Cat in the Rain – Pre-Intermediate Story
There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument. There were big trees and green benches in the public garden.
In the good weather there was always an artist painting a picture. Artists liked the way the trees grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea.
Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was raining. The monument was made of yellowish-brown metal which looked shiny in the rain. Drops of rain fell from the trees. Water stood in pools on the stone paths. The waves broke in a long line in the rain. Then they washed back down the beach and came up and broke again in a long line in the rain. There were no cars in the square next to the war monument. Across the square at the door of the cafe a waiter stood looking out at the empty square.
The American wife stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was lying close to the ground under one of the green tables. The cat was trying to make her body so small that she would not get wet.
‘I’m going down and get that cat,’ the American wife said.
‘I’ll do it,’ her husband offered from the bed.
‘No, I’ll get it. The poor cat out trying to keep dry under a table.’
The husband went on reading, lying back on two pillows at the foot of the bed.
‘Don’t get wet,’ he said.
The wife went downstairs and the hotel owner stood up and bowed to her as she passed the office. His desk was at the far end of the office. He was an old man and very tall.
‘It’s raining,’ the wife said. She liked the hotel-keeper.
‘Yes, Yes, Madam. It is very bad weather.’
He stood behind his desk in the far end of the poorly lit room. The wife liked him. She liked the way he showed that he cared and wanted to do things for her. She liked his calm and serious manner. She liked the way he felt about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old, heavy face and big hands.
Liking him she opened the door and looked out. It was raining harder. A man in a rain coat was crossing the empty square to the cafe. The cat would be around to the right. Perhaps she could go along under the edge of the roof. As she stood at the door an umbrella opened behind her. It was the maid who looked after their room.
‘You must not get wet,’ she smiled, speaking Italian. Of course, the hotel-keeper had sent her.
With the maid holding the umbrella over her, she walked along the stone path until she was under their window. The table was there, washed bright green in the rain, but the cat was gone. She looked very unhappy. The maid looked up at her.
‘Have you lost something, Madam?’
‘There was a cat,’ said the American girl.
‘Yes, a cat.’
‘A cat?’ the maid laughed. ‘A cat in the rain?’
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘under the table.’ Then, ‘Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a cat.’
‘Come, Madam,’ she said. ‘We must get back inside. You will be wet.’
‘Yes,’ said the American girl sadly. ‘It’s raining.’
They went back along the stone path and passed in the door. The maid stayed outside to close the umbrella. As the American girl passed the office, the manager bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The manager made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of the highest importance. She went on up the stairs. She opened the door of the room. George was on the bed, reading.
‘Did you get the cat?’ he asked, putting the book down.
‘It was gone.’
‘Wonder where it went to,’ he said, resting his eyes from reading.
She sat down on the bed.
‘I wanted it so much,’ she said. ‘I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor cat. It isn’t any fun to be a poor cat out in the rain.’
George was reading again.
She went over and sat in front of the wall mirror, looking at herself with the hand mirror. She studied her face, first one side and then the other. Then she studied the back of her head and her neck.
‘Don’t you think it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow longer?’ she asked, looking at her face again.
George looked up and saw the back of her neck, the hair cut short like a boy’s.
‘I like it the way it is.’
‘I get so tired of it,’ she said. ‘I get so tired of looking like a boy.’
George changed the way he was lying in the bed so he could see her better. He hadn’t looked away from her since she started to speak.
‘You look very nice,’ he said.
She laid the mirror down on a table and went over to the window and looked out. It was getting dark.
‘I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and tie it up at the back so that I can feel it,’ she said. ‘I want a cat to hold and sit with, and that will make happy noises when I stroke her.’
‘Yeah?’ George said from the bed.
‘And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I want a cat and I want some new clothes.’
‘Oh, shut up and get something to read,’ George said. He was reading again.
His wife was looking out of the window. It was quite dark now and still raining in the trees.
‘Anyway, I want a cat,’ she said, ‘I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat.’
George was not listening. He was reading his book. His wife looked out of the window where the light had come on in the square.
Someone knocked at the door.
‘Come in,’ George said. He looked up from his book.
The maid stood at the door. She held a big house-cat tightly against her chest which hung down her body.
‘Excuse me,’ she said, ‘the manager asked me to bring this for the Madam.’