“Schrödinger was a son of a bitch” she said.
I was in the middle of crushing. I didn’t appreciate her theorizing all over my hard-pressed labour. I decided to humour her anyway.
“Why is that”
“He forgot a simple scientific fact.”
I proceeded to crush the tiny green leaves under my calloused thumbs.
“All cats”, she spat in a spitting way obviously irked by my disinterest, “have nine lives.”
I nodded. This was the problem with Sheba. She thought she was the granddame on the fundamental theories of physics. I have yet to break the news to her that she was hallucinating. She wasn’t a cat. In fact, she wasn’t even remotely feline.
“Let me do that,” she purred in her fake cat voice and sidled over to where I was sitting. It was hard to concentrate on what I was doing when Sheba started sidling and purring and bending over in that very fake-catlike manner of hers. She ran her tongue all along the side of the paper, rolled it, lit it and put it between her lips. I watched my hard work go up in smoke as she sat there with her big fat Cheshire-cat grin.
“So,” she said between puffs, “what’s this I hear about it all ending tonight.”
“You’re not in it.”
“I was in your last one.”
“That wasn’t you.”
“Well, it sure as hell wasn’t your ex-wife, she was as flat as a cutting board.”
I decided to just agree with everything Sheba said. It was the only way to shut her off. I went back to my computer and started up from where I had left it.
I’d been working on this novel for nine years. It’s finally here. This where it all ends, tonight. My fingers began to itch. It meant something monumental was up.
“Speaking of your ex-wife” she said stubbing the last of her joint into the mahogany table, “I saw her with her lover today.”
I tried to ignore Sheba. She disappeared into the kitchen and I heard the clanking of ice upon glass. She came back and leaned against the desk. She placed a small glass of rum and coke on the table by the computer. She knows I don’t like ice. There were two cubes swishing in there. I took a swig.
“So what happens to him?”
“I can’t say.”
“You might as well. Or I’ll just come back later when you’re asleep and read everything you wrote.”
“Good. So then you’ll know.”
“You should make him fly, you know.”
“You should mind your own business, you know.”
She pushed the glass on to my lap. I picked up a napkin lying nearby and dabbed the inside of my jeans. These were new. I picked up the empty glass from the carpet and placed them on the desk again. I needed to finish this tonight.
Sheba was sulking on the sofa. She had lit herself another one and was cradling a drink. One of these days I need to tell her she’s not a cat. I also need to get her to stop stealing all of my drinks and cigarettes. But not today. Today was His day.
My bones were tingling. I’ve been watching him for nine years now. I spawned him, followed him, dissected every action of his insignificant life in minute detail. I knew how he liked his coffee in the morning, what shampoo he used, the length of his inside leg. I felt a little like God. Or the Devil. I’m not sure which. I get confused.
“So what’s going to happen to him?”
She was slurring now. I bet she’s gone through another bottle of rum already. I need to hide them better the next time. I don’t know how she always manages to find them.
“You’ll know when I’m done.”
“You’ve been saying that for nine years.”
“Yeah? So what’s nine more.”
She came up to the computer and perched herself on the edge. She was going to strip now, I knew it. That was always her way of getting attention.
“That’s another thing. Nine. Why nine lives? I mean, why not ten? Or seventeen?”
“You’re not happy with nine? Most of us just get one life.”
“Yeah, but one is fine. It’s like...” she started curling and uncurling her fingers in the air as though snatching as an elusive invisible word hanging in the ether “...meaningful, you know? Nine is just arbitrary.”
“So is 34.”
“The length of his inside leg.”
“I thought it was your age.”
“You’re off by nine years.”
“You look 43.”
“Thanks, I love you too.”
She sat back looking smug and starting drinking again. Things were really happening now. Words were flying out of my fingers like lightning bolts slicing through a muddle of unrealized eventualities. I should have been Zeus. I can so carry off a toga.
“Getting somewhere huh?”
She had been silent for some time. I forgot she was still here. I was amazed she was still awake given the amount she’d drunk.
“Want a smoke?”
“Fine. I’ll get it myself.”
There were days when I wished Sheba would disappear. Like today. She was being irritable and cranky and breaking my concentration. Somedays I wished I never created her.
“I met you during my second.”
“No, silly. Life.”
“Yes, that makes so much more sense. Seeing how you’re not really a cat and you’ve only had one life, and a shit one at that.”
“I could be a cat.”
She sighed loudly. She was getting whiny, I could tell she was getting whiny by the length of her sighs.
“You’re being a real bitch today, you know”
“Right back atcha, kid.”
She banged the empty glass loudly on the table and stomped noisily to the kitchen. That was her way of showing she was not amused. I got back to my writing.
The novel was a saga. At least, it was 700 pages long, and by my standards that qualified as a saga. The protagonist was male, and he drank and he smoked and he whored around. He was also slowly going insane. No one knew this, but of course I knew this. I had to know; I created him.
“What do I have to do with anything.”
She was back. I had gotten used to the comfortable clattering of the keys amidst the silence of the room – something she shattered with her whininess.
“What do I have to do with anything?” she asked again.
“Then why am I here?”
“Fuck you back.”
“What are you, like, twelve?”
I didn’t look up from the computer. I was on a roll here.
“Maybe I’m here.... so I can fly.”
She was getting that wistful tone into her voice again. That never bodes well.
“You can’t fly.”
“You can make me fly.”
“No. I can make you disappear. It’s not the same thing.”
“If you can make me disappear, why haven’t you already?”
Sheba was really starting to annoy me. Sometimes she sounded just like mom. Especially when her voice hit that annoyingly mocking nasal-tone. It was like she knew she’s hit a nerve, but didn’t know exactly which nerve, and so will go on digging and digging and digging like trying to pick at a splinter with a pair of boxing gloves. And she’ll do it till I make her stop. Or drink myself to oblivion.
I reached out for the glass by the computer. It was filled with rum again. Neat, this time. She must’ve gone into the kitchen and fetched it for me. There was ice floating in it again. I gulped it down and set the empty glass on the table, cubes clinking against each other.
“Most writers I know always have their characters under control.”
“You don’t know any writers.”
“I know you.”
“And you’re not a writer.”
“Whatever you say.”
She was starting to give me a headache. I reached for the bottle of rum.
“So how’s the story coming?”
“Fine, till you interrupted.”
“I’m just eager to know the ending, that’s all.”
“You’ll get there.”
“Am I in it?”
“If you’re nice, I’ll put you in.”
That seemed to put her in a good mood. She settled in quietly nestling her drink and cigarette. Every time she comes home she litters the place with ashes. I tried telling her to use the ashtray. I gave up after she set my curtains on fire.
I could feel the end beating upon me. It was like this dark, looming thing just at my throat. I hadn’t realized how excited I was. Even I didn’t know what how it was going to end.
“Why does he always die?”
Sheba had woken up from her drunken half-daze.
“Your protagonists. Why do they always die?”
“Protagonist. Singular. And I never said he was going to die.”
“He is anyway... the rate he’s going.”
“Thanks for your insights.”
The headache was returning. I couldn’t find the glass. She must’ve taken it away when I hadn’t noticed.
“You drink too much, John.”
“Thanks for caring.”
I was furiously typing at the keyboard. Maybe the noise of the keys would drown out that dull throbbing ache in my head.
“Do you ever go back to read what you wrote?”
“No. Will do that later. When I’m finished.”
“I’ve read it.”
“Good for you.”
“I read it every night. After you sleep.”
I tried to concentrate through the haze of pain. It’s never been this bad before. I can’t stop now. I pushed myself to continue writing.
“We’re out of cigarettes, John.”
“Fetch yourself a drink.”
“We’re out of that too.”
“We’re out of money, John.”
Almost there. If I could just block her nagging voice out of my head. She, it, that.... all of it. With the pain. I can sense the end drawing near.
I ignored her and continued typing.
Man, she’s persistent.
“John...” she purred. She put her fingers on my arms and started stroking it. Sheba could be good for things like that.
“It’s not going to end tonight, John.”
“Yes, it will.”
“Yes, it will. Just not the way you think.”
She was drinking from the bottle.
“I thought you said we were out of drinks.”
“We are. We’ve been out for nine years now.”
She wasn’t making any sense. I decided to ignore her again and finish my story.
“You drank yourself into a coma. This is limbo, John. “
This was her way of being melodramatic. She was always one for dramatic pauses and grand statements. And now she was standing there stark naked with a bottle in her hand and making these ominous statements. I wish she’d stop making that infernal racket so I can hear myself think. My fingers wouldn’t stop and all the words were coming out wrong. This is not what I wanted.
“You’re not writing a novel, John. You just think you are. You’ll been typing the same sentence everyday for nine years now, where do you think this story is going?”
Sheba is drunk and she’s fucking with my mind. If I could get her to shut up and get back in the story everything would be fine. She insists on talking to me. I wonder if all writers have this problem.
“Make him fly john.” She pleaded.
I stop. And look at the blinking cursor. There. One sentence. I was one sentence away from an ending. The entire novel has been one sentence. Was it a good sentence, I wonder. Too late to tell now. At least I created Sheba.
“Make him fly...” she whispers. Her voice is barely audible right now. She’s stroking my arm again, the way I like it. She’s drunk so much her body starts to shift shape like it always does when she drinks too much. This is the end, I think; she will finally be freed from limbo.
I leave the last sentence half-finished. There’s a dot missing at the end of the line. There’s a line missing at the end of the line. It’s alright. She’ll probably finish it in her next life.
I open the window and stand in front of it. Sheba climbs on my back. It’s a little like Schrödinger’s cat I think and laugh at the irony. Or maybe not. At this point, I can’t tell. I’m just relieved it’s over.
I leap. And Sheba spreads her wings. What do you know, she wasn’t lying after all. She flies with me into the darkness till we reach so high I can’t breathe. I always knew she wasn’t a cat.