Character Sketch on Miss Dwaileebe

     Jenny put a teakettle on the stove to boil and turned on the radio. Music filled the room and she quietly hummed along. She carefully poured cat food into two bowls decorated in paw prints and added a spoonful of tuna to each. She put the cat food on the floor, coaxing softly, “Booka, Chomper! Come here, come here, kitties, time to eat, come h-OOFFF!”

     Jenny desperately lunged for her dog’s collar as he dove between her legs, aiming for the cat food. As she pulled him away, she protested, “No, no, no! Stop it! No! Bad dog, bad Niko! Do you hear me? Bad dog!”

     She dragged him into the enclosed porch, saying, “You’ve already had your dinner, twice, actually. Now stay there, stay!” She deftly shut the door before Niko could make another escape. Jenny’s resolve almost melted when she saw him scratching pitifully at the door and heard him whimpering. She said apologetically, “I know you don’t like to stay out there, but if I let you in here, then you’ll eat the cat’s food and they’ll scratch your nose again! You can come back in after Booka and Chomper are done, okay, Niko?”

     She walked into the living room and collapsed in a chair. Her art room door was open and her gaze fell on her latest project. She got up and walked through the door to her art room. She stood in front of the painting and smiled, full of mixed emotions. Dozens of memories came to her; memories of playing hide and seek in the backyard and her dad holding her up to touch the huge bronze cow at Paul’s Steakhouse. The one memory she tried to avoid kept returning. She finally stopped resisting and allowed this sad persistent memory to surface – the memory of her father’s funeral fourteen years earlier. Jenny closed her eyes as the short hospitalization period preceding her dad’s death flooded her mind. His voice floated through her memories, “Live every day, Jenny, every moment of every day. Because you never know how much longer you have.”

     Still reminiscing about her father, she tied on her black apron. Picking up a brush, she mixed two colors together and touched the canvas, but stopped when she reached the eyes. “The eyes,” Jenny half-whispered to herself. “Why can’t I get the eyes?”

     Standing back, she stared at the image of her father. Jenny had duplicated his face exactly from the photograph that resided on her desk – firm nose, tanned and weathered skin, permanent sparkling smile – everything perfect except the eyes. “His eyes were never the same, always changing, always happy,” Jenny thought to herself. “Full of life, just like the rest of him.” Something furry brushed up against her leg and she glanced down to see Booka.

     “Hey there,” Jenny cooed softly as she picked up the cat and began to stroke his short fur. Her attention returned to her father’s portrait and she added more orange to the red Arizona sunset in the background with her right hand while holding the cat in her left arm. Jenny paused and closed her eyes, trying to capture the particular expression that would symbolize her father and everything he believed. The expression came to her quietly and slowly, like a familiar tune that one forgets and then remembers when one is least expecting it. Jenny took her time adding the intricate details to the eyes and stepped back to critique the painting, and whispered, “Hi, Dad.”