It was another perfect day at Ocean Beach Homeless Shelter.
I’m not sure why I became homeless. My goal was always to have a home.
I guess I made bad decisions. I got fired for punching Larry, my boss. I started training to become a boxer. I bought a station wagon. When I crashed the station wagon, I walked away but the guy from the Mercedes punched me in the back of the head.
“What medications do you take?” the doctor asked me. This was after I woke up.
I rattled them off.
“Your cerebellum is in bad shape.”
It felt fine.
“Can I fight again?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “If you want to die.”
I would’ve punched him only I was strapped into the hospital bed.
My friend Jemma is 6’1. I’m 6’2.
We met in the bathroom. I was ducking down to look at my hair in a mirror. So was she.
“Do you play basketball?” I asked her.
We both laughed.
We talked about our tallness, our romantic problems.
I said, “Guys will usually talk to me for a bit, then look at me like mountain climbing is probably a lot of hard work after all.”
“You’re right,” said Jemma, nodding seriously. “You’re exactly right.”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if I could drink. But I’m taking Demerol for back problems.”
Jemma laughed. She was taking Demerol too.
“I better get back to work,” she said. “My boss is an asshole.”
“You work here?”
We heard screaming. We ran out of the bathroom.
The whole bar was smoky and on fire.
I grabbed Jemma’s arm.
“Come on,” I said.
“Not without Madrigal,” she said.
She pulled her arm free. She vanished in smoke.
I was worried about Jemma but… I often dream I’m dying in fire.
I was choking in smoke. I found the door.
I turned back.
Smoke rolled out of the kitchen like bowling balls. I felt like falling down.
I heard coughing.
Someone said, “Madrigal.”
“Jemma?” I said.
I could barely make out Jemma standing on top of the bar. The shelves behind the bar went almost up to the ceiling.
“He’s way too high,” she said.
I guess it was instinct. I climbed onto the bar. I knelt down.
“Get on my shoulders,” I said.
Jemma stepped onto my shoulders, grabbing the shelves for support.
I stood up straight.
Jemma stood up. It murdered my back but I put up with it.
Our combined height was now 12’3.
“Got him,” she said.
I crouched down and screamed. Jemma hopped off.
We ran out, coughing.
I finally saw what Jemma was holding.
It was a cat. A smoky cat. The bar cat.
A bunch of girls were on the sidewalk, watching the bar burn down. They gathered around us, petting Madrigal. I petted him too. I’m not really a cat person, but I’d almost died.
“Has anyone seen the boss?” said one of the girls.
The Local Star interviewed me and Jemma the next day.
The photographer found an angle that worked. We had to keep waking up Madrigal.
“Do you play basketball?” the reporter asked.
When the article came out, the headline was, “Absurdly Tall Friends Save the Day.”
I framed it. I still have it.
That was ten years ago.
I’m 6’1 now too because of my surgery. I dyed my hair for fun.
“Are you twins?” people sometimes ask me and Jemma.
We always blink simultaneously and say, “Yes.”
Rolli is the author of five books, including the new story collection I Am Currently Working On a Novel.