bOur family doesn’t take many vacations, but about five years ago we took our biggest one ever. We flew from St. Louis to San Diego on spring break and spent five glorious days doing all the San Diego things. No, we didn’t find an adorable stray cat, but we did see a rather large rat poking around the storage facility outside the window of our room at the Hampton Inn. (It was a nice Hampton Inn. Really!) Sadly our big trip didn’t start out so well.

My son, who was twelve, had some cold-like crud he picked up at school, and was miserable. My husband hates to travel, and was just generally unhappy. My college-age daughter was tired of being teased about checking out the cute servicemen in the airport food court, where we were all slumped, grouchy and sniffly, to await our connection. So I thought it was a good time to spring a special surprise.

“You know what I did yesterday?” I asked. No one really wanted to know, but I forged on. “I bought a painting of the cat!”

Now you would think this would generate cheers and fabulous exclamations of wonder and delight. You would be wrong.

“Why?” was the operative question. It seemed like a silly question to me. Why wouldn’t any member of our family want a painting of our beloved puss, Miss Nina Garcia? She’s beautiful and dainty and (mostly) well-behaved.

“So you commissioned a painting of the cat? How much does a commissioned portrait of a cat cost?” This from husband.

“You never got a painting of me!” This from son.

From daughter. “That’s hysterical. Did you really?”

Now I wasn’t so glad that I had brought it up. Everyone was awake, but they were focused on me in a rather unpleasant way. I eyed the exits, but we were in a Chicago airport and the only way home was by airplane.

I didn’t start with the price, of course. I wanted them to hear how it came about—surely they would be charmed.

The story:

A Facebook friend named Mimi D. (full name withheld to protect the innocent) had paintingcommented on a photo I’d posted of Miss Nina sleeping on a plaid chair in my office. Because Nina’s black and white, she’s ridiculously photogenic. Mimi D. is a talented painter with gallery shows and everything. She asked if I would mind if she did a painting from the photo. Like she even had to ask!

I know. You’re thinking, “This sounds like some kind of scam to get doting women to buy paintings of their cats!” If Mimi D. had been anyone other than a family friend with a stellar artistic reputation, I too would have been skeptical. Also, I figured it probably would never happen.

To my surprise, a month or so later, she sent me a photo of the painting and said it would go on sale in one of her shows. Isn’t that lovely? I thought no more of it. Though I did wonder who would want to buy a painting of someone else’s cat…Of course, museums are full of them. Right?

Well, eight or nine months went by and she contacted me again. It seems I was correct. Nobody bought the painting of Nina. But it was still for sale for $350.

Hmmmm. What would you do?

Nina portrait“You paid $350 for a painting of THE CAT?” my husband asked. The kids were rolling with laughter on the grubby food court floor.

“Yes. I know it sounds like a lot. But it’s a beautiful painting. It should be waiting for us when we get home.”

In my defense, I’d like to say that I believe the trip turned on that moment. Everyone teased me for being a crazy cat lady, and generally cheered up. I don’t mind being the butt of a joke if it means everyone is happy. We had a wonderful trip, and, indeed, the painting was waiting for us when we got home, and I hung it with pride. My husband still tweaks me about the price. It’s cost us $70/year so far, but in 30 years, it will only have cost us $10 a yIMG_8440ear!

And that’s not very much to pay for the constant presence of a beloved kitty icon.

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benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author six novels of dark suspense, including the Bliss House gothic trilogy: The Abandoned HeartCharlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review)and Bliss HouseHer short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, and St. Louis Noir.

Her upcoming novels include a cozy mystery, Small Town Trouble, for the Trouble the Black Cat Detective series (KaliOka Press), in January 2018, and One Last Secret, a suspense novel from Mulholland Books in late 2018/19.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Laura grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and claims both as hometowns. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com to read her daily blog and sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

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