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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. V

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn moreGet Into Our Shorts Contest

JOHNNY WAS DEAD WHEN I got home.

I opened the door, and do you know what? I knew. I couldn’t feel him anymore, is the only way I can describe it. You might think that’s crazy, but that’s the way it was.

After a while, I found him in the coat closet, curled up in the back corner. He hardly took up any room — he was the smallest I’d seen him since he was a kitten. I crawled in there with him and took one of his tiny paws between my fingers, and I thought of little Andrew Lloyd Webber all alone in Wendy’s empty apartment. And I started to cry. I cried for him, and I cried for all the cats in the world who don’t have love, and at least that’s one thing Johnny had. You can take everything else away, but at the very least he had love.

THAT NIGHT MY PHONE rang, and it was Sherry, which is funny because I couldn’t remember ever giving her my home number.

“I’ve been calling everyone.” She sounded out of breath. “Something awful’s happened.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “Is it Wendy?”

“Oh, Eunice,” she said, and that’s when I heard the catch in her voice, and a second later, she was sobbing.

“Shhh,” I said. “It’s okay. Let it out.”

By this time, I’d taken Johnny to the vet. I’d said goodbye to him, and the nurse had given me a big hug, and then I’d come home to my empty apartment.

“Wendy, she —”

“I know. I know it’s hard. Shhh.” (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. IV

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn moreGet Into Our Shorts Contest

THE NEXT DAY WAS a Friday so I had my reports to do, and I was also preoccupied with thinking about the night before.

The clinic had been decorated with garlands and plastic holly, and the vet had poked and prodded Johnny, and he didn’t complain — he never was a complainer — but I could tell he was feeling anxious. Before we left, they recommended lots of rest, and I told them he’d been doing that already, and they said that’s good, but then I caught the vet and the nurse exchanging a glance that they didn’t think I saw.

I was also feeling bad for how short I’d been with Sherry the day before, because all she’d really wanted was my company, and all she wanted us to do was help a sick friend — a dying friend — together. I was planning on saying something nice to her when I went to deliver my reports, but she beat me to it.

She walked by on her way to lunch and stopped in front of my desk and smiled at me. “Eunice,” she said in a very sincere voice, and I knew she was going to ask me about Johnny because Sherry is the type to look to the future and let bygones be bygones. “Eunice,” she said, “how is your day going?”

“Oh, Sherry,” I said and heard my voice catch, “he’s not doing very well.” Then I realized she hadn’t asked about Johnny at all.

Sherry made a sad face where she stuck out her bottom lip and sort of folded it over her top lip, and she stared at me for a good fifteen seconds before I mustered up a smile and said, “Thanks for asking, Sherry.”

“Well,” she said with a wink, “you know me!”

I nodded and switched my gaze to the Grand Canyon. The way the edges of my computer screen framed that natural wonder, it humbled me to see it. Johnny and I are specks, I thought to myself. We are teeny-tiny specks, the two of us. (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. III

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

THE NEXT DAY, SHERRY and Val and Ruth P. went to visit Wendy on their lunch hour. I could’ve gone with them if I wanted to, but it was a Thursday and my reports are due on Friday, and the three of them were gone for more than an hour, and I can’t afford that kind of time the day before I have to hand in my reports.

They brought Ruth P.’s card that we’d all signed with Ruth C.’s pen (I wrote, “Eat lots of Jell-O!” because I was trying to think of something nice associated with hospitals, and the fact that they often serve Jell-O was the only good thing that came to mind), and Sherry told me later that day that Wendy had been in good spirits. She was sitting up and joking with the gals about not having to do her weekly score sheets for Mr. Vanderhoeven. Wendy’s score sheets are quantitative and my reports are qualitative — there’s a big difference.

“Did you tell her about the kitten?” I said.

Sherry squinted. “No, I don’t think we mentioned the kitten. But Wendy said our card was very thoughtful, and she really appreciated my idea about us keeping up her apartment while she wasn’t there, but she said she’d like to wait for the biopsy results before we started that because she might be going home soon. She said she was hoping for the best.” Sherry took a deep breath. “And then there were tears.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “Wendy started to cry?”

“No, I did. We’ve gotten so close, Wendy and me, and I couldn’t bear to see her lying in that hospital bed wearing that ratty nightgown of hers, surrounded by all sorts of equipment. Not that she’s hooked up to any of it, but it’s there, you know?”

I stood up then, and I put my arms around Sherry. She feels so deeply about her friends, I thought, but who’s feeling deeply about her? So I hugged her and said, “Maybe there’s still good news to come.” (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. II

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

FOR THE NEXT FEW weeks, Sherry came by on her way to lunch to give me the latest on how Wendy was doing — “She’s sleeping better,” or “She threw up six times today, can you believe that?” You could depend on Sherry to have her finger on it.

At the end of each day, I’d go home to Johnny, and we’d sit and watch our shows together, and every so often I’d notice he was a bit lighter than before. I remembered when he used to be big and round and I’d tried to put him on a diet a few times. “To make you svelte,” I used to tell him, but it never worked because he enjoyed his food too much. I petted him and felt his ribs poking me and said, “You’re a svelte kitty now, Johnny. What a handsome, svelte kitty you are.”

ABOUT A MONTH LATER, Sherry came by my desk looking very emotional, and I could tell right away something big had happened because Sherry gets emotional when it comes to her friends.

“Eunice, you can’t imagine what I’ve been through. Yesterday I realized Wendy’s been off for a month — an entire month, Eunice. I called her up and said, ‘This is ridiculous. A person does not miss a whole month of work without something being seriously wrong.’ I said, ‘Wendy, you are unwell, and we need to get you to a doctor. And if it means me driving you to the emergency room and waiting with you until you are seen, then so be it. So that’s what I did.” Sherry gasped suddenly at my computer screen. “Oh God, look at those palm trees. What I wouldn’t give to be there right now, sipping rum punch with the sand between my toes. Right, Eunice? You know what I’m talking about.”

I didn’t, but I stared at my tropical getaway screen saver and tried to imagine the real thing.

Sherry told me she drove to Wendy’s apartment, and Wendy looked about as bad as she’d ever seen her. She was all curled up on her couch in a filthy stained nightgown, and her apartment “looked like a garbage bomb had hit it.” (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. I

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

OUR OFFICE IS VERY community-minded. We hold two food drives a year: the first one at Thanksgiving and the second one not at Christmas, because the poor people get so much food from other food drives at Christmas that we like to surprise them with something extra on a random day when they’re not expecting it.

We also look out for, as Sherry puts it, “our own little community.” People are always asking how everybody is, how everybody’s family is. Personally, I have never had much time for socializing at work. My reports keep me busy all day, right up until five o’clock when I would go home to Johnny.

Every so often, Sherry would come by my desk, sometimes after one of her vacations, and ask me how my day was going. That was about the extent of my socializing. I couldn’t even tell you how many places Sherry’s been; I know she’s been to China and Australia, and when you go that far away you have to go for at least three weeks because of the jet lag. I only know that from Sherry. The farthest I’ve ever been was to Florida with my family, and it wasn’t even all that warm when we went.

“That Wendy’s not right,” is what Sherry said to me when she came by my desk that October noon hour, and I honestly had to think for a minute before I could picture who she meant.

“Wendy who?” I was eating my ham sandwich, and the polar ice caps were on my computer screen. Apparently they’re starting to melt, if you can believe that. I gazed at that big stretch of white and I thought, Winter is coming. Then my wheat field scene came on, with the environmentally friendly windmills, and I felt reassured.

“Wendy, who sits next to me!” said Sherry. “Haven’t you seen her lately? She looks awful, and she smells awful because she’s throwing up all the time. I think she’s sick with something.” (more…)

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