Look what the cat dragged in

"But I love you," he pleads, eyes streaming and voice shaking; a mess of quaking limbs and blotched skin, dressed in dirty thirdhand rags and alley-cat hair, on his knees on the expensive carpet I had had selected and arranged just last week. I sniff, disgusted. Does he honestly expect his snivelling to make any difference to me? One would have thought he’d know better by now at least.

Gingerly, I brush at a trailing, fraying bit of cloth with a foot. I’m not even sure it belongs to any garment – it seems perfectly possible that he fished it out of the gutter outside a tailor shop.I try to lift rather than press at it – I don't want to riskdamaging the carpet any more than he has already. It’s likely beyond repair, but one hasto show at least that modicum of consideration.

I’m quick enough to pull away before he catches my leg, thankfully. I just finished getting myself in order and presentable five minutes ago, and heaven only knows what kind of destruction he could wreak on my coat with those filthy hands. The lunge he makes towards me is pitifully weak, but it’s enough to topple him over; he could be made of wire and gelatin, all quivers and stiff joints. He lies, sobbing, with his cheek pressed to the shag pile. He tries and fails to lever himself up again, and sobs some more. I sigh a little.

A glance at one of the servicemen standing in the background is enough. They know what’s needed, and will handle it without my needing to trouble myself one whit more than I have already. I give the heap on the ground a last look before turning towards the balcony. It’s the only place in the house where I can be assured of escaping his stink.

It's a nice night. I wish I didn't have to disturb myself, when I could otherwise spend the time enjoying it. The air is balmy, the smell of the sea is coming in from the slight, warm breeze; the lights twinkle above and below – flickering pinpricks like dust in the sky, and the more vulgar multicoloured flashes shining up from the spread of land below. The lights climb the low hills to the south. They look like bleeding fingers, metrically lit avenue-strips leaking pools of muted rainbows. It appeals to the nouveau riche aesthetic, I suppose. I’ve been there, but never lived there. I wouldn’t want to; for all their vulgar sprawl, those estates make me claustrophobic.

For myself, I prefer to be in town, not those suburban excuses for city life.I’m placed directly at the nerve-centre of the network of lights, but elevated to remoteness from it; prized territory rather than profligate. It’s well decorated and cosy, with nooks to hole away in and oversize cushions for naps. The art is bold and abstract. The furnishings are Art Deco. The colours are soothing. I pay for comfort, and I pay for taste.

I watch now, perched on the wide railing, as the even patterns shift and dim. It’s late, for night-blind folks.

He's pushed onto the deck through the French windows; they close silently behind him. I look him over sidelong, unwilling to displace myself excessively and slightly afraid he’s still in that obscene state he arrived in. As expected, however, all is well. He's clean, hair washed and combed, in a cotton shirt and silk slacks, shod in the smooth, buttery-soft house moccasins set aside for him. Sweet, generic gardenia perfume wafts its way to my nose. While the cringing expression and stance is annoying, it takes low priority. I beckon him closer lazily. Thankfully he's unable to find anything to trip over in the expanse of empty, sanded wood between us.

He stands awkwardly over me. The silence stretches. He never can handle much of it. Practice has given him about a minute's worth of liver, and then, on cue, he snaps.

“Princess. Princess.” he looks at me, desperate. I can read it in his eyes, the panic that prey undergo when they realize they're trapped – nothing worth doing, and yet they struggle, blindly, because their brains tell them to. He has to say something, but he doesn't even realize what's coming out of his mouth.

“Look at me, princess. Won't you believe me? Why won't you believe me? Princess, I love you, I love you so much. Isn't that enough for you? You said it was, you did, you did. Princess, look at me—”

His pupils crowd his irises out of the way. He's talking without pause for breath, but cuts himself off as I open my mouth. More fool him – I’m only yawning. He watches me, and I can see the threads unravelling from his mind as the situation truly sets in and he realizes where he is, what he's doing.

“Come with me, Princess. You said you would. You said you would you said you would you said you would you—” a gurgle of sorts interrupts his litany in his sort. He's collapsed, sobbing.

It's actually somewhat amusing, in one light. What does he expect me to do?

I sigh. The balcony is no longer silent, and I abandon what slim hopes I had of salvaging some part of my nice quiet night. I hop down and saunter past him, close enough to cross his shadow – just to spook him some more, for the fun of it. He starts violently away, tipping over again;and lies trembling as he follows me out with his fixed prey-stare.

The door is opened for me. As I pass through, a soft, delicate hand travels along my back, nape to tailbone, in one smooth stroke. I stretch into the touch, pleased; my head curves back to glance archly at the demure black-and-white figure.

She used to be dressed in cotton and lace once upon a time, when the old steamboat was alive. Now she’s in silk, from her fair, bare silky hair to the toes of her soundless, spotless black ballet flats. My orders, of course.

It was the steamboat, in her ticklish feathers and nubby, itchy velvets, who left me all this. She won it all from her old mate, of course, but that was far before my time.

Idiot lady. Somewhere she had told somebody that the house and the moneywent to either me or her new mate, whichever stayed in the house with her corpse for thirty days. The fool sitting outside hadn’t made it a week before running. I think it must have broken him a little bit, inside his head.

Milk-boned twit. It hadn’t exactly been easy for me either. Three days in, and the smell was on everything. It made me ravenous. Still does whenever I think about it.

It took a week after the carcass left – minus a few nibbles, and who could blame me? – but my peteventually madeit so you’d think you were in an edelweiss field fourthousand foot square, right in the middle of the city. I had had about five minutes to enjoy it – the last of the old upholstery had just gone out the door when this fool had tried to let himself in, and his reek with him.

“We’ll throw him out, my sweet. Don’t you worry.” She massages my back some more, her long fingers exactly the trick for my sore nerves. We’ve never needed words between us, my pet and I; she’s mother and lover and attendant. She knows what I need.

She clucks now, the sound musical in her throat. “The hag had terrible taste in some things, didn’t she, sweet? What she saw in this fool to marry I’ll never know. And to think he still had a key!I took it, of course, but we’ll need the locks changed anyway.”

She looks at me, indulgent. “And to think he wanted to make off with you. But you’d never look twice at that mangy upstart alley lurker, would you, Princess. He never made you turn a hair.”

I feel her smile in her fingers, more than I see it. She picks me up, holds me against her soft silk-screened bosom. Her fingertips tease behind my ears. “Why don’t we make a show of it, and have him dragged out by his shirt tails?” Her voice is musical, soft. It has none of the screechy pitches of the idiot outside, and none of the overloudboom that the steamboat’s had possessed.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Princess? And I suspect I would, too.” She laughs, low and throaty, at her own joke.

I purr again, long and loud, in counterpoint.

Date: <2016-05-10 Tue> [2014-03-12 Wed]

Author: Sahiti Chedalavada

Created: 2020-12-14 Mon 02:14

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