The cat had been gone and the lesbian dance had been silent for some time now. It had been a fairly rough patch for the Kinkster. Ratso was really starting to irritate me as well. "Starting," I suppose, would be the wrong word to use. Ratso had been doing a pretty thorough job of getting up my sleeve ever since the first day I'd met him. Maybe it was part of his charm. Maybe I never used to let it get to me. Maybe with the cat gone and no one around to really talk to, the full brunt of Ratso's personality was finally weighing down upon me. But Ratso was a guy you just couldn't hate, so you might as well love him. And when I think of all the shit the two of us have been through together, I see him as a natural and inevitable part of my own existence. The cat never liked him, of course, and that would be putting it mildly. The truth was the cat fucking hated him, and I believe you should never mistrust the instincts of a cat. But what the hell, the cat by now was no doubt safely across the rainbow bridge and I was standing at my window, waiting for Ratso, and watching the rain.
It was a hard rain, as Bob Dylan might say, but I didn't mind. In fact, I didn't really give a damn if the whole city floated away. Well, maybe it'd be nice to keep Chinatown. When it's raining cats and dogs I miss the animals and people I've loved in my life and I feel closer to them and farther away from today. Today is just a garbageman in his yellow raincoat. Today is the wet woman with the wild hair walking willfully into the white wall. Today's a goddamn vase without any flowers. Hell, give me a passably decent tomorrow, I said. Give me a handful of scrappy yesterdays. Give me liberty or give me death or give me life on the Mississippi.
Since my cat had disappeared I found I was talking to myself a great deal, and myself, unfortunately, had never taken the time or effort to bother developing her listening skills. Without the cat I was a starfish on the sand. A lesbian dance class without the music. A Japanese tourist wandering the world without a camera. I was lost in a swirling gray fog of grief and self-pity. What the hell, I thought. Being alone provides an opportunity few of us ever have in life, the opportunity to get to know ourselves. I mean you might as well get to know yourself. You're going to have to live together.
I watched the rain some more. It felt like it was raining all over the world. Everywhere but Georgia. I heard some rumbling sounds from upstairs. Lesbian thunder no doubt. Then from further upstairs I heard the rumbling sounds of just plain thunder. After listening for a while it was hard to tell which was which. Ask me if I cared. Large dogs often seem to be afraid of thunder, but small dogs usually remain unfazed by it. What does this tell us? Not too much. These are the kinds of fragmented thoughts that quite commonly pop into the heads of private investigators who've gone too long with nothing to investigate. If this situation persists for a while, said investigators may even lose their powers of observation. When this occurs, about all they can do is watch the rain.
"If I'm not mistaken," I said to the cat who wasn't there, "I hear the call of a blue-buttocked tropical loon."
It is not uncommon, psychologists say, for a person to speak to a loved one after the loved one has passed away. The force of habit is often stronger than the force of gravity. The force of wishful thinking, I would submit, may even be stronger than the other two. Psychologists probably wouldn't agree with me. Like that red-bearded baboon who got me deselected from the Peace Corps. Because I was honest with him I never got to meet a blonde driving a jeep in Africa and make her the future ex-Mrs. Kinky Friedman. I had to wander the country aimlessly for many moons, retrain in Hawaii, then go to Borneo where I helped people who'd been farming successfully for over two thousand years. It was during my stint in Borneo that my penis sloughed off in the jungle. I didn't blame God. I didn't blame the psychologist. I didn't even blame the naked little brown children who laughed and pointed to my penis lying there on the jungle floor and shouted Pisang! Pisang means "banana" in Malay. No, I don't blame any of these people. I just blame my editor for leaving this shit out of the book.
The blue-buttocked tropical loon called out again, giving forth with what sounded like another, somewhat more impassioned, mating call. What, I wondered, was a blue-buttocked tropical loon doing in the middle of a rainstorm in the West Village? The blue-buttocked tropical loon belonged in a rain forest, not a rainstorm. Of course I could understand it making an occasional appearance in the East Village, but it was highly unusual for this rare bird to migrate to the more civilized West Village. Another unsettling irregularity was that it was the middle of winter, certainly not the normal mating season for the blue-buttocked tropical loon. Possibly, like everybody else in the world, the loon was merely out to fuck me. I opened the kitchen window ever so slightly. I looked down into a monolithic gray wall of rain but could see nothing. Then I heard the strange sound again.
"Kinkstah!" it seemed to say. "Kinkstah, I'm fucking drowning out here!"
I walked over to the roaring fireplace and picked up the little black puppethead from off the mantel. The key to the building was still wedged firmly in its smiling mouth. It seemed it was the only secure thing I had in the world these days. The puppethead had been lost, but now it was found, and it held the key, I felt, to my last remaining chance for happiness in life. If you're happy, of course, this probably won't make much sense to you. If you're not, you probably already realize how the world turns on a dime. Or a key. Or a memory.
I opened the window a little further and threw poor Yorick out into the cold curtain of rain. Somewhere below that curtain stood either Ratso or an extremely articulate blue-buttocked tropical loon. Moments later all doubt was erased as Ratso came stumbling into the loft like a carnival tent coming in from the rain. He was wearing a fire-engine-red hooded rain slicker that flapped and dripped all the way to the refrigerator.
"My floors will be a mess," I said.
"Your floors have always been a mess," said Ratso. "Why change now? At least you've gotten rid of all those cat turds -- "
Realizing his own unpremeditated insensitivity, perhaps, he pulled his head out of the refrigerator long enough to walk the puppethead back to its customary perch on top of the mantel. Then, with one arm resting on the mantel, he warmed himself before the fire.
"Sorry," he said.
"Forget it," I told him. And I meant it. The loss of one cat, one man, one woman, one child, one dream, signifies very little either in the city or in the world. Everybody knows there's plenty more where that one came from. Nobody cares or everybody does -- it's all the same thing. We mourn for ourselves, I thought. So get on with your life or become a fucking Buddhist or something, but don't just sit around moping about it. Simply make a point in the future of never letting yourself get involved with anything that eats or dies.
"Cheer up, Kinkstah!" said Ratso. "Let's go to Chinatown."
"That would constitute eating."
"Eating's important, Kinkstah! So's dumping. When you stop eating, you stop dumping. When you stop dumping, you stop living. The Jewish people have been assuaging their grief and their guilt for over two thousand years -- hell, maybe more -- by eating Chinese food. Why stop now? We have a great tradition to uphold!"
"Ratso, it's raining."
"That's what they told Noah! And what'd he do? He built himself an ark!"
"Maybe I'll build myself something like this," I said.
With impeccable timing, I blasted a loud fart that seemed to reverberate in the loft, echoing like footsteps in the tomb of the mummy of the Pharaoh Esophagus. Ratso was impressed.
"That was a bell-ringer," he said. "Did you touch cloth?"
"That would be unlikely, Watson. As you well know, I've worn no underwear since my years in the tropics. I prefer to go commando-style."
"Right you are, Sherlock. How could I forget a thing like that?"
"Ah, my dear Watson! But it is exactly the trivial little matter like that that the criminal mind often forgets. And it is exactly 'a thing like that,' as you say, that arouses the rational, scientific mind of the detective and leads him to the sure resolution of the most puzzling and convoluted matter."
"That's brilliant, Sherlock. But there are also health ramifications to not wearing underwear. Your pee-pee could catch a cold."
"Ah, Watson! How I have missed your witty banter and camaraderie by the fireside! You never fail to bring a delightful, if somewhat earthy, humor to an investigation."
"We have an investigation?"
"Alas, Watson, the answer is no."
"When will we have an investigation, Sherlock?"
"We'll never have one if you keep going around in that ridiculous Little Red Riding Hood outfit. But don't you fear, Watson. Investigations are like cats. They are fated to come into and go out of our lives. One way or another, they will come around again."
Copyright © 2005 by Kinky Friedman