BY MARK THOMAS
Copyright is held by the author.
MITTENS AURELIUS stared through the living room window at sparrows bouncing from twig to twig in the bare branches of the partition hedge.
Bob strolled into the living room and casually scratched his cat’s ears. “It’s Spring,” he told his pet, “you can start going outside again, soon.” Bob followed the animal’s gaze. “That’s odd,” he said to his cat, “one of those sparrows has a greenish tinge. Maybe it’s a finch.”
“Mwwarr,” said Mittens Aurelius. He was eager to start spraying the bushes, warning the newly born and newly acquired that this particular patch of interlocking brick was his alone.
Bob scratched at some beard stubble. His townhouse lease stipulated that all pets, including cats, were to be leashed outdoors and the fines for non-compliance were draconian. Mittens Aurelius was very well-behaved, for a cat, but what if he became intoxicated by the fresh sensory stimulus and wandered out of his yard? What if he laid another coil of excrement on Mrs. Hemphill’s decorative garden bench? If that neighbour’s security camera had been pointed a few degrees farther North the indiscretion would have cost Bob $240.
As it was, their relationship was extremely strained.
“Mwwarr,” said Mittens Aurelius.
Bob peeked under the blinds. The sidewalks were deserted and almost all of the parking spaces were empty. “All right,” he told his cat, “I think we can risk it.” Bob opened the front door.
The hedge sparrows were a blur of movement and Mittens Aurelius hated them for their blithe stupidity. Unfortunately, they were safe within the tangled Blackthorn branches. One of the birds, however, the slender greenish specimen, was clearly an outlier. It smelled of wood shavings and newspaper and seemed to be mimicking the movements of the others without truly embracing the nesting impulse.
Mittens Aurelius waited patiently, occasionally licking a toe.
Then the little green bird flitted to an exterior, unprotected, branch and the tabby hurled himself into the brush. As he thumped onto the dirt, Mittens Aurelius frantically beat at the tumbling ball of feathers and managed to constrain it. Carefully, carefully he raised a pad and clamped his mouth on the slender green head.
“Petey! Petey!” Mrs. Hemphill’s anguished voice came from the other side of the hedge.
Mittens Aurelius unhinged his jaws and convulsively swallowed the little green bird’s body. The tabby’s head strained upwards and his throat swelled and constricted; delicate green wings snapped off at the shoulder attachments and plopped to the driveway.
Bob opened the front door; he was holding a dustpan and whisk broom. “Let’s get this cleaned up,” he whispered to his pet. Bob knelt down and brushed a tiny pile of greenish feathers and a few bits of white fluff into the pan. The cat spasmodically opened and closed his jaws.
“Petey! Petey!” Mrs. Hemphill sounded increasingly frantic.
Mittens Aurelius purred loudly. Spring was a time for renewal and he loved it with all of his being.