V. Life and death
“What you got there?” my neighbor asked, putting out the trash.
I opened my gloved hands slightly to show him.
“Oh dear god,” he said.
There was a feather on the stovetop. About three inches long. It sat neatly between the two back burners.
I became aware of its strangeness just as I set down my things in the kitchen. The disturbance kicked up another clump of feathers, the same grey shade as the first, but downier, like from a softer part of a bird. Suddenly, I saw it: there were feathers everywhere. An ominous breeze came through the apartment and tossed them all into the air and I was in the middle of it, like some horrible freak snowstorm.
“JP Licks?” I tried. I listened.
I don’t know what I thought. That some abominable feathered creature had gained entry into my apartment, launched itself at my cat, perhaps. From the volume of feathers it left behind, I thought: must have been a very big bird. And a tremendous fight. A vulture? Are there those in the city?
I looked for blood. I leaned out the window. It was evening, the light a dull grey, traffic inched on the overpass ahead. I felt a panic rise up to my throat. What had happened here?
As I picked up my keys to head back outside I heard a small scratching sound come from the bathroom. Behind the door was my cat: her small black form crouched strangely in the corner. She didn’t look up when I came in, or when I called, or when I touched her lightly on the back of the neck. She didn’t respond at all. But she wasn’t dead. She stared intently into the black space under my radiator.
The scratching sound happened again, but my cat hadn’t moved. I pushed her aside and got down on my knees. In the corner, something was shuffling, weakly.
Dammit, JP Licks.
My cat circled indignantly as I donned a pair of rubber gloves and then tried to fish out her prey from the dusty recess. When the little bird emerged in my hands she took a mean swipe at it. But the bird didn’t react, its eyes half-closing on the room, on me and the cat. It didn’t fight me either; it was pretty clear why. There was a hole, in the center of his chest, about half an inch deep. The feathers around it were matted with blood. As I watched his small chest rise and fall, tiny spurts of liquid oozed out rhythmically.
Dammit, JP Licks.
My cat followed me to the door. Then, as I descended the stairs, my little feathered passenger turned her head towards the doorway and clucked something at the cat. Something that sounded like disapproval.
“What do I do?” I asked my neighbor.
“That looks bad.”
Back in my apartment, I closed the door; I closed the screen on my window.