Admiral -- reviewed by Mimi Carmen

So why is she feeling as if it is way back when? For one thing, she's still driving an old car that stalls in front of the hulk of the same huge gray stone home with its manicured lawns, and gardens as spectacular and nurtured as the gardens in Williamsburg, and like the owners, the Striker's, Gretchen and Cliff, in their childless life, making the same kind of a statement. For another, she used to work for the Strikers, dog-sitting, and knows the place upside down. It's as if not a year has passed let alone four, and now here she is back to see why they want to see her.

Actually, things should have been different. Poor as they were, her father's menial job, her mother always sick, always sick, and she, Nisha intelligent enough to get that scholarship, that unbelievable four-year college degree, but then where she might have found real employment somewhere else, there was her sick mother in her conscience. So here she was back to the old city. With its memories that haunted her, her pressured father and his snotty remarks, her pale, fragile mother, hanging onto the edge by a thread. So it was back to the old crap, because there were no jobs, none, except serving fast food, acrobatic instructors, dog sitters. Somehow these jobs had a different ring than house cleaner, she used to reassure herself, because her mother had drummed into her very soul, "A woman of color does not clean house." So now instead of enjoying the parlor of life's promises, she was strangling in the cellar of its realities.

And as it turns out, the Strikers are willing to pay her anything, (name her own price, and with medical to boot) to watch over Admiral II, their pride and joy, quarter of a million dollar cloned replica of the first Admiral, their Afghan dog. The stiff Gretchen, the know-it- all Cliff (it was cheaper to clone cats he tells Gretchen), and the young girl, the maid, Frankie, who wears a starched white uniform, demeaning, but as she later explained to Nisha when they became friendly, her maid's job was only temporary. "Yeah, temporary, like a maid's or a dog sitter's," Nisha thinks. "Nobody's permanent except people like the Strikers."

At first glance it might have seemed ideal, taking care of the goofy looking Admiral II, with his elegant, hair, groomed until it shown, his long face, that made her think of a clown, lunging, frolicking, nosing food from the table, eating his own shit. And there was the fridge full of food, the girls, Frankie and Nisha, acting like kids, as if they owned the place with wine, and books and DVD's, even though, occasionally, Nisha thought of the unfulfillment of her life. Of all those things she meant to do and now she was just dog-sitting and the days were flying by.

Then Erhard happened one day, like the sun opening a flower. He knew so much about Admiral, and even knew Nisha's name. He was campy, and comfortable, sexy, a foreigner, from maybe Switzerland, and knew about the Striker's and the cloned Admiral. He taught her the cruelty of cloning, while courting her at the same time. After while, the formalities stopped, and Erhard matured into a place in her heart even more than the sex. Of course there was a pay back.

Here the story has a twist, with another look- alike Admiral, and Mrs. Striker, flexing her power at Erhard, as phony as a character on Saturday Night Live .

But in the end, with all its humor and knowledge, cloning taught tight, with, moments of joy and suspense, the story isn't really about Admiral or cloning. It's about Nisha, and what happens to us when our insides hurt like rot-gut. Like when somebody dies, and we can't bring them back but we take another breath and go on, because what can we do?