By the time I reach home, Liza Bean is at the front door waiting.
“Look at you,” she says in a tone normally reserved for her observations on no-name seafood and below-the-butt belted trousers.
“What?” I say, irritably. “I’m supposed to look this way. The yoga studio’s a hundred degrees, for cryin’ out loud!”
Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) chortles indulgently. “Tsk, tsk,” she murmurs. “I thought yoga was supposed to be calming.”
“That’s what the drinks are for,” I say, peeling off my clothes. “Let me hit the shower quick.”
Fifteen minutes later, freshly laundered and talcum-ed to a powdered-donut-like degree, we are in the car and heading toward Psycho Suzi’s, just a couple miles down the road.
It is over the first round of gin and tonics that Liza Bean leans in.
“So what would you say if I were to let you in on an excellent investment opportunity?”
My mouth drops open.
The cat smiles. “I’d like to talk to you about the power of positivity.”
I hold my arm up and holler in the direction of a heavily tattooed server. “Check!”
Liza Bean wraps her little black lips around her straw, chuckles good-naturedly. “Sucker,” she smirks.
“Liza Bean, I swear…”
“Oh, come on,” she says. “You didn’t believe that, did you?”
I scowl at her. “You’re giving me wrinkles,” I say.
A striped paw goes up and a server appears immediately. Cats are notoriously good tippers, and this server knows it.
Liza Bean leans back magnanimously, her raised paw drawing small, all-encompassing circles in the air. “I’m thinking tater tots,” she muses. Her eyes meet mine. “What?” she says. “They’re delightfully campy.” She closes the menu, smiles graciously at the server. “And two more drinks, extra limes.” She turns to me. “Pearl?”
“An order of the pickle roll-ups.”
The server is speeding away as Liza Bean lowers her head toward her drink. “Don’t look now,” she says, speaking around the straw in her mouth, “but there’s a woman over there I believe I saw suspended over New York attached to guy wires in last Thanksgiving’s parade.”
I pull my compact out of my purse, use the mirror to look behind me. “She’s about ready for market,” I agree.
Liza Bean snorts. “And there’s a man over there,” she murmurs, her head tilting ever-so-slightly to the right, “with a barcode tattooed on the back of his neck." She laughs, a low purr of a laugh. "Such angst!”
She accepts her second drink with a nod to the server, squeezes one of three limes into it, sips, adds the second and third. “I’m thinking of running up Tattoo Boy's back and perching on his head after my third, perhaps fourth drink. Where do you stand on that?”
I glance casually at the man she’s talking about. He’s enormous. “Hmm. I’ll be standing next to the car,” I tell her, “frantically trying to get the key in the lock.”
Liza Bean’s eyes sparkle like found dimes. “I do so enjoy our outings.”
“Me, too.” We smile at each with the heartfelt sincerity of the slightly inebriated.
I decide the time is right.
“Liza Bean,” I say, casually, “I couldn’t help but take a look into the car this morning and notice that there was a minnow bucket in the back seat.”
Her green eyes meet mine. “A gal likes to snack.”
“That was a big bucket,” I observe. “For such a small cat.”
She nods slightly. “I suppose I may as well tell you now,” she says. There is silence as she finishes off her second drink. The server appears with Liza Bean's – and my – third gin and tonic. A five-dollar bill is produced from between the toes of the cat’s right paw and the server appears to curtsy…
I blink my eyes. Man but these drinks are strong.
I lose patience.
“OK! OK!” I say. “Tell me already!”
The cat smiles. “We had a meeting last night,” she says, squeezing the limes into her drink. “Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve had my violin restrung?”
I shake my head. I hadn’t noticed.
The server appears, sets the tater tots down in front of Liza Bean. The cat smiles and with the deft snap of a wrist arranges a napkin in her lap. “Squeak Toy is getting back together.”
I stare straight ahead. Squeak Toy…
“We never did get the security deposit back at our last space, you know…” Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) sips her drink, holds a claw-speared tater tot up in the air before popping it into her mouth. “But I’d say that, older and wiser, we’ve learned our lessons.”
She smiles, holds up her drink. “So what do you say? What will you charge to let us practice in the attic?”