What We Talk About When We Talk About Cats

Denise was over again because it was late. He made her the same drink he always makes her, and one for himself too. I sat in the corner and they looked at me for a minute. He called me over but I didn’t go.

“He’s real cute, but he don’t listen for shit.” She goes.

“I tried teaching him once.” he says.

They started fooling around on the couch and I went to the basement. There’s furniture down there I’ll scratch. He’s never noticed. They were supposed to go away that weekend but they didn’t. He was having a hard time at his job.

I heard them walking around, laughing. Once they went upstairs, I went up the living room. I didn’t scratch that couch because I knew the man would see it.

Someone knocked at the door but I didn’t answer, I don’t have hands. I hid under the couch. It was Marlene, the woman from next door. Upstairs they were quiet so she just walked in, then he came down by himself. “I thought you were out of town.” she says. “You said you were going away for work.”

He asks “Everything ok?” He rubbed his face. “I was sleeping. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”

“Ok.” she says. “I’m heading back home. I just saw your lights on. I thought I’d say hi.” She walked out. I tried to make her stay, but I didn’t know how.

I didn’t say anything to the man because I never do, but that girl upstairs was the wrong one. She’ll come and go whenever she wants and she’ll do it forever. That’s a tough thing to tell a man without using words. Marlene was good, she loved him.

It was a little too long since he’d last changed the litter, that’s what happens when he’s having a bad time at work. Denise wouldn’t do it. She wouldn’t even think to do it. That’s fine, I wouldn’t clean up her shit either.

The next morning she was gone early. I heard her leave. He woke up and yelled for her. She didn’t say goodbye to either one of us. She didn’t even try to pet me.

A few hours later Marlene came over. They had a late breakfast. They talked about a fishing trip she took as a kid. She didn’t even ask him about last night. “I thought maybe we could head up to the lake this weekend.” she says.

“I’m doing overtime. Maybe next.” he says. “We should go to the lake.”

He’d gone to the lake with Marlene before. I knew he did because when he came back he looked at me different. He thought I was mad. “I just left for the night. Don’t look at me like that. Me and Marlene were up at the lake. You like Marlene, don’t you?” he says to me. I stared back and circled his legs.

The next week, I found a roach in the kitchen. I killed the bug and left it on his bed. I wanted Denise to find it. She didn’t though, he did. He says “Why you leaving this here? I wish you’d eat what you kill.” He patted my head and threw it in the trash. I brought it out again, every day until Denise found it.

It was Friday night, and Denise was back. “There’s a damn roach in the bed, Joe.” she yells. “You ought to clean this place once in a while.”

“Honestly, I could use a little help. We’ll do it this weekend. I’ll make us breakfast and we’ll get this place in order. That sound good?” he goes.

“I ain’t thinking about anything like that now.” she says. He kisses her again and I leave the room. Back downstairs to the couch I scratch, and the full litter box.

The phone rang, he ran downstairs to pick it up. “Hello?”

“What time are we leaving tomorrow?” she says. It was Marlene.

“I can’t go this weekend. I’m in no shape for a night outside.” he goes.

“Well, I’m heading up there anyway. If you change your mind. I’m leaving after breakfast, Joe.” she says.

“Alright then. I’ll see you. Maybe I’ll see you up there.” he says. He sits down on the kitchen chair. “Good night, Marlene.” He hangs up the phone and goes upstairs to Denise. They go at it again, then come down for a drink. A while later she goes upstairs to pass out and Joe steps out to the back porch to smoke. He could see Marlene’s place well from there. Only her porch light was on.

The next morning, Denise came down early. She looked at me and walked to the basement. She looked at the litterbox, then left. A few hours later he woke up and yelled for her.