I dropped the phone to my lap and gazed at the plain eggshell white wall across from me. I closed my eyes and the image of a streaked grey cat with black tip ears and piercingly blue eyes crowded my mind. In my vision, the cat took a step forward, and then another, until its relative size had doubled. It took another step closer and then yawned widely, revealing two big incisors. A shiver went down my spine and my body jolted as if an ice cube had been dropped down the back of my shirt; chilly water streaking down my back. I opened my eyes at the naked white wall, before contemplating the exchange. Aslan and Koji, pretty good names for a pair of lions, I thought. I imagined the grey blue-eyed cat with the name Koji. It didn’t fit. Then I did the same with Aslan—still no match. Could I have been wrong in my assertion? An incredulous thought that was, but what if, what if in the smallest of small chances the impossible had occurred and Kathy was speaking the truth? No, that made no sense. A pain pulsed in my temple. Remember the boy, the little one in the red cap sitting in the stroller? “CAT!” he said emphatically, then the woman behind the stroller applauded affirmatively, his smile beamed at the animal.
I picked the phone up and punched in some numbers.
“Mom! How are you?”
“Oh, hi son. Good. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to catch up. I went to the zoo the other day. Have you been recently?”
“Oh. Okay. I went a few weeks ago with some of the ladies from work. We went for the Black Tie Panda event. Why?”
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about the lions there. Did you see them?”
“I don’t exactly remember. I think so? They weren’t doing much. Lazy animals.”
“Hmm,” I muttered.
“What’s going on?”
I pondered how to approach the subject.
“I didn’t see them. I paid to see them and they weren’t there.”
“Well sometimes the zookeepers bring the animals in for medical checks and such.”
I considered this theory and pictured a zookeeper trying to force a thermometer down a lion’s throat.
“Maybe, but maybe not. Remember Aunt Josephine’s cat from the old townhouse? Its blue eyes and matted fur, the one that always smelled like fish? I saw it in there. It was in the den where the lions should’ve been.”
I let my words take effect, slouching forward in my armchair, anxiously waiting for the reaction to my revelation. The white wall ahead stared blankly at me.
“I—… Okay,” she continued. Her tone had dropped flatly.
“In the den,” I reemphasized, before being cut off abruptly.
“You didn’t see Aunt Josie’s cat because it died a long, long time ago. Probably a few years after Josephine.”
I pushed the image of Josephine’s pale white face away; the pills that scattered the floor, the cat all curled up in the corner. How it stared at me when they took her away.
I became angry at my mother’s patronizing treatment. “No! I’m telling you I saw a grey blue-eyed house cat. It wasn’t exactly Josephine’s, obviously, but it was the exact same breed, size, demeanour, look, everything!”
At this point, I heard a deep exhalation come through the phone. I imagined my mother’s eyes rolling around her wrinkled face like they had so many times before.
“How can you live like this? It’s just another one of your theories. No different than when you met Isaac Newton at the Space Centre.”
I threw the phone across the room and it smashed against the bare wall ahead of me, creating a thick dent and a loud thud. I smashed my face into the cushion and screamed at the top of my lungs. I hated her. She never, ever believed me. She constantly rejected me. Never believed in me. Ever. I could never satisfy her. I hate her. I’ll show her. I’ll go back to that zoo and show her, and Kathy, and the whole world!
I laid awake in the unlit bedroom playing back memories. I did meet Isaac Newton. There are energies, or spirits, that defy conventional laws of physics. But you have to be open to acceptance. It takes a special person to believe. What did people think when Edison proposed the light bulb? How about Darwin and the theory of evolution? Or Newton and gravity? Why do people believe in God? Soon I’ll be the one laughing.