Paris, Part Two

"I'll find a way," I told Ghislaine, over coffee in her tiny room above rue Nollet. My slightly bigger room at least looked down upon a small garden, a charmless little space, except for the three gray cats that appeared from the unattended bushes and disappeared as quickly. I'd always spotted them one at a time, and wondered if they knew each other or at least were aware of the other two.
Ghislaine spoke English efficiently. "There could be similar cats, resting," she said, while sitting at my window on a Sunday afternoon.  "So far, not," I said, poking at her affectionately with her own appealing comma.
My way, it turned out, was to address Polumbo during what I knew was to be my last night at La Calvados. I knocked on his black office door in the basement.
"Sir, I said, "EMI Records, as you know, has asked me to make a recording for them in London . The money is big  (there was no money)  and I must do this. But I'll"  -  "You are getting stale,"  Polumbo told me, shockingly. "Go. Don't come back."
"But what will you" -  "There's a girl. Good."
"Well then," I said, suddenly on the verge of tears." I extended my hand. Polumbo accepted my putrid fingers , only fingers, in his enormous calloused hand, before turning away.
My last walk to the Étoile revived me. I imagined that I was Harold Arlen walking down Fifth Ave on the cobble stones by the park. My father and I had spotted him in front of us, a month or so before I left for Paris. My father could whistle, I could not whistle. He chose one of Harold's songs. "Stormy Weather" did not stop Harold, only ten feet in front of us. "Over The Rainbow" was every bit as useless. But my father's own  "Dancing In The Dark," did the trick. Harold Arlen whirled around.  I embraced him, and kissed him on the cheek.
"Will you send me your recording?" Ghislaine asked.
"To be sure," I told her. We kissed by my window.
"Look," she said. "All three cats!"
Imagine that. All three, for the very first time. "That is a slice of good luck," she said. A slice. I looked it up in a London library. "A portion, a sliver, a wafer, a shaving."
I gave Ghislaine two months for her rent, knowing how little money she had, a little less than I.
Later in the day I flew to London, never to see her or to speak with her again.
Jonathan Schwartz