By Geofrey C Porter
The meal steamed. The seven-year-old boy, Mathew, wore his lucky red hat, despite that being against dinner rules. He sat leaning forward into the table clutching knife and fork. His eight-year-old sister, Heidi, was in her pink dress with yellow flowers. She sat across from him with darting eyes shifting between the rib roast and the front door. Jerry, their dad, took off his apron and tossed it in the general direction of the kitchen. The front door opened, and in stepped Beth with wide eyes. She wore a tight gray business suit that showed off her well formed body.
The children shouted, “Mom!”
Jerry said, “Hi, honey.”
She waved her hand at the spread of food. “What’s this?”
“I got a raise.”
“You didn’t tell me!” Beth said as she tossed her purse onto the mantle. “You bought all this food!”
“It only kicked in two weeks ago. The prime rib was on sale, honey, and the kids never get enough meat in their diet.”
Beth shook her finger at her husband. “They get meat at least once if not twice a week.”
Jerry sighed. “Ground beef hardly counts.”
She breathed in the smell of the food. “I watch our—“
“Let’s eat!” The young boy said.
Jerry started slicing half-inch thick steaks off the rib roast and doling them out to everyone. Beth sat down and tucked a napkin in her shirt collar. The kids reached for rolls, green beans, and mashed potatoes all in turn. Their dad cut his portion of the succulent fare into bite sized cubes before taking his first taste.
Jerry said, “I forgot the milk.”
The kids nodded and chewed.
Jerry got up and started filling glasses.
Kitler, Beth’s Siamese cat, jumped onto the table. The feline stole up a bite of pre-cut flesh off Jerry’s plate. He set two glasses of milk down in front of the kids. “Get that cat out of here.”
Beth speared a green bean with her fork. “Awww. He’s so cute. He thinks he’s human.”
Jerry got two more glasses of milk and sat down. “Shoo!”
The cat turned and hissed at him. Jerry reached for the cat, mistake number one. The cat swiped at him cutting into his finger with enough rip to draw blood. The cat took another bite of steak off Jerry’s plate. “Beth!”
She grabbed the cat and cuddled with it.
They ate their meal without the slightest pause for conversation.
The next morning, Beth looked into Jerry’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll be gone for two weeks.”
“It’s going to be hell for me, woman, but somehow the kids and I will try and survive.”
“You know my two cousins work shifts at the Mega-Lo-Mart, and my aunt and friend John work at Bill’s Market. If you buy meat, I’ll find out.”
“You’re going to have your family and friends watch for us?”
“There’s a half pound of ground beef in the freezer. You can eat that over the next two weeks. Have pizza delivered once, and pick up fast food once. Otherwise the meals are all planned out in the computer.”
Jerry let out a little whimper.
Beth said, “The kids have to eat healthy!”
“I want real food!”
Beth kissed him on the lips. “Meat is too expensive. It’s terrible for the environment. It’s loaded with fat and cholesterol. We’re trying to save up money, remember?”
“No meat,” Jerry said.
Beth crawled out of bed, and the whole family dropped her off at the airport. The first night of sleeping alone went well. Kitler the cat moaned all night and clawed at Jerry’s feet.
In the morning, Jerry was greeted with the wet, cold, greasy feeling of poop in his slipper. He found a similar present in his left shoe when he put it on to leave the house. The second night the cat clawed and moaned even more, and Jerry didn’t sleep. He came to the simplest of decisions.
After waiting for the kids to go to sleep, he set a plate on the table. Making eating motions and sounds with an empty fork, he waited for the feline.
The cat jumped onto the table.
Jerry went into the kitchen under the sink and pulled out the rat poison bait. He filled his plate. The cat feasted. Jerry slept better than he could even remember.
The next morning, Mathew grabbed at his leg. “Dad!”
Jerry opened his eyes.
“The cat is dead!” The child exclaimed.
Jerry smiled. “Are you sure, boy?”
“I think so.”
Jerry climbed out of bed and donned a robe. “Show me.”
The cat was in the hallway. The young girl stood over the corpse. “I think he’s dead, Dad.”
Jerry poked Kitler with his toe. It didn’t move.
“Are they going to do an autopsy?” The girl asked.
The boy reached down to touch the corpse and then pulled away. “What killed him?”
Something clicked in Jerry’s mind. Better him than a vet. “Yes, an autopsy is in order. Mathew, run and grab the big cutting board and put it on the kitchen table. Heidi, get me the big knife.”
Both kids took off running.
Jerry picked the cat up and carried it into the dining room. The boy set the cutting board on the table, and Jerry put the cat on it. The girl approached with the big knife.
Jerry took the knife and lopped the cat’s head off with a crunch of the blade.
Mathew said, “Ewww.”
Jerry cut along the cat’s belly and peeled the skin down to the paws. Then, with four quick motions, he cut the beast’s legs off and discarded the skin and paws. Off came the tail.
Heidi said, “Ouch.”
Jerry slit open the cat’s guts and pointed to various organs. “See, here are the lungs. This is the liver. Everything a cat needs.”
He pulled the intestines out and plopped them on the cutting board. He held the carcass up.
Heidi whispered, “It looks like a rabbit from the butchers.”
Mathew shook his head back and forth. “It looks exactly like a rabbit!”
Jerry’s right eye twitched.
The children looked at each other with slowly growing grins.
Jerry’s hands did this spasm thing for a few moments. “We could…”
“Yes!” Mathew said.
“We should marinate it in soy sauce and brown sugar like we do kabobs,” Heidi said with a vicious grin that she should be saving for her teen years.
They soaked the cat overnight in marinade. They started the rotisserie at three o’clock and feasted at five.
Jerry’s sleep was so calm it was like he set his head on the pillow and drifted off in an instant to pleasant, warm dreams of mountains of chocolate.
Beth returned home. It didn’t take her long to notice her cat was gone. She found Jerry in the living room. “Where’s Kitler?”
Jerry frowned. “He passed away, honey. I meant to tell you.”
Beth cried. She lay awake that night while Jerry breathed. She lay there for hours. She noticed Jerry twitch a few times, and then break out into a tiny bit of song.
“I killed the cat. The cat is dead. Rat poison on the dinner plate. Hehe.”
Beth’s eyes went wide, and then they narrowed into tiny beads.
She didn’t sleep that night at all. The next night she didn’t sleep, but she heard Jerry’s sing-song again.
“The cat is dead. I killed the cat. Rat poison on the dinner plate. Hehe.”
She fell asleep after a few hours of tears.
The next night was the same thing, except he changed his tune just a bit.
“Feast on the cat. The cat tastes good. Rat poison on the dinner plate. Hehe.”
She went to the children. “Mathew, when Kitler died, what did your dad do?”
The young girl said, “Dad said it was a secret.”
“We had an autopsy,” the boy said. “Kitler was so tender. Are we going to get another cat?”
Beth looked from one child to the other giving each one a smile. “You ate Kitler?”
Beth said, “Run along, children, and play.”
She went shopping. Concentrated pesticide was the only thing on her list. She found the strongest one and bought a gallon jug. Two teaspoons of the stuff ended up somehow in Jerry’s coffee the next morning.
“This coffee sure is strange today,” Jerry said. “Is the cream still good?”
Beth shook her head. “The cream is fine. It’s a new flavor. It was on sale.”
“What flavor is it?”
“The label fell off. That’s why it was on sale.”
Jerry took another sip. “It’s not bad.”
Beth smiled, and they went about their day.
Jerry ended up on the couch, moaning. Beth sat down and felt his forehead. She said, “I’ll get you a glass of orange juice.”
Two teaspoons of the pesticide ended up in the orange juice. He drank it down. “Thanks, honey. Thank god it’s a Saturday.”
She patted him on the head. Later that night, he lay in bed, moaning. She slept like a baby. She fixed his morning coffee up special. He drank it down with a glaze in his eyes.
She helped Jerry make it to the couch, and then she retired to their bedroom to read a novel. She made it to chapter seven.
Mathew came running in. “Dad’s on the floor!”
She marked her place in the book and followed the child into the living room. Jerry lay on the floor in a painful looking position.
Heidi nudged him on the arm. He didn’t move.
“Is he dead?” The boy asked.
“I’ll feel for a pulse.” Beth reached down and put her hand on his neck.
She shook her head and pulled her hand back. “He’s dead.”
Heidi held her arms perfectly straight at her sides and looked up at her mom. “Are we going to have an autopsy?”
Beth had the simplest thought. Better me than a doctor. “Heidi, run and get the meat cleaver. Mathew, you know the black plastic gardening sheets in the shed?”
The kids darted away.
“You always say the kids don’t get enough meat in their diet,” Beth whispered.
The children returned with the goods. Beth spread the plastic out next to Jerry. She rolled him over onto it. He groaned.
Heidi pointed at the still body. “He’s alive!”
“Oh no, honey,” Beth said. “Dead things make noise when you move them. The lungs compress and expand is all. Here, I’ll check for a pulse again.”
Beth frowned and let out a low sigh. “See, no pulse.”
Mathew rubbed the palms of his hands together. “Are we going to have a barbeque?”
Beth’s cheek twitched as she raised the meat cleaver over her head.