The lighting at Jimmy’s is dim. The bar itself is occupied by four men, all sitting separately. The booths and table are empty, save one of four women howling with laughter.
The corner booth is ours.
I arrange my things: purse, hat, scarf. The air in Jimmy’s still feels as if someone might light up a cigarette, someone might put Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” on the jukebox. As if someone’s long-lost love may walk through the door.
Liza Bean Bitey, symmetrically striped animal of the feline persuasion and general bon vivant, angles a slim paw at the bar, and a woman with sharp eyeliner and sharper eyes makes a bee line for us.
Cats are notoriously good tippers.
“What’ll you gals have?”
“Two gin and tonics, Carla,” Liza Beams at the waitress, “and plenty of limes.”
Carla winks – winks! – and heads back to the bar.
“You are something,” I say.
Liza Bean. “I are indeed.”
Carla returns to the booth with two gin and tonics and a small bowl of cut up limes.
Liza Bean offers a folded ten from between curved claws.
We busy ourselves with our drinks.
The cat coughs delicately. “Pearl.”
We look up from our decimated limes. Liza Bean stirs her drink with a casual nail. The ice cubes shine like wet glass.
“You don’t come around.”
I inspect my drink. Yes, it’s all there.
“I miss you,” she says.
I look up.
“I miss the way you sat around in curlers.”
“I miss the way you’d pretend to throw a treat and the way we’d watch Dolly dash about the room looking for it.”
I smile. “Remember that time you yakked on the rug and I cleaned it up?”
The cat leans forward, wraps tiny smiling black lips around the glass’s straw, pulls in a respectable amount of cocktail. “I remember you saying, ‘what, you couldn’t have stayed on the hardwood?’”
We laugh. One of the women at the other table begins to sing “Final Countdown”. A man at the bar shouts encouragement at one of two TVs with a game on.
Liza Bean leans back casually, arches her back, casually licks her should. “You know, Pearl, we should do this more often.” She holds her glass up.
Man that cat can drink.
Carla appears with two fresh glasses and disappears quickly. All servers know that cats do not tip for every trip to the table.
Liza Bean squeezes three limes into each of our drinks with a speed that astonishes, stirs them deftly, pushes one toward me.
She leans forward, eyes shining. “I hear you have a garage for rent,” she says. “Do you know that Dolly and I are starting a band?”
A band? Liza Bean and Dolly? What kind of band? What will they call it? Who would pay to see something like that?
And what about Naomi?