ating disorder, the vet says. Legs up on the desk, hands behind her head. Real common, you could try it on a different food.
Tried that, doc.
You could try switching up mealtimes, she says picking her teeth. Feed it at night instead of mornings.
Can’t do that, doc.
Early riser, eh? Happens to men as they get older.
It’s not that. I can’t sleep a damn anyway. But I got to keep him on a schedule.
Okay then, she says spreading her hands on the desk in surrender. You could take it to a psychologist. They have those for pets now, you know. Cost you a fortune.
No thanks, he stands in the doorway. Say, doc, what do you call those animals that don’t reproduce. Like the normal way.
She leans forward, What kind of animal you say this was again?
Exotic. He tips his ballcap, Thanks, doc.
Parthenogenesis, she says as the door swings closed.
He does the rounds, emptying the dehumidifiers in each room and setting them to high. It was a hot one outside, these early days of summer. But you’d never know it in here. There’s a certain kind of smell that the black garbage bags taped to the windows give off as they cook in the sun.
In the kitchen, he checks the clock on the stove, an old habit, as he dumps some kibble into the red plastic bowl and heads up to the attic.
Over the years his eyes have adjusted to the dark. He finds the door to the cage and opens it. At the back he can just make out the wet circles of its eyes. Come on, buddy, he says, You got to eat.
It crawls forward, gives the food a sniff and then pushes the bowl away. Its hair has come out in patches, and now it looks like a pink little ragdoll. Its ears droop like butterfly wings.
Don’t look at me like that, he says, It’s not my fault.
He stomps back downstairs with the bowl. Dumps it in the trash. But maybe it is his fault. He’s broken all the rules. There were just so many. Don’t do this, don’t do that. When you look too hard at any of it you go cross-eyed.
He hears something upstairs. A song? No. The house has been silent for years. It didn’t sing to him anymore. Not because of the rules, at all. He knows the truth. It was just lonely.
He starts to cook. Chicken drumsticks, the way his mom used to do them. He watches the clock on the stove crawl toward midnight. They were both just so lonely.
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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.