Richard Wells and Suzie Wong


During the day, Richard Wells has a routine that starts with breakfast and the news. His breakfast consists of cornflakes and a banana or an orange. The news is the New York Times. His cat sits in the center of the table, an indulgence he permits. The table is small and is located next to the bed in the sunroom that was added to the back of his brownstone sometime in the 1980s.

Richard had the sunroom added before his wife died. Those were fat years when money flowed from his two downtown bookstores. In addition to lucrative sales of books and magazines, he had moved into video rental. He wisely used the money to pay off the home mortgage, add the bright sunroom, and he stashed away enough for a comfortable retirement.

First to go was his video rental and boxes of VHS tapes went into the dumpster. The magazine sales slowed next, then finally, his loyal book customers began shopping elsewhere, first at the new Barnes and Noble and then, Amazon. He was smart about business and rode out the slowdown until he was able to close his stores without huge losses. His wife died around the same time he closed his second store. Her sudden death was a loss he could not faze out. It was heart related and she died so quickly they didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Now he was aging, retired and alone in the house. Well, not entirely alone, there was the male cat he had named Suzie Wong, a large, tiger striped, stray he adopted as an abandoned kitten. His wife had been especially fond of cats and there had always been one or two in the house. But in those working years he had paid little attention. It was different with Suzie Wong. From appearances, Richard was still casual in his relationship to Ms. Wong but the cat was constant and shared the space with an air of equal ownership.

When Richard had movers come and bring his bed, books and paintings to the first floor, the bed was placed in the sunroom along with a small breakfast table and the club chair that had always been there. Most of the books remained in boxes in the front room and paintings rested against the wall in the long hallway running from the front foyer to the kitchen. Suzie Wong spent his days in the sunroom with Richard who was always there except when he was standing in the small courtyard, taking in fresh air, or on his daily walk to one of several, local bodegas.

In the evenings, Richard would sit in the club chair reading and Suzie Wong would sleep nearby on the bed. Eventually, Richard would put down his book and Ms. Wong would stand, stretch, jump down from the bed, walk over, sit and look up at Richard. He would gently pat his leg and the cat would leap into his lap. They would both drift in and out of a shallow state of sleep. Later, at around midnight, Richard would go to bed and Suzy Wong would join him there. They slept soundly and sometimes dreamed of each other and the perfected routine of their days.


03/16/2017 © Don Lehman