, was 14. That house was all he'd ever known and I was afraid he'd hate the new place -- but he seemed to fall in love with it. He immediately adopted a window overlooking the rooftops in my neighborhood. But he was ill... and about 5 months after we moved, he did succumb to cancer.

Duke was a bit lost for a while -- and so was I. But we supported each other (I know that sounds silly; I'm just telling it like it was). Duke kept me focused and moving forward. He gave me continuity. I'm not a big "people person" these days but my buddy Duke was always there. (Well, he didn't have outside privileges by himself, so that was literally true.)

Duke had always seemed to have a problem with what appeared at first to be "dry heaves" (you should pardon the expression). Since he had extravagantly long hair, I assumed it was related to that. But I noticed he never threw up during those episodes. (But he did, on rare occasions throw up, typically after wolfing down a big dinner. After a while, it appeared that he learned to in smaller portions more often.)

Eventually I took him to the vets for a general check up and to see if they had any insight into these dry heaving episodes. After a series of X-rays and a consultation with her radiologist, my vet reported that Duke almost certainly had a cancerous mass between his lungs and stomach. I told her that the symptoms had occurred occasionally for several years at that point, really since I first started feeding him. "Keep him calm and comfortable," she said.

That was almost two years ago.

And I think they were good years for Duke.Duke listens to 'Trane He was relaxed. He seemed to enjoy himself. I indulged his passion for Coltrane on the mellow side -- his favorite album was the 1962 Coltrane for Lovers album. (It once even brought him home when he'd escaped and was defiantly holding out in a neighbor's locked side yard. I coaxed and cajoled. I put a bowl of cat food out. In desperation, I opened the windows and put on Coltrane for Lovers... by the end of the second track he was back inside, curling up contentedly.)

His health problems didn't seem to have much more than occasional impact. But in recent months his weight was down -- even as his appetite was good and, on the vet's recommendation, I'd started dripping him with hydrating fluids to offset cancer-toxin related damage to the kidneys. Still, it was a relatively light burden on both of us.

In the middle of last week, Duke had a violent seizure. It was too late to go to our regular vet (who was out of town, anyway) but by the time I got to where he'd dragged himself during the seizure, under a table where he was confined enough that he didn't hurt himself to badly, he was calming down and beginning to breath normally. (Or normally for him, as his breathing in the last few years had become more rapid and shallower. Still, he usually seemed comfortable and happy.) Within a half hour, he was eating and seemed fine.

But two days later, he had another, less violent, but somewhat longer seizure. I stayed by him, holding his legs so that he couldn't hurt himself. It seemed like that may have actually calmed him.

Yesterday, Duke had a pretty good day. He breakfasted and later dined on his current favorite food (chicken with liver), we went outside for a little while and I let him poke around in the plants. He seemed in good spirits and didn't seem to feel bad. His coat looked good. (When a cat gets dried out, he gets that scarecrow-straw fur look.) He was a bit subdued but he mostly slept by where I was working. All night long, he slept right by my bed.

Around 4 or 5 am I heard him eating some of his dry food and thought that was a good sign. In the morning he looked good... but at a certain point he went in the other room. Something told me to keep an eye on him.

Duke passed away with me by his side, doing my best to comfort him.

He was a great cat.

Duke at Sunset

No song today. Go listen to some John Coltrane... Coltrane for Lovers if you have it. And say a little prayer for my pal, Duke.