She did this–hid things from herself–time capsules to unwrap at a much later date because by the time she got to open it she knew she would no longer remember what was even in there. A surprise that, once opened, would not be a surprise. Sort of like the unfolding of the self. It was an idea she had heard about in her Womens’ Assistance circle in college–back when she thought she had problems, but it turned out that she did not. But the Known Surprise project had stuck with her. She had hidden something from herself every year since 1982 and she planned to do it for the rest of her life.
Lannie’s cat sensed some activity, some focus that might be taken away from her, and so as Lannie poked under her bed with the dinosaur-head grabber, the cat stared intently and poked at the stick with her paw.
“Get out, move,” said Lannie, annoyed that this cat always seemed to need to sit on whatever project she was doing and stop the flow. When Lannie tried to do yoga, the cat would come and stand on the mat while she did down dog. Lannie would have to move her out of the way with her foot with every asana. When Lannie tried to work on her laptop, Ginger Mittens would come and walk right on the keyboard, and sometimes would sit right on it. Or worse, would just hover millimeters away from the keyboard, staring alternately at the screen and at Lannie, judging, waiting, impatiently patient. Ginger Mittens could not stand to have the attention diverted away from her, and she was destined to destroy whatever thing threatened her primacy–destruction, that is, in the form of false benign interest. Way too much false benign interest. Insistent purring and rubbing. Staring. Mewling. Audible public grooming. It was impossible to get even 8 minutes of peace from this cat. Fucking infuriating, thought Lannie, why do I even have this thing?
The cat had been a gift from her sister Judine–her sister who had the three-story house in the Lakes District with her handsome and successful film producer of a husband (Lance), and together they had four beautiful children–overachievers all–two debate stars (Caleth, Benthie) and an equestrian champion (Cerise) and one fluent in Spanish, French, Mandarin, Italian, and Arabic (Geonathan). Judine and Lance owned two vintage BMWs and a wooden sailboat. The recession had not touched them at all–in fact–it had only seemed to make them more secure in their wealth.
“We’ve just invested wisely,” Judine told her one morning over sourdough biscuits with organic jam (locally grown organic apricots lovingly jarred by Cerise) that Lance had made to go along with his hand-ground French press coffee. “And we’re thinking about getting a tenant in the garage space that we just finished renovating–it’s gorgeous up there, have I shown you? All reclaimed hardwood floors, and all that’s left is to paint the walls an meditative fog gray, but we’re waiting for the nontoxic paint to arrive from Bolivia. ” You have to order it specially, you know,” said Judine, patiently letting her coffee cool, not stirring it, not even looking at it,”and because this one place in Bolivia is the only place that makes paints without the usual toxic chemicals that stay in the earth for decades, we have to wait for our internet order to make it to the farm on the back of a donkey, and then the native family that has owned the farm for generations—they hand-mix the paint colors to our specifications, and then load up the donkey again and traipse back along the mountain trail, which can take up to three weeks depending on the local weather patterns, which I’m sure you know are in flux now because of global warming.”
“Yeah, I heard that,” said Lannie.
Lance came in from his run and removed his sweaty t-shirt, revealing a glistening torso of nearly perfect proportions.
“Hey babe,” he said, leaning down to kiss Judine. “Good to see you Lannie,” and he gave her a joking high-five, and bounded upstairs to get in their four-head all-directions shower newly outfitted with authentic tiles from the Mayan empire infused with good spirits and specifically blessed to repel the bad ones. Taking a shower at Judine’s house was a true cleansing, physical and spiritual.
So it was Judine who had given Lannie this cat–a stray–and right when Lannie had started decided to go back to school for creative nonfiction without really understanding what it was. Judine had just picked her up off the street and dropped her off at Lannie’s house while Lannie was in her Tuesday night workshop. It had taken two weeks to get the fleas out of the house, even after Lannie finally figured out what was going on and got the cat dipped. In that two weeks Lannie had fallen behind in her manuscript and had been brought in for a concerned discussion with the workshop leader, a woman named Tyree Apple, who had written a memoir about her personal transformation in 1998, (I Rise Like The Sun) and apparently after her transformation did not see a need to write another book. And Lannie supposed that that was okay. After all, if you were transformed, what was left to do, other than just Be, another thing that had been highly endorsed by her Womens’ Assistance circle back in college.
Lannie got a hold of her package with the dino-grabber and hauled it out. It was a small pink package wrapped with a green ribbon. The cat moved in to an excruciatingly close distance. Lannie did not shoo her away.
Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow
Lannie paid no attention to the desperate cries of Ginger Mittens as she pulled the loose green bow and the pink package sprung open.