The Drowning Gull 1 - Page 40

as she pronounces her imagined uses for my chevalet and my sawhorse. Most of those applications are directed at the nasties that demand graft from the homeless. None of those visualisations include safe words.

When her session is over, Annabelle helps me- while wearing the latex gloves I always insist that she don for her own protection- sweep up all manner of debris from both my office and my lobby. I wish I could afford to hire her, even on a part-time basis, to be my cleaning lady. I wish I could rent an apartment for her-- or, in the least, cut through the red tape that keeps her from finding a spot in the closest shelter. I wish, too, for world peace.

Sometimes, Annabelle eyes my stack of sleep sacks and mutters that it would be great if I could spare an old one; that the bridge she lives under is cold in the winter. If hydration was not a safety issue with such toys, I would gladly give her a new one. Other times, she looks at my row of hobble skirts and asks if I have an extra to spare. Again, concern for her well-being makes me always say “no.”

Tonight, at least, I have that basket of kittens she can choose from. I give her the one she holds to her chest. I know that Annabelle’s kitten will run away from her cardboard box and might, consequently, drown in the river. I can’t decide if giving Annabelle is a pet is a kindness or a cruelty.

After she leaves, I gently set the rest of the wee felines into a carton that I had punctured with holes. Howie will be surprised. What’s more, we'll have to find a pet sitter for them while we visit Mammoth Spring’s karst system and otherwise gambol among the bare peach trees of Oregon County’s December.

The Drowning Gull