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Paw and Prejudice

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for more than twenty years. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: "Elemental Haiku," containing haiku for each element of the periodic table, and "The Sign of the Dragon," an Elgin-Award-winning epic fantasy with Chinese elements. She tweets at @MarySoonLee and reports that her antiquated website (marysoonlee.com) has finally been updated.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single human in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a cat.
However little known the feelings of views of such a human may be on their first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the feline population that the human is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of them.
In the case of the arrival of Ms. Angela Delany, I determined that, between the plenitude of her assets and the paucity of her aesthetic sense (she drove a Tesla with a lurid orange custom paint job), I should be that owner. Accordingly, I introduced myself as she lifted the last suitcase from the Tesla. I bunted her firmly on her bare brown calf, marking her as mine.
Ms. Delany squawked and dropped the suitcase.
Her squawk, I regret to say, was intemperate in volume and jarringly unmelodic. A lesser feline than myself would have retreated. I bunted her a second time.
Ms. Delany waved her arms and squawked yet more discordantly. Grabbing for her suitcase, she slipped inside and slammed the door.
From his post under a rhododendron bush, Grumbleclaw licked his lone ear disdainfully. "Leave that young woman to me. She don't like you none."
"If," I hissed at Grumbleclaw, "You so much as look at her, I'll remove your remaining ear."
Grumbleclaw departed.
I sat down on a sunwarmed paving stone and thought matters over as I groomed. Ms. Delany needed to be enlightened as to the benefits of my companionship. Grooming and planning complete, I went to procure supplies.
That evening, I inserted a mouse--wriggling and quite agitated--through an open dining room window as Ms. Delany took a bite of pizza.
With her loudest squawk yet and a surprising agility for a human, she leapt gracefully onto the table.
I made my own entry, efficiently dispatched the mouse, deposited the rodent where Ms. Delany could admire it from her tabletop vantage. She did not appear pleased. I waited for her to calm down sufficiently to discover her proper sense of gratitude. I waited, but Ms. Delany only glowered from atop the table.
At length, I departed to procure additional supplies.
It is a truth acknowledged by all except Ms. Delany that orange sheets and purple pillows are an inharmonious combination. Having infiltrated her bedroom, I laid a recently-deceased rat on one of the virulent purple pillows to indicate the error of her ways. Anxious for my eardrums, I decided against staying to witness her discovery of the rodent.
Ms. Delany's garden was generously proportioned, but her squawking reached me easily at the remote end. Some time later, she emerged from the house carrying a plastic bag that smelled of rat.
Once she had thrown the bag into an outdoor trash can, I sauntered toward her, tail held high.
Ms. Delany has her faults, but she is not as slow on the uptake as my previous human had been. I had no need to resort to a third rodent. She waved me indoors and set out a bowl of water.
As a responsible owner, I duly began her training that very night, shredding the most offensive of her soft furnishings.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 31st, 2022

Author Comments

I've loved Jane Austen's novels since I was a child, and this is the second time that I've written a short story inspired by her. (The first one, "Cause and Consequence," appeared in Interzone.) My cats often sit on top of me while I'm writing, and no doubt this is why felines often infiltrate my work. I can also report that my cats are fond of clawing my couch: perhaps I chose an infelicitous color?

- Mary Soon Lee
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