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Recent new york Stories

Current new york Editor

Janine Armin

Janine Armin is the co-editor of fiction anthology Toronto Noir (Akashic, 2008). Her writing on books appears in Bookforum, The Globe and Mail, The Village Voice and The Bookseller among others.

Joyland New York is currently accepting submissions. Email story as paste-in (no attachments) along with brief bio to: [email protected]

Subject line should read: New York, [Your story title]

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The Cat Sitter

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Claire’s hair made her sad. It fell out in black clumps every morning. After a series of blood tests, she was found to be in perfect health. She noticed a group of strands on her empty pillow and hesitated before unwrapping the towel from around her head. Her boyfriend Travis covered his eyes. She couldn’t be too sure that it was a coincidence, just something that he was doing to block out the sun streaming from the windows.

Claire threw open her suitcase. She had a job as a cat sitter. She stayed in other people’s apartments while they were away. The last apartment she stayed in had a grand piano. She would sit in front of it to wait for the sound to flow through her fingers, but it never did.

Travis had the apartment to himself most of the time and when he wasn’t working as a mechanic, he was at home. He said he liked the feeling of the remote in his hand even when there was nothing on TV.

There were people sitting out on the stoop of the apartment building where she had to watch the cats and when she got to the fourth floor there was already someone waiting for her, the door open a crack so that she could only see an eye.

“Hello,” she said.

Slowly, Claire’s client Marie pulled open the door. Claire saw that she was still in her terry bathrobe. Red plastic cups were scattered around the apartment. In the kitchen, empty cans of cat food were stacked and a fishy scent emanated from them. Marie didn’t look like she was planning on going anywhere.

“Come in,” Marie said.

Claire took a step inside. Marie shut the door. Claire

listened to the click of the lock. Marie examined her. Claire readied herself for an insult, but none came. “Where are the cats?” she asked.

“Hiding,” Marie said. “Would you like something to drink?”

Claire nodded and followed Marie into the kitchen. The linoleum was peeling from the floor. A bulletin board hung on the wall with yellowed comics tacked to it.

Without asking what Claire would like to drink, Marie poured her a shot of vodka. “Cheers to our meeting,” she said.

“Cheers,” Claire said. “Where are you vacationing?”


“Usually when someone asks me to watch their cats, they’re vacationing.”

“Yes, I should get ready,” she said, but she sat down on the couch on top of a pile of magazines. “Have a seat,” she said.

“Do you want to show me the cats and tell me about their care?” Maybe Claire was being too pushy. She glanced over at the bookshelf. It was filled with plays. Claire thought of Travis again. He was probably just getting out of bed and lighting a cigarette. She wanted to be home with him. She was becoming more worried about holding onto him. Lately, when she became lonely during her cat sitting jobs she would call him. Sometimes he wouldn’t even call her back and she waited. Alone with the cats, she waited.

“What are the cat’s names?” she asked.

“Laverne and Purrley,” Marie said.

“Cute,” Claire said. So cute that she decided to believe that the cats existed, but the feeling that she had stepped into a questionable situation made her stomach rumble with anxiety.

Claire sighed. She was sure Marie had mentioned on the phone that the time of her leaving was to coincide with Claire’s arrival. What else had she said over the phone? Claire couldn’t remember. Travis had been playing music too loudly in the background. Maybe they had spoken about Marie’s sister in St. Louis or a younger man that she had met online who proposed a cruise off the coast of Florida.