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