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Philip Wexler


Shaded by the blue flowering wisteria, my sister

and I small talked on the recycled plastic bench

before she welled up with tears over her latest

altercation with my best friend. I believed her version

no less than the equally plausible and conflicting one

I gathered from him when he called me to gripe

the day before. She denied most everything

of his account. She simply didn’t understand how

he could be that way. She took me up on my proposal

that the three of us meet at 8 at The Pour Excuse Pub.

I called my best friend later in the day. He was on board

for our get together, though disputing her take on him

and said she was “beyond understanding.”

Into my second beer, I realized he wasn’t coming,

nor was she. I left behind the mug, half-empty

like me, and trudged home. No word from either

of them. “Just one of those things,” I decided,

and crashed out. In the morning, they woke me

with their knocking. There they were at my door,

all smiles, holding hands, inviting me to join them

for breakfast. As I opened my mouth to speak,

their extended palms signaled me to back off from any

cross examination. “It was a misunderstanding,

that’s all,” my sister explained. “Exactly,” my best friend

chimed in. I didn’t press them, and said I understood.

Cat People

Months passed and I had no luck

getting very far with her. Her veneer

was animated but her core, frosty,

impenetrable. I began to grow

tired of the game. I sent flowers

when her cat, Scampi, died,

for all the good it did me, or her,

or Scampi for that matter. I never

did see the creature for she always

had him confined to her bedroom

at the top of the stairs. All I knew

of this off-limits zone, my holy grail,

was the closed pink door keeping me

out. It was her love of Shrimp Scampi

that inspired the cat’s name

but Scampi wasn’t all that lovable.

With regularity, he’d scratch her legs,

hide in any open cupboard or drawer

and throw up in the kitchen sink

or so she’d tell me in exasperation.

I wasn’t sure how genuine

her weepy voice was when

she called with the news

of his demise. Still, I needed

to be sympathetic if I was to have

half a chance with her. Maybe

after the cremation, she would

take comfort in my arms.

Flowers were an easy token.

In a week I called to see

how she was. She thanked me

for my consideration,

and we arranged to have dinner

at Bistro Milano, our usual haunt.

We met inside the entrance.

She was wearing one of her many

silk scarves patterned with cats.

Bubbly and aloof as ever,

a combination she excelled at,

she seemed not to need cheering up.

She let me plant the obligatory

millisecond kiss on her lips.