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Stray Cats

By Larry Gross · April 2nd, 2012 · Living Out Loud
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Strange sounds outside my apartment window in Covington have some along with the warmer weather. I often hear stray cats howling or even fighting early in the mornings. One recent morning in particular, they woke me up at five o’clock.

It was a day I wasn’t really looking forward to. I was supposed to meet up with another writer — or he told me he was a writer in the emails he sent me — to discuss the novel he was working on and to get my input. We were to meet at Covington Chili on Madison Avenue, his treat, so why not at least get a free meal? I had no idea what to expect, and I hate the unknown.

A few hours after my early rising, I was still at my desk drinking coffee and trying to wake up when I heard a tapping on my front window, a tapping I have come to know all too well. I was in a foul enough mood to finally have it out with the new neighbor, Cindy.

I walked out my apartment door and made the short right to open the door to the building. I was pissed.

“Cindy, you have got to figure out how to use your key to open this door,” I said a little too loudly. “You’re doing this to me three or four times a day.”

“My key don’t work,” Cindy said. “You’re right next to the door.”

“Your key does work, I tested it — remember?” I said as she started walking up the stairs to get to her second floor apartment. “Just stick the key in the door and open it. That’s it.”

“Sometimes I can’t figure out which key it is,” she said. I started to feel my blood pressure rise.

“Well, you need to figure it out,” I said. “How hard can that be?”

“Well, you’re down here already, so what difference does it make?” she said continuing to walk up the stairs. As she turned to go up the second flight, I had one last thing to say.

“Figure it out, Cindy,” I said. “I’m not the goddamn doorman around here.”

I had some writing work to do, so I managed to put idiot woman (Cindy) out of my mind, but around noon, I started thinking about her key issues and not knowing which key opened the apartment building door. Maybe this was the root of the problem.

I remembered an old set of keys I have that had some keycaps on them — colored caps that told me which key went to which door. Maybe this could help Cindy in learning how to open the door.

I’d give her a keycap.

I found the old set of keys in a junk drawer. Taking my current set of keys out of my pants pocket and laying them on my desk, I looked at the apartment building key and determined which keycap would be a good fit.

I took a green keycap off an old key. While doing this, I suddenly remembered that lunch appointment I had with the writer. I looked at my watch. I had five minutes to get myself to Covington Chili. I grabbed my cell phone and ran out the door.

Making my way to Madison Avenue, I saw a couple stray cats. One ran away as I approached, but the other one, a short-haired black cat with green eyes, stared at me as I passed. I guess not all stray cats are scaredy cats.

When I walked into Covington Chili, a young guy stood up from a booth facing the window and waved at me. He was tall, had a bald head, piercing brown eyes and was wearing a red muscle shirt. He had the muscles to go along with it.

We both ordered cheeseburgers and fries. After some small talk, I looked at the folder he had laying on the table.

“Is that your novel?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s it,” he said. “This novel is the wave of the future, man. I wanta be the first one to do this.”

“Do what?” I asked.

“This is the first novel ever written using text abbreviations wherever possible,” he said. “Young kids will totally relate to this.”

“Text abbreviations?”

“Yeah, don’t you text, man?” the bald writer asked. “You use shorthand for real words. Its how people communicate these days.”

“I’m aware of text messaging.” I said.

“Then you know what I’m saying,” he said. “This is gonna hit the market by storm.”

“You’ve got to be joking,” I said, trying to hold back a laugh.

“Why would you say that?”

“Texting butchers the English language.” I said. “No one in their right mind would take this seriously.”

The young writer stared at me for a while before saying “I don’t think you get it.”

“Oh, I get it,” I replied. “It’s just a bad idea.”

“You want to know what the novel is about?” he asked.

“No really,” I said.

“So you’re not gonna read it?”

“It would be torture.” I said.

“Then 4Q.”


“Yeah, fuck you, man.”

Our cheeseburgers and fries arrived. The writer, clearly pissed, stood up and went to the restroom. Thinking of his big muscles and angry state of mind and not being in the mood for a rumble, I decided to leave the restaurant. On the way out, I told our waitress that the bald guy would be paying for the food.

Heading up Madison Avenue, I kept looking behind me making sure the angry writer wasn’t following me or chasing me. I was walking as quickly as I could and working up a sweat.

Turning on my street, I reached into my right pants pockets to get my keys. They weren’t there. That’s when I remembered having my keys out on my desk looking for a keycap to give Cindy.

As I approached my apartment building, there was Cindy standing at the front door fiddling around with her keys. She got lucky this time and opened the front door to the building. Thinking in my haste to meet the bald writer for lunch, maybe I’d left my apartment door unlocked, I called out to Cindy.

“Hey, hold that door open, Cindy,” I yelled. She looked at me with a shit-eating grin on her face.

“I’m not the goddamn doorman around here,” she said, slamming the door shut.

Still thinking the bald writer might still be looking for me, I hid at the side of the apartment building. I called a friend who has a set of my apartment keys. He would be over in 15 minutes.

Standing there hiding, I watched a number of stray cats who kept their distance or would look at me and run — that is except for that short haired black cat with the green eyes. He stood there and stared at me like he couldn’t figure me out.



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