Shimon’s phone rang as he finished davening his afternoon prayers in his bedroom.

“Old Putz,” the caller ID flashed.

He removed his kippah and rolled his eyes before attending the call.

“Come over to my place now,” came a hoarse voice. “I have a job for you.”

Shimon put on his jacket and set off to the house next to his.

He walked past the garden and rang the doorbell. The engraved golden letters on the door read Colonel Douglas Miller.

Colonel Douglas opened the door with his elbow. He looked as menacing as usual—gray moustache and beard, gold-rimmed spectacles, a well-built physique, and an unlit cigar in his mouth. Miss Oleksandra, his Siamese cat, rested in his arms. Her silver whiskers glistened in the sunlight. Seeing Shimon, she snarled.

Here we go again. A thin-lipped smile played across Shimon’s face. He was the stark opposite of the colonel: young, frail, meek, and single. He had just finished university and was seeking a suitable job.

To pay off his mountain of student debt, Shimon had taken up many odd jobs, pet-sitting for the furry friends in the neighborhood being among them. Normally, he had a natural gift with animals, often working from sheer instinct. Most animals in the neighborhood took an instant liking to him; Pedro the macaw, Mitt the guinea pig, Liam the St. Bernard, and the rest. Only Miss Oleksandra detested him. She was very vocal and regal, possessing the attitude of an heiress. In his three-year pet-sitting career, she was the only animal who never really gelled with him. She hated him, he hated her; a marriage made in hell.

The colonel was well-feared in the community. Shimon knew that if the former started badmouthing him, he may lose all of his pet-sitting clients. He wanted to please the colonel, and therefore, had to please his cat. He depended on the funds raised from his odd jobs to pay off his debts and prove his resourcefulness to his Mom who worked in the neighboring city as a nurse.

Miss Oleksandra’s breed was considered the royalty of the cat world, and she knew it. She was named after a European queen, after all. She had a vainglorious attitude and demanded superior treatment: premium catnip, lactose-free milk, the finest treats, and loads of toys. Most times, she was moody as hell, with arrogant disregard and disdain for anyone or anything. Especially for Shimon.

Colonel Douglas gently combed her cream coat. He had a brusque and irascible demeanor to such an extent that Shimon considered him the meanest prick in Denver. He was, however, gentle and caring toward Miss Oleksandra. The only person privileged to see this soft side of him was his wife, Claire. The scuttlebutt had it that he met her when she was a cocktail waitress at a bar in Salt Lake City and they married eight years back. Their 20-year age gap was the laughingstock of the neighbors, but that didn’t stop the colonel from publicly displaying his affection for his wife.

He treasured Miss Oleksandra because Claire had loved the cat ever since she received her as an expensive gift from a friend. Oleksandra’s fame spread far and wide, and soon, her beauty and lineage were the talk of the neighborhood. The colonel was fiercely overprotective of her. Once, he even opened fire at someone who attempted to steal her at night. The bullet missed the burglar’s head by a hair’s breadth. The message was clear: if anyone tried to mess with Miss Oleksandra, it was akin to messing with the colonel. Since he and Claire had no children of their own, they considered the cat to be their beloved daughter.

Miss Oleksandra’s feline eyes glittered with mischief. She craned her neck, scanning Shimon.

“What’s the matter, Colonel?” Shimon took some gum from his pocket and tossed it into his mouth.

“Before I tell, you spit that gum out. Right now!” Colonel Douglas pointed to a trashcan in the yard. “We have to be extra cautious. If you spit it somewhere later, Miss Oleksandra might accidentally swallow it and choke.”

Shimon quietly did as he was told. Two reasons: one, Colonel Douglas was an Army war veteran just like Shimon’s late dad, and he deserved respect. Two, he was his highest-paying client in the neighborhood. No wonder; Miss Oleksandra was an expensive cat who demanded special care and high maintenance.

“I’m leaving for Salt Lake City in the next 20 minutes.” The colonel glanced at his Rolex. “Claire is at her sister’s place. I’ll be spending the next five days there. Until I return, Miss Oleksandra is your responsibility.”

“I got you!” Shimon raised his hand to give the colonel a high-five, but he lowered it when the stone-faced vet didn’t deign to reciprocate.

Shimon went inside to pick up the colonel’s travel bag. As usual, he couldn’t help noticing the long rifle hanging on the living room wall.

“There’s a week’s worth of food in the fridge.” Colonel Douglas signaled toward the kitchen. “Take it whenever needed.”

“That’s so kind of you.” Shimon flashed a wide smile. “Really appreciate your hospitality!”

“Ha! Not for you, pesky little asshole,” he ridiculed, incredulous at what he just heard. “It’s for my ray of sunshine, Miss Oleksandra.”

“Oh, okay!” Shimon hung his head and carried the bag toward the garage, loading it onto the Colonel’s truck.

“Take good care of her.” The colonel caressed Miss Oleksandra’s head before transferring her into Shimon’s arms.

“Mind you, if there’s even a teeny-weeny scratch on her, I’ll smack the shit out of you,” the colonel gave a final warning, climbing into the driver’s seat and slamming the door shut.

“Aye, aye, Colonel.” Shimon stepped back.

“Goodbye, love.” The colonel started the truck, waving at Miss Oleksandra before driving away.


It had only been a few hours since the colonel had left and Shimon was already having a tough time taking care of Miss Oleksandra. As expected, she never obeyed his instructions the way she obeyed the Colonel’s.

“Miss Oleksandra,” he called out to her, but she never gave a damn.

Her long, silver whiskers shook slightly against the black seal point of her face. Nose up, she carefully sniffed the air for her prey. Her large, bright blue eyes observed what her nose couldn’t. She moved one black-tipped paw at a time, sliding her slender body along while hugging the ground. Perfectly still, her sleek coat seemed to float in anticipation. The wiggling of her butt was the RC mouse toy’s only warning.

With a sinister smile, Shimon maneuvered the mouse using the remote.

Although the mouse was dexterous and the fight was long, Miss Oleksandra prevailed. Pressing her velvety ears against her head, she turned her face to the stucco ceiling and began her victory song. She sang of victory, sang of herself, and sang so the world knew that the threat of the evil toy mouse was over, for now.

Hungry, now that she had enough fun, Miss Oleksandra walked toward the automatic food dispenser. Shimon had just refilled it. As she approached, the built-in motion sensor activated and the bowl filled itself. Her mouth twitched in a manner comparable to a devilish grin. Her eyes widened, tail twitched, haunches lifted, and fur raised, ready to pounce.

With a mighty leap, she entered the fray and conquered the irresistible food. Her ears swiveled around as she relished her hard-won meal.

Shimon seized this opportunity to try vacuuming her bed while she was preoccupied. He approached, slow and steady, but she sensed it midway and raced to the cat bed, establishing her dominance over her territory. As he tried to clean it, she screeched and howled in indignation.

Just then, Shimon’s phone rang. It was the Old Putz.

“Good evening, Colonel.”

“I’m on my way; let me speak to dear Miss Oleksandra.”

“She’s all yours, sir.” Shimon turned on the speaker.

“Yoo-hoo, Oleksandra. How are you, honeybun?” The Colonel bubbled with joy.

Miss Oleksandra chirped, voicing a series of happy meows.

“That’s my girl. Talk to you later,” he cooed before hanging up.

That evening, she perched herself on the windowsill, gazing out, possibly awaiting the colonel’s return. After a few hours, she settled herself on her bed, falling fast asleep.

Shimon locked the door and went to his home next door. What a day!


When Shimon arrived the next morning, Miss Oleksandra already had the zoomies.

She played with a large ball of yarn, rolling it to the bathroom before dropping it into the toilet bowl. Minutes later, she dropped another ball of yarn into the bowl. To add to the mess, she somehow pressed the flush button with her paws.

The toilet clogged and water overflowed all the way into the living room.

It was already late before Shimon removed his headphones and noticed the damp floor.

He sprang up from the sofa and rushed to the bathroom. He grabbed the plunger and put it to work, unclogging the toilet.

Phew! He wiped the sweat off his face.

But the game wasn’t over yet. Miss Oleksandra pranced around the living room chaotically, bouncing off furniture and knocking things over, chasing a housefly.

“Stop it, Oleksandra!” Shimon yelled, clenching his fist.

She was oblivious to his presence.

Shimon rushed in her direction in a bid to stop her antics. However, the floor hadn’t dried yet.


He slipped and fell directly on top of her, zoning out.

After a few minutes, Shimon opened his eyes and looked around desperately. Miss Oleksandra was lying on the ground. Her stomach wasn’t moving.

He got on his knees and patted her chest, trying hard to resuscitate her, but it was in vain.



The next day, Shimon stood outside the colonel’s door, waiting for his friend, Carlos.

Carlos stopped his bike in front of the yard and waved. He looked like the definitive street-smart hipster. Blue ponytail? Check. Metallica tattoo? Check. Dragon wristband? Check. Fidget spinner? Check.

“Shalom, ma bromigo.” He gave Shimon a fist bump. “’Sup?”

“Whatever I told you over the phone.” Shimon sighed.

“Aight.” Carlos looked around. “So, where’s the dead Miss Katy Purry?”

“Right there.” Shimon pointed to a freshly dug mound of soil in the garden.

“Bro, we’re in big trouble now!” Carlos bit his lip. “Rememba last time? The old man lost his marbles; almost shot a burglar for stealin’ his cat. Everyone was talkin’ about it.”

“The colonel will blow my brains out if he finds out I’ve killed her.” Shimon shrugged; his palms were getting clammy.

“Yeah, and the Pope is Catholic,” Carlos guffawed, much to his friend’s chagrin.

“I didn’t call you over here to add to my anxiety.”

“Take it easy, bro. Just kidding.”

“I messed up big time. Need a solution. Have any?”

“You have two options. One, an apology.”

“That’s off the table. The colonel’s no saint. What’s the second?”


Shimon narrowed his eyes. “Replacement?”

“Yup, replacement.” Carlos nodded. “It’s just a cat, not a fire-breathing dragon. Just show me a pic.”

Shimon fidgeted with his phone for a few minutes and then showed a picture of Miss Oleksandra on the colonel’s Facebook timeline to him.

“That’s an exotic breed.” Carlos came closer and spoke in a hushed voice. “We gotta visit the black market.”

“Then let’s go.” Shimon tied his shoelaces.


The black market was bustling with activity. Men playing cards by the street side, drug dealers luring potential junkies, all sorts of exotic animals crammed into cages, from pangolins to snakes to tortoises.

Carlos led Shimon to a pop-up pet store under a canopy.

A wizened, weather-beaten Asian man greeted them. “What do you want? Persian, Sphynx, Munchkin, Angora, or a Manx?”

“Siamese.” Carlos showed the photo on his phone. “Like this.”

“That’s going to cost you a lot.” The old man smiled through his yellow teeth.

He led them both to a small room behind the store. He then ruffled through the different cages until he finally picked one.

“Voila!” He removed the blue cloth from the cage, revealing a Siamese cat looking sideways.

The cat’s side profile looked just like Miss Oleksandra.

“Wow!” Carlos exclaimed. “It looks exactly like that kitty.”

The cat slowly turned her head, revealing her complete face. The dark marking on the fur of her head covered her entire face, except a tiny cream-colored patch surrounding the right eye.

“Not really,” Shimon whined. “Look at the eye. Miss Oleksandra’s face was completely black.”

“Don’t you worry about that.” The old man brushed off his concern.

He reached under his desk and rummaged through a box, drawing out a tin of black hair dye.

Taking a small-sized brush, he dyed the furry area around the cat’s eye black.

To Shimon’s joy, she now resembled Miss Oleksandra to the T.

“You seem to have everythin’ at your fingertips,” Carlos cackled.

“Of course, this is the black market.” The old man roared with laughter. “Get it? Black dye, black market, it’s a joke.”

“Ha, ha.” Shimon shook his head. “Okay, what’s her name?”

“That’s the best part.” The old man grinned. “She responds to any name you call her. Watch this.”

“Audrey Hepburn.” He called out.

The cat turned its head and meowed.

“Faye Dunaway.”

She meowed again.

“Let me try,” Carlos intervened. “Saoirse Ronan.”

She purred at him.

“Miss Oleksandra.” Shimon tried his luck.

The cat looked into his eyes, meowing softly.

“She’s dope!” Carlos whooped.

“Indeed.” The old man rubbed his palms. “That’s why she’s going to cost you a thousand dollars.”

“What the…” Shimon stepped back.

“You heard it right, son.” The man jeered. “It’s a Siamese; $1,000 or nothing.”

As Shimon processed his shock, Carlos tried reducing the price.

Several minutes of negotiating and arm-twisting later, Carlos somehow brought it down to $800.

Carlos and Shimon huddled under a nearby tree.

“It’s beyond me.” Shimon clasped his hands over his head.

“Shelling out 800 bucks is much better than losing your life.” Carlos crossed his arms. “Tell me something. How many bucks have you got?”

“I think I have about $500 lying around somewhere.” Shimon rubbed his chin. “I could ask Mom, but I’d rather not. She’d be dead mad at me.”

“What do we do?” Carlos played with his fidget spinner, thinking of all possible options. Suddenly, he got a brainwave and smiled.

“Go home and bring the 500 bucks. I’ll be right back.” He hopped onto his bike and pedaled off.

Shimon hurried home, his heart pounding.

His smartphone vibrated in his pocket just as he entered his house. His worst fear came true. It was the colonel.

Taking short, rapid breaths, he ignored the call and started his search. After a lot of digging into his closet, under potted plants, inside the sides of the sofa and on top of the fridge, Shimon rustled up $537.

He pocketed the dollar bills and rushed to the black market.

Carlos was waiting there.

“Here you go.” He handed Shimon three soiled hundred-dollar bills.

“How did you manage it?” Shimon furrowed his brow.

“I sold my bike.” Carlos smiled.

“You gotta be kidding me!”

“For real, bro.”

Shimon flung his arms and hugged him. His eyes were almost teary.

“I don’t call you bro for no reason, bro.” Carlos patted his back. “C’mon, give me a fist bump.”

They fist-bumped and left the market with a huge cage dangling in Shimon’s hand.


It was almost night by the time Shimon returned to the Colonel’s house with the new cat.

He released her from the cage onto the cat bed.

She purred at Shimon and rushed to the food dispenser, gorging on the Whiskas, stuffing her mouth.

God, it seems like this cat hasn’t eaten anything in days. Shimon frowned and placed a bowl of milk next to the dispenser.

He dug out his phone and dialed Carlos.

“Yo bro, how are things?” Carlos asked.

“She’s messy and uncultured,” Shimon whined. “But on the bright side, she seems to like me.”

“Guess she needs a helluva lotta training before the colonel arrives.”

“Don’t worry. The colonel won’t be home until next week.” Shimon beamed. “That gives me enough time to train the cat.”

Ding dong. The doorbell chimed.

“Call you right back.” He hung up the call and walked to the door.

As Shimon unbolted the door and flung it wide open, his eyes bulged and his mouth went agape.

Colonel Douglas was standing there, lost in thought. His eyes were red and puffy.

“Co…” Shimon gasped. A chill ran down his spine. “Colonel, it’s an absolute surprise. Wasn’t expecting you until next week.”

“Yeah, well, change of plans.” The colonel stormed into his living room. “Moreover, it’s my damn house. I don’t need to book an appointment before coming.”

“Absolutely, sir.” Shimon’s lips slanted into a plastic smile. “Hope your visit went well.”

“Aah, fuck it! First, I need a drink.” The Colonel wearily ensconced himself into the armchair. “The usual. Make it quick.” He rested his elbows on the armrest, steepled his hands together, and crossed his legs.

Shimon took a bottle of sparkling sherry from the cabinet, poured a glass, and added a couple of ice cubes from the freezer tray which sent the wine cascading over the sides.

With trembling hands, he served the glass on a tray.

“Why the hell are your hands shaking?” The colonel looked him straight in the eye. “Did you fuck something up while I was away?”

“Not at all, Colonel.” Beads of sweat formed on Shimon’s forehead. “It’s just that I’ve been under the weather for a while.”

“Alright.” The colonel took a sip and smacked his lips. His eyes darted left and right in curiosity. “By the way, where’s Miss Oleksandra?”

“Err…” Shimon looked around, trying to spot the cat. “She was right here.”

Meow. The cat slowly traipsed from the kitchen. Her face was covered in milk. Next to her, the bowl was lying on the floor, inverted.

Oh, God! Shimon panicked. A few minutes more and the black dye would fade. I’ll get caught in the act.

The cat stopped in her tracks.

“So, there she is,” Colonel Douglas sniggered.

“Miss Oleksandra,” he called out.

The cat remained still.

“Oleksandra!” The Colonel commanded. “Come here right now!”

She paid no heed.

“Let me try,” Shimon chipped in. He snapped his fingers. “Miss Oleksandra.”

The cat let out a low-pitched trill and leaped forward in Shimon’s direction. She rubbed up against his legs, getting all cozy.

“That’s weird.” The colonel’s eyebrows pinched together in doubt. “She’s never liked you since the beginning, and now she’s behaving differently.”

“Err…” Shimon scratched his head. “We got to know each other better over the past couple of days, Colonel.”

“The Whiskas would’ve done the trick.” The colonel stroked his beard. “Otherwise, I see no reason why she chose to be friends with a schmuck like you.”

Shimon looked down and noticed the black dye dripping from the cat’s face. He quickly stood in front of her, trying to obscure the Colonel’s view.

The deep wrinkles on Colonel Douglas’ forehead contracted as he cleared his throat.

“No one can be trusted these days, can they?” He turned toward Shimon. “Thou shalt not trust someone, else thou shalt be betrayed. That should be the 11th commandment.”

“What’s wrong, sir?” Shimon stuttered, trying hard to conceal his guilt.

Colonel Douglas took his last sip and threw his glass on the floor, shattering it.

The sound startled the faux Miss Oleksandra.

Standing up at once, he grabbed the rifle hanging on his wall. He loaded a round into its chamber and closed the bolt.

Shimon’s stomach twisted into a knot and his heart raced. He began reciting the Shema under his breath, hoping it won’t be his last.

Closing his left eye, the colonel pointed the rifle toward Shimon’s direction.

Shimon felt like the room was spinning around him.

The Colonel immediately lowered his gun and shot the cat.


Brimming with rage, he chambered another round and cocked his rifle before firing again.


The cat’s blood and remains splattered on Shimon’s sneakers.

Total silence.

Shimon froze and stared with wide eyes and raised eyebrows. His head was whirling with loads of questions.

Yet he remained there. Still. Puzzled.

The Colonel dropped the rifle on the floor and sank into his armchair. “I’m so sorry.” Tears streamed down his cheeks. “I shouldn’t have done this in front of you. But I couldn’t control myself.”

“Why, Colonel, why?” Shimon blurted out, trying to register whatever the hell just happened.

“You know what? I didn’t call Claire before going there. It was a surprise visit. Our wedding anniversary is around the corner.” He recalled, staring at the ceiling. “I drove all the way to her sister’s place in my truck and knocked on the door with a bouquet of red tulips in hand. Claire was wearing the negligee I’d gifted her last year, but she didn’t smile when she saw me. Rather, she was spooked, as if she’d seen a ghost. Just then, I heard a man’s voice, ‘Who is it, honey?’ As I pushed her aside and barged in, I spotted a topless guy running from the bedroom toward the backdoor.

“That bitch!” He fumed, slamming his fist on the armrest. “That promiscuous bitch was banging an Asian guy her age when I wasn’t around. She told me he’s Thai. I bet he was the ‘friend’ who had gifted her Miss Oleksandra. That explains why she loved the cat so much.

“I loved that woman with all my heart. But what she gave me in return was betrayal; sheer betrayal.” He wiped the tears off his face. “Fucking bitch!”

“Before divorcing her, I wanted her prized possession dead.” The colonel took a cigar from his case, bit off the end, stuck it in his mouth, and lit it. “D’you know why I called you this afternoon? I wanted you to kill this damn cat. But your lazy ass was too busy to pick up the phone. However, I’m glad that I sped up here and did the deed myself. It’s more satisfying.”

Shimon stood petrified as his eyes widened in disbelief at what he heard.

“Do me a favor, Shimon.” Colonel Douglas leaned back and blew out smoke, forming rings in the air. “Mop the floor and bury whatever’s left of that fucking fatso in the garden.”