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They're Leather


by John Riley


Julia C. walked like a tiger. Strong upper legs with tiny knees, a tail that never slowed down, a smile that said you need me. We were introduced by a friend who had a good income. He was proud of his status and said the kittens diving into the river over in Lemmingville were pretending to be starving. My affection for him was phony. I needed someone to sponsor me to become a member of The Scratching Post. I wanted to learn to dance. Julia C. said she could teach me. Before we were done she'd have me spinning on my head. My phony friend got me in and I never looked back. Saw him once more, hustling toys at the Toys For Me store. I guess he failed to walk the line. Bit the hand that fed him. On the dance floor Julia C. made up her own moves--the 5/16ths shuffle, the fifty cents waltz, the mango bop. Honey should only be eaten hot, she'd sing, and press her lips against my cheek. I couldn't decide if she was waiting for a kiss. It was a question I studied over. At night I took down thick books from my father's library. Ran my fingers down the pages looking for the answer. What do you do with a girl who has cheekbones as light as skim milk? I knew she'd been purring for years. That's how it went. I spent my workday in a room with a painted window, spun around the dance floor until midnight, poured over the books until two. But before I found a solution the problem was gone. She said it'd been nice, wonderful in spurts, but now it was time she did some hunting. "There's no music prettier than the last howls of prey," she said, and whistled a little through her nose. When she left I stopped dancing and reading the books. Muttered and jerked and vented to my father's portrait. For six months I spat on passing cats. Then I met Rosie who hissed like an opossum. I began my studies again until she lost her patience and kissed me, said we have to get you new boots. Now Rosie and I live in a bungalow on a single-block street, spend Saturdays doing the tango. Some nights she covers up the moon.
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