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This Was the Day

 

The dappled morning light glinted through the window hinting at what was to come. This was the day, thought Oscar as he stretched languidly in his bed, wondering how it would happen. He stood up, arched his back and painfully extended each arthritic leg in turn. Then, he turned round, made himself comfortable and spiralled back into a brown, furry heap. Today's mission would need careful planning.

He'd thought of nothing else for days now. It had seized his mind and his being. There was a longing inside to experience that joy just once more. His ears twitched with anticipation as he imagined the smell, the feel and the taste of it. This was enough to rouse him from idle speculation and with a sudden alacrity he sprang from his bed and trotted purposefully to the door.

He'd never liked the cat flap very much. It ruffled his satiny brown fur too much. He had to get through it today though, so he skilfully head butted the grimy plastic and pushed his way through. The feel of the fresh, cool air on his fur and face sent a quiver of exhilaration through him. Which way?
To his right, if he continued along the path he would find the garden where he suspected many nests full of juicy, baby birds hidden in the overgrown laurel bush. To the left he would eventually find the stream after following a well scented path of habit. The abundance of small mammals there was very tempting and he would be prepared to overcome his innate fear of rushing water to find just one. He opted for the stream.  

He stayed close to the walls of the house. When they came to an end he felt vulnerable and exposed. He was unable to run as speedily as he used to. Something was wrong. Yes, there before him was an enormous, unknown, fluffy, tabby cat. It stood still, surveying its new territory. Oscar shot into the shelter afforded by the undergrowth in a neighbour's garden. His heart was racing. His legs seemed immoveable. He had no desire to fight the unfamiliar cat. He already had too many war wounds from previous feline fights. He needed to wait and watch.

He kept the fluffy cat in his line of sight as he lay completely still . He must stay focussed and determined. If he wasn't careful he may fall asleep on the job. He'd been top cat once in a past which now seemed distant. He watched as the fluffy cat walked slowly, almost flirtatiously towards the hole in the fence.  With one swift movement it effortlessly disappeared.

Oscar waited until the scent of foreign cat had died on the wind. He cautiously emerged from the undergrowth, keeping his body low to the ground, almost crawling, whiskers twitching , eyes sharply alert. When he considered all was safe, he sped to the fence and took considerably longer to squeeze through the hole than he imagined he would. When he emerged on the other side he paused, and looked both ways as a child crossing the road would have been taught to do. The noise and sight that filtered into his brain was alarming. Dog! He was exposed. It would make no difference in which direction he ran. The cool breeze turned to an icy chill as Oscar made his decision.

He couldn't contemplate failure now. He bolted as far along the path as his stiff legs permitted. His heart quickened. This was doing him no good. The dog was in pursuit. Oscar clung to the bark of a tree in a way that he remembered he used to be able to do, leaving the dog yelping and barking beneath him. Its owner called the dog, unaware of a cat in the branches above. For a moment Oscar revelled in this minor victory but then remembered the reason for his foray out of bed today.  

He noticed a slight movement beneath him. That familiar feeling rose up inside. He was on the brink of happiness. His mouth, suddenly full of saliva, was ready. His claws extended for the kill. His eyes focussed on whatever was moving. The culmination of his dreams of late, just one more time.

Silently he descended the tree as skilfully as if he was a one year old. He stalked his prey. He could smell it. His body, flattened to the ground, his back legs affording the tiniest of movements, made him ready. He waited. His prey moved with familiar, jerky movements unaware of the observations of an animal far bigger than itself. It was nearly the right moment. With one swift jump, propelled by suddenly powerful legs he swiped the mouse and clasped it around the neck with his extended claws. He toyed with the startled animal, tossing it into the air and playing with it cruelly. Oscar's mouth fixed round the warm, soft body. The taste was exquisite.  

He would show his owners just what he was made of, yes, he'd take it home. He had proved to himself and anyone in the world that cared, that he, Oscar, still had what it took. The mouse wiggled slightly in his mouth. How he loved that feeling. Not even the warm lap and tender strokes of his owner could replace the elation he felt.  

He squeezed back through the fence hole and proudly padded along the familiar scented road to the house . As he neared his home something big and noisy sped up the road. He turned and in his confusion could only see wheels and redness. He heard the terrifying squeal of tyre on tarmac and with the dull thud of the impact of his body on the bumper he was flung carelessly, mouse still in his mouth, to the neighbour's garden.  

His body lay awkwardly, a little twitching of the legs as the life seeped out of him. Oscar's grip on the mouse weakened and his mouth widened as did his eyes. He hurt all over but then he'd known that this was the day, just once more.

 

Kathryn Perkins 

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