They found him playing in the road with his new toy.
A dead cat, mangled by multiple tyres, blood dried, face mushed into something unrecognisible.
They let him keep the cat because he screamed when they tried to take it from him.
He played with it every day for hours and hours, making up imaginary games, moving the creature’s limbs with all the skill of a puppeteer. One paw in front of the other, the cat explored his new environment: a boy’s bedroom, full of exciting new objects. Train sets and action figures and his dead sister’s doll, a reminder.
On the fourth day he got ill. Alone in bed, shivering with some fever, shaking. They called the doctor but it was too late by then.
After the funeral, the father searched for the dead cat. When he finally found it, he could have sworn it was smiling.