asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Cat and Mouse

But she felt so safe.  Nestled in the warm fur of his belly, listening to him purr himself to sleep.  The deep, distant thunder of his purr, and below the fur, the lightning bolt of a scar that crossed his body.  Sometimes she'd wake in the night, thinking the earth was trembling, or that the humans were driving their big machines down the road - but it was only his muscles twitching, and she would watch his paws jerking unsteadily, as if he were running in quicksand.  He never woke from such dreams, only drifting deeper into sleep - as if, she thought, he could land on all fours, even in the world of dreams.

The other mice would have nothing to do with her.  At first, she had tried to keep it from her mother and her sisters and brothers.  But you cannot hide the smell of a cat, certainly not from a widowed mouse.  And you cannot hide the aura of love:  it crawls inside you and compels its ways upon you.  You do not merely surrender to its sickly ecstasy, no, you throw yourself upon it.  And so you have no choice at all, no choice but to spend every idle moment brushing your eyelashes with your paws, preening your whiskers and sitting in the most dangerous alleys, trying to look coy and innocent, trying to pretend you don't know any better.

Finally it was too much.  Unable to bear her mother's look of bewildered disgust, her brothers' muttered curses, and her sisters' stone silence, she looked up over the bread crust, begging for understanding.  "He's different," she pleaded once, helplessly.  And her mother had simply gazed back and said, "You were one too many.  I should have eaten you."

Winter never really leaves the city.  It draws away and hides for a few weeks after solstice, hides in the storm drains and on the stony walkways of the downtown plazas, and at night it returns with the fog from the sea.  And behind winter, hunger follows like a shadow.

They live in a stepwell that goes underground from the sidewalk level.  It ends in a door that leads to an abandoned basement.  The door is permanently shut, so they are undisturbed.
He is different from other cats.  He has been inclined towards pacifism since kittenhood.  He has given up hunting and lives on leftovers.  Philosophically, he considers leftover meat undesirable but a necessary evil, preferable to killing another animal himself.  She finds this blend of idealism and pragmatism admirable.

Other cats rarely speak to him, except in scorn.  Once in a while a cat will spy him on the street, hold up a freshly killed mouse, and say, "Hey, look, I've got your girlfriend!"
The meat is in a pint mason jar with a wire handle.  Cat can carry the jar in his teeth.  He takes the jar to the temple, stopping to rest occasionally.  He hides the jar beneath the plump, smiling, seated statue in the center of the temple.  He looks around, feeling he is being watched.  He walks homeward.  He trots.  A little faster.  There is something behind him,  he can almost feel it on the tip of his tail.  If he looked now, he would see it, but he's not going to turn around.  He is running.
"My cousin's in trouble," Cat says, and when he thinks Mouse is looking skeptical, he says, "Well, what would you know about it?  I just know these things.  Cats are telepathic, you know."  And this hurts Mouse because it's true:  mice are very sweet, sensitive creatures, but they can't read one another's minds for anything.  Cats can.

When he gets back, she's fixed their home up nice, put a little bunch of clover blossoms and wildflowers in the corner, because she knows his cousin is going to be all right, she knows everything is going to be all right.
He never talks about the dog, the one that ripped him open and left him with a long, crooked scar.  By day, he imagines himself bigger, a mountain lion perhaps, stalking the dog through the streets of a deserted city - here puppy, good boy, there's nobody here now but you and me.  But at night, or in his sleeping dreams in the afternoon, it is different:  he is only a small, foolish cat, fleeing through an endless maze of alleys, with the jaws of death drawing closer.
Tags: fiction

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