By Ethan Nelson 3/15/2019

“Pets must be declawed,” added the blurb in the apartment listings.

Lily shook her head. It had been perfect up to this point. “I can’t,” she said. “I just can’t.”

Her torby, whom she had bestowed upon the name Bill Shakespeare, rubbed up against her legs as she spoke. Lily looked down at the cat.

But, she thought, there’s not a whole lot of other options. And time. Time is going. She could see her parents berating her for not choosing Vista Vida Apartments, a new complex in the western part of town that her parents claimed were “going to go like hot cakes” if she didn’t rent one, all for a simple rule on pets.

“You really think saving that thing’s–” they refused to call Bill Shakespeare by his proper name, “claws is a better investment than saving us tens of thousands of fricking dollars from having to feed, water, and put a damn roof over your head?” she could imagine them saying. Perhaps, she thought, this was a tad melodramatic. She could only hope.

“Mom, Dad, I was looking over that place you guys were talking to me about yesterday–” she began as she entered the kitchen where her parent were sitting around the table and trying to play a word game that appeared to Lily to involve making increasingly nonsensical words in order to boost points, at least from what her parents were doing.

“Which one?” her mother asked, looking up with droopy eyes from the board.

“You know, Vista Vida.”

“Oh. Did you like it?”

“Yeah. I mean, I kind of did. It was all right. Except. Except, well, it doesn’t allow pets except if they’re declawed. And, and I know this is going to push you guys off, but I just can’t declaw Bill Shakespeare. It’d be so . . . so . . . cruel.”

Her mother laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Lily asked.

“You are. You think that cat’s claws are going to derail your apartment prospects, huh?”

“Uh . . .” Lily looked shamefaced. “Guys, if these means so much to you . . . I can start paying rent, if you want.”

“No,” her father said. He kept his eyes on the board. “You won’t ever have to pay rent. We’re not going to be those sorts of parents.”

“Then what’s the issue?”

Her mother sighed. “For once, could you just do something that you don’t want to do? You got the college of your choice, you got the job of your choice, you got to pick your friends instead of having to make-do with classmates . . . I just don’t think you understand that this isn’t how life works. You need that experience.”

Lily did not know what to say to this in response. Eventually, though, she found her words. It was only after she had visited a veterinarian on the edge of town who had aimed lasers removing Bill Shakespeare’s claws in a surgical part of the animal hospital.

Her words were: “Thanks, Mom. I just checked with the landlord. The apartments have already gone.”

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Follow Ethan Nelson on Twitter: @ethan_nelsonwrt

See March 13’s Lightning: Drenched