Some stories sit in the corner, watching. They’re told in hushed voices—if they ever reach the tips of tongues at all. They’re not like the others; they have no point. They ruminate in their own existence.
Eh, I was about 8 when we got the cat. I remember holding it for the first time, nestled into my arms, and I put it back down. My mother said that if it came back the next day, I could keep it—and the next day, there she was again. So, that’s how I got the cat.
That thing loved me. She’d fall asleep watching me. She’d drool on me. I had to carry her everywhere. Then she started bringing me mice.
The first time, I didn’t know what to do. I was just a kid—and I guess a little weird. So I put the dead mouse in a Rubbermaid bin under my bed and went to school the next day thinking about it the whole time.
When I got home from school, both of my parents were still working. So I grabbed the mouse from the bin, took a knife from the kitchen, and headed into the bathroom.
Mouse skin comes off pretty easily. The ripping sound it made, fibers from muscles, made me sick. And I was surprised by how much blood a little thing like that could hold up in itself. I still remember the cat watching me, perched on the toilet, its’ tail going crazy.
I’d never cooked before. After school I’d have a fruit roll up or something to hold me over until dinner. It took a minute to work the burner, I knew where the pans were, and I set it all up with the dead mouse. The cat followed me from toilet to countertop. It smelled terrible.
When it was all said and done, I sat down with the cat and ate the mouse. She took the bits I gave to her and eagerly swallowed them. After, I’d wash the dishes, spray deodorizer, and toss whatever remained in a dumpster behind our apartment building.
There were more mice.
I’d place each in the Rubbermaid bin and wait until those moments after school before my parents came home. While “cleaning” one—that’s how I referred to skinning them in my head—I got a good amount of blood on my hands. Without thinking, I reached for the cat’s head and gave her a pet. Blood matted and spiked her hair up. She didn’t seem to mind. We sat down, ate, and I threw out the scraps.
I used some de-lice shampoo my parents bought after we brought her inside, to wash off the blood after dinner.
Rubbermaid bin. Clean ’em. When the blood poured, the cat pawed at its’ head. So I’d give her a rub and get back to work. Eat. Throw out. Wash. Repeat.
I took my lunch money and bought the same brand of de-lice shampoo so as not to raise suspicion. It became too much to handle; this second shift I’d picked up. It’s all I thought about. All I dreamt about. The bin started to smell no matter what I sprayed, and the taste of mouse was growing stale. So it was too for the cat, I found.
One night, it dropped the bloody corpse of a thing at the foot of my bed. A good portion had been ripped from its belly, leaving a crimson colored hole, matted mouse fur and bones. It wasn’t worth cooking, and I didn’t want to anymore, anyway. The cat looked at me for a second, sat near the front door, pawed and meowed. I opened, and it ran outside—into the night—and I never saw it again.
I was sad for a bit, and my parents tried to tell me it would come back. I knew it wouldn’t. The cat didn’t know how to survive before me—I think I taught it how to.
My parents never found out about our little ritual, but they often wondered how the de-lice shampoo was always full.