e didn’t notice the change. It’s hard when you’re together every day. It had been too gradual, like the air leaking from a balloon after a party. One day all that’s left is a wrinkled bit of rubber you find under the chesterfield. But balloons were not cats. Cats could live fifteen, twenty years. It was a long time.
He calls again for breakfast. It used to be that he was the one woken up every morning. But there’s no pounding down the stairs now. No meowing banter.
He doesn’t bother with the bagged food anymore. Instead, he makes the cat’s favourite, hoping the smell will lure it down to eat. To shit. To make it through a few more hours before falling back to sleep again. Day after day being stretched like some old piece of leather. You never know when it’s going to rip.
He used to make it from scratch. Nature’s most perfect food. Peel and seed the tomatoes, boil down the sauce. He’d buy the noodles at the little grocer’s up the way. An old Italian widow rolled them by hand. The store was gone now. They’d plopped something big and cold and mean on top of it. Maybe crushed the widow, too.
So, now he bought the frozen stuff. Microwavable, but he doesn’t have a microwave. It took twenty minutes in the oven. Tasted like gym socks. But it was easy. And he could watch TV while it cooked. He hitches his belt in another loop. He doesn’t eat so much himself these days. He’s too scared to ask why.
He’d lost the dog last year. The car hadn’t even stopped. He dug a hole in the backyard and the work nearly killed him, too. But one of the neighbours called the city on him. An officer showed up, lights and everything. You can’t do that anymore, the officer said, They got cemeteries for that now. After he’d gone, he lit a bonfire and tried to cremate the dog. The officer came back, followed by a fire truck. The whole street was lit up like Christmas. They wouldn’t let you have fires anymore, either.
He climbs the stairs with the pan in his hand. It takes him a while and he has to lean on the wall a few times to catch his breath. He’s not the spry bachelor he used to be. Just another old, lonely man.
He stands in the doorway, looks at the cat sleeping. The little wooden box and the blue baby blanket. Half of it spills onto the floor into a furry puddle. Fat, the veterinarian said. But he just thought of it as big.
He sets the pan on the floor and pulls his pants up again. The cat opens its eyes, too tired to even yawn. He’ll feed it by hand if he has to. It keeps on growing and here he is, wasting away. They were disappearing in different directions.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.