In a tiny square at a late morning hour on an early spring day, when the warmth of a chair in the sun was the opposite of the unnegotiable rejection of a seat in the shade, was where and when this story began.
The piazza bustled with activity distinct for the time of day. A street sweeper reset the clock from the night before. Delivery trucks put the stores and restaurants around the square in the starting blocks for the race to come. People made their way more often to than from work, and many got caught in the wafting beans from the corner cafe and stopped for a quick coppa before they moved on to better or worse.
And there, in a generous ray of light, sat Catarin, a black feline grifter, who had just finished the morning paper and a single espresso. Now she dressed her ears with her French-tipped front paws though her coat already shone so bright it almost reflected her surroundings so well she became invisible. If she had a badge, it would say all-access. So skilled was she that only a slight flick of her tail gave away that she was keeping a close eye on the developing situation in the alley across from her seat.
Catarin had been sorry to find no leads on recent widows in reading the day’s heartfelt obituaries. It had now been a fortnight, and though she could more than survive on the stray, she preferred to not.
Without her sound sixth sense for useful drama, Catarin would not have noticed the little display of extortion that went on in her line of sight. Two potbellied piglets, whom she had already named Blond and Dumb, had a hamster painted so close to the wall with their snouts that her scarf got pushed down over her eyes, making the whole scene unlikely to fall out to the hamster’s favor.
Not unfamiliar with being on the exacting end of persuasion, Catarin would most days have let the hamster play expire with the hamster, but something about the whole thing told her that, if anything, this was not for nothing. She dropped a two-Euro coin in the saucer, put her sunglasses on her collar, and strolled over to the hairy hams.
“I ass-ass-assure you,” said the hamster, “I mo-mo-most certainly do-do-do not have them.”
“Ha,” snorted Dumb, “she said ass and doodoo.”
“Hey, Slobforbrains,” said Blond turning to his twin, “don’t take your eyes off her.”
“I’m not!” said Dumb looking Blond straight in the eyes. “You’re the one not looking.”
“You take that back!” said Blond and sneered his nose up against Dumb’s, revealing a sharp set of tusks.
With the two pork rinds having preoccupied themselves, Catarin jumped up on the trashcan next to where the blindfolded hamster stood with her paws splayed out in all directions. She flicked the scarf up with a claw so the hamster could see, and the hamster shuddered with such surprise that there was a loud clankety-clank as the finest pair of Louboutin shoes, patent leather black shining like Catarin herself and the reddest of red sole (and soul) slid down from the hamster’s backside to the lid of the can, and further down behind it. As of one mind, the hamster and Catarin set after them.