Kim Chinquee ~ Catnip

I fold the paper, wait­ing at the din­er. Sip my water, check my phone for the time. The guy is late: my date, who I met online. I look out the win­dow: the moon like clumps.

The paper has a pic­ture of a guy want­ed for killing some­one in the trop­ics. The guy in the paper is bald with big eye­brows and a pug nose. I fold the paper into a plane. The lip­stick-ed wait­ress brings me cof­fee, asks if I want more.

Not yet,” I say. “I’m wait­ing for my boyfriend.”

I only talked to the guy I’m meet­ing once, while dis­cussing arrange­ments. We exchanged a few emails, most­ly him telling me how he spe­cial­izes in cat­nip, adding herbs that are sup­posed to cure ail­ments: hair­balls, over­ac­tive blad­ders, bit­ing behav­iors, things like that. He has five cats. He seems more atten­tive than most guys I date. In his pic­ture he’s red-haired, beard­ed, skin­ny. Cute. His name is Charlie.

I wear an orange sweater, my hair in a bun. That’s how I told him he could find me.

I hear plates bang­ing around in the kitchen. A man sits at the counter, sip­ping some­thing. A woman and a bab­bling baby sit in the booth across. Other than that, the place is pret­ty emp­ty. It smells like bacon.

A man enters, mak­ing the bell ring. He approach­es me, asks if I am Stormy. “I’m Stormy,” I say.

My name is real­ly Elle.

He sits, says his name is Charlie. He looks noth­ing like his online pic­ture: pointy-chinned and small-mouthed, big dark brows. I say, “Are you sure?”

He says he is. His voice is high-pitched and he has a Jersey accent. The more I look at him, the more I notice he looks like the want­ed man on the fli­er. The fliers are every­where. I unfold my air­plane to sneak anoth­er look.

He asks if I’m hun­gry. I tell him I am starv­ing.

The wait­ress comes to ask what we want. She writes on her tablet, chew­ing her gum. I get toma­to soup and he orders tuna.

When the wait­ress leaves, I ask Charlie if he’s been any­where warm recent­ly. He says no. He says he’s from Jersey.

He has a nice smile. His nose isn’t as pugged at the man in his pro­file. He looks kind of cat-like, his ears pointy, his tongue long. He licks his lips a lot.

He makes a sound like a purr.

Another man enters, then anoth­er. They look alike, like Charlie. They sit at the counter. Fill the booths. They all wear vests and Wranglers. Stray ani­mal hairs stick to their backs and arms and mid­dles.

I ask Charlie who he is.

He nar­rows his eyes. He sticks his tongue out.

I laugh at him and I hiss.

~

Kim Chinquee’s new book, Snowdog, from which this work is tak­en is avail­able from Ravenna Press in January 2021. She is also the author of the col­lec­tions Oh Baby, Pretty, Pistol, Veer, Shot Girls, and Wetsuit. Her work has appeared in hun­dreds of jour­nals and antholo­gies includ­ing NOON, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, The Nation, Ploughshares, Fiction, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Notre Dame Review, the Pushcart Prize antholo­gies, and oth­ers. She is an edi­tor at New World Writing, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and co-direc­tor of the Writing Major at SUNY-Buffalo State, and she serves as AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Northeast Regional Chair and as a mem­ber of the AWP Board of Directors.