Peggy walked into the creative lounge, sheepish about bothering Stan the previous evening. He was sitting at the table, meticulously painting cranberries for the Ocean Spray mockup for Thursday's meeting. He must have come in early. Probably another one night stand from Donaghy's Pub he picked up last night. She thought for sure he'd calmed down.
She handed him a cup of coffee and a doughnut.
"What's this?" he asked, putting his x-acto knife down on the table. He looked at her for a few seconds with an enigmatic smile, then giggled and took the present gamely.
"Peace offering. I'm sorry I interrupted your…sleep…last night," she said, her face reddening.
"Don't worry about it. But thanks," he replied, tearing the doughnut in half and dunking it into his coffee. "Wasn't going anywhere anyway. She didn't 'get' my Moshe poster."
"I didn't get it at first either, until you explained."
"At least you asked. I gotta stay away from the whiskey sours," he lamented. "They mess me up worse than anything." He took another bite of coffee-soaked doughnut. A few crumbs nestled in his beard. Without thinking, Peggy handed him a napkin and pretended to look through the work folder.
"Gotta admit, though, getting propositioned twice in one night? Ol' Rizzo's still got it."
"Oh." Peggy chuckled, then sighed. "Sorry about that. I…"
Stan interrupted her by clearing his throat. "So, did you get it? I hear you're good with a knife. Ya stab that thing, too?"
Peggy sat down across from him and opened the folder. "Alright, you get to use that against me. But let me have my coffee first. NO, I did not get the rat." She tapped her pen against the table. "I kept having nightmares."
"Seriously, you have to get out of that shithole. Don't sell it, just move out of there and be the slumlord you were persuaded to be."
Peggy laughed out loud, until Stan's face fell to mock seriousness.
"I'm worried about you, Peggy. You're going to get bitten some night and get the plague, and I for one am not going to run you to the hospital with teeth marks in your neck."
Peggy groaned and explained the situation. The traps were ineffective and seemed to make the problem worse. Stan listened, finished his doughnut, and lit a cigarette. He offered her one, and she smoked with him.
"Tell ya what," he said, looking at her with concern. "I have an idea that will solve your problem. And keep me from having to come up to the West 80s at 2 in the morning….again."
"I'm getting you an early Christmas present."
"Well, you can't wait. We'll head downtown after work. Trust me, you'll love it."
That afternoon Stan took Peggy to a small pet shop.
"Why are we here?" Peggy asked, looking around. "You want me to catch the rat and sell it? I don't think anyone's going to want a rat with three legs." She winced at the thought, remembering the trail of blood and those little footprints under her sofa.
"I'm getting you a better solution," Stan smiled. "I grew up on a farm. You will never have a problem again with one of these around." He pointed to the cats in the window.
Peggy laughed, then looked at Stan's face. He was smiling at her fondly, then caught himself and relaxed it to his regular gruffness. His eyes still twinkled behind the beard, though.
"Really? You'd do that for me?" she asked, her face brightening.
"Anything to keep you from cock-blocking my next conquest," he laughed. They went into the pet shop and asked to see the cats. "I have a reputation to keep."
Peggy snorted and looked over the little fence.
"There's a nice orange tabby in the corner," Stan observed. "I bet that one would be a great ratter. Females are better hunters, by the way," he added. "Boy, I'd love to paint that one. What a great-looking cat."
Peggy agreed that the orange tabby was the prettiest.
"All yours, Peggy." Stan smiled at her, rubbing her back. "Sounds like you won't have to spend much on cat food, already. Don't say I never got you anything."
Peggy gave Stan a hug.