Alice had another memory.

“Stop the car!” her mother was shouting. “I think we hit something!”

The car pulled over to the side of the road. Time began to unravel like tape being pulled out of a cassette, a slideshow of distantly connected images – she was in the car. She was stepping out of the car. She was standing on the sidewalk.

There was a cat. A big, fluffy cat, gray or maybe white or brown. Caked in dirt and filth, and now blood, which was sticking the fur together into clumps. Her mom picked it up. Someone was screaming. It might have even been her.

They were back in the car. They were driving home.

And they were home now. She couldn’t remember any of the words that were exchanged on the drive there. Her mother was holding the cat, speaking to it, sweeter than any way she had spoken to Alice recently.

“Is it going to die?” Her own voice cut through the fog. It shot out like a bullet into a brick of gelatin. She wished she hadn’t asked.

Her mother looked towards her after a considerable silence. “Most likely.”

They had stepped out onto the deck. She wasn’t sure why. The wood floor felt cold; the sky, dark with clouds. She was holding the cat now. She wasn’t sure when it had been passed to her. Had she been begging to hold it? Well, now she had it. She held it like a baby, tenderly in her arms. It looked into her eyes, but did nothing.

“Why isn’t it moving?” she had asked, the words sticky in her mouth.

“It’s dead.”

“That’s stupid,” she said, as if her cunning wit had the power to change the mind of death itself. “If it was dead, its eyes would be closed.” That was how she had seen it on TV. Mufasa’s eyes were closed when he died. Death was the last big goodnight you took, and you couldn’t sleep with your eyes open.

“I’m sorry, Alice. It’s dead.” Her mother offered no explanation, no justification. “I was a nurse, I’ve seen a lot of death. You get used to it.” Was that her idea of a comfort?

She had no more to say. The cat was, indeed, still and limp; though she tried to move its legs, it simply flopped, like a stuffed toy slung over her arms.

Her mother must have taken the cat out of her arms, because she wasn’t holding it anymore. “Go wash your hands.”

“I don’t want to.” It was true. She wanted the scent of the kitty to stay with her forever and ever.

“Too bad. Go wash your hands. You’ll get sick. Wild animals have diseases.”

Her ears were ringing. Everything was going gray. She realized, far away from herself, that she had no idea where her father was.