Brood of Shouldn't'ves

by E. M. Stormo

My cat has been looking up kitty porn on the internet in an effort to blackmail me. I shouldn't've named him Mephistopheles. Cats are as naturally prone to evil as kids. I am lucky that Google takes the query "kitty porn" quite literally and so nothing illegal was ever discovered on my hard drive when the Feds came knocking.

Meph also tried to sabotage my social life by sending out rectal shots to all my contacts. They were feline rectums, but still. His pink knot cost me many lifelong friendships, although he was right, they were never my friends if that was the case.

One night, a SWAT team showed up at my house about a reported kidnapping. I know Meph told them "cat-napping," because he is no liar, and that is technically true, he was a stray when my wife took him in and nursed him back to health.

They held me down at gunpoint on the floor, while Meph nuzzled into me, letting me know he'd lick up any blood if they shot me right there. My son hid upstairs in his room, although we could hear him giggling the whole time.

Soon Meph began colluding with my son. I shouldn't've named him Eddy, it sounds too much like Oedipus. They tried to poison me by pouring bleach in my coffee and other obvious methods, then wait eagerly for me to take a sip, like I'm that stupid.

They probably miss their mother, who died from cancer last year. Ever since, the two of them have been gunning for my head, but my gun is safely locked up in my crawlspace along with the other electronics in the house. I couldn't risk them using the TV to alert the NSA. It's nice to be free of modern gadgetry, and I know they both agree with me, despite making it much harder to kill me. Meph appreciated the challenge and grew to respect me in my wife's absence. He didn't hate irrationally, but he blamed me for her death anyway, claiming he smelt her cancer coming a mile away.

Meph and Eddy practiced throwing knives in the backyard at an effigy made out of old furnishings. The effigy had my face drawn on, although I am not as puffy around the waist. Eddy was a better shot, despite Meph's constant shit-talk.

Social Services stopped by one evening. They were deeply concerned over some of the drawings my son had made in school, elaborately detailed scenes of gore and sex, but the line work was too good for Eddy. Even though he was only six, he couldn't draw for shit.

I finally had enough with my cat and confronted him about the situation.

I don't think you realize what would happen if you got rid of me, I told him. But it's always the same to him: Either you or me, he says.

Me, always me. So I sent him packing. Eddy cried when he left. It rained like the day he came to us. I gave him directions to the shelter, and he said he'd see me in hell.

But the cat came back, just like in the song. That chorus used to freak me out, the way the cat always came back, just like that lady who'll be coming around the mountain, ever coming. I wish she would just come already.

I decided to adopt a dog to even the stakes. If this domestic battle was unwinnable, then John Dog would always be at my side, guarding us all from escalating the conflict.

A week later, I got home from work to find John Dog bleeding out. Nobody would confess to it, but I suspect they both took equal part in the stabbing, a murderous pact like the one they made for me. I'm sure John Dog didn't jump onto a pile of knives as was their explanation. Eddy circled the dead dog like a ritual offering. He was growing more cat-like each day. Meph couldn't poison me, but he had successfully poisoned my legacy.

Before bed, I read Faust every night. Meph likes it when I read his name, because he can insert himself into the action of the story. He snuggles up with me in the chair, while Eddy passes out on the floor at my feet.

Meph pretends to sleep, until the very end when the Devil carries Faust to hell. He wonders why the Devil would carry a man, while God makes them climb. It should be the opposite, shouldn't it? God should carry, while the Devil should let men tumble down of their own accord. Maybe catch them when they get there. A catcher in the fire.

I was ready to do him in for good when he got into my work laptop, but checking the browser history, I discovered he had merely Googled his own name, and watched a clip of Cats! on Broadway. Finally, I had some dirt on him. I blackmailed him for the rest of his life and Eddy followed suit. There were no more effigies, poisonings, or visits from the authorities, and the three of us lived in peace, until Meph died of natural causes, Eddy went to college, and there was nobody else around to smell my cancer.

BIO: E. M. Stormo is a fiction editor by day, writer by night, and a teacher and promoter of musical literacy at all times. His recent fiction has appeared in Thrice Fiction Magazine.