Part 2

Uhura mostly ignored Theseus. She gave him a sniffing every now and then when their paths crossed in the hallway, but she was mostly unphazed by his presence. Veronica imagined that Uhura knew she would always remain, even though countless other felines had come and gone. She couldn’t get interested in any of the cats that took shelter at the house, as they would only leave. Uhura would strut around the other cats wearing a jaded look, maybe some sort of bemusement at the knowledge that she would always have a place here in Veronica’s home.
She had been Veronica’s first cat and thus would always have a special place in Veronica’s heart, even though she sometimes signified bad memories and heartbreak.
Uhura had been a gift to Veronica by her first and only real boyfriend, Matthew. Matthew and Veronica had both been Library and Information Studies majors and had taken some classes together at the same university. After graduation they both landed the same jobs as cataloguers at the university that they were both alumni of.
They were co-workers for three or so years before anything happened. Stuff like that took longer to blossom and develop among the folks that inhabited the confines of the library basements. They shared a fanaticism of Star Trek and most early conversations centered on talk of Borgs, Vulcans, Captain Jean Luc Pickard, and sometimes the original series. She began to enjoy these conversations and began to feel a strong fondness for Matthew.
Sometimes, her stomach got the butterflies whenever she looked at him from across the room. And at an easy two hundred and fifty pounds, long greasy black hair, glasses and a goatee, he was by any means attainable for her. She would wonder if he ever looked at her from across the room, if he thought she was pretty. She had never been that much to look at with her untamable long hair, glasses, gangly arms, and loose and unflattering clothes that she hid in. But then again, he probably couldn’t nor shouldn’t be too picky.
She would loan him her Star Trek: The Next Generation tapes whenever he missed the airing and soon he invited her over to his bachelor-esque apartment to watch the tapes she had made him. Sometimes they watched The X-Files together and sometimes she would stay until it was almost midnight.
The apartment always had a just cleaned charm to it whenever she arrived. The living room clear of any clutter or funk and the carpet halfway vacuumed. The bedroom door mysteriously closed, probably piles of laundry and magazines shoved wall to wall back in there before her arrival. The kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes, but she admired the fact that he had made some attempt to make his apartment clean and presentable.
Their first date was delivery pizza on a coffee table while they watched some TV. Dinner and a movie, he had paid. The night had lingered on the pizza box was empty, the show was over and the evening played on. She didn’t feel the urge to go and she wasn’t picking up any signals from Matthew for her to leave. He had gotten up to throw the pizza box away and when he returned he sat a lot closer to her on the couch, their legs touching, her heart beating at the initial contact.
Finally, he leaned in. It was a glorious and awkard moment for her. She wasn’t sure of what to do, so she just let it happen. His goatee whiskers tickled, his breath smelled like pepperonis, and he was making some weird breathing sounds, but it was still a great moment, the idea of it all. Kissing.
His tongue was like a fat dying fish in her mouth. Was this how it was supposed to be? She had no previous experience to compare it to. She reached up and touched his face and guided him to an angle that felt right, to a way that that she thought is should feel. After getting situated they were soon going at it, lying together and making out on the couch.

 
Two or so weeks later there was sex in his funky, bad cologne smelling bedroom. It didn’t hurt like she thought that it was going to, but it didn’t last long enough for her to get a good feel for it either. He had slid in for an instant, went rigid and was soon slumping out of the room, tugging at the condom that was wrapped around his softening penis.
Veronica rolled over to see if there was any blood. There wasn’t any. She put her panties back on and reaching for her bra that had fallen to the floor, she caught a glimpse of the underside of his bed. Porno magazines and dirty clothes and chip wrappers were stashed underneath his bed. All of this was a curiosity to Veronica as she had not been in a man’s private bedroom in her entire life. She quickly got dressed and waited for Matthew to return.
And so that was about the extent of the romance that went with the relationship. The amount of effort that it had taken to make his bed, light a candle, and hide his jism stained rags and porn under the bed was the amount of effort that Matthew put into the duration of the relationship.
Veronica, in her first real romantic relationship, went on ignorantly, blind to the fact that she was getting the shaft. However, she did feel that something was missing and had made arrangements herself for her and Matthew to go on real, verifiable dates: dinner at Red Lobster and Olive Garden (in which they went Dutch) and trips to the dollar theater (in which he splurged and bought both tickets). Had she not taken the reigns, the routine of takeout, TV, and sex would have continued.
The sex did improve some. He was beginning to last longer and she was starting to enjoy the way that it felt the longer he was inside. She even began to initiate it as they sat together touching on the couch and she would feel something ignite in her lower half. Whenever this would happen she rode on top and it was better this way. Almost four minutes would pass before he came and she also didn’t have to have his heavy and exhausted body on top of hers.
Matthew wasn’t entirely without romantic inclinations. He had brought her a dozen red roses to work on the two Valentine’s days that they had spent together. Even though he had left the price tag on the bouquets, Veronica was flattered to be treated in such a way. And it was Matthew who had given her Uhura.
It happened on one of their sushi nights, an event which happened about every other week. Veronica had picked up an order at the local sushi restaurant and was setting the table at her place with paper plates, small packets of soy sauce, and an iris in a vase as a centerpiece. These little flourishes went unnoticed and unmentioned by Matthew. He might ask where the flower came from and continue chomping down bites of seaweed rolled rice with a crab salad center.
Matthew walked in the front door, carrying something wrapped in a towel. Veronica instantly feared that it was some kind of animal.

“What the hell is that thing?” she asked.
“It’s a little baby kitten. Look!” He pushed the bundle towards Veronica and she stepped back.
“Get it away from me. I don’t want to see it. What’s it doing here anyways? Where did you get it?” Her voice shook.
“This little girl and her mom had a box full of ‘em down at Wal-Mart. They were free and I was thinking you might like one since you get lonely here all by yourself.”
Veronica didn’t know if that last comment was a subtle nod towards the two of them moving in together or some sort of chauvinistic conception that, she, a woman, could not bear to be alone.
“I’m perfectly fine by myself,” she almost shouted.
“Oh okay,” Matthew said in a tone that said ‘suit yourself.’
Veronica still had not seen the kitten as Matthew had it concealed underneath the towel. She wondered contemptuously if it was one of his dirty jism stained towels.
Matthew lowered the bundle to the floor.
“Matthew. I said I didn’t want to see it,” Veronica said, but she couldn’t even convince herself. Curiosity was getting the best of her.
The little critter crawled out and looked around. It had a brownish and soft downy hair. Veronica’s defenses were weakening. It turned and strutted toward her on little pipe cleaner legs, looked up with golden eyes. The kitten meowed at her and began to sniff her pant legs.
“Aww, look he likes you,” Matthew said.
Hesitantly, Veronica reached down to pet it. The cat rose up on its hind legs to meet her hand halfway. She cracked a smile.
“Well how do you know it’s a boy?”
“I don’t.”
“Hmmm,” Veronica thought out loud as she stroked the little cat. “What are you trying to do? Make me like the rest of the cat ladies we work with down at the library? How am I supposed to feed it? What if it pees all over the place?”
“I bought it a litter box and some litter. They’re born with an innate ability to use it. He’s already house broken.”
Veronica continued petting the kitten and it looked up at her some more and let out a soft mew.
“It’s called a tortoise shell cat. That’s the pattern of his fur. You know, they’re really not that hard to take care of. They’re really self-sufficient.”
“Dammit Matthew,” she said looking into the kitten’s emerald eyes. “I guess I’ll have to keep you,” she whispered to it. “You’re okay, I guess.” The cat replied with another of its soft meows and sealed the deal.
After taking the new cat to the vet she learned that it was a female in good health. She also wanted to get her declawed so she wouldn’t tear stuff up. This was done when the cat was big enough to go through the procedure and for a few days, Uhura, as she was named, was in a sad and sour state. Veronica felt bad for her and almost regretted her decision to have the procedure performed. But Uhura soon rebounded and was as happy and playful as ever.
In the long run, Veronica was happy that Matthew had picked up this kitten. And he had done it of his own volition, without her asking! It made her optimistic about their future. Maybe he would plan things to do together on his own now. Maybe there would be more kind gestures, like dinner dates that she didn’t have to arrange.
He dumped her three weeks later. A week after getting her the cat, he grew more distant, cancelling arrangements, not answering his phone. And then nothing. The last week he ignored her completely and she received an e-mail at work simply stating “I think we should take some time off.” He sent this e-mail half a room away and she could’ve went crazy on him right then and there, jump all over him and his cowardice, his little dick. But it wasn’t like her to be overly emotional. The pit of her stomach was perforated and she was shocked more than anything. She felt terrible, so she went home sick and spent the rest of the day crying in bed.
She found out about the reason for his departure a week or so later. She saw him walking to his car, holding hands with some girl with dyed black hair, glasses, and a fat ass.
He took another job a month later and that was the last she saw of him.

Uhura was all the companion that she needed for now. The kitten comforted her in her periods of the grieving of the loss of her only relationship. Veronica could now join in the conversations with the other cat owners at the library. Some of them owned up to six cats. And soon one of the ladies asked her to cat-sit her two kittens while she was away on vacation.
Veronica enjoyed these conversations and how these ladies found that all of their cats were different with their own unique personalities. Some were playful, some were lazy and loving, some were apathetic and indifferent, some were lap cats, some liked water, and some were just batshit crazy. She had to have another.

Part 1

Part 1
She named him Theseus. Theseus Jones. The first name had come from Greek mythology, while his surname was something casual and pedestrian to offset the formality of Theseus, something to give him that silly touch, like wearing tennis shoes with a tuxedo. Theseus had been a legendary king who had been imprisoned in Hades for thousands of years, stuck to a stone chair until Hercules had come along and freed him. And so that was how she had found him, trembling and clutching a concrete dividing barrier on the busy highway, stuck until his own Hercules came and rescued him.
Veronica had gotten a blanket out of her car and approached him slowly. Cars zoomed by making her feel naked and vulnerable. He eyed her as she crept closer, holding the blanket out between her two hands like a net. In one swift movement she threw the blanket over him and clutched him to her chest. He howled and instantly pissed all over her. His body jerked in spasms and contorted into tight whirling shapes of sleek muscle and panic. He clawed up her chest and left a scratch from the bottom of her chin to the top of her breast.
She wadded the edges of the blanket together, bundled him up, a “kitty burrito” they called it. She threw the package of fear and fury into her car and slammed the door. Instantly, he freed himself of his confines and spring-boarded off her upholstery seats, ricocheting off the windshield. He repeated these movements several times, continually bouncing off the glass, so much that she feared he’d give himself a concussion. He finally came to a stop and perched himself on the backseat, claws dug into the fabric and poised like a gargoyle. He eyed her through the windshield with dilated eyes, eyed the traffic whizzing past, panted.
She cautiously got back into her car, sweater wet with piss, the ammoniac stench making her gag. She glanced back at the refugee and he hissed. He was going to be okay, a little frazzled and furious, but okay. He was certainly going to do a lot better than he was back on that bridge clinging to the concrete.
On the entire ride home he howled and howled in protest. Veronica mocked his cries and improvised the things he would say if he could talk, imagined him yelling, “Why? Why? Why did you throw me in your car?”
“I was saving your stupid ass,” she told him.

She was no stranger to feral cats. It was something of a hobby for her. No, more than that, a passion, a purpose. Throughout the years, she had had countless interactions with these majestic creatures. A stray never crossed her path that remained abandoned for long.
She had live traps, cans of wet food in her trunk, cages, bags of litter piled high in her laundry room. A local vet had a deal worked out with her—giving her injections, screenings, booster shots, and dewormings at cost. The vet also gave her reduced prices on all of the spaying and neutering that she needed. There was also feline leukemia and HIV that she had to check for.
She didn’t keep the strays that she took in. Most of them she adopted out to good homes. Others were so wild and feral that she had no choice but to release them back out into the wild. At least they would be infertile though. No need to have them out there making more. Every time she passed the unfortunate sight of a tiny, furry victim splayed out in the road, sadness crept upon her and she had to wonder if it was one of the ones she had taken in.
She resented the term “cat lady” and refused to view herself in such a way. She believed that what she did was a service to animal welfare, and that she had saved scores of kittens, tiny and innocent lives. In her eyes a cat lady was a lady who was off-balanced, someone who had over thirty of the buggers running rampant around their house, disease ridden and messing everywhere. She knew. She had seen it on Animal Planet plenty of times. Her cats, she took care of and her house was simply a weigh station for the poor feline souls who needed a home.
She had recently undergone a wake-up call, however, and she was forced to reevaluate the situation. Not less than a month ago she had eleven cats taking up residence at her house. There were four kittens, four full sized cats, two ferals in a kennel in her garage, and a female named Uhura who had been with her from the beginning.
Veronica came home from work one day and looked around at her house and the state that it was in: a choir of kittens and cats meowing, a beach of litter in her laundry room, the rank smell of cat piss overpowering everything no matter how many candles she lit or how much Febreeze she sprayed.
She awoke every morning with cat hair in her nostrils, in her mouth. It clung to her in clots, the dishes in her sink and shower, blew along the wooden floors in little black and orange tumbleweeds. She couldn’t live this way and slowly but surely she had begun to get rid of her tenants. The two ferals she let go at the park. She gave a couple of kittens to a family with two daughters. The rest eventually found homes: coworkers, someboy’s aunt, somebody’s sister, a neighbor three houses down.
And finally, all but Uhura had left. Uhura was hers, Uhura would always remain, always have a place next to her feet at bedtime.
Yet here she was again with another stray in her backseat, another creature in need of some help, another ungrateful soul who expected the world from her.

He was curled up on the backseat. He had worn himself out crying five minutes into the trip. His body raised up with each breath, a gray haired bellows punctuated by the vibration of his purr. She opened the car door and hovered her palm above his warm body.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked herself with a sigh. You know you can’t keep doing this. It’s a slippery slope from here on out. First there’s this one and then there’s another and here comes a mama cat with a litter of six. Then what? The cycle starts all over. But first…but first there’s this one.
She placed her hand on his body. His hair was soft, softer than the hair of any other cat that she had felt before. Sliding the fingers of her free hand underneath his stomach she slowly lifted him to her body. He didn’t stir, only let out a soft and barely audible mew. She cradled him and made her way up the steps of her front porch and unlocked the front door.
Uhura, hearing the door open, marched towards her master with a purpose, placed a paw on her owner’s knees and sniffed at the fluffy gray tail that dangled from the bundle Veronica was carrying. Her curiosity satisfied she sauntered off down the hallway. This was nothing new to her. Veronica pulled this sort of thing all the time. They always left and she always stayed.
Veronica carried the sleeping cat to the garage, the station for all of her kitty operations and placed him on a pet bed. He let out another little cry and continued to sleep.

She gave him some fresh food and water in the morning. For now he’d have to remain isolated in the garage, quarantined until he got screened at the vet. No telling what he was carrying.
He had instantly warmed up to her, greeting her at the door with a meow and rubbing up against her legs. He pushed his head into her shins, gleaning pleasure from this contact. She kneeled and lowered her knuckles to him and he stood on his hind legs and grazed his face against them.
Veronica sat in a chair in the garage and he leapt into her lap and relaxed, purring. He was obviously domesticated, not feral or wild at all. What had he been doing on that bridge? He was a gorgeous cat and had no doubt been somebody’s pet. He turned and leaned his paws on her chest, propping himself up while he sniffed her nose.
His gray face was an elegant mask and his eyes were like an owl’s, big and round with pupils like bottomless pits. He had a friendly disposition about him that was sweeter than most of the cats that she had taken in.
Cats had the stereotype of being aloof, indifferent, and impersonal. Veronica begged to differ and found that all cats had some sort of certain charm about them. She had been acquainted with some of the most affectionate and loving of cats. Cats that would snuggle up to your side or sleep on your lap or follow you from room to room, calling out to you in high lonesome meows. Even the biggest asshole of a cat had a mysterious and curious nature that you had to admire.
Theseus was proving to be quite a character. He had the blind friendliness of a dog, that indiscriminate approval of anything that crossed his path. Veronica had friends who had had cats like this. One lady from work had a cat that she always described as a “dog trapped in a cat’s body”. Her cat would come when you called its name and would play fetch with a small toy mouse.
She figured that it would be all right to move him into the house as soon as she had gotten him screened and checked out at the vet. She had to make sure he wasn’t going to spread anything to Uhura. She told him goodbye and closed the garage door.
She got dressed and ran a brush through her hair, long gray and dirty blonde strands knotted up in the bristles. She drank a cup of coffee while Uhura lounged on the kitchen table and stared at nothing. Veronica walked over and kissed her goodbye. Uhura close her eyes and shook her off.
She worked at a library at the local university, a massive complex of a books, one of the biggest in the state. She worked in the basement as a cataloguer with about fifteen other quiet souls. The workspace was dead quiet, office sounds the only noise. As an unwritten work policy, personal conversations in the work area were generally frowned upon—it broke concentration for the complex task of organization and it would most likely get rowdy after awhile. It was a library after all. They could talk about work related stuff amongst each other, and sometimes talk of personal stuff dripped out across the desks and workers, but all in all it was a very quiet environment.
Veronica spent most of her time doing fascinating stuff like entering call numbers for countless books, looking for incorrect information, back checking that information in other fields, and checking codes. Most of the time she could dash off to the break room for a cup of coffee and a five or so minutes of idle chatter. It was like coming up for air, breaking into an air bubble where everyone could escape the choking silence and talk and breathe.
Today in the breakroom she walked in on several of the office ladies deeply engaged in a conversation about Harry Potter.
“I heard on the radio today that J.K. Rowling is going to kill off Harry in the final book,” one of the ladies said with distress.
“No, no, no. That’s not it. She had said that she wasn’t sure if he was going to survive or not. It’s not like it’s certain or anything,” another replied.
“Well that way, no one can carry the franchise on and make spin-offs if Harry’s dead,” Veronica interjected. “Everyone knows that Harry Potter is a red herring anyways. Ron or Hermione is going to end up being the chosen one and defeat Voldemort.”
“Don’t say his name,” laughed a gray-haired lady with shaded glasses.
The talk shifted from Harry and turned to other things and Veronica found a window to tell her co-workers (all cat lovers of varying degrees) about her new cat. She described him as being kind of a Maine Coon—fluffy and soft, big, and friendly like a dog.
“You should try and play fetch with him. I had a Maine Coon this one time that would fetch toy mice when I threw them down the hall and bring them back to me,” said the older lady.
The other ladies mused in agreement
“Yeah, they’ll do that.”
“I know one like that”
“Wait a second,” Veronica said. “What do you mean had a cat like that? I’ve been over to your house and saw him play fetch, remember? Is he still around?”
“Aw, he’s fine. I had to give ol’ Waylon to my sister once my daughter moved back in. She’s allergic and everything. Right now just waiting to get her set up so I can get him back.”
There were sympathetic nods and knowing hums.
Jana, an employee of the acquisitions department filtered into the crowd. “Got a new cat huh? I love gray cats, they’re so pretty…especially with the blue eyes,” she said.
Veronica paused. “That’s funny. I don’t think I remember saying anything about what color he was.”
“No she didn’t.”
“Well, I actually had a dream about Veroncia and her new cat. And he is gray? That’s too funny.” She let out a gentle chuckle that sounded like little gasps for air.
“You and your dreams Janna. Like that one time you dreamt Howard was going to quit,” said one of the librarians.
“I know. Creepy, huh?”
“Why don’t you tell us who’s gonna die in the new Harry Potter book?” croaked the gray haired lady.
They laughed as if it was the funniest thing that they had heard all day. It was probably going to be. The group soon disbanded and got one last breath of air before diving back into the tedium of their jobs.

She took him by the vet the next day to get him checked out and screened for anything particularly nasty. He was clear of feline leukemia and feline HIV. He got a rabies vaccine and some deworming medication for good measure.
“And it seems like the little guy has already been neutered,” the vet said.
Veronica was surprised. She had checked under his tail earlier and had seen the furry little pouch that was supposed to house his testicles. However, that little dice bag usually remained somewhat perky, even after a neutering, and unless one was trained in that sort of thing, it was almost impossible to tell. In Theseus’s case, the sack was empty yet deceptive.
“So, you think he was someone’s pet?”
“Yeah, probably. With his temperament and how friendly he is towards us and the fact that he’s neutered, I’m willing to bet that.”
The thought had certainly crossed Veronica’s mind, however she had yet to scour the classifieds for notices of any missing cats. In the past she had reunited several families with their missing pet.
“I’ll check the classifieds and look around. Maybe take out an ad and post him as found. You know me, ever diligent,” she said. The words came out feeling like a lie, a little white one, and Veronica knew that once she had said this, that she was not one hundred percent behind it.
Then, Veronica realized that it wasn’t going to be like before. She wasn’t going to scour the classifieds or post a found ad. There would be no happy reunification with a long lost cat and his worried owners. She had found Theseus in the middle of deadly rush hour traffic, hanging on for dear life. She didn’t want to return Theseus to a home where something like this could happen again, didn’t even want to meet the people who had allowed this to happen in the first place. And besides, she had already grown attached to Theseus in their short time together, had already gotten used to the idea of him belonging to her. He was hers.