She had been between Jodi and him the whole time. Literally, between them or on top of him the entire time: while they were resting, sleeping, watching television, talking, playing, reading, before they had sex, after they had sex, and sometimes even while they were having sex. Many a night Jodi had woken up to discover that she was on top of him and he had both hands on her. Fucking little beast. How skillfully she approached him while uttering sweet, chattering sounds. At first she would rub her head against his feet. Like every other man, he loved it when attention was given to his feet. It made him feel more masculine. Then she would make circle around his feet three times, with her tail raised in pleasure. When she was done with her foreplay, she would seductively look at him with her yellow eyes, and she would softly jump into his lap.
Jodi tried to tell him how she felt about the cat but he only laughed. "Dont tell me that youre jealous of a cat," he would say while sliding his long fingers through Cleopatras black fur.
Yes, that was the beasts name: Cleopatra.
"Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt," he would say tenderly while rubbing his cheek on the cats back. He never bestowed any titles of royalty on Jodi.
"Im not jealous of your cat," Jodi would say. "Just... its too much. Shes all over you all of the time."
"Do you know what youre saying? Have you gone mad?" he would reply, looking at her as if she were crazy.
As if being in love and wanting your man just for yourself from time to time was crazy.
The more she complained about the cat, the more distant he became. He couldnt comprehend exactly what was bothering Jodi, which made him confused and even more attentive to the beast. What do men know about the complex and delicate structure of womens psyche? How can men understand the intricate mosaic of womens feelings, when they have a hard time understanding their own feelings? Which, by the way, according to Jodis experience, were always quite simple and easy to understand. And indeed, he was a simple man. He liked baseball, fast cars, Disneyland rides, and Hollywood action movies. He lived a simple life: he had an eight-to-five job and a couple of drinking buddies; he worked out four times a week, which made his body nice and hard; and he made love to her... which was divine but always--well, almost always--interrupted by that damn cat.
Jodi had never really liked cats. She found them arrogant, wicked, self-centered, and egotistical.
He brought Cleopatra with him when he moved in with Jodi. As God is a witness, Jodi tried to accept the animal. But Cleopatra never tried to accept Jodi. Jodi tried to talk to her, but talking to the wall made more sense; at least the wall didnt walk away while she was talking to it. In general, Jodis attempts to approach Cleopatra were rewarded with hissing and sometimes even spitting.
A week before Jodi's twenty-seventh birthday, he asked he to make a list of presents that she would like to get. Jodi made her wish list, put it in a closed envelope, and gave it to him. She wished for only one thing, and she got it: a book of short stories written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Late that night, Jodi was sitting on her side of the couch, and he on his. The fire was dancing and crackling in the fireplace, while Jodi was reading him a story from her new book. She didnt get far before Cleopatra spoiled everything by showing up and jumping on him.
"Spirits can penetrate any body at will," Jodi read, trying to ignore Cleopatra. But she couldnt continue reading, pretending that nothing had happened. A wave of anger started to rise in her chest. She stared at Cleopatra with hatred.
"Spirits can penetrate any body at will," Jodi heard herself repeating. She tried to bring her eyes back to the book, but she couldnt. A thought emerged. "I think this cat is possessed."
"This cat is the reincarnation of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt," he said proudly, as if he really believed what he said.
"The queen of Egypt, my ass," Jodi said, boiling with rage.
He looked at Jodi, shocked by her language.
"That cat is the reincarnation of the Devil," Jodi continued stubbornly.
Cleopatra mewed like she was confirming Jodis conclusion. It was a long and sinister meow. He got up and angrily left the room. Cleopatra, of course, went after him.
Right then and there, it became clear to Jodi that Cleopatra wasnt an ordinary cat. It was true that cats were mean and wicked; however, an ordinary cat would never be as focused on one victim as Cleopatra was focused on Jodi. If Cleopatra was just a cat, she would be cruel to Jodi only from time to time... but not all the time. If she were an ordinary cat, she would leave him and Jodi alone from time to time; and led by her predator nature, she would wander off and try to catch a bird or a mouse.
The longer Jodi thought that night, the more convinced she became that Cleopatra was possessed by an evil spirit.
Jodi wasnt scared by her suspicions. Instead, she made a firm decision to finally put an end to Cleopatras abuse.
On Thursday morning, Jodi didnt go to work. Instead, she decided to take Cleopatra for her final ride. As soon as she started to prepare for the ride, the first challenge arose; Jodi couldnt find Cleopatras cat carrier. She looked everywhere, but the damn thing had vanished. To hell with the carrier, Jodi concluded, and decided to use the laundry bag.
The next challenge was catching the beast. Jodi came up with a simple idea on how to do that. She went to the supermarket and bought fresh chicken salami, the brand Cleopatra loved. She put the salami in the laundry bag and placed the bag in the middle of the living room, using a wooden stick to keep the bag open. A long string was tied to the stick. With the other end of the string in her hand, Jodi waited patiently for Cleopatra to present herself.
Cleopatra, the mistress of the house, always carefully examined every new object found in her domain. When she saw the laundry bag, she approached carefully and then sniffed it. She smelled the salami and went after it. Jodi pulled the string.
It was 3:30, and Jodi had been driving north on the 405 freeway for almost an hour. Cleopatra was on the floor, in the laundry bag where she belonged. Another half an hour and Jodi was going to exit the freeway, drive toward an unknown suburb, turn into a quiet neighborhood street, pull over, exit the car, let the beast out, and drive away. Animal cruelty? Come on. Cleopatra would be just fine. She would be adopted by one of the locals and would become a favorite pet of a lonely and good-natured suburban guy. Cleopatra deserved much worse; she deserved to be tossed out of the car into the fast lane at rush hour.
Jodi knew exactly what to tell him. She would say nothing; she hadnt seen Cleopatra, and she had no idea where Cleopatra is. He would suffer for a while and then forget Cleopatra forever.
While Jodi was wondering how long it will take him to forget the cat, Cleopatra initiated another desperate attempt to let herself out of the bag.
"Cool off, little beast," Jodi said, "youre in my hands now."
Cleopatra cried. Jodi turned on the radio and pressed the scan button in an attempt to find a station with good old rock n roll music that she could turn up to drown out the cat.
At that moment, Cleopatra pushed her way out of the bag. She let out a loud cry and jumped on Jodi. Startled, Jodi let go of the steering wheel and started to push Cleopatra away from her.
When Jodi lifted her eyes back to the road, she saw a big truck in front of her. Jodi closed her eyes and slammed on the brakes.
He received a call at exactly 5 p.m. The caller was a male with a high-pitched voice and a strong foreign accent. Jodi had been killed in a car crash, he was told, but her cat was well and alive... without a scratch.
"Its true what people say," the caller said, "cats have nine lives."
The caller started telling him a story about a cat that survived a fall from the fifth floor of an apartment building, and then a plane crash. He hung up. Later that night, a policeman brought Cleopatra home.
Jodis soul couldnt leave this world. She was stuck in limbo because she was split into two halves. One half wanted to visit her old house and see him for the last time, which meant seeing her, too--probably sitting in his lap as always. That was exactly why the other half wanted her to just leave, without saying goodbye. But after four lonely months of wandering about in the world of the living, Jodi managed to come to terms with the fact that she lost the battle with Cleopatra.
After all, there was something romantic in the way I died, Jodi thought. Like the troubadours, dying while trying to win the affection of their Madam.
It was 8 p.m. when Jodi arrived. It was warm and cozy inside. Much cozier that Jodi had remembered it. There was a fire in the fireplace, and he was sitting on his side of the couch. Her side of the couch was empty.
He was sad; it seemed like he had been crying. Cleopatra was in his lap, napping. Jodi approached Cleopatra and sat next to her. Cleopatra opened her eyes and flattened her ears.
"Whats up, dear?" Jodi said to the cat. "You're surprised Im here? You thought I was long gone, didnt you?"
Jodi put her hand on Cleopatra. Cleopatras hair stood up on her back.
"What are you going to do? Scratch my eyes out?"
Cleopatra was scared and confused, and he noticed.
"Are you okay, my Queen?" he asked.
Cleopatra lifted herself.
"You arent going anywhere," Jodi said. She focused her whole attention on Cleopatra.
Cleopatra froze. Jodi felt good about the apparent power she had over her only enemy. She smiled. At that moment, she saw an image of herself sitting on her side of the couch. The image was reading the book that she got for her birthday. She walked to the image and looked over its shoulders.
"Spirits can penetrate any body at will," she read from the book.
"Spirits can penetrate any body at will," she heard her own voice from the past say.
Penetrate Cleopatras body?
Jodi walked back to Cleopatra. For a moment she stood above her, wondering how was she supposed to "penetrate." But then she surrendered to her instincts. She knew exactly what to do and how to do it.
The dark mysteries of Cleopatras essence were lit by the light of transcendence as soon as Jodis soul entered Cleopatras body. In a moment Jodi found out everything she had wanted to know about Cleopatra for years. There was neither a queen of Egypt nor a devil in Cleopatra. The cat had a simple, ordinary soul predisposed to blindly follow the hand that fed her. There were no feelings of love or jealousy or devotion or dedication or anything like that. Everything was just a mere survival instinct.
Jodi felt disappointed and cheated. Her disappointment grew even bigger when he started petting Cleopatra and Cleopatra started purring, even though she didnt enjoy his petting. Even though she was scared and just wanted to be left alone.
What a miserable existence, thought Jodi.
Jodi left Cleopatras body after being there for exactly thirteen seconds. That was as long as she could stay in Cleopatras body without damaging the cat's soul.
Jodi headed toward the door. She was finally ready to leave and face her journey to the next world.
But as she walked away, she heard him say to Cleopatra, "You miss Jodi, dont you?"
Jodi turned around and looked at him, thinking What planet have you been living on all this time?
He was looking back at her with sad eyes. His hair had grown, and his face was unshaved. It seemed to Jodi that he had suffered and aged. Jodi started feeling sorry for him. She was leaving him alone and almost blind to the world that he knew so little about. She wanted to tell him what she had discovered in the last four months. She wanted to tell him how and why she died. She wanted to touch him and feel his touch on her. But unfortunately, she was only a spirit.
"Spirits can penetrate any body at will," she heard her own voice from the past for a second time. And she knew exactly why she was hearing it.
She walked slowly toward Cleopatra. She felt no remorse; it was love that was making her do this.
Penetrating the cat's soul for a second time was easy, like changing her clothing.
Cleopatras soul started to dry out after 13 seconds. A day after, it turned into something like dry skin and started shrinking. Soon it had shrunk to the size of a small ball, and Jodi spit it out. He saw it and thought it was only a hairball.
Elena Naskova has been writing since childhood. She has published poems and short stories. She also writes plays and screenplays.