When a kitty’s eighth birthday comes around, one is obligated to attend the party, even if doing so may require that you call in to work with eye problems the next day.
Honestly, with the kind of hangover one is likely to have, you’re not going to be able to see going in.
That was Part One.
And when the party is at Nye’s, 30 hep cats drinking gin and tonics, snacking on pureed gerbil on toast points and song-bird terrine, and the birthday kitty’s ex walks in the door?
Well, that was Part Two.
Read on, won’t you?
“Liza Bean! No!”
Her tail is now four times its normal size. Liza Bean Bitey, co-author of “Think And Grow Bitey” and Minnesota State Fair blue ribbon winner in landscaping design, has dropped her head, her ears pinned back.
Fuzzawald Tiberius Strippersson, formerly of the Hennepin County Lock-Up Strippersons and exboyfriend of Liza Bean Bitey, has come down the stairs, and now stands at the bar, where the paws of a dozen cats are raised in greeting.
The cry goes up: “Fuzzy!”
“Liza Bean!” I drop my drink onto the table next to us, grasp her by the scruff.
Her front legs dangle.
The cat whirls on me, takes a swipe that, mercifully, is off the mark. “Let me go!” she hisses. “Let me go now!”
I shake my head. “Not until you calm down.”
She takes another swipe, but this one is more for show than anything else.
I take a seat, pull the cat on to my lap.
I hand her my gin and tonic.
“Drink,” I say.
She sighs. She leans forward, wraps tiny black lips around the straw, finishes my drink in one long pull.
When she lets go of the straw, she takes a deep breath.
“Better?” I say.
She smiles brightly. “I’m better,” she says.
I squint at her, cock my head to one side.
She laughs, the sound of champagne poured over ice. “Really, Pearl. You know how mercurial a birthday kitty can be. I’m fine. Let me go.”
I smile back. “No.”
She scowls. “Seriously, Pearl. Yes, he hurt me. And no, I don’t plan on forgiving or forgetting, but he’ll get his soon enough.” She pauses. “I’m just not sure that it’s up to me to make sure that happens.”
In the center of a room full of drunken, joyous cats, there is calm at our table.
“I will always love him,” she says. “And we will never be together again.”
I pause. “That’s surprisingly mature of you, Liza.”
She smiles, a small, rueful smile. “Well, I am eight, you know.”
I lean forward, kiss her on her tiny striped forehead. She narrows her eyes slowly, a small smile on her lips.
“Liza Bean Bitey!”
The moment is broken by the appearance of Fuzzwald.
Liza Bean briefly tenses. She stands, leaps from my lap to the table.
I raise my arm, two fingers in the air. A woman in black pants and a starched white shirt appears with two gin and tonics, extra limes. Liza Bean pulls a five from somewhere on her body, presses it into the waitress’s hand.
“A server among servers,” she murmurs.
Liza Bean lifts a lime, squeezes it thoughtfully into her drink, drops it on to the table. She picks up a second lime. “Fuzzwald,” she says. She appears to be addressing the drink. “How kind of you to stop by.”
Fuzzwald T. Stripperson, AKA “Fuzzy”, one-time and disgraced heir to the Stripperson foundation garment dynasty and rakish cat-about-town, smiles. “You look fit,” he says.
Liza Bean squeezes a fourth lime into her drink, stirs it with one casually extended claw. “You’ve no idea,” she says.
There is an uncomfortable silence, one that Fuzzy uses to gaze around the room.
His gaze stops on a stunning Abyssinian at the back of the room. Lithe and dangerous, the cat is holding court amongst a group of enthralled Toms.
Liza Bean’s gaze follows his. Her nostrils flare. She says nothing.
“I know so many of the cats here,” he says, casually. “But I don’t know her.” He smiles, an oily expression that makes me want to slap him. “Who is she?”
Caught in the drama, I look to Liza Bean, who smiles back at him.
“Perhaps an introduction is in order,” she says.