Friday, July 7, 2023

“This Is (Not) My Beautiful Cat” • by Ephiny Gale

When the girl is six years old, she uncovers a grey and white kitten in a sagging cardboard box in her local park. She’s walking there with her mother and their two large dogs, but despite this the kitten follows them out to the street, trotting three metres behind on the footpath like they’re trailing a fuzzy ball of yarn.

Once the kitten reaches their front porch, the girl’s mother prepares a saucer of watery milk and the girl pleads to keep him. A cushioned nest is made for him inside the house. The girl snaps photographs of him with her film camera. He is so tiny. She hopes he is hers forever.


When the woman wakes up one autumn morning, there is a cat in her house. She does not own a cat.

Her wife sits on the carpet near the open back door, patting a tense grey and white cat with wary eyes. “He just walked in,” says her wife, grinning.

The woman is calm and patient, and soon she is also blessed to pat the cat a few minutes later. It’s fur is so soft to stroke, like a brushtail possum. It reminds her of the fuzzy grey and white cat she had as a child.


No-one else claims the kitten, so now he belongs to the girl. He sleeps curled in the skirt of her school uniform, tucked gently in the protection of her crossed legs. She gives him a long and regal name that most adults would never consider. He grows big, and he is loved.


They’re notified of the cat’s visits due to its tinkling bell. When they hear the tinkles around their doors and windows, often the woman or her wife will go out to greet the cat and stroke it. They talk kindly to it. Soon the cat lets them pick it up for snuggles. Soon the cat screams at them for attention. Soon the cat is on their property all the time, and they wonder when that happened, and put out a box for the cat to curl up in because the concrete outside their back door is getting cold.


The girl and her cat are a couple of years older now, and the cat rarely comes properly inside any more. The girl doesn’t know why, but perhaps it’s because they have a puppy now, and the puppy likes to run and bark. Her cat still eats the name brand cat food they scoop out for him morning and night, and he still has the enclosed back porch to rest in where it’s dry and safe. Her cat is healthy, and even though she doesn’t see him much any more, the girl knows that’s what matters.


The woman and her wife love this cat, the cat that is not theirs. They put out bowls of water for him, which are lapped up daily, but they never feed him. They are not trying to steal a cat.

The woman worries about him outside in the cold. It gets to zero degrees Celsius sometimes. No cats are supposed to be outside in their area at all, but this cat is on their property almost all day and night. There aren’t really any predators to attack him in Australia, but she worries about the main road nearby, and she worries about the weather. Why won’t his owners bring him inside? He always seems generously fed and well, but she worries.

The cat burrows closer into her shoulder, purring, and the woman wishes he was hers forever.


The girl is almost a teenager, and her cat is stretched long in the sunshine near their back door, which doesn’t happen very often these days. She kneels next to him and strokes him reverently. His fur is so warm, his eyes so green. She knows he will die someday, like all humans and animals do, so she is saving this moment in her mind. She tries to pour all of her love into her hands and capture him perfectly in her memory, so sweet and vital.


The woman buys a $35 microchip scanner from eBay and scans the cat that is not hers. She plugs the microchip number into an internet database. Because she is not a vet or other authorised body it won’t give her the cat’s name or address, but it does say that the cat was born 27 years ago and is deceased. The woman tosses the microchip scanner in the bin; she supposes you get what you pay for.

Then she snuggles the cat and says, “Is it time for dinner?” The cat butts his cheek against her own, eyes closed with affection, and then jumps down to find his evening meal. He climbs over the woman’s fence, runs through two yards, and then darts under a gate...

Where he crosses through space and time and arrives in the girl’s garden for dinner.




Ephiny Gale was born in Victoria, Australia, and still lives there, alongside her lovely wife and a small legion of bookcases. She is the author of more than two dozen published short stories and novelettes that have appeared in publications including PseudoPod, Constellary Tales, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and of course, Stupefying Stories. Her fiction has been awarded the Sundress Publications' Best of the Net award and has been a finalist for multiple Aurealis Awards. More at and @ephiny (Twitter).


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Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…  


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Made in DNA said...

Ohhh, I was wondering where that was going. Very well done. I usually prefer far-future scifi or something with alien monsters, guns blazing and mysteries... It's the mystery in this story that held my attention through to the end. I need to re-evaluate my preferences. ;)

Karin Terebessy said...

Absolutely beautiful! This piece had me entranced. I so appreciate a story that truly captures the intensity of the bond we can share with our cats. And how that love could almost, almost transcend space and time… Sublime!