Herman's Hermits at the Seven Feathers
Jimmy defenestrates me cat while I’m looking the other way. Just right out the hotel window with a yowl from Dudley   and an “Uh-oh,” from the boy, who maybe meant it, or maybe didn’t, but what is it that I should pay attention every second?
Dudley’s a clumsy beast, old and fat with a hitched walk from losing a couple of toes before I grabbed the machete back from Jimmy last year, the one I got from that Bushman had the iPod with all the old songs on it, some of them twice. “Pisser,” Jimmy said. “Hey, boy,” I told him. “There’s machete do's, and there’s machete don’t's, the latter being the place we find cats, we better agree.”
Jimmy’s been a problem for awhile now, which is why I brought him on this tour, keep an eye on him and all that. Quality time and a little helpful supervision the motivation Tish and I come up with, though the casinos have us a bit squishy, Jimmy looking closer to eighteen than his actual fourteen and a half.
And speaking of squishy, I haven’t mentioned the rain that won’t stop that I’m on my way out into to grab old Dudley. Scooted under that red pickup truck across the lot when I stuck me head out the window. Dry there and he was moving as fast as he can these days, the drop from the window not so far as the third floor or higher, where we were supposed to be, but aren’t, just in case.
“Stay put,” I say to the boy. “Eat something or watch the telly.”
“He jumped, Dad. I’m not lying.”
Which was what he said about the machete.
“Son,” I say. But he’s got me, his hands held out like there’s something I’m supposed to give him and me standing in the door without me mac because the bus with our luggage but not all the gear, at least, is up in the mountains gone off the road into the snow. He loved old Dudsy when the both of them were kits, pulling a string to chase, making a place on his pillow. What’s gone different since then can’t be seen, just a great tall boy with a fat bum and skinny shoulders and bangs in his eyes.
“Help me get him,” I say. “He went under a truck.”
Outside the rain’s not falling so hard now. On the other hand it’s colder, our hair wet, the backs of our shirts wet, Jimmy squatting on one side of the truck, me on the other and Dudley crouched beneath it, swishing his tail and looking back and forth at us with his pupils wide and the yellow gone without enough light.
“Dudsy,” I call. “Come on, boy. Come on.”
“We should have brought some food,” Jimmy says. “I can go to the kitchen and get some tuna.”
“Make it fast. I’m freezing me buttocks.”
He runs for the door, splashing his Tony Lamas he begged me for in a puddle he could have jumped over and then it’s just me and Dudsy. The pavement’s wet and freezing but I put my knee down anyway, my sweats soaking up the water before I count to three. The relief to my back, though, is worth the trade-off, and I get a better look at the cat I’ve had longer than Jimmy. Crouched under there and giving me a single blink, then licking his paw where the boy took his toes. A sad thing that was, two marbles of fur on the carpet, and it hurts to swallow.
My throat’s been burning all day which means the show tonight’s going to be a tough one. Then for the next two weeks every casino on every reservation between here and Enid, where we rock down the house three nights in a row. The band’s going to have to help me for once, not that I’m complaining. Nothing wrong with nostalgia if you can stand it.
“Come on, Duds,” I say. But Dud just gives me the blink, and I’d like to crawl under there with him.
“Dad,” Jimmy says. “Dad.”
My wide-hipped boy with a pile of tuna on a leaf of lettuce.
“Perfect,” I say, then reach for the dish.
“No. Let me do it.”
His hair is wet in his eyes, water shines on his cheeks that are red with cold and his nose runs. He holds the plate of tuna close so I won’t take it. Responsibility, Tish says. If he broke it, let him fix it. Rain coming down or not.
“Dad, he jumped.” Tears wait, but he holds them back with an anger that could knock me sideways. A boy wanting a chance, so how can I say no?
“Go on,” I say. Dudley can decide. Then I scoot over onto my other knee and soak up that leg, too.
Jimmy gets down right beside me on both his knees with his bum in the air and offers Duds the plate, drops of rain a rhythm on the asphalt. “Here, boy,” he says. “Dinnertime, fella.” Then with a pudgy hand he slides the plate with the tuna on its single piece of lettuce to a drier spot just below the door of the truck.
Dudley looks at him, blinks, then blinks again. Maybe he’s going to come, maybe not. No reason for Dudley to hurry, of course, and while I count off the seconds it takes for something to happen, the drops of rain falling on Jimmy’s hand turn into the tiniest, prettiest flakes of snow.