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Working Girl: If the Pussycat Keeps Going Missing, Maybe It’s Trying to Escape

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underbelly

Moral #15: If the Pussycat Keeps Going Missing, Maybe It’s Trying to Escape

 

Find the cat. I dare you.Image by Matthewjs007 at Flickr Commons.

Find the cat. I dare you.
Image by Matthewjs007 at Flickr Commons.

My boss Caroline called me at 4:30 a.m.

I don’t know what kinds of hours other escorts keep, but Caroline kept a pretty regular sleeping schedule. In bed by 11 p.m., ready for her morning run by 8 a.m. This consistency was nice for me. It meant that, as her assistant, I got to keep pretty normal hours, too.

Usually.

“BOJANGLES IS GONE!” Caroline yelled into my groggy ear.

“Wha…?” I said.

“I WOKE UP EARLY AND WENT TO PET THE CATS AND I CAN’T FIND BOJANGLES! DO YOU HAVE HIM?”

“Why would I have Bojangles?” I said.

“IF YOU HAVE HIM THERE AND ARE HIDING HIM I WILL FIND OUT!”

I sighed. It was going to be one of those days. (“Those days” being the ones where I dealt with her suspicion that I was a liar, a user, and a cat-theif. She would yell a lot and disregard all reason. At least there was tomorrow to look forward to, when she would feel bad and say I was the best, most honest person she’d ever met, and please please please never leave her.)

Caroline was the kind of person who thought it was totally reasonable to assume her assistant stole her cat.

She lived in a reality where selling her body for money was the most viable career option, where lying and making threats were necessary job skills, and where friends did not stick around long. Her dearest treasures were her cats.

Also, her bank account.

Also, whatever body part she’d recently had plastic surgery on.

But just because they were her dearest treasures, didn’t mean she took good care of them. I don’t think Caroline understood what it meant to take good care of something. It required more time, attention, and commitment than she knew how to give.

 

Moral #13: Really caring for something is more than a part-time job.

 

“You really don’t have him?” she said, and she sounded so small and scared that I almost wished I had cat-napped Bojangles, so I could give him back to her.

“No,” I said. “I really don’t.”

“Can you help me find him?”

At 4:30 a.m.? “Sure,” I said. The “L” was running, and it wasn’t like I would get any more sleep. Even if I didn’t go in to work until 9 a.m., my usual hour, she’d just keep calling me.

I suited up for February in Chicago. This is a cruel kind of cold. It is a Dante’s ninth circle of hell kind of cold. If you think you know what I’m talking about, but you live in Colorado or Flagstaff or something, here’s an experiment to perform: fill your sink with water and dunk your whole head in it. Then open your freezer, stick your head in it, and stay there for five minutes. When you feel like you want to cry but are afraid your eyes might freeze shut, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.

When I got to Caroline’s fifth-floor, swanky loft apartment, I tried to be as logical and process-oriented as possible at 5 a.m., running on no food, no caffiene, and recovering from the traumatizing experience of simply walking outside.

“When did you last see Bojangles?” I asked Caroline.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think it was last night when Jingles and Mama Cass came in. I thought he was there, too.”

“You let them out on the roof again?” I said.

“THEY LOVE THE ROOF!” she said. “IT’S THE ONLY WAY THEY SEE THE SKY!”

In the past, I had strongly suggested that Caroline stop letting her cats out on her roof. This was after Bojangles fell off it. He’d just recently recovered from his broken leg, and his left hind quarter was finally regrowing a coat of fur after the surgery.

 

Moral #14: Caring for something doesn’t mean letting it do whatever it wants.

 

Maybe Bojangles had learned his lesson and didn’t walk on the edge of the roof again? Maybe he was still out there?

I went through the sliding glass doors to the flat rooftop, where patio furniture, a storage shed, a barbecue grill, and other symbols of outdoor fun stood, like cardboard cutouts representing the death of your American dream when you wind up a prostitute with a missing cat.

Bojangles was nowhere in sight. I had to admit he probably fell off the roof again.

“OH MY GOD!” Caroline yelled. “HE PROBABLY REBROKE HIS LEG AND IS FREEZING TO DEATH SOMEWHERE! YOU HAVE TO FIND HIM!”

“Do you have a picture of him?” I said. “We need to make some posters.”

This is not the poster. It's not even Bojangles. This image is by Axel Cardenas at Flickr Commons.

This is not the poster. It’s not even Bojangles. This image is by Axel Cardenas at Flickr Commons.

There is simply not enough room in this article for me to detail the discomfort involved in posting the posters. It took three trips, nearly six hours, and I’m already way over my word count. I tried to focus on Bojangles. I was doing this for Bojangles.

By the time I got back to the apartment, I hated Bojangles.

I hate you, Mr. Bojangles.

I hate you, Mr. Bojangles.

Caroline had developed a new theory.

“Bojangles probably fell in that little alley between this building and the one next door.”

“The transient motel?” I said, tired and frozen and weary of being yelled at by shop owners who didn’t want multiple cat posters in their windows.

“Yes, and one of the homeless people probably opened their window and took him. You have to go knock on all the doors on the bottom floor and find whoever has him.”

“Um—” I said.

“YOU’RE NOT EVEN TRYING! HOW LAZY DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO NOT FIND A CAT WITH A BROKEN LEG? YOU GO TO THAT MOTEL AND LOOK IN EACH OF THOSE ROOMS AND FIND MY CAT!”

I cringed so hard inside.

Here is what I was wearing: A very thick, heavy suede coat with faux fur trim that fell past my knees. Knee-high leather boots. A downy cowl-necked sweater that also served as a scarf, red lipstick, and fake pearl stud earrings. My blonde hair was upswept in my usual style, clipped in place with a big giant barrette. I thought I looked pretty stylish–which usually served me well working for Caroline.

Not today. I felt like Bruce Wayne’s mom in the alley behind the opera house.

SPOILER ALERT!

The guy at the counter, who sat behind a scratched, bullet-proof transparent panel, gave me the stink eye. He clearly thought I was lost. “Can I help you?”

Deciding it was not a good idea to go into a transient motel and ask if Bojangles was there, I kept it general. “I’m looking for a cat. I think someone on the first floor has it.”

“No animals allowed in this building.”

He tried to look at me so hard that I would leave.

I tried to look like a Confident Dazzling Woman and repeated, “I think someone has it on the first floor.”

He sighed and waved me on. I was kind of impressed I’d made it that far. I would be even more impressed if I didn’t get stabbed.

The hotel smelled like urine, and instead of imagining what it would feel like to get stabbed, I tried to imagine the residents just opening their doors and peeing in the hallway. The lights that worked buzzed and flickered. I knocked at every room facing the alley on the first floor. At each door, I braced for impact. And at each door, I received absolutely no response no matter how long I knocked.

Except for one.

I knocked on door 1D, and after a minute, it cracked open. A man with wild hair and eyes that were yellow where they should have been white peeked through.

“Wha’choo want?” he said, sounding suspicious. I thought that he thought I was involved in some kind of operation to get him arrested for drugs or something.

“I’m looking for a cat,” I said.

“I don’t got no cat,” he said, and closed the door.

I called through, determined not to be pushed around, “He fell in the alley! Maybe you saved him through the window!”

“Window don’t open!” he yelled.

I stayed there, with my ear pressed to the door, listening for muffled meows, just as I had done at all the other doors.

The man seemed just as freaked out as I was. He must have noticed the shadows of my feet still under the door, because after a few minutes, he shouted from inside the room, “I don’t got no cat, lady! Go ‘way!”

I left, feeling guilty for feeling afraid.

 

Moral #15: Sometimes they are just as weirded out by you as you are by them. (This applies to a lot of things.)

 

When I got back to the apartment, again, Bojangles was there. He had followed a woman down the street, and she called the number on his collar. She and Caroline were petting him, and though the woman seemed very nice, she also looked pretty concerned.

A few weeks later, someone came and took all the cats away for good. Caroline said they’d have a better home, and claimed to be happy for them.

I was sorry for her, but happy for the cats.

 

Moral #16: If the pussycat keeps going missing, maybe it’s trying to escape.

 

***

L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.


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