Behave or Be Bounced

by David Bromige

24 pages, saddle-stitched

Sebastopl, 2003

Cover collage by Cecelia Belle






The cat has allowed herself to be tamed. Uh Trained. Not to sing O Sole Miaow. She curls up on one of our pillows at night. This means the wife and I must sleep more closely together. Those who know my wife will exclaim, “Good going, Dave” on learning this. This cat’s name is Olympia. The Games were likely on when we got her. Our daughter was still a kid. She must have had input.


  This is what I wanted, this closeness, this taming or training. It literally brings wife and me closer together. Now I can’t sleep. In 2/3rds of the bed, Cecelia and I wrap closely around one another. Those who have long admired my wife’s beauty will be saying “Good for you, Dave.” I hate to be called “Dave”. Our cat is called Olympia. And for four or five years, that’s how she was, Olympian. Not large, but remote. I was too busy, our daughter was too busy. And her mother? Busiest of all...except for those hours every evening when she disappears.


  Let’s go into that later. Then I had a stroke and the life of small creatures took on new meaning. I felt powerless, reduced, and though my vision was impaired, more visual. More aware of small beings. I began to train myself with Olympia. Our daughter had grown up and left home. She still had a room here and she hadn’t altogether grown up, but I took over training this cat. Painfully shy—painful for me, anyway. And a year goes by, two. It’s just a human life, something of little concern. This has been the 20th Century. I was meant to die when it died. The century. I’m still alive, abiding the next stroke. I don’t think of it all the time. Seems imprudent so to do. Asking for it.


  So, yes, I had a stroke...And clasping one another like drowning mortals, my wife and I occupy two-thirds of our bed. Last night, the fog rolled in. This is a regional piece. It began to feel like sleeping in Saskatchewan in the winter. Only this was for American audiences so got shot in North Dakota. Once, when I got back in from a pee-break, I couldn’t harvest much of the bedding from beneath my wife, so I felt even colder. My wife was supposed to be played by Frances McDormond, but because my actual wife is prettier, she was told to stand-in- for this scene, that calls for some romantic closeness.


Olympia was perfection—curled up in a ball, unresponsive. And they were making a movie of her! The director wore a scarf across his mouth, like a Cambridge undergraduate, to muffle his voice and keep kitty asleep. He was hard to hear. “Do What?” Sometimes I didn’t think I could maintain my position for another second without screaming, which would have ruined the plot.


Life is like a movie. I recall a scene in Mumford, a movie no one has seen. Alfie Woodard and the young man who looked like he was playing a doctor or realtor, took 96 takes to give the director the walking conversation he wanted, until Woodard dissolved into tears. I was so moved I broke the rules and murmured, “You were terrific.” What did I know? But you can’t train cats to do that. Olympia can wake, any moment, get up, stretch, and vanish into the next room. What does my wife do when she’s alone?