“Frenchie is losing her mind,” Mom says, plopping our three-legged cat onto the couch.
“Why?” Frenchie hops across the cushions onto my lap.
“She’s won’t stop licking her stump. She’s licked all the fur off of it!”
“Maybe she just likes licking.” I laugh at Mom’s hysteria, and rub Frenchie’s whiskered-cheeks with my thumbs. She turns and licks my fingers with her scratchy tongue. Mom shakes her head and walks out of the room.
I scoop Frenchie into my arms; flip her over to cradle her against me. The bald stump where she once had a back left leg rests against my palm. I rub it gently with my thumb and forefinger. It’s velvety like a horse’s face. Frenchie purrs and stretches as I run my other hand along her belly.
“She’s fine,” I mumble, and slide her off my lap.
She perches herself next to me, ears twitching while dogs bark from the TV. Leaning into herself, she starts to lick the furless area.
“Stop it,” I stick my hand into her soft belly to intervene, but she just stretches her neck further and licks around it. Over and over, she licks until the newly healed skin turns back to raw.
Maybe Mom is right, that she’s losing her mind. Or maybe it’s just a compulsion she can’t control; some overwhelming need to self-sabotage, just to feel something where there is nothing. I’m sure she remembers the limb, maybe even the car that took it from her. Or maybe, it’s not that complex. Maybe it’s as simple as one minute it was there, and the next it was gone.
Mom returns to the living room, wide-eyed, she hoists Frenchie over her shoulder, buries her head into the soft tiger-fur.
I want to cut off my limbs, lay them in the white wicker bassinet, then wrap it in decorative cellophane and leave it on the doorstep like a package of fruit. Hit the doorbell and hide. Watch from the trees as Mom and Frenchie pick through the pieces until they choose their favorite to have for keeps.
Paige Olivia Roberts has a degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She was the 2018 recipient of the Alumni Scholarship at Tinker Mountain Writer’s Workshop in Roanoke, Virginia. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.