The cat is sitting at the top of the stairs when I arrive home.
She yawns extravagantly, a show of tiny, pointed teeth and pink, curled tongue.
I climb the steps, narrow my eyes at her. “What?”
Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, stares at a spot over my head, a trait I find disconcerting. I absentmindedly run my hand over the top of my head, feel for bugs.
There are none.
“Oh, nothing,” she says.
Liza Bean Bitey, a small-pawed, delicately framed puss, a cat who once ran for office under the banner of jobs for all who wanted them and a mouse in every pot, smiles.
Disconcerting, a cat’s smile.
I remove my shoes, hang my coat on the hook. “What?”
“Well,” she says, “remember that job I had at the Department of Motor Vehicles?”
Air escapes me, a “pssssssss” of a sound that makes the end of the cat’s tail twitch.
“Do I remember?” I muse. “Hmm. You mean those three months of work you were fired from for creating a driver’s license for yourself under the name of “Bubble Anne Squeak”?
The cat clears her throat. “It’s called a Reduction In Force,” she says, testily. “I wasn’t fired. I was RIFed.”
“I’ll RIF you,” I say.
She tilts her head, gazes at me affectionately. “That was almost funny, Pearl, do you know that?”
I reach down, scratch between her ears, and she closes her eyes briefly, the tiniest of smiles on her little black lips.
I straighten up. “So,” I say. “Sitting at the top of the stairs. In wait.”
She fixes her bright green eyes on me. “I may have used your credit card.”
I stare at her.
“More than once.”
I continue to stare at her. I blink twice.
“Oh, come now,” she says irritably. “It’s not like I didn’t get you something, too.”
I can’t help but smile. “You bought me a gift with my own money?”
“Yes,” she says, purring. “Who’s your favorite kitty?”
I frown. Suddenly, it seems rather quiet in the house.
Liza Bean’s eyebrows inch up in what I’m sure she feels is an innocent fashion. “Sorry. What’s that?”
“Dolly Gee Squeakers? Formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers? Where is she?”
“Ahh.” Liza Bean stands up, digs both front paws into the carpeting. Chest down, tail to the ceiling she stretches lavishly. “I had to lock her out on the porch.”
I stare at her.
She dismisses me with a wave of a tidy paw. “March Madness,” she says. “Do you realize her basketball picks are based on whether one mascot is bigger than another?” She shakes her head. “You’d think she would’ve learned after last year’s wallet-cleaning.”
Liza Bean leaps to the comfort of an easy chair. “Silly cat,” she murmurs.
And with that, Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, lays down, curls up, and falls asleep.