New people moved into the house next to mine. I registered this without much interest, but did the neighborly thing. I took around a coffee cake and sat with them. She was a large woman. Everything about her was loud and brash, from the bright blue of her blouse to the canary-yellow nest of hair piled onto her head. She wore a ring on every finger and her voice made the light-fitting sway above her. Her husband, in contrast, was a small mousy fellow, shoulders permanently bowed from dwelling forever in the shadow of his wife. He followed her silently, dragged along like a boat in the wake of an ocean liner.
They say that when you've killed once it's easier. So it was with me. I think something must have broken, snapped inside me. What had not been an option was now available to me.
The neighbors were pleasant enough, although her voice grated and the fellow's meekness angered me, but they had a cat; an overweight, ugly old tom upon whom the two of them doted. From the day they moved in this cat was a nuisance. It sat in my flower-beds, killing all my new bedding-plants, and chased all of the birds out of my garden so I no longer had the pleasure of their song. No sweet, fluffy animal was this, but a vicious and territorial creature, given to howling in the night and scratching the bark from my poor young trees. It seemed satisfied to cause chaos. When I chased it it would retreat only as far as the wall and sit there, staring at me with an arrogant tilt to its ugly head.
A house is full of poisons.
There they sit, on shelves and in closets, lined up in brightly-colored rows under the sink, and unless you have young children you never give them a second's thought. Bleach, lime, household cleaners, disinfectants, medicines; each one deadly in the right quantity.
I took to feeding the cat, calling over the wall, stroking it, doting on it. They loved it, nothing was more reasonable to them than that someone else might love it too. They asked me to look after it while they were away, and found it healthy and combed when they returned. The cat came to me now, eating out of my hand. But I felt no regret the day it was found dead, stiff as a board under the willow's drape.
The tainted bowl was washed up and back in the kitchen cupboard long before.