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Humorous, biting, insightful, The Catsitters is part The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, part The Art of War, and is sure to delight men and women alike. Between the popular columnist's fans and the storm of media interest in the book, The Catsitters will be the book to read this summer.
At first I thought it was a human cry. As the elevator stuttered open at my floor, I heard a baby wailing behind a neighbor's door, like a tiny captive. Then I realized the sound was coming from inside my apartment, growing louder and more plaintive the closer I got. I set my travel bag down on the faded patch of carpet where the welcome mat used to be before it got stolen. When I unlocked the door, she was sitting waiting for me, her green cat eyes glaring and her ears cocked. Holding the pose just long enough to make her point, Slinky returned her ears to their normal upright position and padded toward me, uttering a cry that expressed confusion, distress, and annoyance all at once. Where have you been? She had always been a vocal animal, but this was a note of rebuke I hadn't heard before, backed up with an impressive amount of body language for such a small animal. She paused at my feet, hunching her shoulders and looking up at me as if to lodge a formal complaint.
"I missed you, too," I said, bending to pet her. She ducked under my hand after a couple of head rubs and turned tail, heading for the kitchen. I followed, wanting to see how she had done on her breakfast.
Slinky's water bowl was dry, which was nothing unusual. She often expressed her displeasure when I was absent for a few days by smacking its rim with her paw, knocking it over and spilling water everywhere. I had learned to take the precaution of placing a pan in the sink beneath the dripping faucet, creating a temporary watering hole just in case. But her food dish was also empty, and the kitchen counterwas covered with black pawprints, like a mambo diagram in a dance lesson. Fish-shaped crunchy bits were scattered all over the counter and floor where the cat had torn a fist-sized hole into the side of the catfood box. My girlfriend Nicole was supposed to catsit while I was visiting my family in Maryland, but the evidence was that Slinky had fended for herself the entire weekend. I swept the fish-shaped kibble into the palm of my hand, tossing it into the trash can. As Slinky wove between my legs, doing narrow figure-eights, I opened a can of soft food and refilled her water bowl. "Don't eat too fast," I said, stroking her back. Her black fur was matted, salted with dandruff. She looked like a Halloween cat down on her luck.
While Slinky ate, I checked the bathroom for other signs of mischief. I had gotten off lightly this time. A shredded roll of toilet paper lay on the floor in a perforated heap, but she hadn't knocked my shaving products, shampoos, and medicine bottles into the sink, as she had over the Christmas holiday. I cleaned her litter box, laying down a thin spread of baking soda below the fresh litter. I then checked the bedroom, opening the closet doors and checking for fabric holes. Under stress, Slinky sometimes became wool-eater.
The only casualty was the toe of a sock she must have pulled out of the hamper. It was one of my good socks, too, from a pair Nicole had given me for Christmas. I went through the rest of the apartment, doing damage assessment and minor tidying up. It wasn't that warm in the apartment, but after fifteen minutes I was sweating like a busboy, not so much from exertion as from anxiety building a base camp in my stomach. I took off my jacket and aired myself out a little, then grabbed a Coke from the refrigerator and sat down to figure out what might have happened. Maybe there was a problem with the duplicate keys I had made for Nicole, or maybe she had misplaced them. But why hadn't she left a message on my machine letting me know? Nothing's ever easy in New York. There's always a hitch.
It was early April, the Monday after Easter. The living-room blinds were jammed at the top of the window frame, where they refused to budge after I had yanked too hard on the cord a few months earlier. I had planned to get them fixed, but I tend to let things slide until they reach the crisis stage. I opened the window a slice to let in a breeze, then retreated to the far end of the sofa, away from the afternoon sunlight, which was beginning to beat. From where I sat I could see the stone bell tower of St. Teresa's, the bell itself as black as an old tarred cannon in the village square. Birds lined the turret, flapping their wings as they settled on the ledge. The layers of white droppings on the ledge looked like cake icing. The red light on my answering machine, which blinked when I had messages, was a solid dot. I picked up the phone, dialed Nicole's office, and got her assistant, Ty, who always spoke to me as if I were clogging the information highway.
"Nicole Price's office," Ty said.
"Hi, it's Johnny Downs. Nicole in?"
"Not at present." He was more curt than usual, speaking in very distinct syllables.
"Do you know when she's expected back?"
"She's at a clients' lunch, and I believe there may be an in-house conference afterward, but I wouldn't want to go on record with that."
In case there might be a congressional investigation later.
"Well, could you tell her I called?"
"Tell her she can call me after work, if that's more conven--"
"I have a messenger standing here waiting. I'll leave word you called."
I pictured Ty signing for a package with a lightning hand as I dialed Nicole's home number and left...
Posted September 1, 2001
Witty and almost cynical, but every once in awhile it just catches you emotionally and you have to stop and think about those feelings... The storyline is just right for those who enjoy Relationship Novels. I'm totally enjoying it and admire the nuances the author was able to describe in daily life and dating life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2001
This is humor at its best -- with sharp insights, incredibly lovely writing, a fast-paced, gripping plot, and characters you actually care about. Wolcott's take on the relationship between the sexes is right on. His close observations of people and situations mirror his non-fiction writing. I couldn't put this one down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.