[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Jennifer Michael Hecht, has ended. Original price: 99 cents. Final price: $10.50.]
Kathy can remember how she left both of her ex-husbands but she can’t remember how she left Jeffrey. She can remember a phone call that seemed to finalize that she was leaving him with his father but she isn’t sure when that happened or why. Kathy is pretty and rich, but she loathes herself and everyone except Jeffrey. When she is with Jeffrey she loathes herself less, except she gets some sharp stabbing pains of it. She has been with him a lot lately, so has been drinking a lot less.
She is awake alone in the middle of the night. The very nice man she lives with is asleep in their bed at the top of her town house, two flights upstairs. She can turn on lights, make normal noise with a beer bottle against the table. She is drinking a yellow beer with lime in it. The house is warm but not warm enough for no pants and Kathy is wishing pants weren’t two flights away. For the time being she isn’t moving. She’s only had one beer since she got up, but she drank more than a few the night before.
Kathy is smoking a joint in the kitchen and looking at Michael Phelps on a Corn Flakes box. Phelps won eight gold medals swimming in the Olympics and then lost his Corn Flakes endorsement deal because of a photograph of him smoking a bong. Kathy’s boyfriend saw a pre-bong cereal box at the supermarket and snatched it up. He likes things like this. Now the Phelps cereal box has been mounted prominently for many months on a kitchen shelf. Phelps is in the pool up to his neck, holding up one finger and smiling like crazy. She takes a hit and smiles back at him. She replies to his “We’re number one” finger with her own. She rests her lighter on a ceramic figurine of the “Hakuna Matata” guys from The Lion King. Kathy had been to Kenya with her second husband and people there said “Hakuna matata” the way we say, “No problem,” and they pronounce it like a machine gun, fast and hard.
Kathy had grown up with Baloo the bear in Jungle Book as her icon of happiness through low expectations. The bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, the bare necessities of life. As she remembered it, you just eat whatever you find under a log. Kathy is on her second beer. The paper towel wrapped around it is wet from bottle sweat. Drawn-out syllables are playing in her head, “Haah koo na ma tata, what a wonderful phrase. Haah koo na ma ta tahh, it’s no passing craze.”
Kathy picks up the ceramic figurine and closes her hand around it. It is cooler than room temperature; its shape massages her tight palm and fingers. She considers throwing it at Phelps, just to see which way the box would fall but decides it would seem hostile. She chooses instead to duplicate the warthog’s position. Leaving the beer in the kitchen, but bringing the figurine, Kathy walks into the parlor and looks down at the rug. Mutters “Jeffrey’s pillows,” and eases herself down to them. She puts one pillow on her belly, as if it were a meerkat. Closes her eyes.