An Emperor by Felicity Edwards

Ethel sat in the kitchen, crying. Nero had not come for his breakfast. The house seemed empty despite her niece sitting at the table. Ethel imagined dreadful scenarios, the common denominator, Nero dead. Emma said, “Aunt Ethel, when did you last see Nero?” “Yesterday when I gave him his breakfast. He was sitting like an emperor on the top step, gazing at the other cats. But the moment he hears me putting his saucer of food down, he comes through the cat flap like a shot. The same in the evenings.” 

Emma said, “Does he stay after his evening meal?” 

“Oh, no, once he has eaten, he is off again.” 

“So he spends his time outside?” 

Ethel shook her head. “He comes in most nights.” 

“But not last night. Shall I phone the vets for you? We can see if anyone has found a cat. Is he microchipped?” 

The old lady nodded while wringing her hands. 

Emma pulled her phone from her pocket and checked with all the vets. The last call yielded a result. 

“Yes, somebody picked up a black cat lying near a skip. A car hit him. Are you the owner?” Emma walked out of the kitchen, then explained Nero belonged to her elderly aunt. “Is he badly injured?” 

“No, he is a lucky black cat but has a broken leg.” 

Emma blanched. “Will it be expensive to treat him?” 

The veterinary nurse said, “As his owner is elderly, we will treat him at pensioners rates. Do you want us to do that?” 

Emma told Ethel what had happened. 

The old lady sobbed and said, “Whatever the cost, please make him better.” From then on, following his evening meal, Ethel locked the cat flap. He had to stay home at night. 

Published in Issue #11

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