Wham, bam, thank ewe, lamb.
It was raining in L.A. A helicopter beat across the night sky, its searchlight skimming the slick rooftops. Somewhere below, a cat was dreaming.
The cat did not dream of ordinary things; of mice, or birds, or balls with bells inside. He did not even dream of food, although he dearly loved to eat. He dreamed instead of something precious and tender, of something as irretrievably lost as a rubber band beneath a wardrobe.
The cat dreamed of Woolhelmina.
He had met her several years earlier, while celebrating the sale of his first screenplay at a trendy Hollywood nightclub. He was surrounded by friends, and friends of friends, all of them stroking him as if his success might somehow rub off. They bought him drink after drink, and by the time he was on his fourth Nip, he was beginning to feel unsteady on his feet. “I gotta sit down,” he announced, and stumbled over to the bar. He took the first open seat he saw, and put his nose down on the cool lucite surface.
“Your tail is in my drink,” a soft voice cut through the pounding music. He lifted his head, and stared blearily around. He saw that his tail had indeed drifted into a wide-mouthed glass which sat on his left, filled with something pink.
“Sorry,” he pulled his wayward appendage out of the drink and shoved it behind him. “Let me buy you another. Bartender! Another . . . what is that?”
“Another Manhattan for the lady. A Manhattan in L.A. Is the irony intentional?” He asked, looking up at her for the first time, and the rest of his witty repartée dissolved unspoken.
He knew immediately that she was unique. While the other females in the club pranced about in sleek furs and leathers, she was wrapped in a bulky white coat that glowed in the dim light. She wore no makeup or jewelry, but her clean, soft simplicity gave her a sensuous air.
“Entirely,” she said, nodding at the bartender as she accepted the fresh drink.
“The irony is entirely intentional.” She lifted the maraschino cherry from the glass and began to nibble on its stem.
He went back to her place that night. Her name was Woolhelmina, and she lived downtown, in a loft she said she shared with another ewe, although no one else was there at the moment. Bookshelves covered her bedroom walls, and the cat read languidly through some of the titles while the sheep was in the bathroom. From the looks of things, she had eclectic tastes – The Master and Margarita shared a shelf with The Things They Carried. She liked to knit, too, judging by the half-completed scarf lying crumpled on the couch. That made sense, he supposed.
“Why so slow, Cat?” He turned to see her already lying on the bed. She stretched out her arms, and he began to purr.
He was gentle at first, but Woolhelmina quickly grew impatient.
“Bite me,” she whispered, rubbing her face against his whiskers. “Harder,” she ordered, after his first tentative nip. Not wanting to disappoint her, the cat did as he was told. “That’s it,” she sighed, as she pushed her face into his again. “Bite me.”
So the cat bit.
He bit her face, and her stomach, and her thighs. And the harder he bit, the happier the ewe seemed to be. After a while, he really began to get into it. The soft wool filling his mouth, and her tender skin beneath it all – he flexed his claws and bit her over and over again.
Suddenly, the sheep began to cry. The cat stopped biting immediately, and took her in his arms. “What is it?” he asked, “did I hurt you?”
The sheep shook her head, but sobbed even harder. “Please,” the cat begged, “please tell me what I’ve done wrong.” But she would not answer him. She rolled onto her side, away from him, and continued to cry. He pleaded with her for nearly an hour, but she would not say a word. Eventually, he began to get annoyed.
“If you won’t talk to me, I’m leaving,” he threatened. The sheep sniffled, but said nothing.
“Fine.” He stood, and left the apartment. The weather had turned nasty, and rain drizzled down his collar as he walked down the lamplit street. He rubbed a paw over his ears. “Crazy ruminant bitch.”
A taxi cruised by, and he flagged it down and went home.
Weeks went by, but the cat couldn’t stop thinking about Woolhelmina. He went back to the nightclub several times, but she never showed up. He was haunted by the encounter. Did she enjoy it at all? Did I hurt her badly? Why did she ask me to bite her if she didn’t like it? What the hell happened? He felt alternately guilty and angry, the latter emotion rising in a see-saw response to the former. Maybe that’s just how sheep are, he thought, but he couldn’t dismiss it so easily.
One night, several months later, he hired a prostitute – a sheep. She talked non-stop about her ambitions. She wanted to model, to act, that’s why she’d come to Hollywood from Nebraska in the first place.
“I’m Merino, y’know.”
“That’s fine.” He wasn’t really listening.
He began kissing her face, trying to ignore her wide blue eyes as they stared vacuously up at him.
Then he bit her, gently.
She giggled. “Whadja do that for?”
The cat sighed. It was no good. “This isn’t working,” he told her, and he pulled out his wallet.
“You sure?” she asked, “I give real good massages.”
He smiled slightly, but shook his head. He gave her some twenties and she left. After she was gone, he sat for a long while on the cool floor, thinking about the enigmatic Woolhemina.
“I’ll never understand,” he muttered, and with that he put the whole thing out of his mind.
Except on some nights – rainy ones, generally – when he lay twitching in his sleep, dreaming.
Dreaming of his lost Woolhelmina, who was sheep, but definitely not easy.