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The Cat Is A Metaphor

Corey Mallonee is from Maine and lives in upstate New York.

So this guy I know, he broke up with his boyfriend, but they lived together for a while after because they shared a lease, which was basically just as awkward as you'd expect. And they had a cat, this gray tabby missing half of one ear, and both of them refused to feed it on the grounds that it was the other's problem. So they kept living together, and fought, and exchanged bitchy comments, and occasionally had sex when they got drunk and/or felt maudlin, and the cat got thinner, and thinner, and thinner.
Eventually the cat died. Only this was some kind of macabre-ass Schrodinger scenario, in that it was impossible to say exactly when it died, because it kept going like nothing had changed. It still scratched furniture and meowed and rubbed up against your leg, except now its claws got stuck in the furniture, and the meowing sounded kind of wet and decaying, and when it rubbed up on you it left streaks of itself behind and ruined your favorite pair of jeans, not that I'm still bitter or anything. And in death, as in life, it really liked lazing around in sunbeams, which, you can imagine what that did for the smell.
Anyway, my friend finally moved out once the lease was up. I ran into him a few weeks back and I asked him whatever happened to the cat. He told me that after awhile it got down to a skeleton, and it would just prance around trying to get their attention, clack-clack-clack-clack, and they both just tried to ignore it (and each other) until one day at breakfast the cat was dancing across the table and it stopped, and it looked from my friend to his ex and back, and then a minute later it kind of shuddered and collapsed into a little pile of bones. And then the bones turned to dust, and at some point my friend or his ex, he can't remember which, they swept the dust into the trash, its animating force diffused--a memory, a whisper, a fading dream.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Author Comments

I have a friend who broke up with his boyfriend and had to keep living with him until their lease ran out. My friend had two cats at the time, which his ex refused to help him take care of. "Trapped in a lease with an ex who won't feed your cat out of pettiness" seemed like a weird, kind of darkly comic situation, and it stuck in my head until it eventually turned into... whatever this is, exactly. The first version of this story was longer, but it felt a little bit like a joke that was dragging on for too long. Once I hit on the voice it came together pretty quickly. I picked the title as a placeholder when I couldn't think of anything better, but now I kind of like it.

- Corey Mallonee
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