The Neighborhood Cat Saga - Part 2
I stalk the shadows on silent paws. The night is gloom and chill. I love it. A quietness lies over the row of houses, the twittering birds have gone to sleep, and the streets are painted under the beams of synthetic light. I can prance through it all; undisturbed.
A critter rustles in a bush nearby. My ears twitch. A mouse perhaps? My paw freezes an inch above the ground as I consider investigating it.
Another dry leaf shuffles. It's almost irresistible, but I have other engagements this night. With a flick of my tail, I continue through the darkness. The mouse gets to live another day. Maybe.
I quicken my step on the sidewalk. Here, the light and dark are distinct, the shadows sharply cut, and my presence more obvious. I should not worry - the night is mine - but still, I prefer to walk between bushes and high grass in the meadow behind the houses.
She does too, and I don't have to walk far before the soft jingle of the bell in her collar announces her.
"So, no biting remarks when I walk here?" Ms. Blue says. She strolls past me and the fluffy tail whacks my cheek.
"This isn't my corner," I say, and follow her step.
"Oh, like that's what makes the difference." She chuckles. "You just like the shadows to lurk in."
"Who indeed?" She stretches forwards and rolls to the ground with a flump. The long fur on her belly catches leaves and twigs as has she summoned them by banging a fork to a can of tuna. She yawns widely and shakes her head. The moonlight twinkles in the sapphire eyes.
"You need to be careful," I say, sit down and tug my tail around my paws. Ms. Blue licks her paw, unconcerned.
"Blue, I'm serious!" The half hiss in my voice has her look up. "You're new here. It isn't your street. You can't just stroll through."
"Why? Because you say so? Or is it him?"
"Because it's how it is! And you know it."
"Tux lies in your corner. I've seen him." Blue rolls to her side.
"He's earned it," I say and it's true.
"Dog-piss!" Blue snorts.
The growl comes deep from my throat and in one sweeping motion, we've both moved. Ms. Blue has rolled to her feet and leans sideways to the ground. Her ears are flat on her head and her teeth now barred in a hiss. My tail bashes behind me as I loom over her. High on my toes and my fur charged. My meow is deep. A warning.
"Do you think it's been easy to keep this corner safe?" I growl it. I didn't mean to, but with every nerve in my body alert and ready to fight, I can't help it. Ms. Blue meows too. Low and deep. It rustles through her body and ends with her hiss. She may know she's beneath me, but she's not a pushover. If I pounce, she'll bite back. It almost makes it harder to resist. It's been a while since I've been in a good fight.
I take a slow step to the side on stiff legs. My tail still flicks. One way. The other way. As has all my energy suddenly moved her. Flakes of dust line my fur. Distracting. With a shake of my head, I sit down and lick it off my back.
Ms. Blue settles back to the ground, her paws tucked underneath her and the blue eyes watching me. The tension may have lifted, but it has left a shade of suspicion. I regret my quick reaction.
"Sorry," I mumble and continue licking my paw. A hint of a smile plays on Ms. Blue's whiskers.
"It's good to know there's still some fight left behind your fluff," she says.
I snort a laugh. "Who do you call fluffy?"
Ms. Blue's smile widen. She's the fluffiest of the fluffy. Everyone knows that and she shows it with pride.
"So you brought me out in the moonlight to warn me? Did he send you?"
I hesitate before I answer. I've come on my own accord tonight. Not that she would necessarily understand that.
"No," I say. "These are my own words."
"So noble of you." She rolls her eyes and yawns again.
"I hoped you'd at least consider them," I say. "There's a hierarchy here. We've all fought for it, earned our spots. We've bled to protect these streets, not just from each other, but from dogs, humans, and beasts. I don't want you to get on the wrong side of this."
Ms. Blue laughs, stretches her paws in front of her, and her tail lifts.
"Oh, I see; You're here to protect me! You truly are noble, aren't you, Mr. Nugget?" She stands up and shakes leaves from her fur. "But I don't need your protection. And I don't care for your hierarchy. It's not fair." She strolls past me and, again, the bushy tails whack my cheek. The softness of it is near perfection and the gesture is becoming something I consider affection.
"I'll walk where I please; just like you do. See you around, Nugget."
The tip of her lifted tail bends as she prances into the midnight shadows. I watch her go. Tempted to follow the jingle of her collar but know it's not in my place.
After a while, I follow my own trail back to the sidewalk. Tux sits there. Draped in the darkness of his fur and the shadows of the night.
"'Evening," he greets and I grumble in return. "And where have you might been?"
"None of your business, Tux." I sit down in my driveway. I should go on a patrol in the garden, but my mood to do so has vanished. Tux chews on the ear of a mouse. The poor thing lasted shorter than I expected. This is not the right corner to creep if you're not of the cats.
"You shouldn't humor her," Tux continues. "She's off the lower streets."
"Perhaps she ought to be higher." I stare up at the moon. It's almost as round as her eyes. Tux snorts.
"Tell that to your brother. You know the rules. Besides, as long as she has that dammed bell, she won't ever earn her place."
"That's hardly her fault, though. In all other manners, she's just like us."
"Too bad for her then." Tux picks up his mouse and heads back towards his own house down the street. I sigh to myself and find a shadow to sit in. The rules really aren't fair.
In all manners, she's perfect.