In the last several weeks, Absinthe, Nick’s cat, had developed some very peculiar habits. John was fond of channeling Freud, “Zis cat has issues.” Among them was one that was particularly horrible. Every morning it took to following the first member of the household who was awake and, like “screaming.” There’s no other way to describe it. Most cats meow at their owners, a kind gesture welcoming a new day, just a pleasant natural sound—like birds chirping or dogs barking. This was simply not what Absynthe did. This furry, black reincarnation of a bad horror film actress would literally sit at the feet of its caretakers and for five to six seconds at a time release a surreal vocal noise at a most god awful pitch. Feeding it did no good. Petting him, holding him, telling him that you would buy all the cat toys in the world if he would just shut up, did no good at all. It was a ritual for the “screamewling fuzzfart” as he had also come to be known. For ten minutes, first thing in the morning, he screamed. Then, as if nothing had happened at all, the cat would cease its cacophony and curl up on the couch to sleep for an hour or two.

For a while the boys had assumed that something was wrong with the thing. Nick took it to the veterinary school on campus a couple of times to consult the students there. He only ever received a patient reply that the cat was healthy, and was probably “just vocal.” No matter how many times he pedantically no-you-just-don’t-understand explained that “vocal” simply wasn’t the word for it, he got no sympathy. No one could believe that such a small creature could cause such a din until they were witness to it. Instead, he simply decided that the kitten represented some sort of karmic retribution for some forgotten sin he’d committed (or a remembered one for that matter), and the roommates had no other choice but to peacefully live with the clearly insane animal as best they could, hoping the epileptic throat fits were just a phase.