Chairs splintered. Egg yolk dripping off the ceiling. A gash here, a bruise there and he was tired. He was more than tired. The lumps and blame he had taken over the years finally put him over his line and as he sat nursing the latest wound, carefully devising another excuse to avoid punishment, a little place in his feline brain began expanding. Instead of the inevitable excuse, instead of the blood dripping down his paw, the brain space began to grow. It began to focus on his blood.
But it was not merely blood that held his attention or produced the saliva now spilling down to his matted gray fur. No, not just blood for blood’s sake. It was the hunger. For many years now, the pangs accumulated, cheese-grating his insides and piled up like dirty laundry. He barely remembered what meat felt like- what it tasted like lolling around in his mouth. He thought he remembered a time when he had such a luxury. Where he would properly chew a morsel, but instead of swallowing, hold it in his mouth, letting the pulverized bits loiter on his tongue and between his teeth ,pushing them up to the roof, feeling the grittiness dance across his soft palate, savoring each tiny bit.
Maybe it never happened, but he liked to think that it had once and although he rarely brought the thought out for remembering, it was now stripping in front of him. Naked. Seductive. Tantalizing. Increasing the blood lust. It added to the numerous offenses he had been victim to over the years and he vowed that the meat of his bones would be easing his own hunger by the end of the following day. What he needed now was not the strength or motivation necessarily, but a plan.
Footsteps placed his reverie on hold and he awaited the scolding, which was harsh, as usual, and followed by a mild beating. Mild now only because his entire being was filled with purpose and because nothing now could break him physically or mentally. He had a mission, and this was the last rebuke he would ever be subject to. After tomorrow, he would settle into the life of comfort he felt entitled to, the life that included endless saucers of milk, pervasive plates of tuna and all the stroking his soon to be shiny fur could take.
Left alone with his new thoughts, he knew he was not the brightest star in the sky, but sheer will had to be enough. It simply had to be. Silently, he retreated into the basement of the one-dimensional house, his new-found confidence the only companion necessary. Instead of sleeping, his mind raced around, stopping into ideas, examining every angle, abandoning them, searching for another. Analyze analyze analyze. Check for holes. Look for potential backfires. And then, frustrated, he stopped.
A barrage of self-hatred was coming, but instead of the usual abuse he heaped upon himself, an idea came instead. A small and rather obvious idea that did not prance about arrogantly, but meekly raised its hand and waited to be called upon. He studied it carefully and gently, afraid of losing it in the murky recesses, and then smiled at it, pleased with himself. It was only then that he was able to curl up and get the required sleep to renew his energy that would put the plan into action the very next morning.
Before the sun could even get a word in edgewise, he was awake and alert, ready to take him down. And this would not entail the usual antics of impulsive, erratic reactions. No, this was calculated, precise, deliberate, and felt more suited to his nature. That is what had been missing and he pondered on how silly he had appeared before. Sure he had done his share of waiting, staring at the little dark space where he often emerged, but it was always accompanied by the farcical. Instead of going to a place of anger thinking about how ridiculous he had been in dealing with the pest, he took a deep breath and promised the universe he would bring predatory back.
He had to act fast. In the past he would wait until it was too late. He was expected to be sleeping until mid-afternoon and that is when he got sloppy. He crept away from his basement sanctuary and slinked up the stairs, following their rise over run form without noise, without a heart. Pathos had no right to intrude at this moment. The Christmas they spent together by the fire, reconciled for the time being now meant nothing since the very next day chaos resumed. Today he was all killer- all cold blood, all carnivorous.
His routine consisted of a dash into the bathroom to steal a glob of rogue toothpaste. Even vermin prefer to have clean teeth and fresh breath. He had witnessed this seemingly trivial detail once and had promptly forgotten it while closing his eyes and nodding off back sleep. The memory had gotten lost, but it reappeared just when it mattered most and now pulsated throughout his body, sending the signals necessary for the take-down. This was the key to his undoing.
Crouched behind the door, he waited. He did not move. He did not breathe. He did not think about failing. The only thought was victory. Sure enough, the creature of habit sauntered into the room, cocky with knowledge that a recent punishment would ensure safety for several hours. Gaps in knowledge were acknowledged as soon as the door shut behind him and a shower cap obscured his vision. Squirming, fighting, desperately trying to find even a trace of oxygen was futile and as the world blurred, rubbing him out of existence, the last thought to enter his tiny rodent brain was simply, “fuck you, Tom.”
That night, satisfied and surprisingly guilt-free, he enjoyed meat once again and the previous memory he did not know was even real would forever be replaced with this new and very real one flavored with intelligence and saturated with willpower. Future plates of tuna would most definitely be delicious, but it was this final meal with Jerry that he would remember until his brain gave out.