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Ten Nights' Dreams
(after Natsume Soseki)

Lee Ann Roripaugh

3. Rehab

At the deserted mom-and-pop, you care for a ferret and a polar bear. The ferret’s an
obese cat with red fur. It insists you rub its stomach. The polar bear’s a squirming
pink egg. You bottle-feed the polar bear smashed fish formula, stimulate its anus to
defecation with a warm cottonball.

You’re scared the polar bear will eat the ferret, so you keep them in separate hamster
Habitrails. But the ferret’s too fat. You smoosh it down? It squishes back out.

When the polar bear Jack-in-the-Boxes out of its Habitrail, as you always knew it would,
it rears up and—Incredible Hulkishly—bursts into a full-grown polar bear.

Shitty shit shit shit, you mutter to yourself in the bathroom, protectively
wrapping your hands with motel towels into giant white Q-Tips. Now I have to drive
that bear to Sea World in my Geo Metro!

4. Open It

A present is delivered to you at an outdoor café. The box Tiffany blue and hefty,
seemingly stuffed with gigantic, genetically altered roses.

A frowning girl in spectacles plays flamenco guitar at the next table. Frosted snifters
of Sambuca with espresso beans percolating in the bottom arrive on a lacquer tray.
A woman lays her heavy hand on your shoulder, startling you. Has my husband
checked out?
she wants to know.

You ease off the long lid, peel away layer after crackling, phyllo-dough layer of tissue
paper. Inside, a skinned flank of cow. A skinned cow’s head. A note on fine cardstock
with your lover’s handwriting on it and—

Jump-cut to a boutique where a rainbowed array of tiny cats—not kittens, but
pygmy-cats—are available for sale. They cluster underfoot. Scarlet pygmy-cats.
Purple pygmy-cats. Turquoise pygmy-cats. A supercilious saleswoman in a Haz-Mat
suit proffers a squirming green pygmy-cat to you over the gleaming glass counter.
She asks: You wished to see the Prada Miu Miu in chartreuse?

Lee Ann Roripaugh

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