Kitty (2)

“Marty, what’s up?”

“Just hadn’t heard from you in a while, Dad. Thought I’d call and see how you were doing.”

Marty was the youngest, always more family-oriented than his siblings, both of whom lived in Los Angeles. Two years out of college, Marty was a computer programmer at the Social Security Administration, where he’d met his girlfriend, Janice. The two lived together in an apartment in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, a few blocks south of Penn Station.

“Sorry. I guess I’ve been busy at the school. New semester starting in a little more than a month and all that.”

“You shouldn’t get too wrapped up in your work.”

“No, I – it’s OK. Don’t worry.”

“Dad, Janice and I had this really cool idea.”

“Oh yeah?” Wariness crept into Eisenberg’s tone. A really cool idea.

“Remember when we had those two cats back when we were kids?”

“Oh, Marty, I really, don’t –”

“Just think about it. It was Mom who said we couldn’t have another cat, after the way they ripped up the furniture and shat and pissed all over the place. But you remember how Amy used to beg for another one after those two died.”

“I kind of agreed with your mother, actually. I just let her be the bad guy. I got tired of feeding them pills and stepping on their turds. It was kind of a relief when we didn’t have to do that any more.”

“But that’s just because of the way they got to be after a dozen or fifteen years. Old and incontinent.”

“Which lasted a really long time, it seemed.” Old and incontinent. How long before this describes me?

“But you really liked having them around when they were young and vigorous. We all did. Even Mom.”

“I don’t know if I want to take care of a cat,” Eisenberg demurred. “I mean, what if I want to take a trip –”

“Janice and I can look after it. That’s not a problem. You’d love it, admit it. It would give a purpose to your life, Dad.”

“You don’t think my life has a purpose?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Let me think about it. I promise I’ll think about it.”

“You don’t have to make a decision now,” Marty agreed, relenting.

What did he have to live for? Was there a purpose to his life? Eisenberg thought of Ginger Francioli.


Marty and Janice came over a few days later after work, unannounced. Eisenberg was going through his mail when he saw them drive up in Marty’s Toyota Yaris. They made him think of Mormon missionaries. Jehovah’s Witnesses. They started in on him right away, practically the moment they were out of the car.

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’d care to go through the accelerated aging process of another pet,” Eisenberg protested. “You get them when they’re kittens or pups and you watch them mature and then grow old, get frail, right before your very eyes.”

“Fifteen, twenty years. You might not even –” Marty caught himself.

“Yeah, I know,” Eisenberg said, “But then again I might.”

“Oh, come on, Dad,” Janice pleaded.

Eisenberg was never sure how to take this, his son’s girlfriend calling him “Dad.” They weren’t even married, Marty and Janice, and Eisenberg certainly wasn’t her father. She’d never asked if she could call him that, but of course he didn’t object when she did. It occurred to him that Ginger Francioli must have been around her age, when he’d known her. (when I smelled and tasted her, when I…)

“Can I take you two out for dinner? The Ambassador? Could you go for some Indian food?” Eisenberg was desperate to change the subject. He didn’t want to be backed into a corner, talked into getting a pet just so his son and his son’s girlfriend could feel better about themselves.


After they dropped him off at his home after dinner – Marty had insisted; it made more sense to drive in their car – and Eisenberg assured them once again that he’d give some thought to getting a pet, he poured himself a glass of wine and walked out to the back yard. The sun had disappeared behind the horizon and the color of the sky was softening to an anemic gray-blue. Ah, Ketzel, he thought, wishing he could tell her about Marty and Janice, what a sweet couple they made but what a pain in the ass with their well-meaning helpfulness.

And then he gave in, indulged in thoughts about Ketzel, remembering the last year, the biopsy, the chemo, the hospice, one after the other, like dominoes. Her turban. That whole life they’d had filtered down to those last few months. Like the cats, really. If only there’d been a way to freeze her in time, freeze the two of them, the five of them, in time.

Eisenberg remembered the night before Simon was born, Ketzel lying flat on her back on the living room couch in her loose blue sweatpants, the drawstring loosened, stoic in her apparent discomfort, her belly swollen like a beachball, and Lucy, that sweet, gentle black cat of theirs, nestled onto Ketzel’s lap as she had most nights for the past three years since they’d had her. Perched atop Ketzel’s tummy, Lucy purred, content, her eyes slits. Soon she’d be displaced permanently by the babies as they came one by one over the next six years. How young we’d been then, on the verge of a generational shift. Eisenberg felt an incipient erotic stirring for his wife, Ketzel, as she had been all those years ago, and then he thought again of Ginger Francioli.

Or wait, wasn’t her name really Jennifer?

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