Twenty years ago
He wondered what the cat wanted more - to be let out of the box or to have the cinder block lifted from its tail.
He stared at it, with what his mother called his big baby eyes. The cat screeched and thrashed about wildly without getting anywhere. Its feet dug into the bottom of the box wanting to pull its tail out from under the concrete block.
The boy's tongue flicked out and licked the saliva collecting on his lips. His head tilted to the side as he pondered how long would it take before Whisker's tail popped off.
He smiled. It was like that rhyme before you flicked the dandelion head off with your thumb. "Momma had a baby and its head popped off."
Things were tingling inside the boy. He didn't know why or how it all started, but he didn't want to let it stop. He wanted to see how far it would go. If the boy saw Whiskers pull its tail off would he moan in ecstasy like those men in the movies his father watched after everyone went to bed? Would he be shocked?
This was different than the cat he put in the barrel of rain water. He stood and watched Tabby try and swim to the edge. Then he'd push the cat back to the center with a stick. It splashed around a long time, but then just gave up and it was over.
Whiskers was different. His face got warm.
He knew that if the grey cat could pull its tail out...
"Momma had a baby..."
...it wouldn't be over. Any bone, or whatever was in a cat’s tail, was crushed. He could still hear the sounds as he tipped the heavy cinderblock over.
"Hush kitty," he said in a calming tone. "Everything’s okay." He reached out a hand.
The cat riled up. Its paw swiped.
The boy pulled his hand back. There was pain on his fingers. He looked down as crimson bubbled to the surface and squeezed through the thin holes left by razor-sharp feline blades. He put his fingertips in his mouth and sucked.
He looked around the yard. There were more cinderblocks. He could take one, hold it above the box, count to three...
"What are you doing?"
He spun around. The girl from down the road had turned the corner of his house. It was the two of them and the howling cat.
The boy’s eyes narrowed. He could taste blood on his tongue. Cats and dogs were one thing. He took a step toward the girl. This was going to be something altogether different. Part of him grew.
"...and its head popped off."