From My Notebook // Brutal, Calculating, Savage (and Domestic) Cats

I’ve decided to be brave for the hell of it and share some non-fiction drafts on the blog. So this is my first stab at sharing a free write from my journal. Other than some minor editing for grammar and logic, the below is a pretty rough cut of the things I enjoy writing and, if I can find more time to do it, will be submitting. It’s been awhile since I was published and I’d love to try again soon.

Backyard Biology 

My brothers and I used to watch our cats eat small prey in our backyard. The bravery and brutality of their actions grabbed us from play every time we saw one bounding across the lawn chasing a mouse or a mole. They all hunted, but I was only afraid of Kirby, her nastiness did not stop with the rodents. I had nightmares of her clawing me apart.

If we weren’t paying attention we could come across a dead body at any given time.  I could be jumping rope or exploring the beds beneath a cloister of pine trees and come face-to-face with death. Little furry deaths. Blood and guts are fine, if you’re prepared to come across them. I often worried that one day I would finally step on one that was still alive.

I did enjoy finding the moles. Mice made me ill (something about the tail) and chipmunks were too cute. Their deaths made me sad. But moles captured my attention. Moles I could study all day long. Even if their limp bodies had surprised me on my way to the basketball hoop. They were sleek and slender– if they weren’t shredded– and they looked as though they had sat in the rain all night. Maybe they were newborn babies, or just slick with saliva, but I always remember them as damp and weak. They had flat spaces on their foreheads where eyes should go, but no eyes to go there.

They were helpless, but I was still grateful to the cats. With their precision, cruelty, and boredom, I would have never had the chance to see moles up close. Had they not sought them out and murdered them right there on the lawn, I would have had to rely on Encyclopedia pictures at school. It cost many mole lives to teach me backyard biology.

The yard was littered with bodies because the cats were extreme exhibitionists. They would often catch and try to bring half-dead animals into the house. As if they knew we enjoyed the last moments of the kill. Kirby once succeeded and brought in a bloody and stunned chipmunk. It started zigzagging across the living room like a drunk after a bar fight. Confused and trailing blood.

Sometimes they’d get impatient and just dump the bodies on our steps. Or they’d get greedy and hide them in the garden. My father walking to the woods with a shovel full of dead bodies is a repeat memory.

Though the best kills were always when the cats were feeling proud. This is when they’d bring their fresh kill to wherever my brothers and I happened to be playing. They’d sit near us and begin systematically tearing the rodents apart. Like a science lesson. Maybe they could sense our eagerness to watch.

Because we always did.

Our favorite part of the whole ordeal was always the first crunch into the rodent’s skull. Hearing tiny bones give way to tiny brains at the whim of our cat’s mouth was a satisfying sound. As satisfying as the crunch of gravel when our dad came home from work late at night, or the sound of our mother spading dirt from the garden, hitting small stones along the way down into the ground. Sounds that meant something was happening. Sounds that I can still feel.

We’d wait for the crunch and cheer. Maybe slap each other on the back. Maybe gag just a bit to be polite of the life lost. And then we’d go back to playing, waiting for the cat to inevitably throw up its fresh kill.

My brothers once told me that Max threw up a still beating heart while I had been at a sleepover. I don’t know if they made it up to make me feel bad for going away, but I’ve always regretted that random birthday party. I had missed the most epic kill of all.


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