I’m on the phone with a friend of mine who lives in New York, and she mentions that she ran into a novelist she knows who lives down the street from her—“It’s New York, after all”—and I say, “Yeah, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a writer.”
Jessica is listening to me and suddenly her whole body freezes.
“What did you just say?” she demands. She often participates in my phone conversations, so I hold the phone aside and say to her, “It’s just an expression.”
She insists: “Did you say swing a cat?”
“I said, ‘You can’t swing a cat,’ which you can’t. It just means—”
But she has already burst into tears. Yes, tears: big, huge, sobbing tears about my cruelty to cats.
“I think I’d better go,” I say to my friend, and hang up the phone. I turn to Jessica. “Sweetie . . . .”
But by now she has moved onto hiccupping sobs. “I cannot believe you would swing a cat!”
“It’s just an expression,” I try to explain. “It just means—”
“Do not swing cats anymore!” she says, near hysteria, and so I say, “Yes. I promise. I will never say that expression again. Ever.”
“Because there is no swinging of cats in this house,” she says firmly, still sniffling a little.
“Yes. I mean, no. No swinging of cats. Got it.”
This is one promise that is easy to make. “Yes,” I say. “I will never swing a cat. Or even mention the swinging of cats.”
I hug her. “Is it okay if it rains cats and dogs?”
“That is ridiculous,” she says.