Sunday mornings. Cars drive past the house, spraying puddles of rain behind them as it continues to fall.
A good book. Shirley Jackson discusses her house full of chaos. I laugh, imagining cats bringing bats into the house and children throwing rocks at each other. Tulip regards me sleepily, resting in her own fat and fur on the ottoman my feet are sharing with her. I sip my instant coffee, affectionately poking at her with my toe in an absent-minded sort of way.
The cat door flips open: the baby is home. He must run in and out of that damn thing 20 times a day, at least. He’s brought something in with him this time—a leaf, probably. He likes to bring us his kills, leaving them on the couch or dining room floor. He has yet to graduate to full-fledged blood lust, but he’s getting there. Just the other day, he was playing with the back third of a mouse Azreal had brought inside.
He jumps, pounces, dances around on two feet, murring and chattering loudly to The Kill. I look up, only to have my charmed, placid smile die on my face and turn into a horrified grimace. The Kill has fur. Oh God, it’s on him. Is it attacking him?! What is it?! He hasn’t had his rabies shot yet—he’s too young! What will I do if it bites him? If it hurts him?! Oh GOD, what is it?!?
I jump up from my chair, making choking little yelps of panic as I prepare to kick The Kill across the room with my bare feet, if need be. Oh, Lord, I hope the need don’t be.
The gray morning light casts shadows in the dining room—it’s difficult to see, but…The Kill doesn’t appear to be moving…it’s…it’s a husk…mummified…but still bushy? A naturally-taxidermied atrocity.
I shoo the kitten into Lynn’s room, gagging.
“Don’t…don’t go look…stay here.” I put my hands on my hips, lean over, take several deep breaths of air not yet tainted by mummified squirrel carcass.
“Go sit in your room for a bit,” Lynn soothes, holding back the kitten, who is wildly struggling for freedom. His Kill! His Kill! He must have it! I look down the hall. Oreo is now poking at it curiously.
“Oh God…I can’t, I—Oreo! Go away!” I shove him aside with my foot and run to the kitchen for a paper bag. I tip The Kill into it with a dust pan, its mangled, “S”-shaped body catching on the serrated paper edges. The tail sticks out boldly, still very much in the classic “squirrel curl.” I am suddenly reminded of a crab cake I had at a wedding once. The claw was still sticking out: a whimsical, edible handle.
I fold the paper bag over many times before walking it outside to the trash bin and gingerly tossing it in. I can hear The Kill being hurled against the side of its recyclable coffin, throwing it off course so that it swerves sharply up and hits the inside wall of the can before falling to the bottom. The fresh air does me some good, as does the wet pavement on my bare feet. Cool, grounding.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to set foot on that particular piece of flooring ever again.