Nonfiction from Sue Mitchell

Photo: Paul Hanaoka

An Impurrfect Life

I yowl at the offending empty can and turn imploring eyes to Mum. When it comes to pleading, Shrek’s Puss-in-Boots is a mere gifted amateur. Me? I’m a pro. A master manipulator. Utterly irresistible.

Mum and I stare into the tuna can void, willing it to magically replenish. I bat it with a paw. Why is my every whim not being fulfilled? With hope cruelly crushed, I shove my nose in and rasp my tongue around the crevices for the phantom fleshy flakes, the tantalising odour making me drool.

Until recently, I had fishy treats on demand; tribute to my feline fabulousness. Now, Dad returns from his hunting expeditions through the echoing supermarket canyons remarkably lightly burdened. He mutters darkly about shortages of canned goods and toilet paper. His failures weigh heavily upon him. Incompetent human. Phttt!

I stretch languorously in a patch of sunlight. Toilet paper, indeed. How ridiculous are humans? I am being rhetorical. That’s not a challenge. You don’t need to repeatedly prove how insanely inept you are.

Fantasising about fish is futile. Instead, I listen to their furtive conversation. Plebeians wittering on about kindness and community, about sharing, and pulling together—whatever that means.

I watch through sun-slitted eyes as Mum rechecks the larder. None of my tuna, but I spy canned salmon. Hmmm. I twitch my tail in anticipation. Worth a try, even with creatures as unintelligent as humans. Perhaps I can induce her to share.

She returns empty-handed to the couch.

“Watch this,” I purr, sitting directly in front of her, and gracefully raising a rear leg over my shoulder. “This is how a superior being avoids toilet paper problems.” I demonstrate, slowly and methodically, but realise even if she was smart enough to understand the lesson—which she isn’t—she lacks the requisite flexibility to perform gymnastic ablutions.

Mum giggles, moronically. “They don’t teach that in my yoga class, but I’d like to be that limber.”

Dad raises an eyebrow, but wisely says nothing.

Resigned to a fish-free pandemic, I maintain eye contact as I nudge a mug off the coffee table to remind her I’m still the boss.


Sue Mitchell swapped her teacher’s desk for a writer’s desk. Her short stories have appeared in several publications, but her tribe of cats remain in luxurious isolation, declining publicity. Sue has a growing Twitter following, @pagancatmommy.

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