Cat, Owl, Cigarette
Afterwards, Cat and Owl sat on a limb of the large cedar tree and shared a cigarette.
The air was still and smelled of small animals, damp grass and, of course, burning tobacco. Cat watched as Owl took a long puff and blew out a thick cloud of smoke.
“Warm night,” Owl said.
“Yeah,” Cat replied. He hated small talk. He’d never been very good at it. Tonight, he had more important things he wanted to say. “Owl?”
“Can I ask you a–”
“Hold on,” Owl stared at something in the distance and slowly rotated her large head side to side. She held out the cigarette. “Take this.”
Cat took the cigarette. Owl opened her wide wings and fell, silently, through the cloud of smoke and off the limb. Cat watched as she weaved between the branches then made a straight line, talons first, for a tuft of weeds. As Owl swooped in, there was a rustle and a small quick squeak of pain.
Cat looked up through the tree at the full moon. He took a short drag on the cigarette, pulled searing smoke into his lungs, and blew it out into the branches. The cigarette, like a lot of other things, was a habit they’d gotten into.
There was a breeze, a beating of wings, and Owl was sitting on the branch next to Cat. She had a creature with a long tail clutched in one talon.
She held it out. It was a mouse. “Want some?”
He shook his head. “No, thanks.”
“Suit yourself,” Owl popped the mouse into her beak and swallowed twice. The tail zipped into her mouth. She belched, quietly. “Excuse me.”
Cat stubbed the cigarette out on the tree bark. “Owl, where is this going?”
Owl turned her head to him. “What do you mean?”
“I mean us. Where are we going?”
“Aren’t you having fun?”
“Yeah, sure, but…” At first, Cat thought, it had been fun. When they collided while stalking a garter snake, there was instant electricity between them. It was exotic, it was different, and it was wild. It was everything he thought it would be.
Owl put her wing on Cat’s back. “But what?” she said as she ran her feathers down his spine.
Cat’s tail twitched in spite of himself. His claws unsheathed and he thought of how Owl liked it when he used his claws. She said it made her feel like prey.
He shook his head to clear his mind, angry at himself for becoming distracted, and walked away farther down the limb. “Please don’t do that right now.”
Owl tucked in her wing and sidled down the tree limb, towards him. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s just,” Cat lay down on the branch. “I mean … we’re different species and all.”
“Sure, but we both like the night. We like to hunt. We have big eyes. We have claws.”
“I just don’t know if there’s a future here.” There, Cat thought, I’ve said it.
“Hmph.” Owl closed her large black eyes. “Are you sure that’s how you feel?”
“Well, then. I guess that’s that.” Owl opened her wings and crouched. “I’ll see you around.” She hopped off the branch, flapped, and rose into the sky.
Cat’s heart sank as he watched Owl fly off into the distance until she was so far away he couldn’t see her anymore. He climbed down the tree and walked back to the house. On the way, he caught several crickets but then let them go.
Inside, Cat went to the library. He tugged the book of poetry off the shelf, opened it to page 325, and read the poem again.
“Bla bla bla….”
In a rage, Cat tore the pages out of the book and shredded them with his claws. He shuffled through the ribbons of paper and climbed up to the back of the soft red reading chair, where he was when he first saw Owl sitting in the tree.
The moonlight streamed through the cedar tree and in the open window behind the chair. The empty branches of the tree taunted him. Cat spit paper from his mouth and blinked tears from his eyes. Poetry was just stupid. Things hadn’t been like that at all. No, not at all.