Cheap Surgery By D.I. Jolly
“I’m sorry, how much!”
Ben hated the cat, he’d inherited it from his ex-girlfriend, who had decided she wanted to start having more fun, go out a bit more often and meet and see her friends. She wanted to party a more and get back in touch with her fun self. Which, had sounded pretty vague to Ben, but he loved her and was open to try and figure it all out. But when he asked her about it, he always got the same kind of answer.
“I just feel like I’ve lost touch with the real me, and that, I’m the one who’s responsible for my own happiness. I don’t know, I just have all these feelings that I’m trying to express, you know?”
The whole thing had worried Ben, but he loved her and wanted to support her, so he opened himself up to whatever needed to be done. Which very quickly turned into staying home to look after the cat while she went out drinking and clubbing with her friends.
“You know he hates being home alone at night, and I won’t be able to really enjoy myself if I’m worrying about him the whole time. You said you’d support me on this!”
“I… I know, and I get that, I’m just…” He’d wanted to say that it wasn’t his cat, that he’d told her to leave it with her parents when they first moved in together because it would hold them back, and that he was worried she was intentionally driving a wedge between them. But he had promised, and he loved and trusted her.
Sadly, his instincts were right. Whether she’d done it on purpose or not, a wedge had been driven between them, and within a month she’d left him in pursuit of her happiness, and before he could think of anything to say, or really knew how he felt, she had thanked him for his endless support and understanding. Then she moved out and as a final bit of salt on the wound, she gave him a kiss and the line.
“I’m so thankful for you. I will miss you both.”
And then she was gone, with his Bluetooth speakers and without her cat. Throughout that time, it had dawned on Ben that his girlfriend of three years was, perhaps, a bit of a bitch. He’d spent many nights alone at home with the cat remembering conversations he’d had with his friends at the start of the relationship and, for the first time, started to see the possible subtext of what they had been saying. ‘Unique personality’ came up a lot. As well as, ‘special’ but with a strange inflection. He also realised whenever he had said something nice about her personality, his friends had never actually agreed, they just sort of, nodded along. And of course, the real tell, since he and her had moved in together, he’d hardly seen any of his friends, but seemed to have spent a lot of time with hers.
But, somehow, he always reached an excuse for her, he always talked himself into a place of understanding. Until he tried to text her to ask if she’d settled in somewhere and when she’d be picking up the cat, and discovered that she’d blocked his number. Which didn’t so much sting as set his blood on fire.
Then, as if the little fucker had been waiting for it, as if he’d been sent launch codes, the cat proceeded to vomit up everything it had ever eaten in its entire life, or so it seemed, and then it passed out. Ben considered presuming it had just died and simply burying it, but he knew he couldn’t do that and that it was actually still breathing, so took it to the vet.
After an exam and an x-ray, Ben was then told the cat had eaten a couple of condoms, and needed surgery to remove them.
Ben looked at the nurse who now looked unsure of what to do,
“Well, it is technically two separate bills, one for the operation and one for the 3 days over night care, and since you don’t have pet insurance…”
“What the hell is pet insurance, it’s just a cat, and why wasn’t this explained to me before hand? I mean, how much would it have cost to just put the little fucking thing down?”
Ben honestly didn’t know if he was serious or not, but the nurse audibly gasped. And who knows if it was his language, his tone or the actual thing he’d said, but a young boy in the waiting room behind him started to cry, which made Ben feel just extra special. He stared hard at nothing for a very long fifteen seconds letting the buzzing in his ears play itself out. Then without a word, he reached into his pocket to get his wallet and by extension, his credit card.
As he handed it to the nervously smiling nurse the image of, “Your number has been blocked” flashed through his mind, and for the first time he let himself think about how he and his ex hadn’t bought or used condoms in quite a while. Not because they were trying, but because they’d basically stopped having sex. He also decided that he wouldn’t look up the brand, since he didn’t recognise it anyway, he really didn’t want to know anything about them.
A small nearly dead voice in his mind, that had previously always found excuses for her behaviour, whimpered. “Well, at least she used condoms while cheating on you. That was considerate of her.” But as the words echoed through his mind, even the voice felt ashamed for saying them.
Ben put in his pin without saying another word to the nurse, and then took the box with the bastard cat in it home.
“I swear to God if you don’t live for at least another two years I’m going to Pet Cemetery you and then beat you back to death with a golf club, do you understand me?”
The stoned cat looked at him through one half closed eye, then went back to sleep.
A few beers later Ben worked up the courage to write an e-mail to her parents and explained that she had left him with the cat, that it had gotten itself sick, and since it wasn’t his he would appreciate it if he could give the cat to them, and that maybe, just maybe, they’d feel compelled to pay him back for the operations.
He then decided it was hopeless, hit send and went to bed. In the morning he woke up with a slight hangover, and an e-mail explaining that they regretted the cat’s illness, appreciated everything that he was doing to support their daughter, and that since they were out of the country, they wouldn’t be able to assist. Leaving Ben with a clearer understanding of where their daughter had gotten her personality from.
Ben then went looking for what he expected to be a dead cat, but found it was alive and fine.
“I still hate you.”
They stared at each other for a long time, and Ben began to wonder if cats ever blinked or if it was just this one who was a psychopath.
“Just like your mother.”
“I’ve got work to do, don’t eat any more things that aren’t food, next time I’ll just let you die, you hear me?”
Ben waited for some kind of a response and after a few seconds got it in the form of a raised leg and a clear view of the cat licking its balls. Which prompted him to mutter,
“I’ll have those chopped off next if you’re not careful.”
As he walked out of the room.
The cat was still alive when he finished his work, and when he got back from the grocery store. In a rare moment of affection, the cat actually sat near him on the couch while he ate and watched the evening news.
It took about a week before it was sleeping in her spot on the bed, and about a month before Ben had actually started to like the thing. He also realised that while he’d always been told that it hated being left home alone, it actually didn’t seem to care either way, and Ben once again found another little disconnect between his ex’s words, her actions and the apparent truth.
Ben had made the decision to not start dating right away, but he did reconnect with his friends. They had missed him, which was nice, he’d missed them too. They felt like a return to sanity and clarity, and after about six months, when his ex arrived at his front door with a look he knew to mean, ‘I’m so glad you’re going to forgive me.’ He delighted in telling her that the cat had died, and that he wasn’t really in a space for accepting a new life force into his home. Then gave her a hug, thanked her for her understanding and closed the door.
“What? Do you actually want to go live with her?”
The cat stared for a moment then, lifted a leg and started to lick its balls.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so.”