"The Cat's In The Cradle"

     Wednesday evening. Larry has been cleaning the apartment. He went over to the mantle and began dusting. A cloud of dust kicked up and he backed off, sneezing a couple of times.

     The apartment door opened and Balki came in, still bundled up from being outside. "Cousin, I have great news!"

     Larry turned to him and held out the duster. "You want to help dust?"

     Balki pulled off his wool hat and tossed it at the coat rack on the closet door, where it hung itself up. "Don't be ridiculous."

     "I tried. So what is your great news?"

     "I got..." Balki began, then unzipped his coat to reveal a kitten, "this."

     "Balki, you didn't..." Larry said.

     "Of course I did!" He held out the kitten. "I'm holding him and showing you him right now."

     Larry left the duster of the mantle and took a cautious step closer to look at the kitten. "You do remember pets aren't allowed anymore after what happened with Gorbachev, right?"

     "But he's small. Mr. Twinkacetti will never know we have him," Balki said.

     "Right. I'll know we have him because..." Larry turned away and sneezed, "...because I'm allergic to cats."

     "Po po." Balki held out the kitten farther, now practically right under Larry's nose. "It is only a kitten."

     "It's still a cat," Larry argued. "Take him back."

     "I can't do that."

     Larry sneezed again. "Why not?"

     "Because the pet store doesn't take returns," Balki stated, now holding the kitten closer to him.

     "Of course they don't, how silly of me," Larry said. "Sell him to someone."

     "I can't sell Diki." Balki went over to the couch and sat.

     "You named it already?!" Larry stopped at the opposite end of the couch, looking about ready to explode. He took a breath and forced a smile. "Balki, why are you doing this to me?"

     "I'm not doing anything. I want a pet and I walk by the pet store and went in and..."

     "You got suckered. They obviously saw you coming and said, 'Look, there's a poor sucker we can unload one of these animals on'," Larry interrupted.

     Balki stood up again. "Cousin, give him a chance. You won't know he's here." He held out the kitten again.

     Larry glared at him, then looked at the cat... and sneezed again. "Oh, yes, I will."

     The next morning, Balki is eating breakfast at the table. The kitten is sitting on the table, lapping milk from a bowl.

     Larry comes out of the bathroom and stops by the table, hair brush in his hand. "Don't tell me. You used my brush on your cat."

     "I won't tell you. And his name is Diki," Balki said.

     "What am I supposed to use?" Larry asked, then pointed at his disheveled hair.

     "The brush, of course."

     "Balki," Larry began, then put the brush on the table, leaned on it, and immediately stopped, seeing the kitten, "...what is the cat doing on the table? And why is he using one of my bowls?"

     "He's got to have breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day."

     "For humans! What are you planning on doing while we're at work? You can't bring it and you certainly won't be leaving it here."

     "He can take care of himself. He's house-broke," Balki said.

     "And he'll get hair in and on everything. Balki, you can't keep him here and..." Larry turned to sneeze, twice, "...he's creating havoc with my sinuses."

     "But, Cousin--"

     "I'm sorry, Balki," he sneezed again, "but he has to go." He picked up the brush, turned, let out an exasperated sigh, and went back into the bathroom.

     Balki looked at the kitten. "I think he doesn't like you much."

     Later that morning at Ritz Discount, Balki's standing at the register. Next to it was a shoebox with holes in the cover. He lifted the cover and looked inside.

     At the same time, Larry came through the door and saw him looking in the box. "Balki, what are you doing?"

     He let the cover drop and spun around. "Just standing by the reigster." As he spoke, the cover lifted up and the kitten climbed out.

     "What's in the shoebox?"


     Larry shook his head. "Okay, don't tell me." He came around the counter. "I'm back from break, why don't you go?"

     "Why don't I?" Balki asked.

     "Just go on break and take your box with you."

     Balki picked up the shoebox and tucked it under one arm, then left.

     Larry picked up a duster from underneath the register and, when he stood up again, he sneezed. "Dust, cat, more dust, I'm surprised I'm not allergic to Balki... or life." He spotted something on the counter where the box had been and bent down so his eye level met the counter top. His brow lowered as he noticed a small trail of hair, then his eyes went wide. "The cat!" He stood up again and looked around frantically. He went around the counter, staring at the floor, as though he could follow a trail of cat hair that didn't exist. "Diki, where are you, you little mouse chaser? Come on, Diki, show up and make me sneeze before Twinkie turns you into a stole." He looked around the radio equipment, then some boxes, then over by the furniture, and around most of the rest of the store.

     Balki ran back inside and nearly collided with him. Larry grabbed a hold of his suspenders, looking frantic. "You didn't find him?"

     "Why did you bring him here?!"

     "Because you said not to leave him home, so I brought him."

     "Well, if Twinkacetti finds him first, we'll be selling something made from cat hair! If I find him first--"

     Balki pointed at the stairs. "There he is!" He ran after the kitten.

     Larry shook his head. "Why couldn't he have bought a nice sheep or something?" He took off after Balki, up the stairs, into one of the storage rooms, slamming a door after him.

     From outside the door, it's silent for a few moments, which ends with a crash of several boxes falling, followed by a thud, then everything's quiet again.

     "Balki, did you get him?"

     "Yes, I got him."

     "Good, then get these boxes off of me!"

     Several minutes later, Balki came down the stairs, holding and petting the kitten, while Larry followed, holding a shoulder and quietly fuming. They were met at the counter by Mr. Twinkacetti.

     "And just where have you two been?"

     Balki quickly hid the kitten behind his back. "In the storage room."

     "I, uh... needed help oving some boxes," Larry added.

     "So, that took the both of you... and that cat the turnip's hiding behind his back?" Twinkacetti remarked. "I want it out of here, now!"

     Balki placed the kitten back in the box. "Okay," he replied, as a little girl came in the store.

     Larry saw her come in. "Balki..." He turned him around to see the girl. "Go ask her if she wants the cat."

     "I can't do that"

     "Then I can." Larry grabbed the box. "Little girl?"

     She turned and gave him an odd look.

     "Interested in a pet?"

     She nodded slowly.

     "How about a kitten named Diki?"

     She smiled and nodded enthusiastically this time.

     Larry knelt down and put the box on the floor to let her pick up the kitten.

     "Thanks, mister!" She hugged the kitten and ran out the door.

     Larry stood and placed the box on the counter. "See? No problem--" He paused and sneezed. "--to it."

     "Atleast I won't have to listen to that anymore," Balki commented.