GK: Put your sweet lips a littler closer to the phone And let's pretend that we're together all alone. I'll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low And tell your friend, who's there with you, he'll have to go.

I can't say the words I want to say....(FADING STEEPLY) When you're with another man. Darling.....(SILENCE. FOOTSTEPS, SLOW, ON CONCRETE, GRITTY.)

TK (LARRY): That's the nice thing about a radio. You can turn it off. (RUMMAGING IN TRASH) Problem with living in a basement is --- reception is so poor. All I get down here is the one station. The one with him on it. We used to be friends, him and me. I used to give him answers on tests. He still owes me money. Anyway. He came down here New Year's Eve, bothering me. Came barging down here, no invitation --- people do that when you live in a basement ---- think they can walk right in ----- (FOOTSTEPS APPROACH AND STOP)

GK: Hey. Larry. Just came down to wish you a happy New Year.

TK: Okay. No problem.

GK: Hope it's filled with happiness and prosperity and new friends----

TK: Right. Sure.

GK: Everybody's upstairs. Bill and Sharon. Gene. Mom and Dad. Uncle Jack and Elaine and her boys, everybody's having a lot of fun---- we were wishing you'd come up and join us? huh?

TK: Too many people. I don't like it.

GK: Nine people. Plus me.

TK: Nine is okay. Ten gets to be kind of a problem.

GK: But you know everybody----

TK: That's the problem. They talk too loud. I like it down here.

GK: We're going to have champagne.

TK: I don't want any.

GK: Cake.

TK: What kind?

GK: Angel food.

TK: No thanks.

GK: We're having strawberries. Ice cream.

TK: What kind?

GK: Vanilla.

TK: Oh. No----

GK: Strawberries. That's your favorite.

TK: Since when?

GK: I thought you liked ice cream with strawberries.

TK: I don't like it as much as I used to. I got tired of it. Tired of everybody shoving ice cream and strawberries at me. People shove food at you and they expect you to be entertaining. Smile. Make conversation. Tell jokes. I'm not in the mood.

GK: You don't have to be entertaining. You can just be yourself.

TK: I can be myself down here.


TK: I can be myself down here a lot easier than I can be myself up there.

GK: Just come up for fifteen minutes.

TK: There is no such thing as fifteen minutes. I go up there, it's going to be for two hours ---- I don't want to ---- I'd rather stay here with Kitty. (MEOW)

GK: It'd mean so much to everybody.

TK: It'd mean a lot to Kitty if I didn't.

GK: You could bring Kitty with you.

TK: Kitty doesn't want to go. She doesn't like people. Just likes me. Isn't that right? (MEOW) Kitty is the only one who really understands me. Only one I can talk to. (MEOW)

GK: Okay, but if you change your mind, come up, okay?

TK: Okay.

GK: And happy New Year.

TK: Yeah. Right. (FOOTSTEPS OFF)

TK: Don't need to go up. Got it all set up in here. Got my magazines. Got my old lounger chair. Reading lamp. Spatter paint. TV. Got my little clay people. I've got Kitty. Isn't that right, Kitty? Huh?

SS: My name isn't Kitty. It's Cecile.

TK: It is?

SS: Yes.

TK: But I've been calling you Kitty for years.

SS: I know.

TK: I'm sorry.

SS: No problem.

TK: You want to go upstairs, Cecile?

SS: Are you kidding? I like it here. In the dark. With you touching me. Mmmmmmmmmm. Oh boy. Right there. Oh that's good. Oh boy. Ohhhhhhhhhhh.

TK: You like that, don't you.

SS: Yes. Right there. Mmmmmmmmmm.

TK: Cecile-----

SS: What?

TK: You've been making strange sounds at night, Cecile. What is it?

SS: I don't know. I get in this strange mood. I want to go out.

TK: You want to be with other cats, don't you----

SS: Maybe.

TK: You want to be with a guy cat, don't you----

SS: Maybe.

TK: I can't let you do that.

SS: Oh?

TK: If you have babies, Cecile, they won't let me stay in the basement anymore.

SS: They didn't mean it.

TK: I think they did. They said, One Cat. That's all.

SS: Wouldn't you like to have babies?

TK: Maybe.

SS: So?

TK: I'm afraid.

SS: You'll like it.

TK: I'm afraid what they'd say. They might kick you out.

SS: Not if we had babies, they wouldn't.

TK: I don't know.

SS: We'd have beautiful babies. Ohhhhhh. Oh yes. Oh that's so nice. Oh I love that. Mmmmmmmmm. Open the window.

TK: What?

SS: Open the window. I'll be right back.

TK: I don't know.

SS: Open the window.

TK: I don't know what to do, Cecile.

SS: Open the window. I'll come back in ten minutes. Just put your hands over your ears. It sounds bad, but I'll be right back. And then we'll have babies. Okay? ---- Open the window.

TK: I don't know what to do.

SS: Open the window. You can do it. Just stand up. Go to the window. And open it. (PAUSE)

GK: I'll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low. And tell your friend who's there with you, he'll have to go.
©1998Garrison Keillor