Big Cats: Stories by Holiday ReinhornBig Cats: Stories by Holiday Reinhorn

Big Cats: Stories

byHoliday Reinhorn

Paperback | July 6, 2005

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Big Cats opens with "Charlotte," in which a young girl with a broken pelvis spies on her voluptuous neighbor during a long, hot summer night, setting the tone of irrepressible curiosity and yearning that is evident throughout the collection. In "Get Away from Me, David," a bank manager tries to overcome his haunted past as he deals with the aftermath of a minor earthquake and the body of a customer who died in the lobby. "Big Cats" pits two teenage girls against each other in an escalating catfight at the zoo where they work, culminating in a blowout in front of the lion cage.
Title:Big Cats: StoriesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.44 × 5.62 × 0.6 inPublished:July 6, 2005Publisher:Free PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0743272943

ISBN - 13:9780743272940

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Read from the Book

Chapter One: Charlotte The day Mrs. Linkabaugh moved in next door, I cracked my pubic bone in two places. It was 97 degrees, according to the giant thermometer Karl Bongaard had hanging on the side of his house. I was swinging at the time, watching the men from the moving company slide pieces of a fuzzy red water bed out of their truck, when my outgrown swing set pitched like a mechanical bull. A fire hydrant loomed, and I touched down somewhere along the curb. Through a small patch of consciousness, I looked up into the faces of four Mayflower movers as the sky ripped open and all of the clouds dropped to earth like wet rags. At the Veterans Administration Training Hospital, I was in Room 503 with air-conditioning and a man named Victor Samuels, who pulled open the separating curtain every chance he got and started talking. He said he was originally from St. Louis and that last year his prostate had started hardening up into a little missile. My mother, Bobbie, said we had to be polite to Victor Samuels no matter what because he was probably tortured by the Vietnamese. Dr. Maryland, the orthopedist, liked Bobbie right away. When he pinned up the X rays and she asked whether smoking was all right if she held it out the window, he said, "Why don't the both of you call me Kevin, okay?" This kind of thing happens all the time. My father used to say it was because Bobbie could never repulse a man no matter how hard she tried. From the time she was seven to nineteen and a half, my mother, Roberta Marie Peek, was Miss Glendora Heights Southern Division, Miss Teen Hideaway Cove, Miss Young Zuma Beach, Miss Autumn for Sunkist, and third runner-up to Miss La Jolla because she was skinnier then, and nobody could tell she was pregnant. Even now that she's almost twenty-nine, all the men still like her, and it doesn't matter whether they find out first about the trophies and the train trips and the foot modeling. Jim Juergens, the softball coach from the community center, even came into the girls' locker room when I was changing once and said he had special dreams about making love to Bobbie and getting to be my father. That was the same week Coach Juergens got arrested for walking around the dugout without pants. Kevin sat in a chair at the foot of my bed and took a long time showing us the X rays. "As you can see," he said, smiling over at Bobbie, "the fractures are on the left side of the bone. To prevent a limp, I had to actually rebreak the pelvis in the center, just to set the whole thing back in balance." "This is unbelievable," Bobbie said, leaning over to hand me her last piece of spearmint gum. "I thought this kind of thing only happened to Denny." Kevin looked at the tan line where Bobbie's wedding ring used to be. "Who's Denny?" he asked, staring at her like she was the first woman he'd ever seen in his whole life. Usually, we don't mention Denny to new people right away, because he has concentration problems and can't keep his hands off things. The last medical bill we had from Denny was when Bobbie took him to the Rub-a-Dub Automatic Car Wash and let him ride through it in the driver's seat all alone. He got into the glove compartment, where Bobbie left her purse, and swallowed three sleeping pills and a half-pack of wintergreen Certs and had to be rushed straight to the Poison Center. "Denny's my little brother," I said, and Kevin looked relieved. He turned back to the X rays. "Actually, this was a really easy one," he said to Bobbie, pointing to the problem area in the center of the screen. "Once I had a clean break, I used stainless steel to stitch up the bone." Bobbie held out her hand and I put the gum wrapper in it. "Metal stitches," she said, shaking her head at the ceiling. "Holy Christ." "It's better than a broken leg, though, isn't it?" Kevin said. "At her age, the bones are so soft, it's like sewing tissue. She doesn't even have to wear a cast." Bobbie sighed into her hands, and Kevin looked like he might cry. "Please don't worry," he said to her. "The incision will barely leave a scar." I asked Kevin if he was married. "Of course he is," Bobbie said, sliding the window shut and brushing her cigarette ashes off the sill. "And whoever guesses how much money Kevin makes in a year gets a free Jell-O." I guessed a million dollars and Kevin smiled. "I'm afraid we're only a government hospital around here," he said. "I guess I get the Jell-O." Later, after Victor Samuels came back from his radiation and went to sleep, Bobbie scooted her chair up next to the bed and told me two things: I had to call my father collect right away to tell him I almost died, and that yesterday she had entered me in a preteen beauty contest. I reminded her that my pubic bone was broken, but she said she had already tracked down a sponsor who assured her I would not have to appear in the swimsuit section with any of the other eleven-year-olds or be required to go up or down the auditorium stairs on my crutches. "They said they'd even put in a ramp if we want," she said, handing me the telephone before she went off with a nurse to sign more papers. "Isn't that terrific?" My father was supposed to be living in Coos Bay by the water, and most of the time I was the one in charge of calling him. He wasn't usually at his house very much, but since we were in a hospital, I had the operator ring for as long a time as she could, just in case he picked up. "How did his voice sound?" Bobbie asked when she got back from her errands. "Okay," I said. "It sounded all right." On my last day at the Veteran's, Peggy, the physical therapist, taught me how to use the crutches. My job was to practice limping up and down the hallway on alternating legs while she and Bobbie kept the rhythm going with loud claps. In the pharmacy on the first floor, I chose purple armrests for the crutches, and Bobbie bought me flower stickers to paste on the wood. Then, when it was time to go, Kevin walked us over to our car and gave Bobbie his telephone number. "There are a few choices on here," he said, ripping her off an extra page from his prescription pad, "so give me a buzz anytime." On the drive home, Bobbie told me everything she knew about our new neighbor. Her name was Mrs. Linkabaugh; her ex-husband, Bill Linkabaugh, was not allowed within 1,000 feet of her house by order of the Oregon State police; and on the day she finally moved in, Mrs. Linkabaugh handed out at least fifty flyers with Bill Linkabaugh's picture on them just to warn everybody. "And I want you and your brother to be very careful of characters like these," Bobbie said, cutting off a delivery truck on her way into the carpool lane, "because North Willamette is going downhill." North Willamette is our street. When we were with my father, we lived on North Amherst, North Lombard, and North McCrum. Now Bobbie says she'll never move again, not even if North Willamette becomes a slum. Mrs. Linkabaugh's new house used to belong to Oliver Grevitch, who died trying to put up his storm windows. One Saturday he got out his ladder and climbed all the way up the side of his house and had a thrombosis. Bobbie's boyfriend Dale was in the driveway when it happened, and he says Mr. Grevitch hung on to his ladder the whole time and the two of them fell together, just like a chopped-down tree. "Light me a cigarette, will you?" said Bobbie. "This bitch in the Gold Duster won't get off my ass." When I got it lit, I tapped her, and she held out her hand so I could stick it between the right fingers. The woman in the Gold Duster leaned on the horn, but Bobbie ignored her and smoked with her tip out the window. When the honking got louder, she stuck her middle finger in the rearview mirror. "This woman can eat me," she said, punching down the automatic lock button and pulling us back into the exit lane. "Now, roll up your window and hold on, we're taking Killingsworth." I turned down the radio and kept my eyes on the floor mats, because Killingsworth and Alberta were bad avenues. The summer lifeguard at Peninsula Park used to tell everybody in the free swim that carloads of men from Killingsworth kidnapped girls like us all the time and did it to them over and over in the double-doggy style. When we got to Lombard Street and into downtown St. John's, Bobbie drove past the Coronet store, where Dale was the assistant manager. Copyright © 2005 by Wil-Horn Enterprises, Inc.

Table of Contents



Get Away from Me, David

Big Cats

Golden Pioneers

Fuck You

My Name

Good to Hear You

The Heights

By the Time You Get This



The White Dog

Last Seen


Bookclub Guide

Big Cats Reading Group Guide Charlotte Why do you think the narrator calls her mother, Bobbie? Is she a good mother? What is beauty to Bobbie and the narrator? Do Mrs. Linkabaugh and her husband reconcile? Why don't we learn the narrator's name? Compare the narrator's sexuality in this story to the narrator's sexuality in the title story, Big Cats. Get Away from Me, David What effect does the narrator's use of capital letters have in the story? Discuss The Woman I Used to Love. Why does David see The Woman I Used to Love and the spirit of John Rivera? Discuss his crush on the security guard, Elizabeth Sabretta. Why does he picture himself in a rabbit suit? Where is David's life going? What do you think happens to David at the end? Big Cats Discuss the nature of Polly and Brenda's friendship. Why does Polly set her summer goal of losing her virginity? Do you think Brenda has the same intention? What is the catalyst of the fight? Will this fight end their friendship? What is the role of the zookeeper in the story? What is Brenda searching for? What does the ending signify? Golden Pioneers The narrator says, "So well meaning and fallible, these two. I'd like to tell you they're meant for each other." Does the narrator feel that they really are? Is this an imagined account of the narrator's conception? How does the narrator's voice work in the story? How does it affect the structure? Why does Bierelane Leonard appear in the story? What is the role of the motelkeeper in the story? Does the narrator forgive her parents? Whose story is this anyway? Fuck You Why does the pregnant woman pick up Sev? Why does she take him home? How do you feel about her smoking and drinking? What can you deduce about state of the pregnant woman's life? How does she feel about her pregnancy? What's Jack like? What significance does setting play in the story? Will Sev come back? What do the narrator and Sev find in each other? My Name What is the significance of Verta saying, "Buck"? How does Van Hoomison react? What kind of person is Van Hoomison? What is his relationship to Verta? Who do you think Buck is? What is Van Hoomison searching for in his life? Why does Van Hoomison bring Verta to the chapel and tell her the story? What does Van Hoomison's story reveal about him? Discuss the ending. What will happen to Van Hoomison now? Good to Hear You Describe the coincidence of the painting in the park. Can you believe the likelihood of the story? Describe the similarities and differences between this story and Golden Pioneers. What can we deduce about the relationship of the narrator and the father? Do you think the conversation at the end continues? What does it reveal about the father? What does the daughter want from the father? Do you think she forgives him? The Heights What is the relationship between Dr. Al, Cass and Natty? Why does Natty launch into the story of Al and her husband's trip to Las Vegas? How does Lizzie feel about this? How do the Klipsch brothers handle the awkward situation? What do you think will happen to Lizzie? How are Lizzie and her mother alike/different? What makes this day unlike any other? By the Time You Get This Is Mary's marriage in trouble? Why has she stopped working? How are she and her husband dealing with what happened to their daughter? How does Lydia feel about what happened? Does she take sides? Does Sabrina really commune with Sarah, or has she just said things that Mary needed to hear? Discuss Paul's role in the story and his significance at the end. Seashell Who is Willie Greene? What does Lonnie think about him? Discuss Lonnie's situation; with the group, her parents, her children. Discuss her conversation with Victoria. Has Victoria let her down? Do you think Willie Green will show up again? What will happen to Lonnie. Discuss the role of God and Christianity in the story. What is Lonnie's relationship to faith? Africa Why is the narrator overcome by Junie and Africa? Describe Junie. Is she happy when she learns she is not pregnant? Why do you think the narrator steals Junie's truck and its cargo? What do you think of her relationship with the narrator? What will happen to the narrator and Junie if Africa lives? What will happen to them if he dies? What is the narrator's relationship to fatherhood? What is the narrator's relationship to Africa, the horse? How does it change over the course of the story? The White Dog Why do you think the woman is obsessed with her pet? What do you think happened between her and her ex-husband? Do the narrator and her ex-husband have anything in common? Discuss the role of being an artist in the story. Do you believe the pet psychic? What is the ex-husband's relationship with Andrine like? How do the narrator and her ex feel about each other? What do you think will happen when the white dog actually dies? Last Seen This story is pieced together from several characters' points of view and in various ways. What do you think happened to Jenny? Why do you think the janitor believes it has something to do with the building? What do the bloody footprints show? Why is the sister so flip? Do you think the coach has any involvement? Does the mother suspect anything? Did Jennifer leave any clues? What is the role of the interviewer in the story? What is the role of the English mystic, Joanna Southcott? Big Cats Questions Why is the collection called Big Cats? Discuss the role of animals in the collection. Describe the collection's relationship to the West Coast. Discuss the settings of time and place in the stories. What do they have in common? How do they differ? Discuss the title of each piece. Which is most suitable, which least? Compare the ideas and aspects of womanhood and sexuality in the collection. Discuss the role of the male characters in general and the absence of fathers in the stories. The relationships of children to their parents? Discuss the endings of the stories. Some seem fantastic. What did you make of this? Does Holiday Reinhorn repeat any themes? How can you distinguish her stories from another writer's? What was your favorite story? What was your least favorite? Why?

Editorial Reviews

"Holiday Reinhorn is among the very best of a new generation of short story writers. Her work grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go: tough, deep, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Big Cats is the work of a major talent."
-- Dan Chaon, author of the National Book Award fiction finalist Among the Missing and You Remind Me of Me