Rain Cat

7 Feb

Rain Cat

‘Cat in the Rain’ by Ernest

Hemingway

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 palms and green benches in the public garden.

In the good weather there was always an artist with his

easel. Artists liked the way the palms 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 made of bronze and glistened in the

rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm

trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The

sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back

down the beach to come up and break again in a long

line in the rain. The motor cars were gone from the

square by the war monument. Across the square in the

doorway of the café 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 crouched

under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was

trying to make herself so compact that she would not

be dripped on.

‘I’m going down and get that kitty,’ the American wife

said.

‘I’ll do it,’ her husband offered from the bed.

‘No, I’ll get it. The poor kitty out trying to keep dry

under a table.’

The husband went on reading, lying propped up with

the 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.

‘Il piove, ’the wife said. She liked the hotel-keeper.

‘Si, Si, Signora, brutto tempo. It is very bad weather.’

He stood behind his desk in the far end of the dim

room. The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious

way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity.

She liked the way he wanted to serve her. 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 rubber cape was crossing

the empty square to the café. The cat would be around

to the right. Perhaps she could go along under the eaves.

As she stood in the doorway 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 gravel path until she was under their

window. The table was there, washed bright green in

the rain, but the cat was gone. She was suddenly

disappointed. The maid looked up at her.

‘Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signora?’

‘There was a cat,’ said the American girl.

‘A cat?’

‘Si, il gatto.’

‘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 kitty.’

When she talked English the maid’s face tightened.

‘Come, Signora,’ she said. ‘We must get back inside.

You will be wet.’

‘I suppose so,’ said the American girl.

They went back along the gravel path and passed in

the door. The maid stayed outside to close the umbrella.

As the American girl passed the office, the padrone

bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and

tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very

small and at the same time really important. She had a

momentary feeling of being of supreme 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 kitty. It isn’t any

fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain.

George was reading again.

She went over and sat in front of the mirror of the

dressing table looking at herself with the hand glass.

She studied her profile, 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 out?’ she asked, looking at her profile again.

George looked up and saw the back of her neck,

clipped close 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 shifted his position in the bed. He hadn’t

looked away from her since she started to speak.

‘You look pretty darn nice,’ he said.

She laid the mirror down on the dresser and went

over to the window and looked out. It was getting dark.

‘I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and

make a big knot at the back that I can feel,’ she said. ‘I

want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr 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 kitty

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 palm 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.

‘Avanti,’ George said. He looked up from his book.

In the doorway stood the maid. She held a big tortoiseshell cat pressed tight against her and swung down

against her body.

‘Excuse me,’ she said, ‘the padrone asked me to bring

this for the Signora.

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