The whir of a space heater goes loud, then dull, then loud again as it sweeps back and forth. A Doppler effect confined to a single room. A few feet away, two cats — both males but not toms — growl at each other, the sound almost invisible under the heater’s constant noise. A third cat, contorted on a futon in a position only a feline could maintain, chews and licks its back foot. The heater masks the creak of the futon as the cat moves, and the jingle as its collar bell smacks against tags advertising address, owner, and rabies vaccination.
The whirs, the growl, the jingle and creak. The click of computer keys from across the room, and one half of a conversation she isn’t paying attention to. Blanketed, all of them, by a constant buzz, a tinny ring that’s nagged her for years, and soon will be all she hears.