Apology No. 11, or: About the Atomizer

Edward Hardy

Edward Hardy

I know, you were perturbed to discover the atomizer plugged into the socket behind your great aunt’s cat-scarred Chesterfield sofa. And yes, with its tiny clear vial, the atomizer does resemble a scale model lava lamp or a listening device, but it is not.

You must remember—the yowling tone of life just four weeks ago, the 1 a.m. UFC smack-downs between Queen Beatrice and Mr. Biff, the ankle ambushes, the doorframe scaling, the hourly shoving of progressively larger objects from higher shelves, apparently just to see? Cats thundering in terror every time we dropped a bag of frozen peas?

And I understand the regret. And had we not been overcome by Acute Rescue Shelter Enthusiasm we never would have brought home a pair (!) of 15 pound Ragdoll cats. Lap cats indeed. We’ve known smaller dogs. And they said littermates never fight.

So, the atomizer. This began one night as I lay on your great aunt’s pink sofa with an open laptop atop my chest, sleep surfing. Several clicks, an auto-fill credit card number and five to seven working days later the atomizer, with its vial of synthetic cat pheromones, appeared on our porch. I blame Ambien.

Pheromones designed to mimic feline facial hormones? The odorless-to-humans scent broadcasting that all is well? I blinked in astonishment and slammed the atomizer into the socket. Only in the daily river of uproarious events, I forgot to tell you.

I continued to forget to tell you day after day after day, but…when did you last bang your shin on a frozen-with-fear beast while staggering to reach the coffeemaker’s ON button? Cat tranquility has descended in a downy cloud.

Although, you and I seem to have lost our taste for long term planning. Securing side-by-side plots, accelerating the mortgage? It’s not so pressing. We spend hours now rooted to the porch, perhaps commenting on the habits of small birds, with no thoughts beyond the present. “I’m vacant,” you’ll say, smiling and suggest a nap.

Or our now nightly 11:14 p.m. galloping hijinks before we settle in to watch The Colbert Report in its entirety? And why must we perform that kneeling, three-circle spin on the mattress, which feels so necessary, before curling up, yes, curling up to sleep?

I’m perplexed by our recent and highly enjoyable contests of play aggression, such as I-Capture-The-Napkin or Pounce! the predatory grabbing game that seems to lead nowhere? If you do catch me, what explains the reflexive tongue-flip to the center of my upper lip, followed by an urgent attempt to straighten a piece of clothing?

Why must we have so many tapas-like meals consisting entirely of meat? Forty-two dollars for frozen quail? Intrusive longings for batter-dipped sparrows? Indoor salmon grilling? We sniff. We sniff our food before we eat. Yesterday I watched you lift a spoonful of Shredded Wheat and part your pale lips to lap at the 1 percent. We also lap.

Those luxurious hissing sounds that now wind their way into our conversations? “Sssssso much ssssushi for a SSSSSSunday!” The ssssudden expansion in our range of bedroom vocalizations? We say S words for fun.

Or my fresh interest in territorial issues? And when we do stroll the neighborhood we’re so distracted. The unscripted pauses as we track those mystifying headlights? That teeth chattering thing you do after spotting something exciting, like a chipmunk? And I thought you were just cold. Or that damp evening when we walked to the French restaurant whose name we can no longer remember? The way we simultaneously, without discussion, each ordered Lapin a la Cocotte?

I am alarmed.

On the other hand, our domestic disputes, which in the those roiling pre-atomizer days neatly paralleled Queen Beatrice and Mr. Biff’s caterwauling, have entirely dissipated. There’s a strange feeling of comfort and contentment flowing through the house, this relationship, a development we’ve both acknowledged, without understanding why. Which brings me to this: The vial is empty. Should we refill?


Edward Hardy is the author of the novels Keeper and Kid and Geyser Life. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Epoch, GQ, Boulevard, The New England Review, Witness and many other magazines. He lives in Rhode Island, and not that far from the bay.

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