“Did you lose your cat, Mr. Parkhurst? Is that why you’re standing out here?” Richard said, rocking his enormous weight back and forth, as though the sidewalk were a surfboard. He could only maintain eye contact for a second at a time before his gaze drifted elsewhere. “I haven’t seen him since day before yesterday. Usually he comes home right around this time. I think he can hear when Mrs. Parkhurst puts his food out. Or maybe he has some sort of extrasensory perception.”
I hadn’t even realized the cat was missing. I stood in the lawn next to the Adirondack chair I’d given her for her twenty-ninth birthday. It still smelled like fresh-cut wood. She’d wanted a motorcycle, which was ridiculous. She was a married woman, almost thirty. Besides, where would she go on a motorcycle? To the grocery store?
“He could be dead, you know,” Richard said, rocking harder. “Sometimes I used to think he was dead. He would be lying on the sidewalk like this”—with surprising agility, Richard dropped to the sidewalk and lay on his side with his head draped down the curb, then lay still for a good ten seconds before standing back up. “But he wasn’t. I think he was trying to fake me out.”
We’d had a bad row over that chair. She said I just wanted to prop her up in the yard like a gnome or some kind of decoration to prove to the neighbors that she’d finally been domesticated. She pointed out that I didn’t even think to buy two. When she called me an old man without a sense of adventure, I reminded her where and how we’d met and then told her as politely as I could to shut the fuck up.
“Wait here,” Richard said, and started for his house across the street. A couple minutes later, he returned with a metallic bundle, which he handed to me. “I made this a few years ago.” It was a hooded sweatshirt, size XXL, meticulously covered in silver, gold and safety-orange duct tape. It looked like a firefighter’s bunker coat, but shinier. “Whenever I wanted to catch your cat, I wore it so it wouldn’t hurt if he scratched me,” he said. “If you go looking for him, you should probably wear it.”
I closed my eyes. I heard her tell me to go to hell. Go to hell old man, she’d said. I saw her green eyes narrow, and her slender hand reach out and grab her car keys out of my hand. I’d grabbed her by the wrist, maybe a little too hard, and begged her not to go. We can be happy together, I’d said, and I meant it. She answered by swiping her keys across my chest. Don’t come after me this time, she’d told me.
“Okay,” I said. Then I slipped on Richard’s jacket. It was a perfect fit.