Cat, Egg-Mouse, Astronaut
THE neighbor's cat, Stripes, was coming through the tall grass in the backyard. He was fat as a pumpkin and ... striped. We saw him from the kitchen window, where Mom had left us in charge of the soup. It was clam chowder out of a can. We were taking turns stirring it on the stove. The stove was next to the window. "Look at Stripes!" my sister Binny said.Skip to next paragraph
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The way she said it made me want to look.
Outside was sunny and bright, with the leaves falling all around, bucketfuls, most of them in the tall grass that Dad doesn't like to mow.
"What's he doing?" I asked her.
He'd caught something, that's what. But we couldn't see what it was because of the tall grass and Stripes still so far away, just this side of the stone wall. Eyes low, muscles twitching, he looked ready to pounce.
Thump! He pounced.
Binny made a noise - "Oh, no!"
She's sensitive when it comes to small animals. Once she let a whole family of hamsters loose inside the house when she thought they looked sad stuck inside their cage. Mom and Dad had a fit.
But they were gone today, shopping.
Binny was on her way to the rescue when I stopped her with, "Let's let nature take its course." I'd heard that on TV, a show about lions. Or was it bears?
She didn't understand.
"It means wait and see what happens."
For once she did as I said. I'm not sure why. Maybe she was as curious as I was. We watched out the window and here's what we saw:
Stripes was playing with what he'd caught, the way cats do. Swatting at it with his paws, sniffing, licking, running around in a circle, making the poor thing's life miserable. He'd even pretend to let it escape, get just so far, when - thump! - pounce all over again.
This went on all the way across the backyard, toward the house. Swat, sniff, let go ... pounce! Swat, sniff, let go ... pounce! Closer and closer they came, until at last we could see what he'd caught: a small brown mouse, the size of an egg. An egg with a tail.
"A baby mouse!" Binny exclaimed.
No, it wasn't a baby, but it was small, popping out of the grass or zigzagging on top, until Stripes - thump! - would recapture it.
I had to practically hold Binny back.
But then a funny thing happened. The egg-mouse saw the tree that Dad had planted last summer beneath the kitchen window, a sapling, scraggly and thin, and made a run for it, up the trunk and out along the branch to the very end, where it hung, bouncing, right over Stripes' head. Here's a picture:
Binny let out a whoop! But couldn't Stripes, big and fat as he was, jump that high and - gulp! - swallow that mouse whole?
That's what I thought anyway.
But instead of jumping the cat sort of stood up on his hind legs, stretched out a paw or two ... up ... up and missed by inches, the mouse out of reach. Stripes tried again and again, until his puzzled face said, "Darn! What am I gonna do now?"
I answered, "You'll jump!"