Giuseppe was a cat. A stray, to be exact. He was born in an alley near the Mercato Civico di San Benedetto, the Beverly Hills of stray cat neighborhoods. And mio Dio, did he look the part. Eyes as blue as the Mediterranean. A calico coat straight from a Gucci runway. Features so symmetrical, he could have leapt off a page from da Vinci’s notebook.
The kitten’s unrivaled cuteness allowed him every privilege. Fresh sardines from the fishmonger’s daughter. The odd sliver of salumi from kind-hearted tourists. Gentle massages from the olive-oiled hands of Italian grandmothers. He was always in the lap of luxury, or the lap of one of his countless admirers.
As the rest of his litter was adopted, Giuseppe remained behind in the streets, life under a roof unimaginable to his prugna-sized brain. He was his own master here. He felt like a Roman emperor atop an aluminum throne overflowing with leftovers, and no Brutus would ever usurp him. At his domesticated siblings, he laughed… or would have, because he was a cat.
One late spring night, Giuseppe was walking up the slope of Via Sant’Ignazio da Laconi, admiring the ancient amphitheater, when he caught the scent of fresh seagull eggs. The eggs were a seasonal delicacy among the strays of Cagliari. As their self-appointed prince, Giuseppe couldn’t abide missing such haute cuisine. There was of course the hazard of the egg layers, those monstrous gulls that haunted the skies of the seaside city, but Giuseppe was confident he could pull one over on the flapping buffoons. He was Giuseppe, after all.
As Giuseppe neared the telephone pole in which the gulls had made their nest, a stunning young woman crossed the street in from of him. The cat stopped in his tracks, transfixed by her beauty, which to his surprise, nearly matched his own. Thick dark hair cascaded down the sides of a tight face with cheek bones higher than Punta La Marmora. A Hermes belt wrapped around a pastel sundress that seemed to glow beneath the starlit sky, her figure tan and fit beneath it.
The woman noticed Giuseppe and stopped as well. Time slowed down as they stared at each other, like duelists, or like soul mates. The cat felt a strange movement in his chest. The sensation reminded him of the vibrations he felt from the street drummers he watched on festival days.
The woman knelt, careful not to dirty her dress or offer passersby an untoward glimpse of her marvelous backside. “Qui gattino,” her music box voice chimed as she spread her arms gently toward the cat. “Qui gattino.”
Giuseppe was used to the calls of adoring strangers. He’d lived all his life on their generosity and kindness. But this time was different. He knew if he walked into her arms, he may never leave them. She was too lovely. Too perfect. And the young Adonis was deathly afraid of drowning.
“Qui gattino,” she repeated.
Fighting every impulse in his body, Giuseppe looked away, crossing to the telephone pole on the other side of the street. Eventually he heard her footsteps behind him. The fading clicks of her stilettos on the cobblestone felt like daggers stabbing his brain.
Giuseppe forced his attention to the pole. He spied the nest a few meters above. The smell of uovo filled the cat’s nostrils as he searched the skies for its defenders.
None of the bastards were in sight.
He eagerly dug his claws into the soft wood, his lithe and muscular body scaling the column with ease. As he summited, the gourmand’s blue eyes flooded with feverish delight. Before him, on a platter crafted from sticks and recyclable plastics, lay three large speckled eggs.
And they all belonged to Giuseppe.
Drunk on his good fortune, the cat cracked into the first egg, coating his handsome face with its golden and goopy delights. His small tongue lapped as much as he could as the rest spilled to the street below. Giuseppe could’ve been satisfied with this meal alone, but what victor would relinquish such spoils? With no gulls yet to be seen, Giuseppe cracked the second egg, then the third, until he was so stuffed he could barely move.
The filled feline gazed below at the amphitheater and the glittering city beyond. At just two years old, he’d reached heights of which most cats could only dream. He didn’t need a human to justify his existence – even the most exquisite one in Cagliari. He was content roaming these streets until the day he died.
That’s when he heard it. The flutter of a thousand wings. Giuseppe tensed with fright.
The awful squawking that filled his ears was no nightingale’s call —
It was the gulls, come home to roost.
The cat panicked as the sky blackened with birds. Their cries were deafening. Angry. Mournful. They knew precisely the crimes he’d perpetrated. Giuseppe tried to scramble from the nest, but his belly was so full from the gulls’ unborn children that he could barely move. Besides, how could a cat climb backward down a telephone pole? In his egg-wild mania, he hadn’t thought this one through.
Giuseppe considered the jump. It was meters to the sidewalk, and the impact would surely kill him. But he was also facing death from above, closer with every second. Realizing his doom, the cat could only stare ahead at the lights of Cagliari. In times such as these, one’s life typically flashes before one’s eyes, and Giuseppe had lived a full one. He could’ve reminisced about the fresh sardines, the grandmothers’ massages, even the otherworldly eggs on which he’d feasted just minutes before.
But as the nightmarish birds descended, his solitary thoughts were of a soft voice and a lone phrase:
“Qui gattino. Qui gattino.”
Will Buckingham is an American writer living in Berlin.