The New Housecat on Trillionaires’ Row

B.E. St. John

The snow leopard travels from Annapurna to West 57th in under three days, no questions asked.

Against his wife’s wishes, the man who’s acquired this most elusive of predators gives it the run of his skymanse.

The first weeks in the gigalopolis disorient the creature. The garbage trucks banging a mile below sound like thunder in a distant valley, the jets gliding overhead, unlike any raptor it’s seen.

In time, the snow leopard commandeers the wine vault, where it builds a makeshift den among the grand crus.

Domestication proceeds fitfully. Soon after the cat learns to lap from a Hermès bowl, it disembowels a settee upholstered in an ibex print.

Each day the snow leopard prowls the residence in silence, proof of its existence a flash of sable rosette, a swish of phantom tail.

“I worry she’s spending too much time alone,” the wife says one evening over dinner.

As the couple chews, the cat slinks into the banquet hall and disappears beneath the skirted table where they feast.

“Don’t be stupid,” the husband says. “I’ve studied these animals. They’re solitary by nature.”

That night, after they’ve digested their food and sipped luminescent cordials, the husband and wife have intercourse for the first time in months. If the sex lacks passion, there’s a carnality to the act that satiates both.

In his youth, the man loved nothing more than sleeping in following nights like this, luxuriating in conquest.

But before dawn, a nail-file tongue wakes him.He sits up in bed, stares into blue eyes blazing like pilot lights in the dark.

The cat’s sphinxlike demeanor agitates him. In this moment, he wishes he’d acquired a lion, a tiger — some magisterial creature whose roar would startle the woman slumbering beside him, rouse the neighbors 250 floors below.

But he knows the cat before him is incapable of such behavior. A genetic limitation of the vocal cords restricts it to the infantile sounds it utters now.

Babytalk always infuriated the man. Whenever he witnessed a mother — never mind a father — cooing to a child in the park, he stalked away to contain his rage at the affectation. He’d warned his wife that if she ever became pregnant, they would not speak to their baby that way.

The snow leopard lowers its head, allows the man to take it by its diamond choker. He eyes the woman next to him. Her breathing is labored, a phenomenon she blames on living at such extreme altitude.

The man tugs on the collar and the cat’s neck yields. Blades of sunlight begin carving up the darkness. He pulls the medallion face close, savors the tap dance of whiskers against his throat. In the quiet of their embrace, the man imagines a life far from here, even higher among the clouds.

B. E. St. John is a writer based in Oak Park, IL. Mr. St. John’s career has been focused on supporting public school students across America. A proud product of the Philadelphia and Durham, NC public schools, he trained as a teacher in Los Angeles Unified Public Schools and taught middle school in Houston and New York City. Currently, he is chief of innovation and communications at a non-profit organization helping Chicago students overcome obstacles to learning and stay on the path to graduation. His opinion pieces have appeared in the Chicago Reporter, Crain’s Chicago, Nonprofit Pro, and Daily Herald Business Ledger. In his free time, he is a reader for the Brazenhead Review, a literary journal based in Brooklyn.