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An Animal Instinct

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They moved among shadows, both of them. It was their home. Too much light invited too much attention.

Perhaps that’s why the little tomcat would accept no other benefactor. Not the withered old Tanten starved for company. Not the clambering street urchins with smudged pink faces. Not the other black marketeers, who might toss him a scrap or two as a balm for a guilty conscience. Not even the immaculate young woman who would apply creams to her face each morning and follow Lime into dark corners at night.

No. Just Lime himself. Him and his calfskin shoe leather. The slight abrasion of his pressed black trousers. A gunmetal tang that cut a sharp contrast with the old ladies, all dust and liniment and mildew and motheaten kindness.

The dishes of milk didn't always come. The little cat would then have to content himself with puddles and the odd sewer rat.

His mother had been different. Well-born, you might say. She'd lived on Fleischmarkt, with a fishmonger, his wife, and two skullcapped boys. Until she didn’t.

The little tomcat would not know the feel of an upholstered cushion, nor the succulence of flakes nipped off a herring-bone. Only contingencies.

Soon, there would be no more dishes of milk. Not after two, three, four days. Or a week.

The cat yowled. Pawed Lime's doorway. Scoured the ground for a hint of calfskin. An empty flap formed under his belly.

And then, one day, he blinked, shook himself clean of rainwater, and began twining himself around the ankles of the old ladies.

Many a man has claimed to possess an animal instinct for survival. But only an animal really has it.