“I’m going to finish that book I started,” he said resolutely.
“Not ‘Bird Wins’, I hope. You’ve learned so much since the days you carried a piss bucket for pompous jerks too lazy to walk down the hall to the urinals,” he said hopefully. “Besides, you realize now what it takes to sell a book idea, to get an advance. You have to give them something positive, a fantasy they will enjoy, something uplifting and inspirational that can be made into a movie people will plunk down $20 to see. Nobody wants a book where everybody dies, where the character we’re rooting for gets brutally screwed and there’s not even anybody to get revenge. Tell me it’s not ‘Bird Wins’. For the love of God, please tell me that’s not the book you’re talking about.” He smiled at his old friend hopefully.
“I hear what you’re saying. The only trouble is, the fucking bird always wins,” he said.
“You realize it’s confusing to anybody reading this that you’re referring to us as ‘he’ and ‘he’,” she said, suddenly.
“Oh?” he said, raising a single eyebrow, “you is a woman now?”
“Not at all,” she said, “I’m a beautiful cat-faced female cat who can talk.”
“You really are,” he said, taking her in with a nod and a smile.
“Now that that’s settled,” she said “tell me you’re not talking about ‘Bird Wins’ again, or that soul-crushing book about the narrator’s doomed battle with the fascist Minnie Frego,” and as she looked at him it really was remarkable how cat-like her sweet face was.
“Are you really a cat?” he asked. She smiled and rubbed her face against his, her tail caressed his arm.
He petted her soft fur. “The ceiling is still leaking. Yesterday the super promised to come by. I told him to come by today any time after 1:00. He said he’d be working in the building all day and would stop by. There is a bucket in the living room and one in the bedroom. Both leaks are intermittent. One begins to go ‘drip, drip’ while the other is silent. Then they drip together for a while. Then the second one goes ‘drip, drip’ while the first says nothing.”
“Hmmm,” she purred, “slightly troubling, but not very interesting.”
“Right,” he said, “exactly! That’s the deal with all of this shit, the accumulated drips and dribbles of a hundred leaking orifices, each one a nuisance but all together a demonic symphony that will not stop til the audience is howling. It’s Bukowski’s swarm of trivialities that are always there and kill quicker than cancer. One drip doesn’t get you, you can deal with one leak. But as you turn your attention to that one, the other starts, and then another, a robot calls on the phone to tell you about some mysterious debt you owe, another week’s delay on something you were counting on, suddenly a jet of hot steam you don’t have a tool to stop, or if you did, you don’t have the heat resistant suit to avoid getting scalded, something flies into your eye, the eye is lost, down to one eye, you step backwards, the rake flips up with brutal self-caused force and opens a gash on your forehead with a mule-like kick.”
“Did the super come by this afternoon and take a look at the new leak?” she asked, trying to rein in the torrent of his real and imagined troubles.
“Of course not,” he said.
“Well, I hope you called him,” she said, hoping gamely to get to some kind of resolution.
“Yeah, I called him at 4:29. He said ‘we knocked on your door at ten to one,'” he aimed a glob of spit and expertly dinged the spittoon, “I was sitting five feet from the door from noon onwards. He never knocked on my door. Then he promised to come by this evening, around nine.”
“He didn’t come by around nine,” she said, licking her paws and rubbing them over her face, cleaning herself.
“No,” he said, “so I called him a bit after nine, and he was drunk. Said he’d be by at ten, between ten and ten thirty, ten thirty the latest. He’d call when he was on his way.”
She continued grooming herself.
“Have no fear, though, I am confident the early-rising lying sack of shit will be banging on my door at 7:30 a.m.,” he predicted bitterly. “I’ve already told him I won’t be around tomorrow morning. Of course, I’ll be in my bed cursing him, the useless prick. And why shouldn’t he be a useless prick? I’m sure they don’t pay him, yet he’s up at 6:30 every morning banging the garbage cans under my windows.”
She curled up and rested her cat face on her soft paws. She looked at him with a mysterious expression. Her eyes said “you don’t really expect me to say anything, do you?”