by Harbor Rungwarty
The vet’s waiting room was carpeted in a color that would hide poop and vomit stains easily. It clashed noticeably with my shoes, but I did not let this disturb me. Chim-cham, my faithful Senegalese, had been off his feed for nearly a week. I was getting very worried.
“He’s very handsome,” the woman sitting next to me said, nodding at Chim-cham. She was wearing odd white sandals and a flimsy sun dress, and was probably in her mid-thirties. A very fat gray cat sat on her lap purring.
“Thank you,” I said.
“What’s his name?”
“Oh how cute! He looks just like a Chim-cham.”
“And who is your lit—uh, your friend, there.”
“This,” she said, raising the huge ball of fur up so that it stood on its hind legs, “is Pablo Neruda. I named him after a famous poet. He’s my little poet, isn’t he? Mwuhmuh-bahbah.” She continued to mewl incoherently in the cat’s ear. The cat pleaded with me with its eyes, asking for rescue. But it was simply too rotund to make an escape on its own.
“He’s a very big boy,” I said.
“Yes,” the woman said, furrowing her brow. “The doctor put him on a diet about a month ago.”
“Oh, and it’s not working?” I said, trying to sound compassionate rather than judgmental.
“It is and it isn’t.” She shook the kitty from side to side to make it look like it was dancing.
“I’m not familiar with diets that both work and do not work at the same time.”
The woman stared off, out the window at the front of the room. She stuck out her bottom lip, sucked her teeth. “Well… I’m losing my cat’s weight.”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, I’m feeding him less. Lower calorie stuff, healthy stuff the doctor recommended. But Pablo Neruda is not losing the weight. I am.”
“That can’t be right,” I said. “Are… are you serious?”
“I’ve lost seventeen pounds since he’s been on the diet.”
“That could be any number of things. Are you eating as much as usual? Are you ill?”
“I thought of all the possibilities. It didn’t matter how much I ate; I was still shedding pounds. But to test the theory, I started to feed him like I used to, and I started gaining weight back. I don’t know of a type of cancer or tapeworm that responds when you feed your cat—do you?”
“It’s unheard of,” I said, truly at a loss.
“You’ve heard of it now, though. Isn’t that right, Pablo Neruda? Yes it is!” She kissed the cat aggressively as it tried to worm free of her grasp.
“What are you going to tell the vet?”
“Oh, I already talked with him on the phone earlier. We’ve agreed that renting out Pablo Neruda to people who want to lose weight seems like a really good business model. We only need to verify that his new ‘owners’ will be losing the weight instead of me. Yes, that’s right, Pablo Newuda. Mummy gonna sell you to stwangers, yesh she ish!”
The nurse called out, “Mrs. Tressant? Come on back.”
The woman stood, hefting the fat cat over one shoulder. “Nice chatting with you,” she said, then followed the nurse back to the exam room.
Chim-cham shook his head.
“What?” I asked him.
“That muthafuckin’ cat stole my idea!” he said.
“Language, Chim-cham,” I chided.
“I was trying to drop a few pounds off your fat ass so you wouldn’t be hoggin’ up the whole damn bed at night! But that cat done beat me to it.”
I considered what he’d said for a minute. My clothes were fitting more loosely in the recent days.
“You are making me lose weight?” I asked, still incredulous.
“Shit, I hope that’s not something you can patent. If that fuckin’ Pablo Neruda gets the rights to this whole weight loss thing, I ain’t never gonna get a decent night’s sleep. Not with your big butt pushin’ me off the edge when you roll over.”
“Oh, now, Chim-cham, you have to let all that anger go. You aren’t getting any patents.”
“iPhone ripped me off! I came up with that shit!”
“No one is going to believe that a Senegalese invented something as intricate and awesome as the iPhone. You know that.”
“I just wish we would have gone to court,” he said. He rested his head on my lap. And I sang him his favorite lullaby while I lost another pound.
Harbor Rungwarty is the most beautiful woman you will never see. She was born out of the ocean foam when it dried on a butterfly’s wings. In truth, she hates pets, but don’t tell that to Chaka, her Senegalese.