by Sean Ennis
It is true that there are too many guitars in this world, all the strumming and plucking. Grace puts on Lee Montgomery or Bob blabbermouth Dylan and it’s like she’s trying to hurt my feelings. “This is American music,” she says. We’re sort of enjoying each other’s company in the car port. A stray cat we feed is obviously sick and so there’s this moral dilemma. Not every animal in this family gets an automatic, expensive trip to the vet. He may just have to tough it out—there are limits to our compassion. The cat is just licking its food. Grace says, “Fine, you pick a song,” and this never happens. I look at my library for five minutes, trying to make my case, and choose something made by a musical algorithm. It has no heart or social critique, but plenty of if/then programming. These days I’m after a sound I’ve never heard before. The sick cat’s name is Valentine, and he doesn’t know we talk about him quite a bit. He is worrying us. Coincidentally, I bought a new shovel. Grace doesn’t like my music now, though I courted her with songs years ago. My father once dealt with the strays tearing up mom’s garden with bowls of antifreeze. They cannot resist it, though, of course, it’s poison. He’s more of a dog person. When I bought the shovel, I was thinking about removing the holly bushes in front of the house. I was thinking about restarting my own garden. I was thinking every house needs a quality shovel. Valentine, who used to be bossy, is in decline. We don’t know his history, medical or otherwise. He’s on the hood of my car, very likely suffering. Grace puts on a song from our youth, a compromise in our argument. It is “Holidae In,” a song so fun and stupid, and about as deep as a dinner plate. The lyrics come flooding back to us. These days, we do enjoy getting a hotel room, two towns over. It’s like a fake vacation. We order fresh baked cookies after ten o’clock and the delivery person sneaks down the hotel hallway and knocks quietly on our door. It feels luxurious. Grace might even take a bubble bath and drink Le Marca. In the mornings, we spend $40 on donuts. What the guitar says to me is, I’ve run out of ideas. What Valentine says to me is, Help. What Grace says to me is, Babe?
Sean Ennis is the author of Chase Us: Stories (Little A) and his fiction has recently appeared in Pithead Chapel, Rejection Letters, Maudlin House and Wigleaf. More of his work can be found at seanennis.net