|Image: David Hockney|
Under the courtroom skylight, sun rays settled ethereal on the judge’s silver head, he looked up, said: "Many of whom have multiple aliases." The man blinked, confused, explained to the judge.
The woman had fingered Tibetan prayer beads during their interview, admired his ancient oriental carpet, claimed her parents had one in the same pattern, Qum, popular in Persia, she’d said correctly. She studied the photos of his grown kids in tarnished brass frames, bored into their eyes, said she saw inner goodness, remarked on the health of his house plants, asked for his secret to success, struck an old, flinty spark inside him, said sweetly, "Call me Christine."
Most of all she said she liked his cat, said every home should have a black one for luck. She stroked the beloved animal’s sleek, preserved sides, the taxidermy a gift from his kids, those he loved perpetuating what he’d loved after his wife passed on. He’d smiled, then, clapped her bony shoulder, smelled jasmine playing in her wispy hair, handed her keys to the basement unit, helped her move in.
He'd carried his cat down, put it on the kitchen counter, checked the faucet for drips, said he’d get a wrench, trudged up stairs to his house, tumbled down the back side of love. She declined his offer of dinner that night, gently asked him to go, said she’d give his cat back.
Some days later, noises began under his floor boards. Ripping, banging, drilling. He went down, he told the judge, and she opened the door a crack, said she needed written notice before permitting entry. She told him to call her Wanda, another day it was Gretchen, then Kim and Cecily. He pounded on the door and plaintively called out "Christine," demanded his cat.
With a police officer by his side, he finally unlocked her door, found the empty apartment in dusty disarray, light fixtures ripped out, molding yanked loose, carpet torn up. The black cat lay tipped over in a corner, beside razor blades, slitted snapshots of him and his children littering the floor. Steely fear sliced him to the bone. He took back his cat, brushed plaster from its dusty fur, put it back in its place upstairs.
She sued him for breaking and entering, stealing his own dead cat, for disturbing her peace. She called the city building inspectors, said the place was a wreck, and they agreed. The widower, gutted of trust, stuffed with grief, cradled his dead cat in a paper sack, squirmed at the defendant’s table. The judge called her Jennifer, another one of her many aliases. He gripped the sack, leaned back, dissolved into the acrid vapor.
(From a newspaper report)