By J. Cameron Kuban
The cat curled onto Tim’s lap, purring and
pushing its head into his hands with an unmistakable display of
affection. Tim ran his hands through the thick fur of its coat and
began to scratch its neck.
The cat—medium haired, gray and white,
with brilliant green eyes and soft pink nose—lifted its head and
surrendered to Tim’s touch. The move was an easy gesture. There was no
trace of reserve in its body as it swam into relaxation and sprawled
across his lap. The front paws stretched over his knee and flexed like
they were gripping, letting go, gripping, letting go.
The cat had no interest in the television
camera that angled and moved, zooming in and rotating away. The animal
showed no signs of anxiety at the room full of people that sat, unseen,
in a shroud of darkness. The cat had no interest in money or prominence
or fame or financial security. The cat’s only interest was in the
moment and the pleasure of touch that raced through its body.
Tim was giving it affection and attention
and the cat was completely offering its trust to him despite the
anxiety, fear, and guilt that throbbed from Tim in a crashing surf of
The cat’s head rubbed against his hand and
turned so he could scratch its ear. He cupped his palm to fit the cat’s
head while he rubbed the ear between his thumb and forefinger. The
cat’s eyes closed and its purring intensified.
Tim let his other hand rest on the bony
protrusions of the cat’s back just below the head. He closed his eyes
and his head dipped so that his chin touched his chest. A single tear
drained from one of his eyes.
The camera zoomed in for a close-up.
All becomes still when the scales of Life
balance between simplicity and trust; Life becomes incorruptible. For
the cat, the scales were balanced. For Tim…
The cat pushed its head into his hand
Tim gripped the cat’s head with a motion
so swift he did not feel like he was responsible for it and twisted
violently until he heard the snap of bones in its neck. The purring
stopped and the cat turned into a limp puddle of dead flesh.
Tim opened his eyes and saw the camera
lens aimed directly at his face. He stared into it, letting the wasted
body of the cat spill at his feet. The cat had died in peace and
ecstasy, quickly and with no pain.
A hand fell on his shoulder and a voice
boomed, “Tim Conner, you did it!”
Music blared suddenly while light exploded
around Tim, revealing the cheering crowd that swarmed the studio.
“You got yourself a one week, all expense
paid vacation to anywhere in the world! Where will it be Tim? Where are
you and one other person going for one week?”
Tim looked up to the man whose hand was on
his shoulder, game show host Mike Williams. He was dressed in a slick
charcoal gray suit, his face plastered with makeup, his hair sculpted
into media-friendly perfection. He held a microphone close to Tim’s
mouth and waited.
“Venice, Italy,” Tim said.
“There you have it, folks,” Williams said
into the microphone. “Tim Conner is going to Venice, Italy!”
Applause thundered from the audience. Tim
lifted his head toward their whistles and cheers, allowing a smile to
crack his mouth open. He had done it!
A stagehand snuck from the shadows and
grabbed the dead cat from Tim’s feet, disappearing as quickly as he had
Tim stood up and waved at the dark around
him where people still clapped and cheered.
“Tell me, Tim,” Williams said. “You’ve
worked as a veterinary assistant for the past two years; you obviously
have a great affection for animals. Was it difficult for you to kill
He thrust the microphone up to Tim’s face
Tim was quick to wipe the last vestige of
tears that remained on his face and answered, “Yeah, it was tough,
Mike. It’s always tough to see an animal die, but you know I could tell
it was an old cat, and I even felt some lumps on its body that were
probably malignant. By my experience, the cat didn’t have long to live
anyway and I figured it was better for him to die quickly by my hand
than slowly by disease.”
The audience broke out with more applause.
It was a boldfaced lie, of course, but that was the scripted line as it
appeared on the teleprompter designed to make the audience feel better
about getting their entertainment from seeing an innocent animal
“Well, great job, Tim,” Williams said,
patting his shoulder. “You deserve this vacation. Let’s hear it for Tim
The applause and whistles shook the studio
again as Tim was lead backstage by a tall blonde woman in a tight
“Next up,” said Mike Williams, turning his
face into the camera, “an Arizona man brought his wife on the show to
win the $50,000 she needs to start her own hair salon. But is he ready
for what we’re going to ask her to do?”
He raised his hand, brandishing a burdizzo
to the audience’s wild eruption of cheers, screams, and laughter.
“Find out after the commercial
© 2015 J. Cameron Kuban
E-mail: J. Cameron Kuban
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