Venus in the Underworld

“I think I’m just pushing this shit around,” I said aloud, watching the piles of dust and dried grass scoot around under my broom. I returned the broom to its corner, bristles down; the cat who chewed and ate bristles had died.

Already the day was odd. Actually all the days had been odd since Friday, when Venus went into retrograde. The seconds seemed strung together by something unpleasant, something you wouldn’t want to look at directly, something like fly tape.

Another room, another chore. There were ants in the dishwasher, hunting crumbs. It had been an ongoing battle. My stomach sank to think of the tiny soldiers, all female, working as a tireless entity, then swirling and swirling in the soapy water once I decided that it was time for my dishes to be clean. “Les fourmis,” I said, closing the dishwasher.

I went to my book and wrote:
“I think I’m just pushing this shit around.”
Return broom to corner, bristles down.
The cat who chewed and ate bristles had died.’

I hovered my hand over my cup of coffee, feeling for the buzz of energy it would send into my palm before I touched it. If I could soak up the caffeine this way, I’d never stain my teeth. I knew a girl who only drank coffee through a straw.

“If King Midas had my power, and I his, we could each be more successful,” I said to the kitten and to myself. “Or maybe not,” I countered, thinking of pouring the mug of liquid gold down my own throat like an Aztec sacrifice.

A former lover told me, “It’s not fair to me that you eat cold cereal in the mornings.”

“Sometimes I’m in a hurry!” I retorted.

“But you’re terrible when you eat cold cereal.”

How could he know this? How much can one observe about the other when in confines?

“I’m terrible when I’m in a hurry!” I protested. “Correlation does not equal causation.”

But he was partially right, and I would later concede to following the strict Ayurvedic diet that I imposed upon him.

“I know your breath,” my current one said once. “I know your breath in the mornings and midday and night, and I can tell your mood changes from it too. It tells me more than you do.” And then, at the sight of my panicked expression, he added, “I never think it smells bad.”

“Don’t you know I tell you everything? I tell you too much!”

“I’m not bored yet,” he smiled.

They come, they go, and it’s just me and the cats again.

I walked past the corner with the broom.   So many times I had scolded her for tearing up the broom and used the broom to clean up its own mess. So many times I had yelled when she got on the table or knocked over my water. Guilt spread over me, sinking me down all over. “I wish I hadn’t yelled at her,” I said to the kitten. “But sometimes I yell at you when you’re on the table or you climb my bare leg.” He pounced onto my foot, chewing my shoe. I picked him up. “Is it Monday?” I asked to his eager face. I had been living like it was Tuesday all day. He squirmed to be released, already craving the next thrill. He took off zig-zagging down the hallway, tail puffed. “Pow, pow, pow!” I called after him, causing him to leap halfway up the wall and dart under the couch. “We have the vet later!” I reminded him.

I flopped down onto my bed and wrote something in my book about Monday Masquerade but scribbled over it.

Years ago I painted my bed frame with generous brushstrokes of China Red. I did one coat, no more, no less, no touch-up. The thick paint dripped and in places had hardened into stalactites.

“Tu peux le se souvenir comme ceci: les stalacTites TOMBENT; les stalagMites MONTENT!” It had been helpful.

On trips back to the vet for the kitten’s boosters, I, by chance alone, hadn’t been escorted back into the room where she died. But then we were taken there, and I saw the lone table and the chair where I had rocked her for what seemed like hours. When I stood and held the kitten I felt an unmistakable pressure on my calf – a light swipe, and turned, expecting to see the office cat, but saw no one. “Hey, Baby Girl,” I said softly. The weird, scattered loneliness of the past few days was lifted. She had never visited before.

I wrote in my book:
Venus invited to the Underworld
Descends step and stone in darkness undeterred
To reemerge as the brightest evening star.

-Leslie Hinson

Leslie Baird Hinson is an Alabama native who, in the most roundabout way, wound up in Nashville in 2010 where she began to create an unintentionally multi-faceted career.

Since graduating from the University of Montevallo in 2009, Leslie has spent time pursuing the arts through many avenues, but has always found herself returning to writing, whether it be poetry, prose, song, or nonfiction.  In 2014, she founded the Paper State Writing Club, a group to inspire and support fellow writers.  She wrote and starred in the short film Coffee for One, has written a collection of short stories, and is currently working on her first novel.

She currently resides in Nashville with her cats Kevin and Abraham.