Pussycat Pussycat, I Love You…
The Word: Razor
Hank Seidel lathered up his face. He shaved with a straight razor, a source of pride, his hand still steady enough at 78. It was his zeide’s razor, Moisei Seidel. In Poland, they were all bearded, but when Moisei came to America, he shaved it off. Americans shaved. America saved Moisei’s life. So he learned to shave his face like an American. He might not have been able to rub two English words together, but shave he did.
The cat sat on the sink watching him. Its sable coat, its yellow-green eyes. Sadie and her cats. Sadie Katz, he called her. She used to have a whole genealogy of white cats–oy, the white hair all over his suits every morning. The one with the green eye and the blue eye, who broke all her crystal, getting up in the cabinet. But finally the last of them died out, he thought he’d get a rest. Then she started with the Burmese. Their daughter in law gave it to her. Sweet girl but another cat he could have done without.
“Mrrow,” said the cat.
“Mrow to you too,” said Hank.
He remembered how Sadie used to carry the cat around, and sing to it. “Hank listen, he’s singing.” Pussycat pussycat I love you, yes I do…
And he’d be damned if the little momser didn’t sing along. Mrrrow, mrrow mrrow. The funniest thing he’d ever seen.
Burma Shave, that’s what she called it.
The cat watched him, solemnly, like he was studying for his barber exam.
Hank stropped the razor, tested the edge and began to shave, up under his chin, then the sides of his face, and his moustache. She always liked a good close shave, his Sadie Katz. She was a redhead, had that redhead’s tender skin.
He looked in the mirror, his dark face with the boxer’s chin, the boxer’s broken nose. Broken in a smoker back in Boston. This face. The dimple in the chin made it a hard face to shave. She liked to put her finger right there.
He began to run the blade up under his chin. Sadie, Sadie, where did you go? He could cut his throat in one quick flash of the blade. It was what he liked about shaving with his father’s razor, his grandfather’s. It was the secret that none of them had ever spoken about. Silent men, all of them. That every morning, he held the possibility of death in his hand. Every morning, he decided his own fate. Rick wouldn’t understand that–his son, the professor. He wouldn’t understand how important it was for a man to have a choice. You had a choice, you could decide not to.
The cat walked delicately along the back of the sink, jumped up to the top of the side cabinet, so they were at eye level. He got the strangest sensation that Sadie was watching him through that little cat’s eyes.
“So Burma Shave, what’s new, pussy cat?”
How intently it watched him. It reached out a paw, and tried to touch him.
He grasped the little paw.
“I’m okay, honey.” He picked the cat up, and wrapped it loosely around his neck, It hung there, boneless. And he began to sing, finishing his shave. He had a lousy voice, but managed to get the words out. “Pussycat pussycat I love you…”
Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”
Next week’s word is: MIRROR