The cats eye the dog with disdain. The dog considers the cats a potential meal or simple annoyance; we don’t know. The dog sneaks into the kitchen and steals the bowl of chocolate covered stars which horrifies my daughters. In that tussle, the braver cat slinks behind the wood stove and regains his favored position.
My oldest has no heat in her apartment, worries about her houseplants, has heat and then again has no heat. She texts me before five in the morning, and then my brother and I lie awake and text each other through the bedroom wall. I write, looks rough in Buffalo. I make endless pots of coffee. My brother, the brewery owner, drinks beer. We play Concentration, Chinese Checkers, Wordle.
The bathroom needs painting, and we discuss paint options, how Steam might pair with Orange Juice like our father’s study. The remains could be used in our tiny dining room.
After he’s home, he sends me three photos. In one, my youngest as a tiny girl stands in a borrowed homemade dress with mud smeared to her elbows and daubed on her face. My oldest leans down from an apple tree, sunlight in the leaves over her head. My brother pedals a tricycle. I remember the summer day I took that photo of my youngest. We had stopped by a site where her father was building a house. So much mud, so much pleasure for this child. Years later, I saw that homeowner ice skating with his young daughter. How much I wanted to know if he still lived in that house. How well had it held up for him? Instead, we exchanged chit-chat about the ice, and I never learned his story.
In the dog’s absence, the cats retake their rug and wood stove territory, protagonists in their own cat-language drama.