The cats had been quiet for a long time. Unusual. So I went on a search. They were all by the front door, heads moving as if connected, ears tipped forward, occasionally make little stuttering sounds. Well, better than trying to chew open the Oreo wrapper or unrolling the toilet paper and then dashing around the house with it. These are not kittens. They range in age from 7 to 5, which was once considered senior citizen, and now is young middle age. If they could purchase red muscle cars and race around in them, they would.
Soon I’m looking out the door with them, and see the object of their attention–a young blue jay, out of the nest. It’s heading toward evening, and there are other cats in the neighborhood. Unlike mine, they do not have a screen in front of their faces. I decide to hoist the little one into a nearby holly bush. Urban legend aside, blue jays have a terrible sense of smell, and they won’t abandon the bird if I touch it. I’ve done this often before. But I don’t want to transfer my germs to him so I put on a pair of yellow kitchen gloves and head out.
The little one, pointy with new feathers, some of them already identifying him as a jay, sets up a horrible screeching. I haven’t even touched him yet. No matter. Mom and dad arrive out of nowhere and attack. I’m shocked. These are small birds, compared to a human, and are showing no fear. One of them wrenches my glasses from my face, and as I focus on catching them before they fall onto the sidewalk, the other swoops in to peck me. Their sharp, seed-eating bill could crack open an acorn. My head is softer. As I scoop up my glasses, a drop of blood smacks on the sidewalk.
A little too Tippy Hedren for me. (She starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and is the mother of Melanie Griffith). I go back inside and try to figure out what to do. Protect my head seems good. The only hats I have are soft and warm for winter. Won’t deter these guys. Ah, of course. My motorcycle helmet. Hard, protects the eyes, great idea. I pull on the helmet and buckle it for good measure. Don’t want it crashing to the ground.
What about my neck? Want to protect it from those rascals, too. A long winter scarf will do nicely. I wrap it around my neck, exchange the spatula for a shallow ladle (the little guy might skid off the spatula), put on the bright yellow rubber gloves and head back out.
Directly in front of me is the neighbor’s cat. The bird is frozen a foot in front of him. He’s a big cat, and the bird doesn’t stand a chance. “Back, Simba!” I say, voice filled with authority to break the cat’s focus. I hear birds screaming in the trees. I bend down, scoop up the fledgling in the ladle just as the cat leans forward and then retreats.
I ignore this odd motion, and carefully deposit the bird into the holly bush where both parents dive and vanish, doing whatever scolding or comforting birds do.
Now I have time to look at Simba, and notice he is trailing a leash. His cat sitter is standing on the other end of the leash. She may or may not have seen what just took place. Probably not. She is looking at me, clearly alarmed. She takes a step back.
“Sorry you missed supper, Simba” I say conversationally, and, out of habit, push up my face shield so I can speak clearly and hear better. Suddenly I see how the cat stitter sees me: a large, older woman, a bright blue winter scarf wrapped around her neck. It is mid-May, and the scarf is long out of season. The outfit is completed with a motorcycle helmet. I am barefoot, but my hands are covered in yellow rubber gloves and I’m holding a ladle. And I’ve just said the word “supper” to Simba. She probably thought I was going to seize and cook the cat.
There are some explanations that don’t work well. It would take too long. It wouldn’t reassure her at all. “Didn’t see he was on a leash,” I say, waving the ladle, “I was about to cook supper.” And then I turn and go back into the house.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com
Blue Jay Image: library.thinkquest.org