On Tuesday, Leroy Angoy pointed a gun through the screen door at Perry and yelled that his mom don’t want none of the candy Perry was selling, so get lost. Perry got lost. On Wednesday, worried about Snoodles, Perry had his sister Jeannette call Mrs. Angoy.
“She says come on over,” Jeannette told him over her shoulder, as she put the chicken and rice casserole in the oven, “She says Leroy ain’t home.”
“I guess he’s back from Rikers,” Perry said.
“Uh-huh,” Jeannette said. “But not for long, I bet.”
Perry was in the habit of helping Mrs. Angoy give her cat Snoodles her daily medication in a piece of chicken liver that she bought special at the Jewish deli on Flatbush.
A couple of years ago, Snoodles had shot past him when he was walking home past Mrs. Angoy’s house. She’d yelled out her window for Perry to help, and since Mrs. Angoy had gone to church with Ma before she died, he’d grabbed Snoodles and brought the cat inside, where Mrs. Angoy was fluttering around in an old blue housecoat.
Since then, Snoodles’ heart medicine was almost entirely Perry’s responsibility, because being in Mrs. Angoy’s lap only made Snoodles act up. In Perry’s lap, she purred. Perry thought he maybe might become a veterinarian someday, so it was good to get some practice in on Snoodles. The only other real animals he saw were squirrels and pigeons, or the occasional large dog that he wouldn’t go near.
He didn’t mention Leroy or his gun to Mrs. Angoy, not even when she fussed that he hadn’t shown up the day before, “after you said you would.” While she went around her tiny kitchen, opening and closing her cupboards, the fridge, even the oven, muttering about finding “a cookie or a cake” to feed him as a thank you, Perry got on to the business at hand: pill in a piece of liver, Snoodles in his lap, liver consumed, medicine administered. He was saying “Bye now” to Mrs. Angoy before she realized he was done, trying to get out before Leroy came back.
But Mrs. Angoy stopped to squint at him, opening and closing the top snap on her housecoat. She had stopped searching, even though Perry could see there was a box of Entenmann’s in the cupboard, which he wouldn’t mind as a hold-over before Jeannette’s dinner.
She asked, “How old are you now, Perry?”
She nodded once, sighed, and slammed shut the cupboard door, before shuffling off down the hall.
As he watched her go, Perry wondered if he was excused. For a moment, he stood staring at the old poster of Leroy’s basketball team, stuck up on fridge with masking tape, crooked. “2004 – 2005 Vikings” the poster said. Leroy and Jeannette had been in the same class, at the high school Perry went to now. In the photo, Leroy didn’t look so mean as he had the day before. He looked like he was working on becoming mean, though.
The sound of shuffling alerted Perry that Mrs. Angoy was returning, so he took a step towards the door. He noticed that you really couldn’t see who or what was on the other side of it, which made him feel a little better about Leroy and his gun.
Mrs. Angoy tried to hand him a little baggie of weed, holding it up in the same way she usually offered the Entenmann’s box.
“To say ‘thank you’,” she said, when she saw him hesitating.
“No, thank you, ma’am, I don’t sm—“
“Not for you to smoke,” she said. “To sell.”
He stared at her. She sighed.
“You been helping me for a long time,” she said, “And I don’t have any cash around, not enough to pay you what I should be –“
“But, Mrs. Angoy,” he said, then stopped. How could he explain this?
“Go on,” she said. “It’s good. I take it for my nerves, but I don’t need so much. Leroy said –”
But Perry never did hear what Leroy said about the weed because he walked out the door. From the step, he looked back into Mrs. Angoy’s house and saw that he was right – it was a lot easier to see in than out. And then he went home to Jeannette’s casserole.
A couple of weeks later, Jeannette told him that she had some bad news. “Snoodles had a heart attack last night,” she said. “Died in her sleep, sounds like.”
Perry nodded. He hadn’t gone back to Mrs. Angoy’s, even though he knew she wouldn’t be able to get that medicine into Snoodles herself. But, anyway, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to be a vet anymore.
Shannon is an essayist, writer of fiction, humorist, playwright and theatre teaching artist. Her most recent credits include Buzzfeed, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Vela Magazine, the Mud Season Review, Kweli Journal and Narratively. Links to all of her publications can be found at her website, www.shannonreed.org.