He’d always thought of Malory as a cat person. She referred to cats in conversation energetically and often, so when he visited her apartment he expected to meet a few. Malory set him straight. She was two when her parents gave Bo and Greco away. Mama and Dad, three children under four, an ailing dog and two cats were too much. They could not all be borne. Rip was on meds for anxiety, his pee pooling in the old floorboards. The cats threw his kibble at him and shed disdainful tufts. When Rip and the baby both stopped sleeping through the night, Dad began to make small, murderous jokes. Rip panted and shook. Mama perpetually carried a lint brush. The children learned to flee the sound of tiny, dented collar bells. The small house was a-yowl with need.
The children wanted. Dad wanted. Mama wanted.
The day after they’d tucked Rip under the weedy back lawn, Malory’s family drove Bo and Greco to their new home.
Malory collected cat pictures. She’d had them for years, ever since that long stretch of doctors and tests. Her parents’ friends cut them out of magazines and calendars. Her mama collected them in a manila envelope, carrying it to all of the appointments. Malory was stuck repeatedly with needles, made to lie still beneath hulking, whirring machines. In the waiting rooms, Malory would take each picture out, one by one. The paper cats looked soft; smelled peppery; were silent.
There were cat pictures all over her refrigerator. Malory’s apartment was clean.