February 2, 2022

17 Cats

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There were 17 cats living in Larry’s basement. I didn’t much like cats and every time he hosted the Saturday night swinger’s club, it was all I could do not to think about them, lurking behind the basement door listening to us fornicating like wild animals, disturbing their tranquillity with our passion and lust. I could never relax and get in the mood when I was there, not that my lack of interest stopped anyone else, especially Larry.


I always thought that was peculiar too. How he would go from being so unsure of himself whenever the club met anywhere else — always with his awkward advances and fumbling fingers, but not when he was at home. At home, he would become almost feral about sex, like an overcharged electrical circuit, sparking with energy, like he drew some kind of power from those cats in the basement.


I wasn’t the only one who had noticed it, his metamorphosis from submissive and safe to dominant and debauched. The last time the club met, I had been outside getting some air when Judy mentioned it to me. Judy and I were not exactly best friends so it caught me off guard when she started going on about Larry and how crazy he got whenever we were at his place. She sounded almost scared like she was convinced he transformed into Frankenstein’s monster whenever we were there. I kept my mouth shut. I don’t like to gossip and, honestly, everyone is a little weird in a swinger’s club. It’s almost like a rite of passage to gain admission. So what if Larry seemed to get extra aroused by his cats, I figured everyone had a fetish, who was I to judge.


But then Judy told me something even more peculiar. She told me how her friend Sara-Beth had dated Larry for two weeks and how he kept a bed in the basement and insisted that they make love on it while the cats sat there and watched. I guess I must have laughed because Judy gave me an angry look and told me it was true. The cats would literally take up positions along the bed and the headboard and would stare at them while they had sex. And not just passively but actually watch. According to Judy, it was all too much for poor Sara-Beth so she stopped seeing him.


“Well,” she said. “Don’t you think that’s crazy?”


“I guess,” I said, trying to remain non-committal.


“You guess? The guy can’t get hard unless he’s being watched by his cats and you don’t think that’s crazy? That is the definition of crazy — bat shit crazy.”


I tried to imagine Larry’s 17 cats sitting around his bed watching him have sex. I mean it was definitely peculiar but I still wasn’t sure I’d call it crazy. I don’t like cats but it seemed to me that everyone who did was just a bit off. And anyway, anyone who has ever lived with an animal has had that particular experience during sex. I once had a dog who liked to crowd the bed whenever I was doing it, but I didn’t think that made me crazy? Of course, I hadn’t trained the dog to make popcorn, pull up a chair, and watch the show either. If it was true what Sara-Beth said, that was definitely bizarre. Why would anyone want to have their 17 cats watching them at all, never mind during sex?


But whatever I thought about it, I wasn’t about to go busting up our swinger’s club because of Larry and his damn cats. Far as I was concerned whatever he did in his basement was his business. And anyway, not like he had tied Sara-Beth up or performed some satanic ritual. It wasn’t like he had turned her into one of his cats or anything. Seemed to me that the cats were Larry’s catnip, he just happened to get himself more wound up whenever he knew they were there listening to him. Was that any different than the guy who smoked a joint or popped a blue pill? If the cats helped Larry perform, I couldn’t see how that made him any crazier than anyone else.


And yet, here I was sitting in my car trying to decide whether to go inside. It was Saturday night, my favourite night of the week but all I could think about was Larry and his damn cats. If I didn’t get out soon, people were going to wonder where I was. I had been sitting here so long the windows had fogged up. Fuck it, I said and climbed out of my car. I started up the driveway to Larry’s when Judy stepped off the porch to intercept me. She was visibly upset, almost like she had been crying.


“You ok,” I said, uncertain what was going on.


She looked tired and her face seemed to be drained of any color, although that might have just been the light.


“Did you hear,” she asked.


“I’m sorry,” I said. “Hear what? Is it canceled?”


I pointed vaguely in the direction of Larry’s house. She looked behind her distractedly and shook her head no.


“Hear what?” I asked again trying to move the conversation along. If I didn’t get inside soon, I would end up closest to that basement door. That was the worst spot in the house.


“About Sara-Beth,” she said.


Before I could say anything, she started shaking and crying.


“Judy, what’s wrong? What’s happened?”


She was sobbing uncontrollably and trying to speak between ragged breaths.


“She’s missing.”


“Who is? Sara-Beth?”


She nodded her head between sobs. I didn’t know Sara-Beth very well. I had only met her the one time back when she and Larry had been dating. She had seemed pleasant enough, a bit heavier but everyone knew that Larry liked a big-boned girl. But Sara-Beth and I were not friends, I never saw her outside of club nights so I really wasn’t clear why Judy was telling me this or why she thought Sara-Beth was missing.


“I’m sorry, Judy. Why do you think she is missing?”


She took a breath and tried to steady herself. Behind her, the front door opened and Larry stepped out.


“Hey you two,” he said. “Coming in? Everyone’s ready to get started.”


The sound of his voice seemed to snap Judy out of her misery.


“You,” she started yelling. “You did it. What did you do with her, you bastard?”


In an instant, Judy started running up the driveway towards him, screaming and yelling the whole time about how he had taken Sara-Beth and how he had killed her. It was all rather crazy. Fortunately, Judy’s husband Mike came outside when he heard the commotion and got Judy turned around and into their car before matters escalated.


After they were gone, I found myself standing on the porch with Larry, who didn’t look quite as shocked as I would have expected for a guy who had just been accused of murder.


“Strange woman,” he said, almost to himself. “Strange, strange woman.”


He turned, and as if seeing me for the first time, said, “hey, you ready?”


“Do you think we should still—“


He looked back down the driveway to where Judy and Mike had been and back to me.


“What that?” he said, with a shrug. “Never mind that. She’s just upset with me is all.”


“Yes,” I said. “And why is that?”


He looked at me with a puzzled expression and back at the driveway.


“I dunno. Everything seemed fine until I told her I had gotten another cat. A ragamuffin. She’s great.”


“Judy?” I asked uncertainly.


“No, the ragamuffin. I’ve wanted one for years but needed to wait for just the right size. I was telling Judy about her earlier but she just walked away. I just assumed she was getting some air. Strange woman.”


Before I could respond, he went back inside. I stood there for a minute collecting my thoughts. Another fucking cat. Now that was crazy.

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