Jackie picked up the metal floor fan and gazed over at her plant shelf. She had been trying to train Betsy to use the litter box for twelve days now, and her patience was wearing thin.
Although cat hair made Jackie’s throat itch and burn, she had agreed to take care of Betsy for the weekend. She filled her mother’s wooden basket with a stained burgundy towel and placed the fan in a strategic position so that Bill’s cat could keep semi-cool despite the second heat wave scorching Brooklyn that July.
Bill said he was only going to be gone for the long weekend. A coworker was sick and he had volunteered to fly to Denver at the last minute. Both of them had been hoping Bill would get a promotion for a while now. Bill wanted more leisure time to go golfing with John and Larry on Staten Island. He used to take his ex-girlfriend Sadie golfing all the time, but Jackie’s frizzy red hair, freckled body, and fondness for cut-off jean shorts embarrassed him in public.
They had slept together for the first time six months ago. Every Sunday morning in February, Bill would lie next to Jackie and pull back her flannel sheets so he could play connect the dots on her legs. Slowly tracing from freckle to freckle as she read him short fiction from her favorite book of love stories. By April, he only touched her in the dark.
Jackie liked home-garden magazines and Saturday trips to the Museum of Natural History. She thought a promotion would mean more time for her and Bill to enjoy egg-salad sandwiches in Central Park before heading off to gaze at whale bones.
On the first day alone with Betsy, Jackie poured herself her usual half glass of diet coke and downed two Benadryl to calm the itching in her throat. She sat on the worn lime futon and watched the Price is Right as Betsy weaved between her sturdy ankles. Her fur was soft and cooling. This is nice, Jackie thought and closed her sun-burnt eyelids.
By the twelfth day Jackie had already made three trips to Barton’s to pick up pills, Clorox bleach, paper towels, and push-up pops. If Bill wasn’t going to pick up her calls or return her messages, the least she could do was eat something that would change her mood. Flinstone push-up pops were Jackie’s favorite and Al had just recently increased his route to include her street at lunchtime and dusk. But Betsy’s presence in the apartment inhibited Jackie from having the freedom to suddenly dart down the stairs when she heard the ice cream truck’s music drift up to her fifth floor window.
While Bill lit up his cigar in the silent hotel room, Jackie settled for plain cherry push-up pops. The taste of red childhood medicine lingered on her tongue as she moved over the plants for the fan.