The new book continues at its expected pace, on schedule.
This is an excerpt from the second story Defilement, which is Case #33 on this pdf. These two paragraphs are from the last section of the story to be written. It’s my favourite part.
Herr O. was five years old when they got the white cat, rescued from a corner of the gardener’s shed. She was long and lithe; her shoulder blades were moving mountains beneath her fur. He thought she was so elegant, so perfect, that the Divine must have been involved: he called her Gott. When his parents and nanny overcame their shock and explained the depths of this blasphemy, he publicly lowered her status to Engel, and he only addressed her as Gott when they were alone.
They were sitting in the drawing room one morning, just after the fires had been lit. The grating shone with blacking; the flames were still morning-orange and cheerful. He was on the hearth rug with a pile of wooden blocks in front of him. The tower was getting wobbly. There was some thought in his head that the crackling flames might be loud enough to cause architectural destruction, as when thunder rattled the window panes. He was tempted to shush the flames, but knew his mother would laugh at him and make another note of his bossiness.
The cat strolled in from the kitchen, still licking her chops and breathing the scent of bloody meat when he put his face down to hers. She rubbed her body against his arm, his knee, and knocked over the tower with a flick of her tail.
He rebuilt the tower and convinced her to come back by the fire.
“Engel! Come, Engel. It won’t hurt you. You can knock it down again, if you like. Come?”
Eventually, she came, losing her caution to his outstretched fingers. Then she turned away from the block tower and rubbed up against the newly-blacked grating.
The smear was deep night on her cheek and lightened to charcoal down her side. He started at the sight of it, felt the electric tremor and the spreading heat in his belly. His eyes were wide and hot. His mouth paused in an oval exclamation.
“Oh, naughty Engel!” Frau O. picked up the cat and held her at arm’s length. “Liebling, pull the bell, please. We’ll get the maid to clean her up.”
He made no move.
“Darling, please! Before she gets me all filthy!”
His mother was wearing a powder-blue dress and a pink shawl; when he thought of the blacking transferring from the white cat to his mother’s light blue sleeve, the heat radiated through him again. Reluctantly, he stood up and reached for the bell pull.
Every morning, he surreptitiously arranged for the cat to find fresh blacking. The missions ended when his mother muttered something about getting rid of the cat if she didn’t learn to behave herself. Instead, he took to leaping from his bed the moment he awoke, to search for the cat and make sure she stayed out of the way of the maids and their household ministrations.
As he padded around the early-morning house in his dressing gown and stocking feet, clutching the cat against his thin chest, he began to notice the things that happened before the family came downstairs. After the gratings had been swept and the new fires lit, the housemaids would come into the room with their off-white dustcloths and wipe everything down. Over by the windows, the cloths would be able to wipe several surfaces before they were switched out for clean ones; closer to the fire and around the lamps, one swipe across the tabletop would necessitate a refolding of the cloth, finding a fresh side to desecrate. He would observe the maids from the corner of the room, until the cat began squirming and one of the maids called his nanny. Every once in a while, he was able to sneak down to watch them clean, but more often he would have to escape from his nanny’s clutches and go to the laundry room just after the maids had brought down the load of cloths for the day. It became easier in the summer when the laundress took her tubs and buckets outside, and the cloths lay in an easily-viewed pile for a couple of hours before she got to them. The nanny appreciated his new-found love of the outdoors, as it gave her the opportunity to gossip with the laundress.