Cat & Cockatiel

Today’s exercise in my Writing Group was ‘Pick one bird and show it to someone who has never seen a bird.’

Photo219I want to say it was a Cockatiel, but it’s been so many years; and never having seen a bird, the name wouldn’t mean much to you.

But it was a shocking color of white, brighter than Hector, my cat. And quite unlike the cat’s fur, which either juts out chaotically to do as it pleases, or lays against the skin soft and composed; the texture of the bird’s feathers, they rippled almost like a cloud might, or the foamy, overlapping of river rapids; my first impression of the bird was that it had been an attorney or judge in Victorian England, and still liked to show off its white powdered wig.

But there was an intelligence there, I could see it. Not like with a cat or a dog, that you can look on directly and get a glimpse of their empathy. The way the eyes are set on the bird, it had to turn its head sideways to get a good look at you.

And it kept its head moving, twitching to focus on something new every few seconds, probably just habit for this type of animal, but it reminded me of someone distracted, after too much coffee, watching the mailbox for their paycheck to arrive.

My cat, also, was quite taken by the bird, but in a different way. Hector was still mostly a kitten at a time. But she was a natural hunter, and the bird brought out something primal in her.

My neighbor had invited us up, and I felt bad when Hector started slowly stalking toward the cage. Of course, the bird was in no danger, it couldn’t escape, and the cat couldn’t get in. But you can’t explain details like that to bird or cat.

So Hector was slowly making her move, approaching the cage, her body crouched and quiet and preparing to pounce.

The bird turned it’s head sideways to look directly at her and said ‘Pretty Kitty’.

I have never before, probably not since either, seen a cat so shocked. She knew humans could talk, and she knew birds were for hunting. She was quite taken aback to hear this food, this prey, speaking to her. She remained curious, but completely gave up trying to eat it; and never really bothered with the bird ever again.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

Cleansing

392970_10150475775589595_1975948021_nCleaning goes against nature. Look at your pets next time you tidy up around the house. The animals scurry away- not that they are scared they will get swept up and discarded- but because cleaning is simply unnatural and wrong.

I don’t think a job like states attorney comes with a loaner-suit on the premises in case you come to work out of uniform.

Everybody waved goodbye as the gym teacher ran off, struck and tumbling, in a twenty one dodge ball salute. Cheerleaders circled, their purple and green tongues slithered up and tangled in the high branches of the trees. The fire cackles, dancing like an Egyptian, kicking a leg out and arms to grab those closest. Not far off a bird mimics a song in a language not spoken in ten thousand years.

The next day, not a trace.

I was twenty four at the time, and I was repeating my senior year for the sixth time. But I would not give up, that’s the important thing. It was hard to take it seriously anymore. The teachers were definitely unequipped to have a student around the school for ten years, especially the teachers whom he had tenure over.

It was a precarious ledge for a young wizard. I remember the only time I had tarot card reading and the lady looked me straight in the eye and said “You are a joke- the fact that you believe what you feed yourself is more scary than it is unfathomable. I doubt you will be able to decipher what I say to you right now”.

I have never had the desire to seek a reading since, and still cannot make out the cryptic message that strange old card-reading lady relayed to me.

I went back to the woods a couple times a week for the next year or so. Looking for clues, something left behind. Maybe a call from that damn bird.

It got hard to remember exactly where it had taken place. I would sit on a branch and wait for the sun to set, trying to superimpose my memory on top of my surroundings to see if I was in the right spot. A couple of times, I could see the fire again.

For a moment I could watch it dancing on the rocks, and feel its hand as it reached out to grab me. A flash of heat against my face, and it vanished. I would sit for a minute more, and then wonder back to the path. Noticing always a strange silence in the woods, as if the animals had all run away.

©Robert Emmett McWhorter