Updated: Nov 9
Unbeknownst to almost everyone who lived in the apartment The Cat had a side hustle.
It hid it well, and its goings never seemed rushed or particularly purposeful. Always calm, always the same lidded stare on return, both intense and nonchalant. A gentle purr, a soft rub against an outstretched hand on entrance, and it regained trust. No questions asked. Almost everyone was fooled. Almost.
But not The Dog. Not The Dog.
How do I know?
I am The Dog.
I remember the very moment the box was opened and Good Girl lifted The Cat out for the first time. It was like my sock ball, only reddish and blonde, with eyes both confused and menacing. Good Girl seemed excited, but Down looked almost who pooped in the corner angry. Clearly this had not been discussed ahead of time, and Down had not been surprised in a good way by the new arrival. Down was always the more hesitant of the two to express happiness, as if open squeaky toy delight was somehow a betrayal of a half-forgotten promise to a younger self. Her face was always drawn and sharp, her petting always perfunctory, and when angry, her voice cut like new nail clippers. But even I could tell she had a deep water bowl of love and understanding, which for some reason she kept in the highest closed cupboard of her heart.
Good Girl, on the other paw, moved through a world awash in excitement and wonder and chew toys that tasted of peanut butter. Hers were the fast hands of the thrown Get The Ball, and the warm fingertips of the nightly belly rubs. But there was pain there, too. Some past heartbreak of a leash frayed, a foggy beach, where uncatchable gulls were chased as they ran then flew too close to the surf. Then a wave, then silence, a broken leash still held in a trembling hand.
But this was before my time, and I only knew of it from pictures, and memories whispered while cuddling in the forbidden bed before Down inevitably entered, shattering the peace with her shouted name.
But Down did eventually relent to Good Girl’s smile and charm, and The Cat stayed and grew. Slowly at first, clumsy and meeping it’s a little meeps when it wanted attention, which was constantly. I will confess there was some deep urge within me to eat it, but since it had not come out of a can I determined it wasn’t food. And at that time I knew nothing of death.
Or of murder.
Its agility astounded me. At a young age it could reach heights throughout the apartment I had only dreamt of. And while Down shouted her name at me if I so much has put my front paws on the Get Off That The Cat could scramble its way to atop the Cold Cheese And Meat box in the kitchen and only be admonished with a gentle “How did you get up there?” I’m quite sure had Good Girl and Down come home to find me lazying about on the big cold box they would have responded very differently.
But I don’t want to seem jealous in any way of The Cat’s situation. On the contrary, while I am at least taken for daily and sometimes twice daily visits to the nearby park to cavort with my extended pack, to guiltlessly poop, and to liquidly reclaim any part of my world that had inexcusably been claimed by others in my absence, The Cat was left alone, to fend for itself. I admit I did find it a bit unfair that The Cat was allowed to relieve itself in a tray in the water vortex/minipond room, but I accepted this inequality with the knowledge that I enjoyed a personal Get The Ball time with both Good Girl and even Down The Cat could never know.
But it was during one of these excursions that my suspicions regarding The Cat first became aroused. My leash had been tied to a pee-pole in front of the neighborhood I’ll Be Back In A Minute where Down and Good Girl did their food bag magic, and while alone a familiar scent wafted about me. I turned, and just at that moment a flash of reddish blonde slipped behind a trashcan. It had been months since Down had started leaving the window to the apartment open just enough for The Cat to get out. At first I assumed Down would shut the window once The Cat had gone, ending that chapter of our lives forever. But the window remained open, with a can of what I must only assume was some sort of cat food nearby to entice (though by the smell I would think it more of a repellent), and The Cat, eyes gleaming, always returned. This entire way of living seemed irresponsible to me, both on the part of Down, Good Girl, and especially The Cat, but what could I say? And if I did speak, as I did periodically when called upon to do so, who would listen?
So when I saw The Cat on the street I was not particularly surprised. We were near home, the window had again been left open.
Seeing The Cat didn’t surprise me.
What surprised me was the gun it was carrying…