After living together for two years, Artie the cat had come to the conclusion that Georgina was his soulmate. Artie prided himself on being a sensitive companion, pudgy and loveable, with refined tastes in personal grooming and fine food. Unlike most males, Artie was generally non-judgmental and held Georgina in the same high regard whether she appeared in a purifying charcoal facial mask and stained sweat pants or in her most fashionable Saturday night stilettos with a tight black skirt. Georgina herself was also pudgy and loveable, and would often share plates of delicious greasy meat with Artie when he jumped onto the kitchen table and gently tapped her fork with his striped orange paw. She could also count on his dependability each evening as he anxiously awaited her return home from work at his official station on the sofa, his bright yellow eyes blinking rapidly in the semi-darkness.
Artie always followed Georgina into the bedroom, an eager witness to the many small intimacies of her life. Artie particularly liked to watch Georgina undress, fascinated by the sight of her stockings rolling down her legs and the slight fungal musk of her shoes as she tossed them into her closet. Georgina disregarded Artie’s rapt attention, assuming that his brain was too small to process what he was seeing, and, at any rate, he certainly wouldn’t be able to brag about it to his friends the next morning. From Artie’s point of view, the only other thing that came close to watching Georgina undress was catching a fresh young bird and snapping its bones between his fangs. Both activities tended to lull him into a state of pleasant stupidity.
The high point of Artie’s day arrived when Georgina opened his pouch of Tender Bites in the kitchen each evening. Georgina would call out his name and tear the little pouch open, crooning “Tender Bites, Artie. It’s Tender Bites time.” Artie was uncertain of exactly what Tender Bites really were, but being a very hungry animal, he devoured them anyway.
From time to time, Georgina seemed to be able to get her own human version of Tender Bites on the little rectangular light box she sometimes spoke into. Artie would listen to Georgina talking into the gadget, his ears perking up when Georgina mentioned the word “Tender” although she failed to say the word “Bites.” After she was done talking to the little box, Georgina would furiously swipe her finger over and over again across the front of the light box. Artie assumed that this was some strange form of human feeding.
Sometimes Georgina would shriek in excitement at the little box after a prolonged session of finger swiping. On these rare occasions, a male human inevitably arrived at their apartment within a short period of time. After a few of these incidents, Artie discovered that the sight of men undressing pleased him not at all. The men were very workmanlike about removing their clothing and most seemed to find it amusing to toss their soiled briefs onto Artie’s head. Artie was usually able to extricate himself from the underwear fairly quickly and patiently plot his revenge.
Artie made note that most of Georgina’s visitors tended to perch on the edge of the bed before retrieving their clothes from the floor. From the halcyon days of his kittenhood, before he was brutally neutered against his will, Artie remembered the chilling impact of a pawful of sharp claws on the scrotal sac. His first tentative swipes at Georgina’s guest that night corroborated his theory that the effects were similar on a human male. The intruder screamed with such intensity that the fur on Artie’s back rose up in a solid mass and he found himself fleeing to hide behind his litter box in the bathroom.
A few minutes later, Georgina, a well-intentioned paramour but a cruel nurse, attempted to treat her guest’s wounds with a topical application of rubbing alcohol. Artie certainly approved of the rubbing alcohol, although he was somewhat alarmed when the second round of screams surpassed the first in viciousness.
Much to his surprise, after that night Artie was unceremoniously locked in the guest room, often without his own supper, when Georgina had company after her Tender meals.
One day Artie noticed that things had changed in the apartment. Georgina was no longer screaming in delight after her Tender feeding sessions and he realized that it had been quite a while since he had spent the evening alone in the guest room. Georgina arrived home much later than usual that night, carrying a large duffel bag and two grocery sacks full of strange green things. Artie followed her into the bedroom, as was his habit, and was shocked to see Georgina’s stockings and dress shoes sitting in the duffel bag, along with a slightly damp towel and a bottle of water. Instead of undressing, Georgina remained in the sweat pants and t-shirt she had worn home and marched into the kitchen. His routine hopelessly disrupted, Artie followed closely behind, eager to share Georgina’s freshly prepared kill of the day. Hopefully tonight would be chicken, his personal favorite. Artie narrowed his eyes as Georgina removed the strange green objects from the paper bags and chopped several of them into pieces with a large kitchen knife. He was unsure why she was wasting her time on this useless activity when it was clearly well past supper time for both of them. Then, to his horror, Georgina piled the chopped green things onto her plate and sat down to eat. A creature of habit, Artie jumped onto the table and expectantly tapped Georgina’s fork with his paw. Georgina placed an object that looked like a stubby little tree with a tufted greyish-green top in front of Artie. Unsure of what was expected of him, Artie let his emotions take control and swatted the nasty green thing onto the floor in disgust. Georgina seemed to be ignoring him, so Artie continued to bat the little tree across the kitchen floor and into Georgina’s bedroom, where he finally picked it up in his mouth and dropped it into the shoe sitting in her duffel bag. Offended to his very core by the mere suggestion that he should be expected to eat this miserable thing, Artie climbed into the duffel bag and decided that the best course of action was to urinate on it to let Georgina know that her behavior was totally unacceptable.
Much to his surprise, when Georgina came back into the bedroom, he was roughly hoisted into the air by the scruff of his neck, carried into the kitchen, and pushed through the open window onto the fire escape. For the next three weeks, Artie was forced to live on the fire escape, a small dish of dry food pellets and a cup of water as his only sustenance. He could see Georgina through the window, gnawing on a variety of green and yellow objects. They were both becoming considerably less pudgy, which did not impress Artie in the least.
One evening, as Artie was waiting for Georgina to return home and thrust his bowl of food through the window, he spied a woman walking along the street below, eating a large sandwich overflowing with meat. Being much leaner now, Artie had little difficulty racing down the steps of the fire escape and launching himself into her path, his mouth wide open in anticipation. The woman peeled some of the meat away from her sandwich and dropped it into Artie’s mouth. Artie trotted along beside her, keeping close proximity to her pudgy calves as she entered her apartment. Artie looked around, pleased at his new surroundings.
After all, soulmates were a dime a dozen, but a good sandwich was hard to find.