Keith’s cousin calls from the pen

Keith & Lesli

Keith stood at the living room window, sipping coffee, staring out at a drizzling, early-morning rain, catching hell from Lesli. She was in the kitchen, barely wearing a short, silk housecoat that clung to her curves and, at the moment, was half-open, held together by a loosely tied belt.

“Would you for once and for all,” she railed, “do something about those two demons?! They are making life absolutely miserable for my little guy.”

She’d been rummaging in the cupboard, unable to come up with a single thing she felt like eating. It’d become kind of an ongoing argument. She kept trying to protect and defend Bruno, which was understandable, because Butch and Sundance messed with the poor guy pretty much every single chance they got.

What, Keith wondered, did she think kittens were going to do to a full-grown cat? Leave him in peace? Before she’d moved in, the little beasts never even gave him a break. Being a natural-born pain in the butt comes with a kitten’s job description. And there is nothing, this side of a ball of twine, they’d rather target for unbridled, biting, clawing and kicking fun than a full-grown cat, especially one as big, slow and dull-witted as Bruno.

Keith took another sip. “Love of my life, you want me to talk to them?”

“This is not the time, love of my life, to be a smart-ass.” The look on her face said that all he had to do was say one word and he would not be getting any affection tonight.

He smiled. “No, no, I’m perfectly serious. I’ll have a word with them right now.” To prove the point, he hollered, “Hey!”

Both kittens stopped dead in their tracks and looked at him for all of about maybe 10 seconds. Then went right back to chasing her cat all around the place. Keith shrugged. “I gave it a shot.” Then drank some more coffee.

Bruno, not the brightest bulb on anyone’s tree, finally thought to scramble up on the mantle where Butch and Sundance couldn’t get to him. Lesli sighed and went over to the beleaguered cat, petting him on his great big head. “Good for you, baby. Those mean little devils can’t get you up there.”

Keith shook his head. He had to admit, much as he cherished having his own space, life was a helluva lot more interesting with her around. And her dumb-as-a-doorstop feline. Who needed to cease and desist yowling for food at first light. Roosters weren’t awake before Bruno would start in.

It was approaching mid-morning, and having cut his appetite with caffeine, Keith went into the kitchen to nose around in the cupboard and fridge for what he’d eventually get around to eating. Lesli was never much of a breakfast person on the weekend, especially Sunday, when she felt like being a bum. So, she sipped at her own cup, wandering in behind him.

“What’s on the menu?” she asked. They both knew that with him home she wasn’t about to cook. The woman would burn a pot of water.

“Not sure. But whatever it is will involve a whole mess of grits.”

She grinned and went to pull down a pot and a frying pan — she knew that whatever he cooked, frying was going to have something to do with it. When she stretched up to pull the pot and pan down, her flimsy, lightweight robe rode up. He gave her a wolf-whistle.

“Oh, no,” she protested, smiling. “We are taking a break. If only for breakfast. I’m starved.” She glanced over at the fridge. At a sticker note. “What’s this?” She studied the note. “Baby, did you ever read this?”

He hadn’t. And wished she get out of the habit of putting those damned things up. “Nope.”

“You never do. This one could be important. Honey, your cousin called.”

That got his attention. She handed it to him. “Linda? What the brat say?”

“Don’t know. It was collect from the penitentiary. I didn’t accept the call.”

“Why not?”

“Keith, she was trying to reach you, not me. And I was fresh out of you.”

He sat down and sank into a funk. Lesli gave him a pitying look, fiddled with her fingers, then grabbing Butch up left the living room, Bruno and Sundance trailing behind. In anticipation of being fed.

She poured dry food into their bowls, refilled their water, and silently headed for the bedroom. Then she stopped at the end of the hall, said, “Baby, let’s order in,” and quietly shut the door.


Next week: Keith finally reads cousin Linda’s letter.

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