Keith was so absorbed in his reveries that it surprised him when he found himself outside his apartment building. He greeted Jesse at the desk and was headed to the elevator.
Keith turned. “Yeah?”
“Do you like cats?”
He thought of Lesli’s Bruno. “Can’t stand ’em. Why?”
“Uh…never mind.” Jesse looked sad, approaching pathetic.
Keith liked the guy. He walked over and leaned on the desk. “Why?” Then heard the mewling. And peeked behind the reception counter.
“Please, Mr. Jackson, don’t tell the manager. I just couldn’t stand to take them to the pound. But my boyfriend won’t let me keep them.”
Keith saw a furry little face, cute as could be, that soon as he looked it started meowing its little butt off. The one next to it wasn’t as cute but cried just as pitifully. Turned out Jesse had managed to palm off most of the litter on other tenants. And, before ending his shift, hoped to unload these last two.
Keith shook his head, gave Jesse a dark look. “You gotta be kidding.”
The plea in Jesse’s eyes was almost as heartbreaking as the crying kittens. “Okay, gimme the damned cats.” Jesse snatched the box up so fast the poor kittens got jostled and stopped crying. At that moment Keith hadn’t the first idea what to do with them. But what the hell — box under one arm, kittens meowing, he continued to the elevator.
“You owe me.”
“Damn skippy.” Much as Bruno had got on his nerves, waking up earlier than a damned rooster and just as loud with his daily, pre-dawn demand for breakfast (hell, that was reason alone not to let the woman move in), the big, furry fella had grown on Keith.
He got off the elevator, set the box on the floor at his door and got his keys out. “Oh, for cute!” It was that dingbat from down the hall. “Are they yours?”
Without so much as a backward glance, Keith slid his key in the lock, slid the box inside, and answered over his shoulder, “Yeah. Gave birth to them just this morning.” And pulled the door closed. Stubborn as this heavy-ass door was, Lelsi had to truly’ve been mad as hell to actually slam it. The thought gave him a little shudder.
The kittens would not shut up. “Poor little guys. Scared half out of your wits, huh? Hungry, too, I bet.” He went into the fridge, pulled out a fried chicken leg and, grabbing a knife, split it between them. Little rascals tore into the meat, growling like they really could hurt somebody. Miniature menaces. He smiled at them.
He meant to go in and get some sleep but wound up flopping on the couch looking at the television. And woke up later, the sun long gone, with both cats curled up on his chest, snoring. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were on, holding opposite ends of a belt, leaping off a cliff, yelling all the way down and landing in a river.
Keith looked at Newman and Redford, looked at the kittens, and turned to face the back of the sofa. “Butch and Sundance,” he decided. Then he nodded back off, thinking, Well, yeah, I’ll keep the little guys. Just to remind me of her. My new buddies, Butch and Sundance.
He also decided what to do about Lesli. Keith then proceeded to get the best night’s sleep he’d had in a long time. Probably since she’d left.
Next week: Keith talks shop with deli Dan.
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