Thursday, January 27, 2005

Purrz, Baby

"Purrz, Baby" by Vicki Hendricks, Mississippi Review, January 2005

In this story Ms. Hendricks makes the Green-Eyed Monster truly monstrous. And there’s a cat.

Georgia is married to Jack, a history professor. Georgia owns a restaurant and makes more money than Jack, but she still has a self-esteem problem. Though she tries to deny it, she feels intellectually inferior to her husband. That leads to problems when she sees an attractive female colleague of his, Mary Lou, wearing a robe identical to the one he gave her for Christmas.

She sees that as a sign that he is having an affair with Mary Lou. She tries to let it go but keeps picking at it, like continually tonguing a sore tooth. She can't decided what to do about it until one night her husband describes a punishment, called cat-hauling, once used on recalcitrant slaves. Georgia loves cats in general and her own Purrzie in particular, so she starts listening. This is a particularly nasty method that uses live cats as the instrument of punishment. She could never use her beloved Purrzie in that EXACT way, after all it involves pulling them by the tail. However . . .

As the story progresses Georgia works herself into a frenzy of jealousy and revenge, so much so that she stops thinking. A fatal mistake for someone.

I particularly liked the way Ms. Hendricks handled the buildup. She starts out small and, within Georgia's mind, gradually increases the feelings of hurt and inadequacy until she snaps. The whole buildup made the character's reactions believable.

In short, a good story (in spite of having a cat in it), well told.

BTW, the cat lovers among you will be happy to know Purrzie landed on his feet.