From Jerome’s vantage, he could see the mass of remaining body parts and a pool of blood spread out before him in the grass. It was late afternoon and the sun was low on the horizon, his favorite time of day to hunt. He looked at the viscera and the assortment of still-warm organs protruding from the carcass before him. Delight filled him as he thought about how he’d savor each of them, one by one. First, the heart. He loved the way the first bite sent a gusher of blood through his mouth and down his throat. He’d munch it down before moving on to the lungs. Everyone disparages lungs, but texturally, they were among Jerome’s favorite. The air pockets provided just a slight bit of crunch the sound and texture of which made Jerome squeal with ecstasy. And then there was the liver. He liked to save it for last. Its rich, fatty smoothness was regarded as a delicacy across species and cultures for good reason. He always started with the head of course. It was what had landed the the little beast in the disembodied spot it now laid. Jerome put his foot down on the little bird’s breast and tore away its head tossing the whole thing to the side in one swift motion.

He sat in this sunny spot scarfing down the rest of the bird, the fuzzy brown sparrow, in convulsive, guttural chomps. He eased the chunky bits of flesh and quills down his throat. It was here, in the spill of afternoon light, warmed by the sun’s heat and the sated feeling of accomplishment that Jerome gazed across the lawn. Without noticing the approach, suddenly he was cast into darkness as something stood in the golden afternoon rays. A shadow fell across him.

 “Goddamnit Jerome! What have you done to that poor little bird?”

His minder. The only one who started nearly all his sentences with that familiar refrain “goddamnit Jerome…” He’d heard it a thousand times before. 

The muffled rantings of a grown man bent over, his face toward the floor, followed by the grunting struggle of standing back upright “Goddamnit Jerome, how many times have I told you about knocking things off the table?”

The yawps from another room, across the house “Goddamnit Jerome, no more scratching the furniture!”

Or the one that was his favorite, despite its menacing tone, “Goddamnit Jerome, can’t you keep it in the box?”

The minder was a somewhat ogreish man. He’d come home from work and kick his shoes off by the door. He’d trundle about the house in his socks for a while until he’d eventually change into a pair of dingy threadbare sweatpants and a cat hair-covered hoodie that bore the name of some place he hadn’t been in a decade. Niagara Falls it read over the top of a graphic depicting the location that did not do the actual place’s majesty any justice. After spending an hour at his desk, answering questions in chatrooms devoted to Python and Ruby on Rails, he’d prepare dinner for the two of them. For the minder it was usually an inexpensive cut of meat bathed in a store-bought simmer sauce and some vegetables from the freezer. For Jerome, it was a few slices of lox or maybe some canned sardines and a tiny saucer of milk. He’d prepare their feasts simultaneously setting Jerome’s bounty down on the floor to the side of the refrigerator. “Here you go, buddy” he’d say as Jerome circled his feet in anticipation of the evening’s tribute. As Jerome dove nose first into the ornately decorated ceramic bowl, the minder would gently stroke his back. Giving just the right amount of attention to Jerome’s shoulders, lower spine and hips, he would purr in delight. “That’s a good boy,” the minder would say in a tone one normally reserved for a small child. “Good kitty.”

Typically, Jerome found it patronizing to be referred to as “kitty.” The moniker lacked a certain amount of gravitas Jerome felt he deserved. However, with a mouth full of fish, and the minder giving special focus to the spot just above his tail, Jerome wasn’t bothered much. Furthermore, it was far preferred over the angry grumblings that nearly always started with “Goddamnit Jerome…”

When Jerome was finished with his fish plate and milk pairing, he’d wander off to a warm spot to give himself a bath and take a nap. Often he’d curl up by the radiator in the living room or occasionally he’d find a spot atop a pillow on the minder’s bed. He’d nap for an an hour or so while the minder ate his own dinner. Later in the evening when things quieted down, Jerome would reconvene with the minder as he sat on the couch watching Sci-Fi of dubious quality. Jerome would curl up on the minder’s chest as he laid on the sofa. He could smell the oily and splattered remnants of dinners past on the minders sweatshirt. Atop his sternum, just above his belly, he’d nestle himself in and try to implant just a few more hairs deeply into the fibers of the minder’s clothes.

Eventually, the minder would stir. Perhaps he too had drifted off, cozy and warm on the plush sofa after a long workday, the soft purring eleven pound heater having lulled him to sleep. Gently, he would slide his hands underneath Jerome. Trying to disturb him as little as possible, he would lift the fuzzy cat ball and place him gently to the side as he slid himself out from underneath. Jerome would often shift a little bit, but settle back into a heavy slumber in the now-heated groove the minder’s large torso had left in the cushion of the couch. Quietly and softly the minder would give Jerome’s upturned chin a loving stroke, grazing his hand lightly across his face and then down his exposed side-body. For a moment, the minder would gaze at Jerome, watching the sweetness of this fuzzy creature’s restful breathing. The rise and fall of his chest suggesting an innate perfection the minder sometimes found hard to grasp. In that moment, all was forgiven. Turning off the television and then the lights, the minder would make his way to the bedroom. It was when he traded his frowsy house clothes for proper pajamas, that he usually noticed the large wet spot on his sweatshirt near the center of his chest. This spot, a tiny puddle of varying size depending on the day was the byproduct of Jerome sleeping so heavily that he’d drool all over the thing he was sleeping on, in this case the minder himself. As the minder caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, groggy and disheveled, the wet spot was often the first thing he noticed. With a chuckle and smile, under his own breath he’d say “goddamit Jerome.”

~ by namderf on March 13, 2022.