Tom’s kitten Whiskey moved from the perch so often used by felines when they pass time in their master’s homes– computers. Cats are naturally drawn to computers. They sit seemingly in a trance created by the jungle of the modern communications era. The furry stalkers are bound to the scar of neutering and seem to find solace in Intel. They walk across keyboards with a sense of entitlement– sucking up an energy that secretly seeps from the fingertips of masters who waste so much time in chat rooms or on social networking sites– unaware of the evil that is out there on the world wide web. Cats have always been guardians of the underworld, and like spiders, they are deadly stalkers. Whisky, a strong stray brought into the house by Tom’s lover Richie appeared to have traits of bobcat in him, for at the tips of his ears were antenna-like hairs. Whiskey reminded me of my own tabby Link as he made his way down the oak desk and past Stephen’s fat hairy legs sticking out of pleated J. Crew shorts. Whiskey walked in a circle next to Floyd and arched his back before settling into a ball on the dusty hardwood floor.
“Hi Whiskey,” Floyd said, revealing a gum line without teeth or dentures. He smiled and bent over to pet the creature while placing a black shopping bag next to the large cassette operated answering machine which obviously was not functioning for the electrical cord had been wrapped around the shoe-box sized contraption. “Whiskey follows me everywhere. He was sleeping with me until Tom moved his litter box into his bedroom so that he can lock him in there. Poor cat. You got to be careful in this house with Whiskey around. He’ll sneak out on ya. I was out on the back porch smokin’ and he ran between my legs. Wouldn’t come back in either. Didn’t tell Tom about it. Figured he’d come in on his own. Tom was there on his computers sending pictures back and forth with his friends and Whiskey came crashin’ into the window next to Tom’s computer. Scratchin’ at a bug he was chasin’. Well, it’s nice to meet you, Charles. I gotta get back to work. I work for Tom too, ya know. Tom wants the Polaris North newsletter to get out today.”
“Polaris North is a newsletter that Tom edits,” Stephen explained. “Tom may ask for your assistance in managing the database– that is if you want to work more hours and drain the cash cow. He uses the same program that he uses with his stocks. There are probably several hundred subscribers. Returned copies of the Polaris North newsletter come back in the mail and you’ll have to go into the database and make corrections to mailing addresses. Often, the post office will place forwarding information on returns– indicating where a party has moved. Simply go in and make the change of address. If there is no forwarding address, just remove the address from the file, not the name. It’s a membership organization. Actors pay $25 a year in membership dues and Tom likes to keep a running list of everyone who has ever been a member of Polaris North.”
“How much is Tom payin’ him an hour?” Floyd asked Stephen.
“You know the going rate, Floyd.”
“I tell ya. We should get raises. How long you worked for him Stephen?”
“Fourteen years for God’s sake. I can’t wait to get out of this nut house. It’s none of your damned business Floyd.”
Whiskey suddenly darted into Floyd’s bedroom as the door to Tom’s room creaked open–
“Who’s there? Who is it?” Tom shouted as if someone had broken in and wanted to rape him. The long white strands of hair atop his mostly bald, freckled head were no longer slicked to the back, but had been ruffled from a pillow and fell in one giant knot over his forehead in Eienstein fashion. His eyes, though pastel-blue like a morning sky in Spring obviously had lost their glow for seeing clearly for so many years.
“Floyd is that you?” Tom shouted.
“”Your eyes are gettin’ worse Tom. You need to get them checked out…”
“I know! I know! Shut the fuck up, will ya? Christ. Do you gotta talk so God damned loud all the time?”
“Tom! Tom! Just listen and stop fighting with me, will ya? God damn it! What did I ever do that was so bad to you? I picked up everything on the list that you typed out for me this morning, but before you go and get pissed off at me again, I should tell ya that the price of eggs went up again, but I have the receipt to prove it. Your change is on the answering machine next to everything. I got the soap too…”
“Did they have the blue Irish Spring soap…?”
“Yes Tom. Now I’m going back to work. I gotta get the newsletters out today…remember?”
“What? Oh! Yes. Polaris North. Alright…I gotta get up…Who is that? Stephen is that you?”
“Yes. Remember. I’m here training Charles– my replacement.”
“Oh, yes, Charles…. Charles Taylor…. Now that’s English name. We Barbour’s are from England too. Stephen tells me you’re gay too. Does that mean you are a real gay man or are you gay in the sense that Floyd was once gay?” He asked.
“Oh, I’m gay. I have a lover,” I said, wanting to establish boundaries with my new employer, needing to let him know that even if he did want my now fat, aging body, it would be impossible for me to get it up for him anyway.
“A lover? Who? You must tell me all about him one day. I have had so many. Don’t we all?”