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DecomP Magazine

Kate Duva

Kate Duva is a dancer, writer and schoolmarm living in Chicago and working on a novel about her adventures in rural Bosnia. Like most of Kate's stories, this one is 99% true. For more from the Duva diaries, see kateduva.blogspot.com.

The cosmetologist did a doozy on Cowboy. Incapable of blushing in his lifetime, he was rosy and dollish in the casket, a shell of the man who told me, when I was three: "Agh, Santa's trading his sled for a fighter jet, and he's gonna shoot all the babies sleeping in their beds!"

Ladies wearing real pearls mewed, "I'm so sorry about your grandfather!" I thanked them, mentally replacing grandfather with Bobo. It was sweet to pretend that this ceremony, in the lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, was all for her.

My woman-sister, married and perfumed, popped her eyes in shock when I laid my head on her chest and sobbed.

"Her kitty's sick," Dad explained. "Girl's makin' an early exit."

The next day, I took Bobo home to die. She looked puffy and limped on gnarled joints and smelled institutional. Kind of like Cowboy. She hissed at me.

Cowboy "passed" in his suburban nursing home, which I enjoyed visiting because we stopped for chicken fingers on the way home.

"I love you, Papa," my sister would say.

"I love you too, but you smell! And you, you little shit! You stink too!"

Cowboy occasionally called to tell us his Caddie had been stolen, or that the monkeys outside in the trees were pissin' him off. "I'll be right over," Dad would say, and sink back into his leather chair, upping the volume on the race or the game.

Dad ordered sweatshirts that said COWBOY, enough so Papa could wear one every day, and the aides never mistook him for his legal name, Cletus. It wasn't Cletus who made Ripley's Believe It or Not as the first man to win an auto race upside down. It was Cowboy.

I painted pictures of my cat. Bobo smoking cigarettes; Bobo with boobies and red stilettos; Bobo as an eight-pawed lotus goddess decked in gold, rising from the ocean.

Bobo had watched me sob, scream, masturbate with fury, and stab myself with toothpicks. When the storms subsided she'd settle on my stomach, purring flamboyantly, massaging my nerves. I dressed her in baby tees and bonnets. As I neared the apex of my puberty, brutally shy and nauseated by everything alive, pleasuremonger Bobo was my only friend.

"I don't go to McDonald's cuz those sons-a-bitches spit in your hamburger and give you AIDS." This was typical dinner talk during Cowboy's golden years. My silent grandma dished out canned-fruit salad with marshmallows, her life one long sigh. We found bottles of booze in her closet when she died, and Dad's baby shoes. I inherited her clown lamp.

Rosy Cowboy descended into the decaying autumn earth in his mahogany box, but I didn't see it. I was home, sit-coms blaring laugh tracks, waiting with Bobo for the vet. I held my cat while she died, with a rubber band tied around her leg, belly patched with pee. I watched her corneas crinkle and felt her turn to matter.