(Author’s Note: Once upon a time, I fancied myself a writer of comedies – to this day, some people find my work laughable, but for other reasons. 😉 The piece that follows is my best attempt at satire. This short story will always hold a certain place in my heart. There’s nothing new about it. I wrote the thing over a year ago, and I have learned much since. I hope you enjoy “There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills!” as much as I enjoyed getting my hands dirty writing it.)
There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills!
Somehow my sister, Rose, talked me into making her wedding cake. It wouldn’t have been that bad, if it weren’t for the fact that I, kind of, sort of, got talked into doing it for free. She was ecstatic, exuberant, elated. My emotions were expressed with different words, composed mostly of four letters.
“Jessica, this will be the most beautiful wedding gift ever. I just know it!” she cried over the phone. I held the handset away, as not to damage my already bad hearing. Needless to say, I would soon need a hearing aid, or I could just play the role my husband, Jules, plays.
“What was that? Didn’t hear you,” he’d say as he walked through a room where I was talking. Without waiting for me to repeat myself, there he’d go, still truckin’, mumbling to himself as if he was responding to what I was yelling behind him.
“What? Oh yeah, beautiful…gift…right,” I told Rose, smiling with my words, but cursing the day she was ever born in my mind.
Jules came by, passing through as he normally did about that time everyday, a granola bar in one hand. He smiled at me. I pointed at the phone and made circling motions near my temple. The universal sign of crazy. He knew automatically who was on the other end.
“Tell Rose I said ‘Hi.’”
And off he went, in his bathrobe, only boxers underneath, all the while digging said boxers from a no man’s land where I dare never tread—a far stretching crevice, hiding all kinds of wicked secrets.
Jules fancied himself a Hugh Hefner type. He was an author, and he paid the bills well with his imagination, but he also believed—in some deep recess of his mind—that his profession gave him the right not get dressed for daily activities. He used to lounge, all day everyday, in his ratty robe and day old underwear. Such a man, my dearest love.
I cringed, Rose still hollering a foot away from my face through the speaker, I watched the father of my only child smell his finger.
Our two cat’s, Court and Jasper, ran down the hallway past him, meowing loudly. Court weighed at least fourteen pounds, and was solid white from tip to tail, so seeing her run was like watching a furry ball bound your way. Jasper, the retarded one—all speckled; a mix-up of oranges, blacks and tans—slid across the kitchen tile, right into their water dish.
“Rose,” I said, my sister still going on and on about how much this ‘gift’ was going to mean to her, cutting her off in the process, “I have a mess to clean up. Bye.”
* * *
A three hour trip to the grocery store and I had everything I needed to make this cake for my wonderful sister. Dropping the bag of supplies on the floor, I saw Court and Jasper eye ball the thing directly. Thinking better of the situation, I dumped the contents on the kitchen table and threw the bag on the ground. Court tackled it like a linebacker, well practiced and skilled. Jasper, on the other hand, sailed over the bag smacking head first into the cabinets below the sink. Shaking it off, he left the bag alone.
I was beat down, ready to throw in the towel, when my wonderful husband yelled from the study, “What’s for dinner?”
“Chinese…delivery…going to sleep…feed the kid…cat’s are in the bag…I’m done.”
Our understanding of each other went deeper than just love.
* * *
Upon waking, I went into our master bath to wash the sleep out of my eye’s, and was welcomed to a horrid smell. The aroma wafting up into my sinuses gave most waste disposal plants a run for their money. With further inspection I found the source; and the culprit.
Jasper, muscles tight in concentration, was leaving a present in the kitty liter box. I turned my nose up and went about cleaning my face.
When I was done, Jasper nudged my leg, circled through, and popped out in front of me. The rolling half purr/half meow he was known for, told me something was up.
Inside the litter box, sat a nicely coiled rope of surprise. The handicapped cat hadn’t even bothered to cover it up. With his back arched in pride at its most recent accomplishment, Jasper led me to the box with a swishing tale. I followed, if for no other reason than to cover it up.
Something glimmered from the pile, shining in the light of my bathroom. I knelt down. Shock and awe overcame me. I found a little gold nugget sticking out the side of Jasper’s creation. I chanced a closer look and found tiny veins of gold running throughout the hill of excrement.
“Come look at this!”
Sanitation be damned, I scooped up the poop. Jasper looked at me as if to say, “Hey, whatcha doin’ stealing my shit!”
My robed husband, standing in the door to our bedroom, looked down at what I carried in my hands and took a step back. “Jesus, Jess!”
“You remember the goose that laid the golden egg? Well look what Jasper did!”
“Jess…” Jules said pinching his nose, “You might wanna look at something first.”
“Do you not see! Our cat crap’s gold! Look. Just have a look!” I shoved the pile further into his face.
He leaned back, revolted, as he dug in his bathrobe pocket. Jules pulled out a ripped and torn plastic baggie. He held it up for me to see.
Inside the baggie, gold flake cake decorating material sparkled in the lights of our bedroom, half gone, tiny teeth marks everywhere.
I looked at the bag.
I looked at my smeared hands, all brown and gold.
Jasper rubbed up against my leg, purring, meowing.
I dropped my head.