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
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
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
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
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
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.