There is a woman down the street called Mary. Mary, who dyes her hair a vibrant red and is always seen with her paunchy orange cat draped across her bony shoulders. The perch seems uncomfortable, pinching and firm, but the cat doesn’t seem to mind, and neither does Mary.
She’ll tell you, if you want to know, all about the day she found the cat. She had thought at first it was the kettle, singing forgotten on the stove-top. A high, piteous whine – pay attention to me! How when at last she found him, he lay in a patch of blue-toned light, artificial in its hues, cold. The indigo and grey of the sunshine in January. Artificial, too, as the amaryllis which leaned over the edge of the flowerbed, a placeholder until spring. She had brushed the plastic petals from his fur, matted with hoarfrost and sleet.
The cat lost three toes to frostbite that day, and it was rumored that Mary was missing three toes as well. I’m not sure where it came from, perhaps from her gait, which was peaky and graceless. Though to be fair, that may only be from the weight of the cat on her shoulders.