Friday Reads: The Host and His Cat by Kim Chinquee

Friday ReadsWelcome to our new column “Friday Reads,” featuring stories of the archives of jmww. Kick back, grab a comfy chair, and start your weekend off with beautiful, provocative, startling, unforgettable reads!

This week’s read, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of jmww, comes from Kim Chinquee, whose latest work has appeared in The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, published in 2015 by Black Lawrence Press.

The Host and His Cat

by Kim Chinquee

Her friend moved across the street and said to bring her boyfriend, and maybe some juice if she had it, and so she and her boyfriend walked across, passing an old lady with a boxer.

There was chips and dips and salsa. The host’s girlfriend was in med school, staying up for night shift-she ate some celery, disappeared into the bedroom, and the rest of them talked film and literature and art things. Music. Johnny Cash played from the CD, and the host talked about how his father blew his brains out with a rifle.

Her father used to drive a cab, something she’d discussed once with that host in detail, before she’d told him the trials with her men, her current situation, about how that boyfriend of hers never really liked to touch her.

The room fell silent and her heart was a flutter. She thought about the cab ride with the mayor, how he’d wanted it perfect, and then, as if the host could read her, he asked about the mayor, but not calling him a mayor. So tell me, he said to her.

She expected everyone to be all ears now, especially for her boyfriend. They were all men. The only other woman was sleeping.

She said it was nothing.

She tried to change the subject. She said it got weird and she didn’t want to make it weirder. She didn’t look across at the man who she’d earlier had sex with, or possibly made love to, who was now playing with the kitten, moving the toy–a string–teasing it, the paws moving around, clawing and swatting and romping.

That’s some cat, she said. Her boyfriend wasn’t really her boyfriend. At least that wasn’t what he ever wanted to call it.

So, here’s how it went: months later, all of them broke up. The host moved away, to another country. The other exes, besides her, ended up dating each other. The mayor became mayor to someone else. She left town, to another boyfriend from years long ago.

She remembered, standing outside at a party, saying hi the way that you do when you’re fifteen and you just don’t know. She remembered shivering, the party getting busted. How he’d walked her home, saying he really meant it. His kiss was still his kiss. She shook a little. Laughed. She’d said to him, let’s do it. She reminded him of them, of then, just climbing the fence.

Kim Chinquee is a regular contributor to NOON, DENVER QUARTERLY, and CONJUNCTIONS, and has also published in PLOUGHSHARES, THE NATION, STORYQUARTERLY, INDIANA REVIEW, FICTION, MISSISSIPPI REVIEW, and over a hundred other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the collections OH BABY, PRETTY and PISTOL, and senior editor of NEW WORLD WRITING. She lives in Buffalo, NY.


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