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2003-08-26

Peggy Lee (b. Norma Egstrom)
5.26.20 Jamestown, North Dakota / D. 1.21.02 Bel Air
Heart Attack

Nina, the surviving cat, at 20, stares at the bowl of Tender Beef Feast, at the bowl of Chicken Feast, at the saucer of fresh cod. Immobile, matted shoulders hunched like gargoyle wings—a baleful and embittered gargoyle—she regards the worst dinner. . .ever.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Nina, at 20, having adopted towards the cat-box as medium an approach improvisatory, even ironic, glares at its sodden surround of newsprint sheets as she stalks past. All evening long they have not been replaced.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Nina, whose Drinkwell Pet Fountain is fresh from the day’s third filling, has, at 20, a thirst which can only be slaked by the pouring of ice water fresh from a bottle into the fountain while she licks at the bottle’s mouth. She stares now at the fountain.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Nina is going on an outing, immediately, tonight.
Ladies and Gentlemen. . .Miss Peggy Lee!
Nina, light as a felt hat with trim, is carried in arms to the Brighton Beach boardwalk where, with nightfall, a feasting family at the Winter Garden has ordered candelabra and champagne. In the dimmer zones by the beach rail, clusters of card-players, gossips, in lawn chairs, look old. . .but not 140 years old! Not really old!
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Nina is at the beach for the first time. At 20, she discovers an alien world: a clearing fog, the water’s edge, nothing is familiar. A sandpiper makes a bright flash: light makes sound. A strange man walks past, then another. Bright wave lips groan and roar.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Arms take Nina from the shore and hold her above a shallow brown surf. A few feet out something like a flounder, pale and brown, bobs lopsided, lifeless. Airplane lights grow and dim over New Jersey.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Nina, from whom at 20 nothing untoward is expected—no disappearance or flight, no abrupt sandpiper slaughter—is left to loiter by the surf line while the higher clouds get scanned for holes. Mars is close; Nina paces a stretch of wet sand directly below the spot it ought to be. At moments she is invisible against the dark blue waters; then she is a brilliant ink curl black upon a wave-lip scroll. Then there are two Ninas, one crouched upon and one reclining in the looking glass of wave on sand.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
A swell. . .and suddenly she’s down like a pile of sea wrack. Pee-eep!
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Heavier now, since being combined with sand and salt water, Nina is prepared to face the sea again, possibly on a best two-out-of-three basis. She’s borne home immediately, however, and thrust into the first shower she's had since falling in (repeatedly) as a kitten, almost 20 years ago.
Is that all there is, is that all there is
Was it a dream? Nina wakes, with a start, at the foot of the bed. Moments later, the bowl of Tender Beef Feast has been delivered and as it’s held in place beneath her chin, she eats enormously.
Is that all there is, is that all there is

Consolation Site: Is it?

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