Pickled Snow by Carmen Price
Ms. Gray, a middle aged Chartreux, was probably the only cat in the world who ate Valencia oranges. Mice and Fancy Feast were for the birds. When her human fed her sliced Valencias, Ms. Gray licked the platter cleanin a euphoric frenzy, back arched and toes curled. Shaking.
But Valencias no longer appeared with regularity in the brittle basket on the kitchen table, waiting to meet their end against the dull edge of a butter knife. Ms. Gray’s human said this was because they’d cut back on free fruit at the office.
“We’re a sustainable company now. No citrus in January.”
Well, bring it up at the next staff meeting, Ms. Gray thought bitterly as her human scratched her behind the ears. A blizzard howled outside and Ms. Gray couldn’t stand it. Winter was a disease, and she wanted to sit in the eucalyptus steam of her human’s shower, where the bright lights would heal her. She wanted Valencia oranges to blister her tongue and shock her back to life. Enough of this bleakness, this ennui, these purple clouds and endless mounds of packing snow.
“I used to be a very idealistic person at work,” Ms. Gray’s human continued, her sequin eyes squinting as she fished a tiny pickle from a jar, “I used to speak up. But that never got me anywhere. So I tried something new: Just nod and go along with everything. Mind my own business, see no evil, hear no evil. And you know what? I got the first raise of my life. A raise – because I learned to shut the fuck up.”
Boring, Ms. Gray scowled. Her human needed to unlearn shutting the fuck up, and unlearn it now. Get that fresh fruit back on the office menu. Lodge a formal complaint. Lie prostrate before the great shimmering altar of the Workism GOD. Beg. Speak up. Live to work. Make a PowerPoint presentation about initiatives that only exist to seem important in the digital archives. Whatever. This was a matter of life and death.
Ms. Gray’s human bit the last long fingernail off her left hand and chewed it thoughtfully. “To be honest I kind of like being a yes-girl,” she said unconvincingly. “I used to think that my whole appeal on an aura level was that I was a no-girl who looked like a yes-girl. But I’m not so sure anymore.”
Ms. Gray hissed and jumped off the couch. Her human barely noticed. She just kept fishing for pickles and now she didn’t even have fingernails long enough to stab at them, and it would’ve been the saddest Sisyphean effort Ms. Gray had ever seen had she chosen to look back.
But there was no looking back. Ms. Gray stalked away, through a pickle juice trail from couch to kitchen, and clawed with damp paws at the window adjacent the back door. A sudden urge had overcome her. A change in perspective.
All she wanted to do was roll around in the snow.
Carmen Price is a teacher and writer based in Stockholm, Sweden. She’s been published in Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine and written for Your Living City Stockholm. Like many a good millennial, she collects houseplants, including a feisty little ficus and a fig tree. So far she’s doing a pretty good job of keeping them alive.