The Seven-Day Hunger Strike Plan

by Digby Beaumont

Sugar Ray was refusing to eat—Tasty Morsels, Felix Gold, even Whiskas Temptations, his all-time favourite. It had been three days. I was about to call the vet, but when I stroked the cat's cheek, the way he liked, he gave me a look that seemed to say, You know the reason why.

I wondered if Sugar Ray had a plan. What if he'd calculated that his current daily body-weight loss gave him a week before his life was endangered? Nancy wouldn't let him die. She loved him too much.

He was stubborn enough to see the plan through. It had taken four of us to hold him down the day he got micro-chipped. He'd never forgiven me for that.

I called Nancy. I'd been remembering things I loved: the sound she made eating raw carrots in front of the TV; her playing "Danny Boy" on the bagpipes for my last birthday; the skimpy black dress she wore on our first date. When I asked her, "How have you been?" she said she missed Sugar Ray a lot, but had missed me more when we were together.

The cat lay curled up on a pile of Nancy's sweaters. It made me think of Freud's idea, that people leaving things behind like this is a sign they wish to return. I wondered if Sugar Ray subscribed to that theory. He'd hardly moved off the sweaters since Nancy left.

I prepared a chicken salad for lunch, but couldn't eat and left the salad on the plate while I made coffee. When I turned back, Sugar Ray was on the table helping himself to the chicken.

Back in the bedroom, I brushed cat hair off the sweaters before packing them into mailing bags. The cat appeared at the doorway, belly full now, looking for a new place to sleep. So, some bug or other must have left him feeling off colour the past three days. I'd been alone in clawing at hope.

BIO: Digby Beaumont's stories have appeared widely in print and online journals and anthologies, most recently Camroc Press Review, the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Cosmonauts Avenue, 100-Word Story, Boston Literary Review, 34th Parallel and Olentangy Review. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology, and he is currently working on a flash fiction collection. He has worked as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications, and lives in Hove, England.