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by Margot Hughes

Some bones and flesh but mostly fur. Royal honey on top, meticulously combed by the thousand fish hooks on his tongue. Cloud of knotted cream on the belly. I want to touch here, but he’ll curl in on my hand: grab with the front paws, nibble with those dagger teeth, and kick with the hind legs for the kill. Pink paw pads cuter than newborn baby toes. Hairs pop between them like stalks of wheat. Claws sharp enough to draw blood. Don’t pull away too fast — they’re in there deep, it’ll only make the scratches worse. Gold marble eyes adorned with white war paint stripes on the surrounding fur. Fragile yet authoritative. They widen and narrow horizontally depending on whether he’s hunting or nesting. The rhombus pupils do the same vertically in the sun’s flood, where he basks most of the day. When he’s not sleeping, he wets a paw to wipe his whiskers clean or springs across the floor, leaving fur tumbleweeds in his wake. His broom tail sweeps at his disapproval, and his motorboat purr revs at ear scratches. They rotate like hip joints, the near-bald spots of his head the sockets. He likes to be near but not held, on my lap but not pet, teased but not chased. I give him treats when he stays close, stroke his head and say, “Good boy.” He talks to me in wailing meows and sing-song chirps. I answer him, crouch down on all fours and become one of him. His eyes squint at mine and I do it back, decided that we understand one another.

Margot Hughes’ short fiction has previously been published in Gandy Dancer. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook University. She holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from SUNY Geneseo, and formerly worked in television production at Comedy Central.