Born in New Jersey in Eisenhower times, Mike moved to Georgia in 1965, witnessing much history from that corner. As a professional geologist, he currently works the environmental consulting rackets. Mike also chronicles the preposterous in the form of short stories, novellas, and a manifesto. His work has been recognized in numerous writing competitions. Ten of his short stories, including a Pushcart nominee, have been published. A two-time finalist in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, he has a current total of nine words in that prestigious publication. His wife and two sons are in utter awe of these accomplishments.
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I have no black friends. I had some at work, but now I telecommute. I lost touch with those I had at school and I suppose my church isn’t ‘gospel’ enough. Everyone I know socially is much like me. North European extraction. Boring occupations. Ordinary first names.
When it came to choosing who would first get to work at home, my black co-workers nominated me. I will never forget the breathless way my supervisor, Lateesha, congratulated me. “Mary, it’ll be a better world for everybody from here on.” I can still hear the farewell cheer.
I would welcome any of those people into my home but for one thing: my cat. Kittypants does not like black people. I first noticed when a census worker came by on my second day telecommuting. Imogen, a full-bodied woman with mocha skin, made the questionnaire a delight with her Jamaican lilt and easy laugh. Halfway through, I noticed Kittypants staring out the window. I glanced in the same direction. Nothing there. No bird. No dog, not even another cat. Then it struck me. She deliberately acted as if Imogen did not exist.
A home office is more than a computer and a printer. When I needed to scan some documents, I told Lateesha I would be coming in to use hers. She would not hear of it. “Stay right there, Mary. You’ll have one this afternoon.” We were close. At a King Day service, her daughter recited a portion of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. So moving. I clapped louder and longer than anyone, even after Lateesha asked me to sit back down. I wish she would ask me to her church again.
A handsome Haitian deliveryman, Alain, arrived as promised. Along with the scanner, he brought a shredder and a file cabinet. As I signed for the delivery, he spoke solemnly of the blessings he received since coming to America. Unimpressed, Kittypants plopped down, legs
akimbo, and started licking herself in that disgusting way cats do. I stepped between her and Alain, holding up a throw pillow to block the view. Alain looked puzzled but accepted the pillow graciously. I suppose he thought it a traditional American gift. I won’t make a fuss about it. That’s not me.
Kittypants stared up defiantly as I scolded her. Her dinner consisted of Fishy Fiesta, her least favorite. When Alain returned the next day with a box of office supplies, she stunk up the apartment with an overlong visit to the litterbox. She is incorrigible.
When I share my experience with friends, they say “That’s a cat for ya” or things like that. I remind them this is the kind of stereotyping cats and black people have endured for centuries.
I could use at least two black friends. Don’t want anyone feeling like a token. Message me here on Friendplace. For the time being, this will be our only point of contact. Those requiring validation by small furry animals need not apply.