Ginger. By Martin Green.
Paul Lerner slept late that Saturday, the result of not sleeping well the night before. When he appeared in the kitchen, his wife Ellen said, Gingers back. Shes on the porch. I gave her something to eat. Kens not up yet. Ginger was their wandering cat, who disappeared for days at a time before turning up again. Ken was their oldest son, who since graduating from college had been staying with them without giving any sign that he was interested in getting a job, which was the reason Paul was having trouble sleeping nights.
After having breakfast, Paul sat in the living room reading the morning paper. There was a scratching at the door and Ellen let Ginger in. Ginger promptly came over and jumped onto Pauls lap, then moved up to sit on his chest. She liked to sit there, her yellow eyes fixed on Pauls face, purring while he stroked her. Paul did so now but carefully. You had to be careful with Ginger as she might suddenly decide she was tired of your stroking and scratch you.
Do you know what time he got home last night asked Paul.
It was late.
Whats he doing this weekend?
I dont know. Hell probably go to Helens. Helen was Kens girl friend, who shared an apartment with two other girls.
I wonder if hell ever start looking for a job? He cant loaf around here all summer.
We should try to talk to him again.
Maybe we should just tell him to get out.
You know we cant do that.
Well, hed have to do something then.
This was the kind of conversation about Ken theyd been having the last two weeks and Paul was getting tired of it. Just then, Ken himself came into the room. He was dressed in a pair of baggy shorts and an old tee-shirt. His long hair was uncombed and the beard hed grown while at college unkempt. Ginger, distracted, jumped down and went to the front door. Ellen let her out.
Whered you go last night? Paul asked Ken.
Just hung out with a few friends, said Ken, not really answering the question.
What are your plans for next week?
I dont have any plans?
How about looking for work?
I dont know what I want to do.
I told you I can set you up with a couple of interviews. Paul was a manager in one of the State agencies and had already talked to some fellow managers about Ken.
Thats one thing I know. I dont want to work for the State.
Well, you have to do something.
Jeez. Why are you always on my case?
Do you want to go back to school and get a teaching credential? asked Ellen. Theyre begging for teachers now.
No, I dont want to be a teacher.
Paul was getting that exasperated feeling he always had when trying to talk with his son. Well, he said. From now on we want you to let us know when youre staying out late.
Thats bullshit, said Ken. Im not a little kid any more.
Paul wanted to say that as long as Ken was staying in his house and being supported by him he had to abide by his rules, but that was such a cliché he found himself saying instead, Well, if youre so grown up you can move out and live someplace else.
Okay with me. I hate being here. He turned and left the room.
Where are you going? called Ellen.
To get some of my shit. Then Im going to Helens. I can stay with her.
What about her roommates?
I dont know. They heard Ken banging around in his room, then he came out carrying a gym bag.
Dad didnt mean you had to leave, said Ellen.
Ill be at Helens. He slammed the door as he left.
Do you think hell be back? asked Ellen.
I dont know, but he cant have gotten much stuff in that little bag.
We cant just kick him out.
Why not? You heard him say he hates it here.
He didnt mean it.
Im not so sure.
If hes not back tonight, Im calling Helens.
Im going shopping now, to the supermarket. I have to get out and do something.
A little later, Paul heard a scratching at the door. He let Ginger in and filled a bowl with cat food for her. When she was done eating, she came and perched on his chest again. He stroked her, again with care. Ellen was right, he thought. They couldnt just kick Ken out, much as hed like to.. He continued to stroke Ginger until the cat suddenly jumped to the floor and went to the door to be let out.
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