125th St [A CC Express Story]

cexpress
What follows is a preview of sorts to a project that I’m working on. It’s a collection of short stories [tentatively] titled “The CC Express”, with every story revolving around/including a subway stop on the 8th Ave/Fulton Express Line. In other words, it’s the fictionalization of a subway map. I will be posting these stories periodically throughout the rest of the year. Constructive feedback is always encouraged and can be sent to troyturnwald@gmail.com. Ingest with jest.

“It’s like you have no sense of direction.”

“Meaning?”

“Exactly.”

“I have an impeccable sense of direction. I’m the one that always knows which platform to be on. Or which exit to use. Or the proper street to grab a cab. I’m the most directional person you know, babe. I’m a human compass!”

“The fact that you’re misconstruing this only exemplifies–”

“In English, please.”

“Ugh!”

“I said ‘please'”

“How many times do I need to spell it out? You need to do something with your life!”

“And watching Tuffy isn’t ‘something’?”

“So you’re cat sitting. I know you’re cat sitting. The waiter knows you’re cat sitting. Everybody in Kings County knows you’re cat sitting! It’s the only thing you’ve talked about for a week. ‘I can’t wait to cat sit!’, ‘It’s going to be so cool to be a cat sitter!’, ‘Hey, guess what? I’m watching a cat!’ And you’re even failing at that! It’s 6:32, do you know where that cat is?!?”

“In the apartment?”

“That’s a start.”

“Maybe you just need to stop having high standards.”

“I know. I’m so sorry for thinking about myself. It’s always my fault!”

“Apology accepted.”

“Goodbye, Leo!”

And that was that. One day, we’re totally fine, like all in love and whatnot. Then, she’s out of my life. And it’s all his fault.

“It’s all your fault, Tuffy!”

“. . .”

“Don’t pretend that you don’t hear me! I said it’s all your fault, TUFF-EEE!”

“. . .”

“No sound, no nothing? You’re just going to stare at me, is that it? Stupid cat. Do I need to speak in your language or something?”

“. . .”

“Meow, meow, meow! Meow meow meow meow. Meow moew mew!”

“. . .”

“Gah!”

This has been the scene for the last four hours: me, sprawled out on the floor of Steve’s dirty Harlem apartment, trying like mad to break through to Tuffy. To elicit a response that confirms that I’m here for a reason. So far, nothing’s worked. He won’t eat any food, he rejects all of my treats and he’s developed a strange tick that makes him rub his face on sharp edges. Maybe if I had a ball of yarn, I could entertain him. Do cats even play with yarn? Or is that more of a kitten thing?

The phone rings. It must be Maddy. She’s probably calling to apologize and see how my new endeavor is going. And I’ll reply with “It’s a-okay over here! It’s so great to hear your beautiful voice. Now get bent, you dirty bimbo!”. That’ll be so great. I’d applaud myself. Everyone likes applause. I can’t wait to see if it’s her or not. But I won’t know unless I answer the phone.

“Mmmyello?”

“Hey man, you called?”

Correction: It’s NOT Maddy. Its Steve. Damnit!

“Oh yeah, it’s about Tuffy.”

“What ABOUT Tuffy? What happened, dude? Don’t tell me–”

“I think he’s in heat.”

“And why in god’s name would you think that?”

“He hasn’t been eating. He doesn’t respond to my presence. And he keeps rubbing his face on sharp edges. Like right now, he’s rubbing his face on the corner of the coffee table!”

“Umm…Male cats don’t go in heat…”

“Then maybe he’s suicidal.”

“My cat is not fucking suicidal! Any idiot can watch a damn cat, why is this so difficult for you?!?”

“He keeps sticking his ass in the air, dude.”

“He’s a cat! He always sticks his ass in the air!”

“Maybe that’s why he’s suicidal.”

“He wants some attention!”

“But we’ve been chilling all day! What more does he want? Look, see, he’s rubbing his face harder now! He’s trying to break the skin…err…fur! He’s trying to cut into his fur!”

“I don’t know, Leo. I’m just going to pretend that this didn’t happen. I’ll be back in 3 days and you can go back to doing whatever the fuck it is you do and everything will be fine.”

“But what if he kills himself?”

“Goodbye, Leo!”

“Does LifeNet talk to cats?”

The line goes dead. I’m once again on my own with this depressed cat that listens to The Cure and wishes everything didn’t suck.

“See what you’ve done?!?”

“. . .”

Now, on the second day, I’m convinced that he’s mocking me. He knows that his lack of warmness eats me up inside. He doesn’t care. He’s just some asshole cat.

“You don’t know how easy you’ve got it. You just get to lay around all day, while chumps like me beg for your attention.”

“. . .”

“Just like women. They never have to court suitors. They just sit and look pretty while chumps like me throw themselves at them from all directions.”

“. . .”

“But that’s not me anymore. I’m done slobbering all over chicks. It never amounts to anything good. I’m getting too old for this shit, Tuffy.”

“. . .”

“You’re right. Maybe I should’ve tried harder. Maybe I should stop expecting the future to just fall into my lap.”

“. . .”

“Exactly! It’s not about loving the one your with. You have to be able to love yourself first! How did you get so smart?”

“. . .”

“Woah, back up, I’ve got a long ways to go before that happens”

“. . .”

“She just…didn’t need me. You don’t need me. Nobody needs me!”

“. . .”

“I’m going for a walk. I’ve got a lot to digest here. Will you hold down the fort while I’m gone?”

“Mew.”

“Holy shit, you said something!”

“. . .”

This is it. I finally broke through to him! But what did I say that sparked his interest?

“Fort. You want to build a fort!”

“. . .”

“Digest. You need something to digest?”

“. . .”

“Alright…umm…walk!”

“Mew.”

And in a moment of sheer bliss, I grab Tuffy and spin him around, as he growls and claws in dismay. Brilliant! We’ll go for a walk! Central Park isn’t too far from here, I think. We’ll walk to Central Park and he’ll gain my trust and friendship. That’ll be something! Imagine that, a cat loving me. Sounds great. Can’t wait! Poetic justice! It’s the perfect scheme. But cats don’t go on walks. That’s dogs. Of course, it’s dogs! I doubt he has a leash. Do they even make cat leashes? Doubtful. But I find some twine underneath the sink. After 30 minutes of struggling, I finally get the makeshift leash tied around his neck. It must be the first time I have ever implemented my Boy Scout skills. I’ve got mad Boy Scout skills. I can tie more knots than Knots Landing. That makes no sense. AWAY WE GO!

Actually, cat walking is not as easy as advertised. Tuffy appears to be enjoying himself, but he walks so damn slow! Every 5 feet, he stops and finds something of interest. This must be such a culture shock for him. The sights, the sounds, the deli on every corner, the Caribbean guys playing chess on a milk crate, it must all be too much to take in. New York cats have no idea that they’re living in the greatest city in the world. They only know the tiny domicile in which they inhabit and the limited view from each window. There are so many things I want to show Tuffy. To educate him about. I’m a fucking pioneer! The first ever cat walker. If you ever walk your cats in the future, it’ll be because of me! But at this rate, we’ll be at the park in 5 hours flat.

As Tuffy curiously peeks down the stairwell of the 125th st station, my phone rings. It must be Matty.

“Mmmyellow?”

“Leo, are you home?”

Yes. It IS Maddy!

“I knew you’d come back to your senses, babe!”

“There’s a few things I need to get back from you.”

“Like my love and affection?”

“Like my curling iron.”

“And my love and affection?”

“Where are you? It’s really noisy.”

“Me and Tuffy are walking to Central Park.”

“Tuffy and I”

“Right. Tuffy and I are walking to Central Park.”

“Wait, you’re taking a cat for a walk, you sick bastard?!?”

“He asked for it!”

“Just come home as soon as you can.”

“We’re actually standing next to the subway. We’ll be there soon!”

“Leo! Drop. Him. Off. First!”

“Maddy, you’re breaking up! We’re heading down the stairs…”

I just gotta stay cool. Cats have been on trains before, I’m sure of it. I haven’t seen one myself, but I’m sure it’s happened. Just act natural. Maybe if I had sunglasses, then he’d be a seeing eye cat. Or maybe he’s the one that needs sunglasses. Then everyone would know that he’s a cat with an attitude. Too cool to be domesticated, this cat! Great idea, but I have no sunglasses, let alone cat-sized ones.

A downtown C train pulls up on the express track. I literally have to kick Tuffy into the car. He fidgets a bit, squatting on the floor, but I drag him to a seat next to a sleeping man. But suddenly, it becomes apparent that we have company.

“Hey hey hey, whazzup y’all! Do you know what time it is?!?!? It’s SHOWTIME!”

A teenager flips on his ghetto blaster and the C train has now turned into an arena for break dancing. 4 kids stand in a circle, showcasing their moves, while the straphangers roll their eyes, cower and wince at the rapidly flying limbs. The first one does an acceptable job, almost worthy of a tip, but the second one immediately slips on a brown spot on the floor. As the kid rolls on the floor grasping his knee for dear life, the other 3 inspect the brown spot with their fingers and noses.

“It’s shit!”

“It’s cat shit”

“It’s THAT cat’s shit!”

One of them lunges toward Tuffy, but he immediately stands his ground, hissing fiercely while clawing in his general direction.

“Yo, you gotta keep your cat in check, man. Someone could get hurt!”, one of them yells out as they all hightail it toward the emergency exit. Once they’re gone, a small group of elderly people applaud me. After that, nobody dared to gawk at me. I rode all the way to Fort Greene with a purring cat in my lap and a newfound sense of worth. Just me and Tuffy–err–Tuffy and I, protectors of the subway. Kicking ass and taking names.

Just wait till I tell Matty!

This cat is the shit!

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