“Just push out the seat for him and he’ll play for us.”
“Excuse me?” the young man barked out a derisive laugh over his whiskey. “Did you just say the cat would play piano?”
“Sure did. Kick out the stool for him, will ya? He ain’t as young as he used to be.”
Old Tomboy must have been impatient or offended or something. His old bones leapt right up himself and played a jilted version of “Skimbleshanks.”
“Ooooh. Wow,” the young man murmured.
The cat didn’t even look at the boy. He just walked away, tail in the air, puckered asshole pointed in the direction of the bar patrons.
“That cat’s a helluva piano player,” the old man nodded.
* * *
Old Tomboy’s real name is Tomas Alfador Perry, but the locals have been calling him Old Tomboy since long before he was old. For seven years, that cat had played for the regulars at the Dirty Lyre. The patrons and bartenders fed him as much as he could eat and some to carry back to his wife and kids.
The regulars were violently protective of their bar’s mascot. No out-of-towner would have been able to get his in clawing range before someone threw him out of the bar. The bar was still a tourist spot for the curious traveler, but folk learned fast the proper decorum around Old Tomboy.
* * *
It was on that seventh year that the owner, one Jerry Talbot, accrued some serious debts with the mob. Gambling on top of skipping protection dues–the only reason he’d stayed in business for so long was because of reverence for the cat. But they’d reached their breaking point with Jerry, and Mr. Talbot left this world twenty-three minutes after closing time on the eleventh of May. The bar was closed for almost a month until it opened up again as Cat on a Hot Piano. It had big blue neon sign and everything. The regulars didn’t show up so much, but the tourists came in by the taxis. The drinks came in all sorts of different colors, and the bartenders were a million times hotter. They even had jazz bands and dancing. There was only one problem: nobody’d seen hide nor hair of Old Tomboy.
* * *
Townhouses around the block still leave little bits of dinner scraps and booze on their front porches now and then, though all the stories of seeing the cat are all hearsay—somebody’s aunt heard from a lady from the knitting group that the cat was prowling around Fifth and Acorn. Some folk say he might be dead, that he got sick or died of exposure. Others say we turned our backs on him, and so he left.
A lot of times people hear cats fighting in the alleys near Cat on a Hot Piano. Old Tomboy beating his wife, they say. Who knows who started that rumor, though it rings true for a lot of us.
That cat’s spinning out of control, they whisper to each other. That cat ain’t what he used to be.