Charlie Needs Teeth Out by KT Sparks

Charlie Needs Teeth Out

My daughter sent me a text.

charlie needs teeth out

She’s my youngest at twenty-six. Charlie is the cat she and her partner, now fiancé, adopted in the summer of 2015 after they loaded my old green Subaru Outback and drove from Brooklyn to San Francisco. Charlie was one-half of Charlie and Ray-Ray, a bonded pair of older females, survey marks in my child’s transition from cared-for to caring-for.

I answer:

Oh no.

She answers:

we’re at the emergency vet

I answer:

Will she be able to eat?

She answers:

yes, cats don’t eat with their teeth

but it’s going to be mad expensive

like $1000

Three years ago, I would have Venmo-ed the thousand bucks right away. She and I, the way we were then, was set in pregnancy and didn’t change much after: I could always feel, as if they came from under my sternum and above my liver, every one of her kicks and turns. She, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than to get out from under my skin. But she’s put the core of a country between us since then, DC to Brooklyn to San Francisco to Seattle. She adopted a dog for the cats, found a job at a start-up that welcomes said dog, bought a condo with the boy she will marry someday in the Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture park. The cord is fraying, like the computer wires Charlie and Ray-Ray shredded under her Ikea work table. Then, I would have Venmo-ed the thousand bucks right away. Now, I meet her anxiety over the vet bill like a cold mist, not a lightning bolt.

I answer:


An hour goes by, maybe more. She texts again:

we had to put charlie down

I answer:

Oh sweetie. I’m so sorry.

She answers:

they said she had cancer in multiple organs and would never be able to clot properly again and that she probably wouldn’t be able to eat because of it

Three years ago, I would have hyperventilated. I would have imagined this sending her over the edge — horse tranquilizers, hair pulling, lake diving, grief madness of the Ophelia variety, pain she couldn’t bear and I couldn’t contain. Not that she’s ever been anything but level-headed and so strong. But I was like those B-list Hollywood parents betraying their beloved kids by not trusting them to take the SATs straight-up.

Not now though.

I answer:

I’m sorry.

Silence for a day. I check in without checking on. We are not lashed together any more, far from it. But still, I cast lines, fine like single strands of baby hair. I try to reel her that much nearer. I text her. I don’t mention Charlie.

I finally took Myer-Briggs. I’m an ENFJ. Is that what you said you were?

She answers:

I’m an ENFP


I’m whatever makes you love stupid cats too much.

I answer:

Me too. I’m that too.


Charlie needs new teeth


KT Sparks is an author and farmer from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared and is upcoming in numerous magazines and journals and can be read on her website Her first novel, Four Dead Horses, the story of cowboy poetry and the Midwestern pet mortician who loves it, will be published by Regal House Publishing in spring of 2021.

Also by KT Sparks Hardware


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