Cats With Pitiful Mystiques
“I thought about charging $15 for the cats.”
me. My guess is that it has more to do with bottomless pain than with cats, but I’m happy not knowing. The story’s aspect and aperture are master classes. Every time I read it, the last line socks me newly. Marie-Helene Bertino
Not that it matters where I got the cats, but the first ones came from Joey and Tommy. They both died at the Towers—the only guys in my department to go, and they had three cats between them—and everybody figured I, being the only gay member of the unit, should take them. “Give ‘em to Paulie,” they said. “He’s a fruit.” And of course I wanted to ask them why my being gay meant I should take cats, but by then the word had spread, and guys from the fire department up the street were dropping their comrades’ cats off for me. Twenty years ago, I would’ve been beat up, or worse, and now I get cats. I guess I can’t complain.
The guys don’t notice until late morning, when they come out to toss around a football in front of the station. They all ask me what I’m doing, say I can’t give away the cats, say they belonged to WTC victims. “I know,” I tell them. “I wrote it on the box.”