In the same way gang leaders run cartels from prison, my wife’s cat ordered our lives from the dust mote space beneath our bed.
We called him Lionel Richie. When I’d say, “Here, Lionel Richie, here,” it hissed. Lionel Richie hated the name Lionel Richie. He also loathed me.
Once, I just asked my wife outright. “If it came down to me or LR, who would you pick?” She feigned an immediate case of stomach cramps, gritting her teeth as if passing a kidney stone, and so I thought, there’s my answer.
I tried to convince myself that killing an animal was different than actual murder. Cats didn’t have souls or driver’s licenses. They didn’t pay alimony.
Still, Lionel Richie was a crafty critter.
He foiled every plot I had—sniffing out poison in the whipped cream, the bowl of milk; not following me out to the deck to look at pigeons twenty stories below; not coming into the bathroom where I’d filled the tub and was waiting with rope and anvil.
I got the dart gun from a taxidermist who said the sedative was “hardcore.”
When I raised the rifle, Lionel Richie yawned. I told him I wasn’t kidding. I said, “I’m going to burn you in a smelter.”
As I squinted down the sight, the beast flew at me, gun blasting off.
Now I’m without one eye.
While I’ve been recuperating, though, Lionel Richie keeps me company. I hear him hum beneath our bed.