MTO Gina Tabasso

Gina’s baby was sick again. She hated to see any of them sick, but Prince Caspian–shortened to Princey–held a special place in her heart. He was her first, a white and grey Turkish Angora named after a character in one of her favorite books. The poor boy coughed and arched his back, trying to get something to come up. For his painful-looking efforts, all he produced were little blobs of cat-food-colored mucus.

Good thing the carpet was white so she could find it so easily. She worried because the piece of meat he’d brought to the front door as a gift for her–it looked like it came from something enormous, not a mouse or a bird. Princey had a bone or something stuck in his belly, no doubt, and the vet bill was going to be through the roof. Gina sighed and petted her fur baby, one of a handful laying in various shafts of sunlight around the house, perfecting sloth and turning it elegant in the way only cats can.

She gently lifted him to her lap to examine him. She wanted to know as much as possible before calling the vet. The first thing that freaked her out was his eyes. The pupils were round, not marquise. And the irises, usually a jade green, were white. White. And little black lashes jutted from the top and bottom. His fuzzy pink nose was losing its fuzz. And losing its pink for that matter, and it stuck out in a disturbingly familiar way. All Princey’s white whiskers had fallen out, and the cute little eye ones, too. Terrible things were happening to his mouth, so terrible. She thrust him from her lap and ran to the phone.

The vet couldn’t fit him in. What was wrong? Well, Gina couldn’t explain exactly. It defied explanation. She decided to go to the emergency vet. It was worth it, whatever the cost.

As she put Princey in the cat carrier, she noticed his body felt funny, like a bag of loose parts. He meowed and cried and screeched in high-pitched, phlegmy notes she’d never heard before. Without care for cops or tickets, she raced to the vet, laying down rubber skid marks as she slammed on the brakes.

“What on Earth did you eat, Princey?” she grabbed the cat carrier. A furless, pink flesh pushed against the mesh as she tilted it. The shock almost caused her to drop it. With a trembling hand, she set the carrier on the seat, and peeked inside.

“Whaaaaaaaaah!”

She slammed the car door shut.

No.

Softer, muffled by the car. “Whaaaaaaah…whaaaaah…whaaaah.”

She could not take that thing into the vet. She’d be committed. Or put in jail. He wouldn’t believe it, no matter what she said. Slumped against her Toyota, she tried to understand what was happening. She put her fists to her eyes and rubbed. She pinched herself. Bit her tongue. Stomped her feet. Slapped her face. A phrase came, unbidden, to her mind: You are what you eat.

“Whaaaaaaah.”

She wasn’t sure what to do, but she couldn’t just sit in the parking lot with that racket coming from inside her car. It looked abusive. She decided to go home and figure out her next steps. Maybe have a beer, or something stronger. This time she was gentler with the carrier, not allowing it to tilt. During the car ride home, the harsh cries turned to soft, sucking sounds of contentment. It made her shudder.

Worse, coming from her home were more outbursts like the one she’d heard at the vet. “Whaaaaaaah.” A chorus of them. She stopped in her walkway, unsure of what to do. The little thing in her carrier cried out. She flinched. What a horrible, nerve-jangling sound. She didn’t want to go inside.

But what else could she do?

It was bad, as bad as she imagined.

Babies. Her beautiful kitties had all turned into babies. Their little pink hands were balled into fists. Puddles of pee surrounded what she guessed were Muffy and Ninja, both sprawled on the couch. Zeus rolled in mustard-colored excrement in the litter box, bits of gravel kicked up with his spasming chubby legs. And the others? Who knew what she’d find?

An unflappable and resourceful woman, Gina did the only reasonable thing she could. She grabbed a beer from the fridge and began preparing her dinner: Borscht with garlic fritters. The meat had infused the cool water since last night, and to waste such perfect broth would be a crime. Wireless earbuds blasting Ludovico Einaudi took care of the rest of the environment. So long as she didn’t look at them, all was well. Sometimes one managed to crawl under her feet.

“Scram, kitty. Can’t you see, I’m cooking?” she’d scold.

Then it hit her. The reason for the rucus.

“Oh my darlings! I forgot to feed you.” That was a first, but really, it hadn’t exactly been a normal day. Anyone could forget to feed the babies, given the excitement. Gina got out the little glass bowls and scooped a generous helping of grain-free chicken entree for each.

And everyone was having a lovely dinner.

When the doorbell rang.

Cops.

Gina gulped.

One toed the hunk of meat Princey had left on the stoop.

“Ma’am,” the other looked beyond Gina, into her home, “We’ve had an infant go missing in the last twenty-four hours in this vicinity. Would you mind if we came in?”

True: Like the great poet Emily Dickenson, Gina has neither married nor had children. Having children will make you die sooner. I have anecdotal evidence of this, and it explains Gina’s youthful glow. I’m not sure what the impact of husbands/partners is on cellular aging…

Also true: I went to college with Gina, watched her perform her poetry, and once upon a time had a delightful poetry group with her. Click here to listen to her amazing work (this is how I always think of her).

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5 thoughts on “MTO Gina Tabasso

  1. Terrifying, surreal and unpredictable Kelly. This was so out-of-the-box and different. I couldn’t tell if the ending was happy or tragic. It left room for a sequel, but stands great on its own too, leaving an air of mystery about everything. Great stuff.

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