Unless you’re born cute you will die before the year ends. I was never cute. Or perky, adorable, funny, cuddly, regal, or even enigmatic. No stars or stripes, no boots or diamonds, amusing ears, no fascinating markings…nothing cute. My eyes are not hypnotic or wise; they’re not blue, green, or gold. I’ve heard them described as “muddy.” How I envy the lustrous all-blacks or fluffy whites, even the silken tans. Who abandons such beauty? Some hard-hearted beasts, because among us vulgus, you can always find absolutio perfectioque. (All cats like Latin.)
A fat, rapacious raccoon almost ate me alive but I was scooped up, taken to a clinic, inspected, and given shots. Orange, male, domestic was duly noted. Not-cute is probably not on their checklist. But there I was, a baby kitten at the rescue clinic, and nobody said, “Oh, how cute!”
Lynnette lives with twenty-five stray kittens. Each of us gets six months to hook a human. The agency runs an ad in the grocery’s coupon circular so people come looking. If you’re cute enough, a person takes you into their life. They care for you, and about you, till death do you part. Otherwise, after six months, Lynnette apologizes and sheds a tear, but there’s a limit. The supply of stray kittens never ends. Dura lex sed lex. The big sleep.
So now I’m five months old and huge, obliterating any cuteness I did not possess when small. I can leap to the ceiling molding and hang there. But rather than impressing people, it disturbs them. If I rub against their leg, I annoy them. My mew sounds like whining and my purr grates. Nuzzling with another kitten, I seem aggressive, not playful. Sitting proud and still only emphasizes my lack of noble bearing.
But then, mirabile dictu, I am saved! A man comes to Lynette’s kitten coop with what could be a human version of me—except cute. The big, cute, blond child lunges for me: “This guy’s the one. Tom the Bomb.”
In the car, the boy talks to me. “You’re a killer, Tom. You’re gonna kill those mice like a bomb hit them.”
Their apartment is riddled with mice that sneak beneath the floor and behind the walls. Every day when the family leaves, I go on attack. Imagine how good it feels ripping those rodents apart. My God-given claws are Weapons of Mouse Destruction. Swipe, swipe, swipe: I pile the carcasses by the door so the family knows I’m doing my job. This morning I’m staking out a crack in the bathroom baseboard. My hunch says a nest of babies. Cave felem.