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“I suppose you’re hungry,” he said. “I don’t have anything to give you. Oh wait.” He poured her a bowl of milk. “I’ll get you real food on my way home.”
What was he saying? He should either carry the cat upstairs to Sophie or tell her to come down and get it, but at the moment he didn’t have time. He hurriedly dressed, grabbed a slice of bread, smeared it with peanut butter and crammed it into his mouth. Just as he was darting out the door, he remembered: Where would the cat go to the bathroom while he was gone?
He ran back into the apartment, frantically looked for a cardboard box, found one holding a case of beer, dumped out all the cans sending them rolling, found potting soil under the kitchen sink and filled the box. Setting this in the bathroom, he picked up the cat and showed it to her. Realizing what he’d done, he hurriedly dropped her, shocked at his own audacity and even more surprised that she hadn’t struggled to get away or scratch him.
Would she pee and poop in dirt? No time to find out. He ran out and locked the door.
Sophie was in the process of pulling out of the parking lot with Tracy in the backseat drawing with her finger on the window. Sophie saw him, lowered her window and yelled, “Did you see the cat by any chance?”
Weirdly, extremely weirdly, Marcus yelled back, “No! Haven’t seen it!”
All the way to work, he shook his head in wonderment and shame at his behavior. What on earth was wrong with him?
All day, he could barely concentrate. What kind of lying monster had he turned into? And why for this cat? Cats weren’t his thing. Pets weren’t his thing. Was he having some sort of breakdown?
On the way home, he stopped and bought a litter box, some high-end litter, a scoop, dry and wet cat food, cat toys and catnip. How did he know what to get? It was like he was born knowing. He felt almost psychic, though very guilty. It seemed as if something had taken over his mind and body. “I’ve turned into a Pod Person,” he muttered as he loaded the stuff into his car.
That evening, the cat climbed onto the sofa as he watched TV and curled up against his leg, purring as she cleaned herself. It was so relaxing that he fell into a pleasant trance. Was this why people liked cats?
He crawled into bed earlier than usual and there she came, up onto the covers where she lay on his shoulder and kneaded his head. Oh my God, it was the best thing he’d ever felt. It was as if he had his own private masseuse in the apartment, his own living stress reliever, a little fur ball of bliss.
The next morning, however, she coughed up a long hairball onto his oatmeal rug, which left a stain even after scrubbing forcefully. He found her in the bathroom and was about to scold her when her little stubby face with its luminous eyes stared up at him and he melted. “Meow,” she said.
“My God,” he said aloud, “She is adorable. I want her. I want to keep her.”
This information wasn’t something he could share with anyone. He would have to move, that’s all there was to it. Sneak out in the middle of the night with the cat and move across town. But his lease wasn’t up for another eight months.
Kahlua darted from the bathroom straight for him and he scooped her up. She rubbed her cheek against his chin. She was so soft and warm. I must have her, he thought.
That evening, someone knocked on the door. Panic. Quickly, he stuffed Kahlua in the bathroom and closed the door.
“Um, hi Sophie,” he said, not inviting her in. “S’up?”
“Marcus,” she said, “I don’t know how to put this, but I saw Kahlua sitting in your window this afternoon. Um, like, were you going to tell me?”
He blushed and stammered. “Uh, yeah. I just got home.” Oh my God, that was a stupid thing to say. Now she would know he had the cat before he left for work. “I mean,” he said, “I found her just when I was leaving for work and didn’t get around to telling you yet.”
She looked unconvinced. “May I come in?” she asked.