I work at a singing telegram shop. Pictures dapple the wall: local politicians and celebrities getting a singing telegram. One is of a famous CEO now in prison. The singer, Wonder Woman, had huge breasts. I’ve never dressed as Wonder Woman. No one requests her anymore. My chest is not ridiculously big either. Sal, the owner, doesn’t book me for the bachelors’ parties. Fine, I’m a thespian, a Broadway baby, waiting for my break. I came close once. A call back for an extra dancer. The director told me I have spunk but needed more sleep.
The night before the audition, I drove to my old apartment. My cat ran away. Cats sometimes return home, even years later. I stalked her, not my ex. I saw him with take-out and that leggy blonde he’d left me for. I stopped going there months ago when I no longer saw his car.
“Doll face, you’re up,” says Sal. The mole below his left eye waves its long, black hair at me.
“Not another Marilyn Monroe!” Blondes never go out of style.
“A sexy birthday gram. Courtesy of his wife.”
* * *
I adjust my corset, racing up the stairs. It’s Wednesday evening, early spring, still too cold for fishnets and no jacket. I knock.
She calls out, “Will you get that.”
I look at the telegram for his name: Frank. Has to be a Frank. The name is too common. I angle my Derby over my eyes, rest on my left leg, and stretch my arms around each other over my head.
The door opens.
“Happy Birthday, Franky Boy.” Jazz hands. “He has the lovin’ and the ladies come a runnin.” Right foot up to my knee, I kick it out and spin around. He drops a TV flicker. “Another year older and still no holdin’ him down.” I lean back, shimming on his chest and then bend over, arching my back. I roll up, a hand holding my hat. “That’s right ladies, he’s a jump, jump, humping hound.” I pirouette and land in second position. My hat out in front of my chest. Franky Boy is my Frank, who just seven months ago told me my nightly face lotion smelled like rotting mangos. I just offered him my ass. “Happy birthday, Franky Boy. Happy birthday to you.” I blow him a kiss. My heart thumps jackrabbit quick.
He has more gray hair and deeper forehead lines. He still looks good though. During those sleepless nights, I’d miss his hair sweat and his sleep apnea. Ginger Snap used to sleep by my stomach. The words, I still love you, asshole enter my head. I fear I’ll tell him and turn to leave.
“Wait,” says his wife. That blonde, beach ball-pregnant, steps up. Her belly ushers in pure hate. I could’ve spat. “I want to take a picture….shoot.” She smiles at Frank. “I left it in the bedroom.”
“I don’t know where,” he says.
“I’ll get it. Back in a sec.”
He closes the door a bit behind him. “So. How’ve you been?”
“I’m sorry but Lilly doesn’t know…” He looks behind himself, opens the door, and whispers, “Please.”
“Picture time.” Lilly grabs my shoulders and swaps places with me. “Big smiles!”
I’m all teeth, like a third grader.
“Frank, put your arm around her.”
He does. I clench my jaw.
“Now put your hat on his head.”
“I don’t think―” An animal squeezes itself in-between her legs with a raspy mew. She licks her white paw. “Ginger Snap.” I bend down, seethingly calm, and pet her while staring at Frank. The creases around his eyes twitch.
“That’s Puddles,” says Lilly.
I lift the cat. Ginger Snap purrs. I didn’t mean anything, I tell her, and that I once had a cat just like this one.
“When my ex and I broke up, he kicked me out and told me the cat ran away.”
“I think he kept her.”
“What an awful man. Right, Frank?”
“I’m sure she has other clients.”
Lilly waddles inside. “Wait, I got your tip.”
He turns and watches his wife walk away. Franky has a huge whitehead in his nose. I’m sure it hurts; Lilly will be too distraught to pop it for him later.
“I want my cat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” He closes the door behind him.
It sucks how quickly love dies, but lingers too, like a sucker-punch. “The cat, or I tell.” Ginger Snap paws my nose.
Kathryn V. Jacopi is a graduate with an MFA in fiction from Fairfield University. She also has an MS in Special Education and BA in English with a concentration in writing. Kathryn’s professional accomplishments include a publication in Elm City Review, staff writer for the Pictorial Gazette, admission to the One Story Emergent Writers Workshop, and a nomination for teacher of the year by Sylvan Learning Center. Currently, she is an adjunct professor for The Core Writing Program at Fairfield University.
Lead image: “Untitled” (via Flickr user giveawayboy)