They rub her belly, tickle her ears. When she growls, they chuckle. In her head she’s roaring. “What a cute meow” they say. They smile when she rubs against their legs. “Get the fuck out of my territory” she thinks, pawing at a houseplant. Laps at a face, recollecting the tang of mouse blood, and begins to purr.
Her fleecy basket is the leafy belly of a tree. In her dreams she springs from the tree and roars. She is her panther self again, the self she always has been. Emerald eyes narrow, ears arch, and she breathes in: forest – prey – danger – existence – the hunt is all these is. Drunk on jungle-scent, she runs and smaller beings disperse in panic. Jungle is her terrain, her playground. Shaking her head back and forth she bites into captured birds with relish; paw-swipes, cruelty, hunger mingling. Shimmies trees, lunges at insects, kicks, fights, roars –-
“So cute” they say as she tosses in her basket.
She’s not cute. She’s free.