Big Cats: Stories
  • Big Cats: Stories
  • Big Cats: Stories

Big Cats: Stories

4.2 19
by Holiday Reinhorn

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Big Cats opens with "Charlotte," in which a young girl with a broken pelvis spies on her voluptuous neighbor during a long, hot summer night, setting the tone of irrepressible curiosity and yearning that is evident throughout the collection. In "Get Away from Me, David," a bank manager tries to overcome his haunted past as he deals with the aftermath of a

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Big Cats opens with "Charlotte," in which a young girl with a broken pelvis spies on her voluptuous neighbor during a long, hot summer night, setting the tone of irrepressible curiosity and yearning that is evident throughout the collection. In "Get Away from Me, David," a bank manager tries to overcome his haunted past as he deals with the aftermath of a minor earthquake and the body of a customer who died in the lobby. "Big Cats" pits two teenage girls against each other in an escalating catfight at the zoo where they work, culminating in a blowout in front of the lion cage.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Holiday Reinhorn is among the very best of a new generation of short story writers. Her work grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go: tough, deep, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Big Cats is the work of a major talent."
— Dan Chaon, author of the National Book Award fiction finalist Among the Missing and You Remind Me of Me
Publishers Weekly
In the title story of this lively, honest debut collection set in California and Oregon, two 14-year-old girls, concessions workers at a zoo, get into a fistfight outside the lions' cage. The girls aren't "big" cats yet, but they're trying, and Reinhorn captures their adolescent ebullience and sexual bravado. The adults in the remaining stories are often profoundly lonely-hungering for connection, they take or conjure it where they can. The Vietnam vet and former convict narrating "My Name" works in an old age home, where he focuses his affection on a catatonic woman who briefly wakes to call him by her son's name. In "Fuck You," a terse but morally complicated piece about the subtle abuse of adult power over children, a lonely pregnant woman coerces companionship from an adolescent Little Leaguer. In "Get Away from Me, David," Reinhorn vividly evokes an alcoholic bank manager's precariousness: barely holding up under daily stresses, including an earthquake and a dead customer, he hallucinates his dead wife and contemplates a bottle of Dayquil "while the world is murmuring alternatives." These tight and uncontrived stories bring authentic characters to vivid life. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Free Press
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5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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Chapter One: Charlotte

The day Mrs. Linkabaugh moved in next door, I cracked my pubic bone in two places. It was 97 degrees, according to the giant thermometer Karl Bongaard had hanging on the side of his house. I was swinging at the time, watching the men from the moving company slide pieces of a fuzzy red water bed out of their truck, when my outgrown swing set pitched like a mechanical bull. A fire hydrant loomed, and I touched down somewhere along the curb. Through a small patch of consciousness, I looked up into the faces of four Mayflower movers as the sky ripped open and all of the clouds dropped to earth like wet rags.

At the Veterans Administration Training Hospital, I was in Room 503 with air-conditioning and a man named Victor Samuels, who pulled open the separating curtain every chance he got and started talking. He said he was originally from St. Louis and that last year his prostate had started hardening up into a little missile. My mother, Bobbie, said we had to be polite to Victor Samuels no matter what because he was probably tortured by the Vietnamese.

Dr. Maryland, the orthopedist, liked Bobbie right away. When he pinned up the X rays and she asked whether smoking was all right if she held it out the window, he said, "Why don't the both of you call me Kevin, okay?"

This kind of thing happens all the time. My father used to say it was because Bobbie could never repulse a man no matter how hard she tried. From the time she was seven to nineteen and a half, my mother, Roberta Marie Peek, was Miss Glendora Heights Southern Division, Miss Teen Hideaway Cove, Miss Young Zuma Beach, Miss Autumn for Sunkist, and third runner-up to Miss La Jolla because she was skinnier then, and nobody could tell she was pregnant.

Even now that she's almost twenty-nine, all the men still like her, and it doesn't matter whether they find out first about the trophies and the train trips and the foot modeling. Jim Juergens, the softball coach from the community center, even came into the girls' locker room when I was changing once and said he had special dreams about making love to Bobbie and getting to be my father. That was the same week Coach Juergens got arrested for walking around the dugout without pants.

Kevin sat in a chair at the foot of my bed and took a long time showing us the X rays.

"As you can see," he said, smiling over at Bobbie, "the fractures are on the left side of the bone. To prevent a limp, I had to actually rebreak the pelvis in the center, just to set the whole thing back in balance."

"This is unbelievable," Bobbie said, leaning over to hand me her last piece of spearmint gum. "I thought this kind of thing only happened to Denny."

Kevin looked at the tan line where Bobbie's wedding ring used to be.

"Who's Denny?" he asked, staring at her like she was the first woman he'd ever seen in his whole life.

Usually, we don't mention Denny to new people right away, because he has concentration problems and can't keep his hands off things. The last medical bill we had from Denny was when Bobbie took him to the Rub-a-Dub Automatic Car Wash and let him ride through it in the driver's seat all alone. He got into the glove compartment, where Bobbie left her purse, and swallowed three sleeping pills and a half-pack of wintergreen Certs and had to be rushed straight to the Poison Center.

"Denny's my little brother," I said, and Kevin looked relieved. He turned back to the X rays.

"Actually, this was a really easy one," he said to Bobbie, pointing to the problem area in the center of the screen. "Once I had a clean break, I used stainless steel to stitch up the bone."

Bobbie held out her hand and I put the gum wrapper in it.

"Metal stitches," she said, shaking her head at the ceiling. "Holy Christ."

"It's better than a broken leg, though, isn't it?" Kevin said. "At her age, the bones are so soft, it's like sewing tissue. She doesn't even have to wear a cast."

Bobbie sighed into her hands, and Kevin looked like he might cry.

"Please don't worry," he said to her. "The incision will barely leave a scar."

I asked Kevin if he was married.

"Of course he is," Bobbie said, sliding the window shut and brushing her cigarette ashes off the sill. "And whoever guesses how much money Kevin makes in a year gets a free Jell-O."

I guessed a million dollars and Kevin smiled.

"I'm afraid we're only a government hospital around here," he said. "I guess I get the Jell-O."

Later, after Victor Samuels came back from his radiation and went to sleep, Bobbie scooted her chair up next to the bed and told me two things: I had to call my father collect right away to tell him I almost died, and that yesterday she had entered me in a preteen beauty contest. I reminded her that my pubic bone was broken, but she said she had already tracked down a sponsor who assured her I would not have to appear in the swimsuit section with any of the other eleven-year-olds or be required to go up or down the auditorium stairs on my crutches.

"They said they'd even put in a ramp if we want," she said, handing me the telephone before she went off with a nurse to sign more papers. "Isn't that terrific?"

My father was supposed to be living in Coos Bay by the water, and most of the time I was the one in charge of calling him. He wasn't usually at his house very much, but since we were in a hospital, I had the operator ring for as long a time as she could, just in case he picked up.

"How did his voice sound?" Bobbie asked when she got back from her errands.

"Okay," I said. "It sounded all right."

On my last day at the Veteran's, Peggy, the physical therapist, taught me how to use the crutches. My job was to practice limping up and down the hallway on alternating legs while she and Bobbie kept the rhythm going with loud claps. In the pharmacy on the first floor, I chose purple armrests for the crutches, and Bobbie bought me flower stickers to paste on the wood. Then, when it was time to go, Kevin walked us over to our car and gave Bobbie his telephone number.

"There are a few choices on here," he said, ripping her off an extra page from his prescription pad, "so give me a buzz anytime."

On the drive home, Bobbie told me everything she knew about our new neighbor. Her name was Mrs. Linkabaugh; her ex-husband, Bill Linkabaugh, was not allowed within 1,000 feet of her house by order of the Oregon State police; and on the day she finally moved in, Mrs. Linkabaugh handed out at least fifty flyers with Bill Linkabaugh's picture on them just to warn everybody.

"And I want you and your brother to be very careful of characters like these," Bobbie said, cutting off a delivery truck on her way into the carpool lane, "because North Willamette is going downhill."

North Willamette is our street. When we were with my father, we lived on North Amherst, North Lombard, and North McCrum. Now Bobbie says she'll never move again, not even if North Willamette becomes a slum.

Mrs. Linkabaugh's new house used to belong to Oliver Grevitch, who died trying to put up his storm windows. One Saturday he got out his ladder and climbed all the way up the side of his house and had a thrombosis. Bobbie's boyfriend Dale was in the driveway when it happened, and he says Mr. Grevitch hung on to his ladder the whole time and the two of them fell together, just like a chopped-down tree.

"Light me a cigarette, will you?" said Bobbie. "This bitch in the Gold Duster won't get off my ass."

When I got it lit, I tapped her, and she held out her hand so I could stick it between the right fingers. The woman in the Gold Duster leaned on the horn, but Bobbie ignored her and smoked with her tip out the window. When the honking got louder, she stuck her middle finger in the rearview mirror.

"This woman can eat me," she said, punching down the automatic lock button and pulling us back into the exit

lane. "Now, roll up your window and hold on, we're taking Killingsworth."

I turned down the radio and kept my eyes on the floor mats, because Killingsworth and Alberta were bad avenues. The summer lifeguard at Peninsula Park used to tell everybody in the free swim that carloads of men from Killingsworth kidnapped girls like us all the time and did it to them over and over in the double-doggy style.

When we got to Lombard Street and into downtown St. John's, Bobbie drove past the Coronet store, where Dale was the assistant manager.

Copyright © 2005 by Wil-Horn Enterprises, Inc.

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What People are saying about this

Dan Chaon
"Holiday Reinhorn is among the very best of a new generation of short story writers. Her work grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go: tough, deep, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Big Cats is the work of a major talent."

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