Monday, March 5, 2012

“Coalball” by Dan Hart

I liked cats. Furry dragons--imagine being a sparrow. More fun to be the stalking, climbing, flying cat. Perfect hunters of unmatched caliber. Yeah, I liked cats.

Smartest cat I ever met was one I picked out myself last year. There’s objectivity here: I watched all the cats play for days. Studied each in detail until the shelter manager threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave. I wanted to train the best hunter a cat could be.

Coalball wasn’t a kitten. Both his ears were torn. He lacked the ostentatious nobility most cats possessed but embodied the hunter ideal I sought. He was courageous--never did I find his dark gray fur cowering under the bed. He embraced the unknown with careful arrogance.

Even without my encouragement he loved to kill birds. He was too good at it; he grew fat. I started to help the birds, startling them whenever he approached to put them on edge. Coalball didn’t mind. He changed tactics, trading stealth for Mach speed.

No collar lasted an hour.

I built an obstacle course for him. He seemed to understand its purpose and trained on it. I made iteratively more complex leaps and puzzles. Mazes were no match for him. He learned from his mistakes.

I trained his teeth and claws with oven mitts, playing until my arms were too exhausted to continue. Coalball never tired.

He did get lazy, though. I thought to encourage him with a water pistol. Coalball would have none of it. He didn’t hiss. His back didn’t arc. He just leapt at me, thrashing the pistol out of my hand. He landed on my leg and grinned. His front claws pierced my jeans into my thigh. When he jumped down his back talons sliced both sides of my face, jaw to ear. He turned his tail on me and strutted away.

He doesn’t put up with my antics, any more. He gets what he wants--if his stare doesn’t work his claws will. I understand his gazing eyes so perfectly. Like he knows everything about me and is smugly superior. Like monkeys should be honored cats bother with them at all.

He’s taken to rearranging the obstacle course. Whenever he looks at me, he grins. It’s evil. He slashes, hard enough to scratch but not cut. His selfishness is always satisfied.

I should have inquired into his injuries earlier instead of just thinking they were sad but adorable. Coalball was too smart to be a victim. I’d adopted the meanest cat bully in the city, and taught him to bully me.

Lately, I’ve been looking into ferrets. I’d like to train one to be the best acrobat a ferret can be.

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