Pearl, blissfully snoozing through her afternoon nap, rolled over on her plum-colored, polar fleece blanket and positioned herself so her enormous, hairy stomach covered the gap between the heater and the window. It was a chilly day, and she sought out the heat even in her sleep, a primal need she no doubt learned in her mother’s womb. Her miniscule nipples-which she, being spayed, would never use-touched the frosty window, and she kicked around until she was comfortable again.
Nearly all aspects of her life were attended to by people who loved her (or, in the case of Her Girl’s fiancé, tolerated her). She only had to walk a few yards into the kitchen to find a dish filled round the clock with tiny, crunchy morsels of food. Twice a day, wet paté was set out for her. She let them think she cared for the most expensive variety, when in fact she’d never had better the weeks Her Girl was broke and had to buy the store brand, labeled as containing “Artificial and Natural Meat Flavors.” Someone even lovingly scooped her poop out of the litter box whether she covered it or not. She had health insurance and twice yearly trips to the vet for comprehensive exams. Occasionally there was even a catnip stuffed toy thrown in. Yes, all she had to do was commit to this quiet life of domesticity and loyalty for another, oh, eight lives, and she would be rewarded with a tearful burial in the backyard beneath the bird bath.
At that very moment, lost deep in a dream involving snowflakes covering the outside holly tree, Pearl heard something, something small, something anxious, something…devious.
She opened her eyes, blinked, and pushed herself over onto her other side so she faced the room. Pearl angled her ears towards the direction of the sound and listened.
Moments later she heard tiny feet running across the room towards the kitchen. Pearl bolted upright and curled her lips. She had been waiting for this her whole life; it was as if her parents and all her ancestors back to the times of Bastet were there with her.
She flew onto the ground, trying to make as little noise as possible. She stalked into the kitchen and flattened her ears. Her tail began to swish in a steady rhythm.
There it was. A tawny mouse with a long, naked tail.
The mouse was leaning over the edge of Pearl’s food dish. It lifted one of its back legs up as if to climb over the edge and drop down inside.
Pearl hissed. The mouse gave a little squeak and jumped in the dish, its body entirely submerged in the food. Pearl ran over to the dish and flipped it over. She nudged the dish with her paw but heard nothing. She narrowed her eyes and swatted at the dish again. It was still upside down.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw motion, and she whipped her head around to face the sound. Now it was coming from behind her as the mouse bolted under the china closet in the dining room.
Fat though she was, Pearl was also lithe and able to flatten herself on her back as she slid underneath the curved, ornate wooden base of the closet. Her eyes reflected and went into night vision mode as she looked around. Her nostrils flared; she could smell the mouse. It was here, or had been at least. She sucked in her breath and held it, waiting to hear the vermin breathe.
There it was!
She saw it scamper out from the shadows in one corner and dive out into the dining room. Pearl ran head on and smacked her head into the base of the china closet. She fell down and rolled around in pain, seeing little flecks of white light dancing around her vision.
Ten minutes later, she was able to drag herself out from under the china closet. Pearl panted and looked around, her vision still slightly impaired. Filled with despair, Pearl hung her head and walked back to the heater. She looked up at the comforting sight of her blanket and made to jump up, but just then she saw two beady eyes belonging to a mouse crouching in between the heater and the wall. She reached out and swiped the air and was rewarded with a squeak, the last the mouse would ever make.
Two hours later, Her Girl walked in the door to the apartment. She called for Pearl, but Pearl did not–could not–answer her. Wandering around the house aimlessly, Her Girl eventually stumbled into the bedroom. Exhausted, she was simply happy to see Pearl plopped in the middle of the bed. She walked over to her beloved cat and sat down next to her. Pearl purred and rolled over on her back like she wanted a tummy rub. Her Girl was eager to give her one, Pearl normally being a standoffish pet. Pearl opened her mouth to smile with her own blissful satisfaction. Her Girl screamed as she saw the thin, naked tail of a mouse threaded between Pearl’s upper canine teeth.
Pearl closed her eyes and savored the moment. For once, she was a wild animal, able to cut it up with the others. Let them hear her hiss. She had arrived.