Sunday, July 19, 2015
The cat walked into the room silently, its eyes reflecting the firelight.
Somewhere in the room was the catnip snake, the snake that crinkled when she bit it and smelled like green grass and dead mice and freedom. But it’s not just a matter of walking into the room and straight to the snake. She knew well where it was, tucked under the corner of the skin rug near the heart where the firelight danced. To go straight to it, however, could not be done.
Enter the room, pause. Eyes wide, saucers of black rimmed with a pale green. There on the mantelpiece, the great horned helmet. Walk three paces, pause, front left forepaw in the air. There by the chair, the massive arm slumped off the arm rest, rings catching the light of the dying fire. Left forepaw down, sniff the stone floor. Two sniffs, for show. Three more quick paces then sit upright on her bottom, watching for the big bearded head to turn to see the light reflecting green from her eyes.
Pause to lick a paw and rub it on an eyebrow. Then the other.
A snort from the figure in the chair and her paw frozen at her lips.
Boots still on, she saw, resting on hewn log ready for the fire.
She continued to lick. Lick and rub, lick and rub.
The hand on the arm dangling from the chair idly fingered the oiled handle of the square hammer, its metal blue in the dim orange light. The hand picked up the hammer and tapped it gently on the stones and sparks danced on the floor and scurried like fireflies under chairs and over the booted legs and into and out of the fire where the sparks left holes in the flame that wavered blue and green until they sealed and burned orange again.
Her eyes watched the sparks dance and their light traced comet trails across the black saucers of her eyes.
Four more steps, then a pause under the table, watching the man in the chair, now snoring lightly.
Where he went and who he saw maybe she cared about, and maybe not. She sniffed at the smells he brought into the room: sweat and blood, pine and sage, mutton and mint and mead.
And her snake waited under the corner of the skin rug, ready to crinkle.
Six swift steps and under the chair now, its knobbed legs vibrating gently as the man in the chair snored. She turned to the left to sniff at the hammer, which sat blue and cold and idle as the master’s hand rested on the round knob at its pommel.
The cat crouched under the chair and watched the snake, oblivious to her as it rested. She stared at it as the fire crackled and listened to the wood pop and smack as the black of her eyes grew wider as she stared at the snake and imagined the comets of the sparks from the hammer dancing around the room and staring at the snake with her.
Then the snake forgotten.
She emerged from underneath the chair and mewed.
The man in the chair rumbled and smacked his lips, but his eyes, hidden in the deep furrow beneath his eyebrows, remained closed.
The cat mewed again and jumped into his lap.
The man murmured and his right hand reached up and reflexively stroked the cat’s back.
The cat arched her back up to meet his hand and she mewed again. She spun slowly as the hand stroked her back and she began to purr and knead the fur-lined leather of his tunic.
“Katt,” the man said, half asleep.
He said it as “cot,” the K bouncing off the walls and the Ts off the floor and ceiling so both the cat and the hammer danced.
The cat mewed and turned her rump to the man’s face, arching her back as the hand stroked her head.
The man opened an eye.
“Katt,” he said. “Always with the butt of love, you are.” The cat mewed and arched her back higher. The man cupped her head in his massive hand, stroking it gently. The cat breathed deep the smell of the fur the man wore, and with each stroke she lowered her back until she lay on the man’s belly, purring as he snored.
The fire grew dimmer as cat and man slept until the only light in the room was a faint red glow from the coals.