Treats and Tea Leaves


Cage Cat

I knew it. I knew it. When he’s manically desperate, the stink of it rolls off of him like fog. Still, he had food, and I hadn’t eaten for about an hour. So here I am, listening to him talk too fast, too keyed up on coffee and cigarettes and maybe some drain cleaner. It’s either that or pineapple juice, I always get those two mixed up. I’m on his lap and he’s doling out those treats, and I’m eating it all up. The treats, his rambling, down the hatch.

The price of admission, as they say.

He was like this when he was doing that one about the Rapture. At least I think that’s the one. I don’t know, they all start to sound the same. Whenever he gets like this, the script quivering in his sweaty-palmed hand and his eyes real big, I’m never entirely certain if he needs the money or the itch is at him again.

He’s had his hand in that little bag for ten fucking minutes. He probably thinks he doesn’t realize he’s doing it, but I know he does. To calm myself, I imagine tripping him when he’s walking down the stairs, while I’m held hostage by those little morsels. The good ones, none of that shit with a cartoon cat on the package. Is that what people think we look like? Like some grinning fuckface. When was the last time you saw a cat smile?

I am a lion. Do you hear me, peasant? A mighty lion. Give me the treat.

Just as I think about going to torture a bug or the leather of his precious recliner, he moves his hand. Is he going to do it? Wait. Don’t let on that you want it. Show him bored. Play hard to please. Damn it, he’s not going to give me the treat.

Suddenly, his thighs tense up. I leap to the floor, fully annoyed by this. I walk a circle with insolence, then watch him pacing. Fuck. There it is, that little stutter of his step just before he turns around. Great, he’s “considering” it. Fuck. I lose my seat to that? God is clearly a dog person. I hope I’m there when God finally dies so I can be the one to eat the soft bits of His face. Maybe the fingertips.

What would God’s fingertips taste like? Probably like those treats that Captain Shitheel is withholding. I look up at him, eyes narrowed so he knows I mean business, and I think about clawing my way up his leg. He’s wearing pajama pants. That’s some awful thin fabric, pal. This doesn’t work out well for—

The Noise.

I spring away. I’m a puma, a tiger. Racing down the hall, it’s all a blur around me. I am fast, sleek, a missile with keen ears. I slow down as I near the trophy room and listen. Yes, there it is, the Noise. Good. I’ve got you dead to rights, fucker.

I should be in a jungle, but all I’ve got is this house.

Low and slow, I slink into the room. The lights are off, the curtains drawn, and I am one with the shadows. I’ve been after this trespasser since I came here. This time is the last time. My eyes are made for the dark, my whiskers meant to catch the slightest shift in air pressure. The Noise is not better than senses of my kind. After all, I’ve heard it skulking about. I would never be heard. I have a collection of feathers that will prove it.

I’ve marked every inch of this place. It is Mine. Here, I am lord and master and executioner.

My eyes burn, and the room erupts with light. The cortisol kicks in and my body tells me I will not be killed, not like this, not where I hold domain. The Noise may have sprung a trap, but it has not caught me. There are just a few inches behind the display case and the wall, and I pour myself into it. My back is to the wall, and my claws will rend you, do you hear me Noise? My spine arches, and my tail sways and tells me Attack Pattern Alpha is best.

What? Goddam it. It’s just him. I can see that big, dumb face peering down at me. You want to know where I went, do you? I went hunting while you rambled, and I damn near had it this time, and you let it get away. I hate him so much.

But he has them. The treats. He’s trying to lure me out with one, and I shouldn’t reward him, not after what he cost me, but there’s hunger in my belly, in my heart, and it demands something in place of the Noise.

You’ve got to listen to your heart.

I ooze forward, and give that morsel a sniff. No toxins, real lamb, some vegetables. What the fuck do I need vegetables for? These teeth do not eat kale. I snap it up and I’m gone. Thankfully, I can’t hardly taste the kale.

My ancestors would be so ashamed. How can I call myself a cheetah, a cougar? But the ghosts in this house tell me it’s okay. They know I am no less an alpha in this place. They had to survive, and they hunted, and their food had kale in it. Those ghosts, the ones who came before me, they tell me to be calm and imagine tearing his shirts or chew the chord of his precious phone charger.

I’ll join them some day. I know that. I’ll walk with them as a ghost, and we’ll stalk this house endlessly. I know this because they’ve told me it will be that way.

Licking my lips, I look around the room. I see his trophy case. He puts everything there. Photos from middle school plays are next to those shiny plaques are next to that man-shaped thing. What was that one for again?

I spring to the chair, then up to the desk, then up to the top shelf. Don’t show him you’re interested. Don’t. I make it look like I’m brushing past the statue, and I look. Right, this was when he played the drunk. I wasn’t here for that, but the ghosts told me all about it. How he’d drank all day “for research.” He can’t lie to my kind. No one can.

I walk slow circles around that statue he’s so fucking pleased with, wrapping my body right around it. He thinks I’m giving affection to his accomplishments or something. You can see it in his eyes.

Him, who cost me my prey. Him, who lords those delicious treats over me. He thinks that I need him, but it’s him who needs me. Just as he needed the ghosts, before they were ghosts. It’s like he can’t decide anything on his own, that he needs me to tell him yes or no, do a thing or don’t. Pathetic.

He’s looking at me, the stink of desperation rolling off of him hard now. Should I have been paying attention to whatever he was talking about? Meh. This moment still would have come regardless. He’d still want this from me, still locked in indecision until he sees me do something that he’s assigned some value to.

You want to read some tea leaves, do you? Okay, asshole, go get your glasses and read.

It’s so easy to make it look like an accident. Or maybe it’s just that he needs it to be one, so he buys into it. I don’t care. No matter what, I still love the look on his face when I push the statue off the shelf. His face opens up in terror, like breaking the statue would break the reason he got it.

He lunges forward, tossing the script down, and he awkwardly catches it. Looks like the coffee and drain cleaner have finally been of use. The statue is cradled in his arms and he looks at me, fear and panic and hope all swimming in those eyes. In that moment, seeing how he looks having saved that which he holds dear, I can’t stop myself from feeling something encroaching on affection for him.

I look up at him in the way he thinks is a yes, and it all breaks.

He starts crying. Again. For fuck’s sake, man.

I damn well better start getting more treats from this asshole.

This week’s writing prompt: Nicholas Cage. This was definitely my suggestion, so if you don’t like it, don’t blame anyone else. If you think it’s great, however, I’m stealing partial credit.

Crabby

If you would pick this up and give it a review, Crabby would think you’re cooler than Castor Troy. And not for nothing, Crabby can totally eat a peach for hours.

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