Natural Break

Astonishing to see the neighborhood cat in the backyard, where he surveills, hunts, and sleeps, all at once. Directly he enters the property, dropping silently from a bordering hedge, from our window after accepting (the pleasure, we aren’t allowed to forget, is ours) a piece of hospitality, and the resident family of birds establish their defence. First an invisible sentinel emits a constant, mechanically regulated shriek, a loud, unwavering Geiger counter. The cat half-raises an ear without looking at the alarm, like a bully, a corrupt cop, quietly exulting in the power to effect. He raises his paw to his mouth and begins a cleaning. Before long he snaps smartly to attention, suspending a Teddyboy coiffed forearm and raising his vibrant green eyes to a second bird, which conducts an aggressive low warning flight, its wings spread, showing the national colours on its fuselage. The pilot lands equidistant to his now visible compatriot, who persists with the original alarm. Together these soldiers form a triangle with the cat, who observes this arrangement, rises, and retires to an old chair with cushion for a more comfortable long bath. Ablutions done he folds his paws underneath his body and rests. The first bird cuts the tocsin. The cat is a persistent threat: to carelessly placed nests, a fallen chick; victims of aggressive boredom. And yet, the cat needs these birds, too, for these same defences, as the cat dozes, warn of threats from predators big enough to make a meal of him. Last week a hawk, its claws the size of my own, landed on one of the trees and calmly surveyed the yard as I worked in it, unfazed by my movement and noise.

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