Two Americans—an American wife and her husband, George—are staying in a hotel in Italy. The room they occupy overlooks what would, on a nice day, be a beautiful scene: a beach, a public garden, and a war monument. However, on this day, the weather is terrible. Rain drips from the trees in the garden, on the beach, and on the war monument. The landscape is deserted.
Standing at her hotel window, the American wife looks out on this scene and spots a lone wet cat sheltering under a café table. She tells her husband, who reclines on the bed reading a newspaper, that she will go downstairs to save the “poor kitty” from the rain. Her husband offers to go instead, but she declines.
Downstairs, she passes the office of the hotel-keeper, an old, tall, dignified Italian who rises from his seat at the far end of the room and bows when he sees her. The American wife likes the hotel-keeper very much. She likes his dignity, his readiness to serve her, as well as his face and his big hands. She exchanges a few words with him in Italian about the bad weather, and continues on her way.
She opens the door to step outside only to find that it is raining harder. She needs to make her way to the right, and considers going under the eaves to protect herself from the rain. Just then, the hotel maid appears. She opens an umbrella over the wife’s head, telling her in Italian that she mustn’t get wet. The American wife guesses that the hotel-keeper has sent her.
With the maid following her with the umbrella, the American wife makes her way to the table, but finds that the cat has disappeared from under it. She is terribly disappointed. The hotel maid asks her if she has lost something, and the American wife tells her that there was a cat. Even though the maid laughs at this, the American wife tells her that she had really wanted the cat. The two women return inside, and the American wife passes the office of the hotel-keeper, who bows once more.
When she returns to her room upstairs, her husband asks if she has found the cat, and she tells him that it is gone. She confesses that she really wanted the cat, though she doesn’t know why, and dwells on the poor cat’s plight in the rain.
She goes to a dressing table and looks at herself with a hand glass, studying her face and the back of her head and neck in detail. She asks George whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to let her hair grow out. George considers her short hair and tells her that he likes it the way it is. She responds that she’s tired of looking like a boy, and George reassures her that she looks pretty good.
The wife goes over to the window, and notices that it’s getting dark. As she looks out, she expresses a long list of desires. She wants hair that she can pull back into a knot at the back of her neck. She wants to have a kitty to sit on her lap and to purr when she strokes it. She wants to eat at a table with her own silver, and she wants candles. She wants it to be spring. She wants new clothes.
George, who had begun by paying attention to his wife’s statements, loses interest and tells her to shut up and get something to read. The wife continues looking out of the window. It’s dark, but still raining. She repeats several times that she wants a cat—especially since she can’t have long hair or any fun.
George, who is immersed in his reading, is no longer listening. Just then someone knocks at the door and George invites them to enter. The hotel maid stands in the doorway with a large tortoise-shell cat in her hands. She informs them that the “padrone”—the hotel-keeper—has sent her with the cat for the American wife.