Punitive Ailuranthropy

 “What’s the name of this gentleman?” 

 “That’s Baxter,” Deidre cooed close to my ear, hugging another tabby cross armed against her chest. She spoke slender words to its ears and her red nails traced the lines in the animal’s coat. 

 She had seven cats. All with preposterous names. Willoughby. Stephens. Jones. She let them roam outside but they never went far. They sat canalside all day, languid and listless beside the patter of rolling water, and never failed to come at her call.

 “How old?” I said. The cat was a resigned failure on my lap. Limp and dormant, as if a feline in shape only.  

 “He was 47,” she answered. Her hands flattened Maybury’s whiskers. 

 I scoffed. “Cats don’t live that long.”

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