Anthony Gomez III ~ Greta Garbo Gives Birth to Cats

Garbo won­dered if this is how a den­tist falls in love.

No, the woman at the door’s teeth were not obscene­ly white, they were not entire­ly straight, and they were not devoid of prob­lems. The teeth pos­sessed a slight lean. A slight yel­low­ing scarred the back. And along the gums, faint traces of fur­ther problems.

But still, they were per­fect teeth.

Apologies for the mess,” she said. “I ran here after your mes­sage. You’re the den­tist who called, no?”

Yes, I’m Garbo.”

Gabo, like the author.”

No. Garbo. The actress. My par­ents were big­ger movie fans than lit­er­ary ones.”

They ought to have got­ten along with mine then. The cat’s name is Orson. And it’s strange that it ran here. He needs a dentist.”


Over the hol­i­day week­end, no one was there to see a sin­gle cat scratch a win­dow screen and tear itself a door into the wait­ing room of a den­tist office. It was hard­ly alone. Rain refus­ing to back­down and a storm capa­ble of tor­ture, three more cats soon joined their friend and worked on mak­ing the room a home. What they after­ward set­tled on was to lay in for­ma­tion of an ‑x, to put their heads togeth­er and the bod­ies out. A band of thieves, they soon fell asleep, descend­ing into a gen­tle rhythm par­tic­u­lar to their world.

Just as they were sleep­ing, the world sought a much-need­ed stu­por. Exits from the town to brighter places hap­pened by full car after full car, and crowd­ed bus upon bus. For those remain­ing, the weath­er seemed stuck, the grand effect of sev­er­al clouds that for­got time moved for­ward. These indi­vid­u­als marched through the streets and parks like rain­drops that did not yet crash, loose and down­cast, their eyes for­ev­er glued to the floor like they should soon fall apart.

One such fig­ure was Garbo Guerrero, who stepped out­side of his apart­ment often to avoid being alone. A sin­gle pho­to pub­lished online of his son with his remar­ried moth­er was enough to put the weekend’s tra­jec­to­ry on a regret­ful track. He want­ed to work. Work was refuge, work was pur­pose, work was the escape.

And so, on the morn­ing of the hol­i­day, Garbo endeav­ored to go and sit in his office.

But he noticed some­thing amiss. Partly open, he saw the win­dow screen had fall­en. On the ground, he noticed scratch­es and marks. He placed a hand through the space between win­dow and wall and felt the damp­ness on the oth­er side. Robbers first came to mind. Stealing tools and equip­ment to pawn or break apart. Unlocking the door, he opened it slow­ly, step­ping back in case there was trouble.

What he found instead was four sets of eyes slow­ly start­ing to rouse. They turned their heads up, like they wait­ed for him to nudge them awake. He stepped inside, and not want­i­ng them to run, he shut the door behind him. Closing the win­dow next, the air already felt stuffy, stiff, and still.

What’s hap­pened to all of you now?” he asked.


He could only get ahold of one per­son. She arrived no lat­er than an hour. The oth­ers, the lost cats, con­tin­ued to stare or sleep, as Orson moved towards her arms. For ease, he took them to a patient’s room. Nowhere to sit except the patient’s chair, she placed the cat down and they were left standing.

Near a hand­wash­ing sink Garbo kept a small toy—a pair of absurd­ly large chat­ter­ing teeth. She spun the crank. When she placed it down, imme­di­ate­ly a sound erupted—kkkrkkrkkrkkrkk. The teeth clicked and clat­tered toward the sink. On impact, the noise and action stopped.

Following this crash, the vis­i­tor learned to speak again.

You stum­bled upon a whole colony, it seems.”

Cats want­ed an escape this week­end too.”

Yes, it’s true.”

They were danc­ing around her concern.

He crit­i­cized his fas­ci­na­tion for teeth—his want to see beneath her lips—that brought the mat­ter this far. Why bring her and the cat back to the oper­at­ing room? That made her think he was seri­ous about the matter.

What’s wrong with him?” Garbo asked.

I don’t ful­ly know,” she said. “Age, per­haps. The guy is march­ing on. But can I ask you something?”

He looked at her. No occur­rence would ever make him say no.

It’s fun­ny that you should have that name. What do you think about your namesake?”

Why do you ask?”

An old sto­ry from my dad.”

Strange to say, but I nev­er paid much atten­tion to it. Cursed with it, why would I want to know the one blessed with it? That’s a per­son­al choice, I guess. Excuse me, what’s your dad’s story?”


It’s years ago. Decades actu­al­ly. After the navy, dad was work­ing at a hotel kitchen when a rumor starts that Garbo is pregnant.”

Pregnant?” he ques­tioned. “Garbo nev­er had kids or married.”

Remember, she retired young. Hating the lime­light, she left Hollywood for a reclu­sive life. That’s where my dad enters. One day, he and his cowork­ers hear the hotel is entire­ly emp­ty. Not because of a lack of cus­tomers, but because of a sin­gle cus­tomer. My dad runs back and forth. He drops off food. Whatever she needs, he finds it. One day though, he sees the door wide open. He thinks he should close it; instead, he hears a scream. He wan­ders inside and a woman is alone on the bed. Even in her agony, he sees unfair beau­ty. Sheets not red before are stained. He runs to her and tells her to breath. Years of navy duty come to help. She grabs onto his arm and can hard­ly speak. He feels a beat along her stom­ach. Like some­thing knock­ing from with­in. He tells her he might need to open her up. Whatever pain that brings is noth­ing to the pain she has endured. He starts. What he then sees emerge could qui­et a man to his end.”

I’m a bit con­fused,” Garbo inter­rupt­ed. “Where was this; where could it have tak­en place?”

Let me fin­ish. When the crew sees him again, they won­der what he could have been up to? Don’t you know not to dis­turb her, they say. ‘I wasn’t,’ my dad cries, ‘I was help­ing!’ He bare­ly keeps his job. A note arrives sev­er­al days lat­er. It’s not signed, and it’s not marked. All it says is thank you. Another day pass­es and an order comes through. It requests my dad bring up the food specif­i­cal­ly. He hur­ries up with each item. The door, like before, is open. Now there is no cry. Inside the room, he doesn’t find her. He only sees a small grey kitten.”

He can­not for­get what came out of her and what he helped deliv­er into the world. Green eyes then and green eyes now. What he remem­bered was part human, but already this was all cat. He search­es the room to find a note or a clue. Nothing is there. Slowly, he reach­es for the kit­ten and wan­ders away, wan­ders away from the room and from work.”

Garbo takes a step back to regard Orson.

You’re not sug­gest­ing this one is that old, are you?”

Oh, of course not. We are almost two gen­er­a­tions removed from that. What cat lives so long? Though we did won­der all our life what would hap­pen to Garbo’s cat. Would it return to its human form? Could it? But no, it nev­er did. Not that we saw, anyway.”


Your dad told you this story?”

Like fact.”

You said it so straight faced. You believe it?”

My dad used to tell it so much I start­ed and stopped believ­ing it many times. Now that he’s gone, I sim­ply remem­ber it. Mostly I remem­ber how Garbo dis­ap­peared, how a prob­lem came to my dad’s feet, and how he took it in and cared for it, as one should always do.”

She came over to the cat and plant­ed two hands on its body. It didn’t know it yet, but it was about to be held much tighter.

The prob­lem was urgent.

The cat’s right­ward fang was loose and ready to come out. It was obvi­ous it would have to be done or risk infec­tion. Normally, what he’d do would be to sedate the patient, put them into a numb state, and tug and pull. Unsure, if the same chem­i­cal com­bi­na­tion could work on the cat, he hesitated.

One stare over his shoul­der and he won­dered how she would see him. To fin­ish and be the man who saved but hurt her cat, or to fail and be the man who couldn’t help her. She offered a closed smile and he pre­pared for either consequence.


Anthony Gomez III is a PhD stu­dent at Stony Brook University where he stud­ies late nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry lit­er­a­ture, ear­ly film, and ques­tions of mem­o­ry and dias­po­ra. He is based in Brooklyn, New York. An emerg­ing Mexican-American writer, his most recent pieces are forth­com­ing in Shenandoah, 3Elements, and The Bookends Review. Read more at