A short by Kate
Whiskers. Whiskers that tickle her cheek when he’s perched on her shoulder. Just like Ratatouille, they always made Sunday supper together. This was Wolfgang’s favorite time. Sitting with her while she listened to music and spun him around the kitchen. Letting him try bits of the stew, sniffing all the flavors. The sensation and smells were unlike anything he had ever experienced. Definitely not anything he smelled at the pet shop before the two humans walked in that one fateful day shopping for a new pet.
It had been a few months calling this small apartment home. He along with his brother, Dexter. They liked their humans and became increasingly familiar with their individual nuances, habits and moods. Wolfgang especially found himself catching on to the female human’s stress. Some days when she walked through the door after a long work day, he knew. He’d sniff and stick his small curious nose through the metal cage openings, hoping to ease her mood.
Tossing her purse and shoes at the wall, somedays the frustrations weren’t about anything specific. Just the underlying anxiety that slowly grew behind her forced smile. After a while it seemed like every day she woke up with it. A small peach pit somedays, other days a watermelon on her chest.
The man lying next to her sensed this weakness. That’s what it was to him, weakness. Confirmation of his suspicions that she was not her own person, unable to handle the stress of the world.
But Wolfgang knew that wasn’t true. He watched her. He saw her sitting on the couch while she journaled through her past, stared at her present, and dreamed for her future. He saw the pain and that little peach pit that she couldn’t rid herself of, no matter what she did.
He saw her try to tell the male human about these pains. But her words were tongue tied and twisted. She’d slip and fall into circles of self-doubt as she tried to share. Was what she felt real? Or did she make it up?
Wolfgang heard the conversations, the ones where she doubted if her feelings were valid. He knew his female human remembers correctly, remembers how that argument had gone. Who had said what. But the male human created a new reality. A new truth. One that benefited and protected himself. Planting seeds of doubts. When she screamed and cried, his response was…He never said that. He would never hurt her. In his mind, she was the temptress. She would stray from their marriage. He would never. Never. He was the protagonist, she was the supporting role. There would be no peace for her in his fairytale nightmare.
Wolfgang watched her slowly go mad, not knowing if reality itself was betraying her or if she was betraying reality. But she wasn’t mad. Even if she didn’t see it yet, Wolfgang knew. She was a pawn, trapped in the male human’s sticky, webbed psyche. A mess of lies and fear that held her in. She was too much of this, not enough that. Years of pain living inside the male human, pain he so desperately worked to rid himself of. But it wasn’t enough. So, he preyed on his trusting partner. And she slowly, unknowingly, took the insecurities upon herself. Even if the questions were never hers to begin with.
The little peach pit of doubt continued to grow in the female human’s heart. Wolfgang wanted to lick her cheek during their weekly Sunday suppers. To remind her she was going to be OK. She snuck him carrots and little pieces of kale when she darted through the door on her way to work. He loved it. She talked to him gently, even though he knew most humans thought his kind icky.
When the humans parted ways, Wolfgang remembers saying goodbye to the female. Her face was wet. He licked up a few of the water drops that seemed to endlessly escape her large human eyes. He can still taste the salt when his male human gives him a chip.
He thinks of her sometimes. Wolfgang knows his time here on earth is short, maybe 5 human years, and he will pass soon. But he hopes she has found her voice. He hopes she has forgiven the male human for his shortcomings and for the pain that he caused her. Not because the male deserves it, but because Wolfgang doesn’t want the peach pit to make a permanent home in her soul. He’s heard the humans talk of this “soul.” While he doesn’t know firsthand what that must feel like to have one, he imagines it is something to be guarded at all cost. As precious as a baby carrot held within his small, furry paws. A treasure, a treat, sustenance…life itself.