I CAN KILZ BOYFRIEND: more mischief from legendary Smokey the Bionic Cat
by Tricia Sutton
For Beth's first car date, she wore a white gypsy shirt, love beads, flowery jeans, and platform shoes. While she was waiting for Steve to arrive, Daddy gave her some dating advice: "Honor your fine family upbringin' and talk proper. Don’t burp or slurp, and use a fork ‘cause it’s dang near impossible to shovel food in your mouth with them two skinny sticks."
"They're called chopsticks, Daddy," she said, peering through the curtains for Steve's arrival.
Steve pulled up in a brand new 1976 El Camino the color of an acorn. Beth ducked back and ran to her bedroom, not to appear eager. I watched from the front door peephole as Steve emerged wearing an outfit that overcompensated for the car's dull color. He wore a bright print polyester button-down shirt tucked neatly into white bellbottoms looking every bit like a multi-flavored sno-cone.
Ut-oh, I thought, Gerber likes bright colors; I wonder where he is. Immediately, our pigeon soared from his perch on the rooftop landing on Steve's stiff from hairspray, perfectly feathered Farrah Fawcett hair. Steve shrieked, looking unsure about what the hell was assaulting his head.
Oh, dear, Smokey is attracted to sudden moves and loud noises, I thought of our mentally unbalanced cat. Steve batted spastically at the winged creature, paying no attention to the fanged one that lurked below. Creeping up, crouched almost to the ground, Smokey roared like a cougar. Steve shrieked again and, with the bird still atop his head, darted to his car. Smokey leaped, latching onto his leg and trying to chew it off as we rushed to Steve's rescue—except for my oldest brother Russ, who'd been leaning against a tree the whole time. He lit a cigarette and blew a plume of smoke in the air.
My other brother Eddie captured Smokey and then Gerber, hauling them into the house. Steve, with his stiff hair pointing in every-which-direction, stood trembling, mumbling, and looking to be in a state of shock. Beth tried to raise his spirits, saying that the bird was overly friendly, and the cat’s roar was louder than his bite. Steve still didn’t want to enter the house, but Beth coaxed him anyway to allow proper introductions, and to prove Smokey was a normal, ordinary cat. Harmless.
Inside, Smokey was on his best behavior, curled up asleep. Gerber occupied himself in my hair. And I noticed Beth’s face relax a little, but not much—more insecure about the uncertainty of our household than of the pets.
Daddy entered the room and introduced himself by extending his hand to Steve's, giving it a vigorous squeeze, which prompted Daddy to fart. What must have sounded like a starting chain saw to Smokey—ready to fell the tree he dreamed he was sleeping in—caused him to startle awake. He hissed and arched his back and looked to Steve as the source of his sleep interruption. Steve scrambled for the door, but not quickly enough to avoid fangs clamping down hard on his rear-end. Russ, no help at all, sat inches away, feet propped up, laughing. Steve escaped with Daddy in tow, chased out of the house by Mama with a broom screeching, "I want a divorce."
Beth plopped down on the dining-room chair. "Shit, piss, damn." Then she unstrapped her platforms and banged her head on the table three times.
I heard a scream so loud I worried it might set off the Emergency Broadcast System. I dashed into the house to find Mama at odds with Smokey again. He learned to open the linen closet, hop onto the shelf her eye-level, and wait. When she opened the door, he popped out like a snake-in-a-can—Mama screamed at those, too (and at the cardboard tube of biscuits that she banged on the counter until the pressure popped the can, sending her into a tizzy each time).
Smokey tore out of the house bushy-tailed, ears back, with Mama trailing close behind, shooting him with his monogrammed squirt gun. Nothing unusual, except Beth finally brought home the new boyfriend she'd been talking about—and dieting for. When she embarked on a specialized diet, she was "in" a relationship; the day she was "off" the relationship, she ate more than my competitive eating brother Eddie did. For three days, Beth had eaten only watermelon and tuna. Giving Smokey the tuna juice, she became his new love interest, expecting her to remain loyal only to him.
Beth dated three Toms—meaning, lots of dieting—which was confusing to say the least, not to mention cheating on Smokey. When a certain Tom called for her on the phone, I'd ask the caller, "Which Tom?"
Unhappy with my screening methods, Beth forbade the question. She herself avoided answering the phone so not to appear too eager, which was beneath her. Yet when the phone rang, she'd be right there panting, waiting. When I'd give her the affirmative nod, she'd whisper, "Boy or girl?"
One of the Toms, I'll call him Bald Tom for obvious reasons, sat with Beth on our brown and rust colored plaid sofa. Intent on keeping up with her fast-paced, rapid-fire lecture, he leaned in, wide-eyed, spellbound, as she explained our brain-damaged bobcat, intrusive pigeon, and any other issue that might need explaining. She gave him the list of perils. "I apologize in advance for: dad farting, brother belching, mother-will-hate-you-but-don't-take-it-personally, feral sister, bird landings, cat…"
Quite lengthy, the speech. I'd heard it a thousand times before. Wiser would've been to hand out a written apology—or a medical release—to all her guests before they entered the carnival funhouse.
Bald Tom, fresh out of the military, met Beth at the Rec Center where she worked after school, in between glee club, swim-meet, volleyball practice, yearbook committee, and church outings—I think she purposely avoided us.
Mama arranged the great room in such a way that the sofa acted as a room divider, vulnerable to sneak attacks from behind. I was wise never to sit there.
I paid close attention to Smokey, who seemed intrigued by the bald headed offering before him. He paced behind the couch, contemplating. And I, no stranger to his wicked, wicked ways, kept watching. A tiny voice inside my head told me to alert the victim, but a bigger voice, the one I listened to the most and sounded suspiciously like Russ's—which was Russ's—told me to sit back and enjoy the show.
Smokey, up now on his hind legs, craned for a better look. He scaled the back of the sofa, clinging, unnoticed by the victim whose head to Smokey must've looked like an inflated big toe. He dug his hind claws into the back of the couch for grip, reared back, and grabbed hold of Tom's bald head with his front claws and teeth, simultaneously growling in an unearthly shrill. Baldy leaped to his feet with Kat Kong attached to his head like a furry helmet. Beth and Mama hustled to remove the demonic cat from the head, but Smokey's claws were in good.
"Get it off," he yelped, but he wouldn't stay still long enough to allow anyone to pry off the cat. Mama and Beth stood back out of the line of swinging arms and frantic jerking. Mama left to get Daddy. And Beth, after a half effort of trying one more time with her index finger to poke the cat, ran snickering hand-over-mouth to the kitchen—a momentary hold up when Russ wouldn't move out of the doorway—to retrieve the cat repellent mixture of water and lemon juice. This spray bottle, with Smokey's name written in permanent ink, was usually found in a makeshift holster that Mama wore, but the bottle was drained of ammo on account of an earlier incident involving cat-in-the-closet.
Beth fumbled with screwing the top back on the now-filled spray bottle when Smokey retreated to the kitchen to slay the grunions Eddie brought out of the icebox as a diversion. It worked; grunions always did the trick. Eddie saved the day. Shake a bag of skinny fish and Smokey flew to the source. The scene exceeded all others by a landslide, so much that I hadn't noticed I was laughing … loudly, but not as loud as Russ. Or Beth.
Daddy came in to apologize for what he called "an unfriendly little feller." Bald Tom's building rage caused me to feel a tad guilty. Russ exhibited no such display of guilt and looked to be giving Smokey an extra grunion as a reward.
Bald Tom sat, eyes fixed to the floor, face blood-boiling red while Mama arranged wet paper towels on his head wounds. Beth was on standby, holding the peroxide and bandages trying to look all serious and sympathetic, as if he wouldn't remember her laugh opera. He remembered. His rage gained momentum and with his head mummified in bloody paper towels, he stood up and stormed out the door, but not without a parting comment. "You guys are primitive barbarians … freaks!"
I stood there letting the last word penetrate my senses. I thought of Smokey, pigeons, burps, farts, and a boatload of other setbacks and concluded at that very moment in time, Beth and I may never marry.
The author would like to note that she and her sister did indeed marry … twice each. She would also like to note that names were changed to protect the embarrassed.
Tricia Sutton is a novelist and short story writer. Her stories and articles can be found in The Rambler, Simple Joy, the Short Humour site, and forthcoming in The Shine Journal. A previous story titled The Bionic Cat was published here on Hazard Cat. This story is an excerpt from her unfinished novel. She's still married, has two daughters, four cats, and lives in Fresno, CA. She welcomes visitors to her publications blog.