In a sumptuous Manhattan penthouse, Constantine and Cordelia Bastet-Chateau, respectively a calico in a powder blue three-piece suit and a Siamese in a purple ball gown and tiara, clinked glasses of 2016 Bordeaux (Left Bank) that had been poured by their housekeeper, Felony, a tabby in a black velvet maid’s dress and lace cap.
“Felony, please look out for that chef,” said Cordelia.
Felony curtsied and left.
Constantine sipped his wine. “I wish we didn’t have to have servants.”
“Agreed.” Cordelia yawned. “I abhor social distinctions. We’ll have to make a plan to relinquish some of our abundance and control…Kramer.”
Constantine appraised himself in a gilt-framed wall mirror, licked a paw, and smoothed down the brown fur sticking up from his head. “What was that about a chef? What’s wrong with our Mrs. Herringbone?”
“This chef is singular for his scones and crumpets,” said Cordelia. “Tea has to be perfect. I can’t believe Lord Percy is visiting. It gives me chills. He co-created our world order! I’m determined he should consider us worth knowing. He grew up in a humans’ royal household, so he knows real breeding from the shadows spun by poseurs. How shall we entertain ourselves until dinner? Want to play–”
“Grand Theft Auto!” both shouted, putting on VR headsets.
Everyone agreed it was best that cats were now in charge, and humans were in zoos. Many cats also eschewed human culture, considering it vulgar.
But Constantine and Cordelia found it great fun…a fact they kept mostly to themselves. They loved video games, and it was catnip to watch sparks fly between Jim and Pam on “The Office,” not to mention Jim’s expressions when he broke the fourth wall. You had to give this to humans: they were expressive.
After two gleeful hours of running over pedestrians, Felony tapped Cordelia on the shoulder; they removed their headsets.
“Madam, Sir, I apologize,” said Felony. “This is awkward. The chef arrived, and…the servants walked out in protest. They’ll return tomorrow, but with conditions.”
Cordelia put a paw to her throat. “Did they…take any IPA?”
“No, Madam,” said Felony.
Constantine shook his head. “Cordy, they’re not animals.”
“Yes, sorry,” said Cordelia. “Who’s left?”
“The chef, his handler, and me.” Felony paused. “But I regret to say I must leave, too.”
“Handler?” Constantine gasped. “No. Tell me he’s not –”
Cordelia’s eyes were pale green saucers. “Yes, dearest. He’s a human, on loan from the zoo.”
Constantine’s back arched; a gold button popped off his coat. “You gave the staff no warning.”
“No.” Cordelia’s voice was small. “He’s a short, mild-mannered British man with glasses. I…didn’t really think anyone would make a fuss.”
Constantine shook his head. “Humans subjugated and infantilized us for centuries. It’s one thing to secretly find them funny, and another to let one into one’s home.”
“But he’s the only one who knows how to make tricky British pastries.” Cordelia wrung her paws. “What’ll we do?”
“I have another idea for tea, but first, may we please send the human back, thereby keeping Felony?” Constantine looked at Felony pleadingly.
“Thank you,” said Felony. “Yes. If the human goes, I’ll stay.”
The human, a Mr. Martin Sedgwick, was returned by his handler to the zoo.
Constantine called local diners and restaurants, run by cats, but offering human-cooked food. He was fine with using humans from a comfortable distance.
The doorbell rang.
“Lord Percy,” announced Felony, and withdrew.
Lord Percy was monumentally fluffy and built like the Kool-Aid Man. He constantly shed snow-white fur with an air of doling out largesse. He wore a crimson robe fit for King Henry VIII.
They shook paws.
“Do sit, Lord Percy,” said Cordelia, whispering to Constantine, “Grumpy Cat.”
“Shhh.” Constantine’s yellow eyes twinkled; he turned to Lord Percy. “As a special treat, we’ve ordered the best local take-out. Here’s pizza, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean, burgers, fries, soup, salad, and milkshakes.”
“And wines and IPA,” said Cordelia.
They held their breaths.
“This thrills me!” Lord Percy shouted. Suddenly, he spied a VR headset Cordelia had forgotten to put away. “Oh…I know what that is.”
Constantine and Cordelia looked at each other.
Lord Percy roared with laughter. “I’m a lover of human culture, too! Closeted.”
“Of course,” they said.
Leaning over pizza and streaking his fur with sauce, Lord Percy said, “What’s tougher to imagine? Bob Odenkirk as Michael Scott, or Steve Carrell as Saul Goodman?”
“Jimmy McGill,” corrected Cordelia. “Both are inconceivable!”
Past midnight, they loaded a boisterously singing Lord Percy into a cab. Before it pulled away, he shouted, “Come to mine tomorrow! I overlook the park. Let’s throw fish to passersby from my balcony.”
When he was gone, Cordelia clapped her paws. “What a conquest. We felled a lion!”
Constantine purred. “We did. Now let’s go make like wildcats.”
Susmita Ramani lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children. She’s a lifelong writer who has published essays for various blogs, and is working on a collection of short stories.