At night, Vance heard through his wall the sound of a famous comedy playing in his new neighbor’s apartment. Each night it was the same sound from the same scene in the same movie: a witch’s three-eyed cat yowling after being cut open, collateral damage from a sword fight in which two knights fought in a medieval town square over the honor of an inbred princess. The sound struck Vance as something like a baby crying through a reverb machine, and the neighbor seemed to be putting it on repeat.

On the fifth night, Vance considered whether he could call the cops. Unfortunately, the noise, while certainly audible, wasn’t loud enough for a noise complaint. The cycle of yowls started at around 7:00 p.m., and even though it continued for a half hour on up to an hour and a half, depending on the night, it always finished well before the quiet hours stipulated in the rules of his apartment complex. When Vance couldn’t think up any other pretext for calling the police, he resolved to be on the lookout for strange behaviors that might tip off any illegal activity. However, as he cut carrots to throw in his chicken curry, a sinking feeling of impotence took hold. A panic about the state of his manhood swept in, and he threw off his apron. He marched to his neighbor’s door and knocked. Footsteps approached, soft pats over the bed of yowls. The door cracked open, but not enough for Vance to see inside. Before darkness, only the chain lock was visible. The neighbor’s unwillingness to face him riled Vance even more. In a fit of recklessness, he was about to blurt out, “Are you crazy?” when the door shut again. He heard the neighbor unhook the chain and flip the light switch. The door opened again, fully this time, and Vance found himself standing before a petite woman in a police uniform. The lines on her face were not quite relaxed. Her feet were bare and her toenails were painted red. The fumes of fresh nail polish carried into Vance’s nose. A tabby cat approached noiselessly from behind the woman while the yowling continued to project from the back room. Light from an LCD screen flashed on the wall.

“Can I help you?” the woman asked.

Vance wished he were back chopping carrots. Without really knowing what he was doing, he nodded toward the rear of the apartment. “I hear you like cats.”

© Thad Fowler. All rights reserved.

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