Bad Kitty – as often when autumn came on bright with its long, slanty shadows – felt the small press inside her chest of damage. Of course, much of the pained feeling was just the usual sense of life clipping along into darkness, and yesterday’s clock shift with daylight savings and its forced, bossy-seeming early nightfall was piling it on.
But. She always felt it.
The thing you can’t undo.
Bad Kitty had found the best thing she could do was to walk into a Catholic Church, light a candle, kneel in front of the Virgin Mary, and say two prayers – one for herself and one for him.
Murder isn’t the sort of thing you get past.
She had been a much younger cat, prone to being both spontaneous and judgmental – a potentially dangerous mix and, with the addition of rage and a few drinks, lethal.
Twenty years ago, her mother had invited her to cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. Bad Kitty had loved it: the whole crazy deluxe deal. The sun was shining the first two days and just like Tintin cartoons, they had strolled in circles, and then, tucked under blankets on the deck loungers, had read books side by side very happily. For the busy-loving, the ship was especially vigilant. Her mother loved the lectures, she loved the roulette wheel and the upper deck heated pool (though it was tiny). She had met one of the musicians there, the two of them alone in the pool: he making tiny laps back and forth and she circling the perimeter, talking a little in the nippy air. She and her mother had cabins side by side with balconies, and took breakfast in bed every morning solo, luxuriating, and met for lunch and of course dinner as well as a stroll every afternoon.
On the third day of the crossing, it started to rain and the ocean got rough: you hardly felt it in the cabin or even at dinner but on her now solo circling walks in her hooded rain poncho, she felt seasick at the front and back ends of the boat-and in her small swimming pool on the rear top deck the water was swirling and leaping like some drunken sailor’s bath toy, which brought on the seasickness so she gave up on getting some air and went inside.
That evening, at the table next to theirs – also eating at the early seating and right in Bad Kitty’s line of vision – was a miserable peaky-white small beautiful girl. She gamely picked up her silverware and pretended to tuck in, but Bad Kitty thought she must be feeling the choppiness since there always seemed to be more food on the plate the waiter lifted away. The girl’s father encouraged her kneading her shoulder coaxingly, but she just looked down at her plate and moved things around. That first night Bad Kitty didn’t realize anything was actually wrong, she just felt sad somehow and thought maybe it was the weather or perhaps today’s lousy run at roulette.
But the next night, when her eye fell on the girl, she grew sad again, despite having won lots of chips and also having called bingo (that had been a fun hour with her mother – who made it a point to shun the casino itself. (Bingo was in one of the fanciest bars, her mother had been very chatty and happy, and they’d each had a glass of champagne.) That night the soup was delicious – a sort of vegetable bisque – and she saw the father trading his empty bowl for the girl’s full one but then she saw something else. From kneading her shoulder, his meaty right hand had moved caterpillar-down-the-stalk fashion on down her side, and then his hand was under the table. A moment later, the little girl arched back oddly and then elbowed him hard, harder in fact than seemed possible from such a pale, exhausted looking child.
The fathers eye swept the room but before it go to BK, she turned to her neighbor, an elderly Scot she had taken a shine to (despite his politics), and asked if he were also going to go to the concert that night –
“Oh I’d never miss it!” And then, with her mother chiming in too, everyone praised the orchestra.
“A little Titanic-like,” Bad Kitty suggested: “Having a whole orchestra aboard…” Just then they felt the sea rocking and she hastened to say “in a good way! I mean, how grand.”
Everyone started talking to their other neighbors and she was alone with her thoughts and, worse, with the view of that pair at the next table. Bad Kitty knew. The back of her head knew and her scalp knew and the hair in the nape of her neck knew, rising, furious. The father, his lips open and pursing, was looking as if indulgently at the girl, whose own lips were not lips any longer but a straight line. Everyone else at their table was ancient and keen on the food: no one was paying attention to them.
The child stared fixedly at her plate full of food and her father’s left hand was busy, casually crumbling some bread.
[to be continued…]