Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thorn and Rose (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge and New Cat #3)

Squirrels and Oaks go together—and Cats, not so much!
Our new cat Sherbet is fascinated with the life in the heritage oak tree outside the window of her staging room. We have set her up with a "kitty TV," a window opened a tiny crack to allow the full outdoor sensorium to enter, with a wide, cushioned ledge at the level of the sash for her to perch on. She spends hours there, watching the birds and squirrels intently.

Remember, this is the new cat that "needs" to be outdoors—yet she is perfectly content with her window on the world. Two days ago, my spouse was doing some gardening on the hillside below her room. She watched every move. The hard metallic chirps of the California towhees sound just like one of her toys. She watches, alert, as the birds flit from the deck to an over-hanging branch, then she will go and drub the toy, which she can reach.

The first day in her new house, she was terrified of the sound the squirrels made as they jumped from the over-hanging oak limbs to the roof over her head.

It wasn't until she began "following" the distinctive sound of their walk, jumping up to the "TV" window just in time to see them leap across to the tree-trunk, that her tension began to ease. For Sherbet, the squirrels and towhees became part of her new environment, just like my spouse and me, her new toys, and the scents of our other cats.

Charli Mills has been promising (or threatening) a "squirrel prompt" for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, and this week, she made good:

May 18, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a squirrel. It can be about a squirrel, for a squirrel or by a squirrel. Think nutty, naturalistic, dinner or ironic. Go where the prompt leads and don’t forget to twirl with imagination.

Squirrels running across the roof used to wake my late father-in-law, Ben, whose bedroom now serves as our guest room-slash-cat staging room. It was Ben who described the squirrel's walk with a line from an early-1900s child's chant: "The squirrel runs lipperty-lipperty-lip." I borrowed his experience to describe the elderly Rose in my flash fiction, and her similar problem with the squirrels.

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Thorn and Rose

Rose tsked in irritation as the squirrel-tail flirted against her window. 

He skittered along the eave over her window, with the "lipperty-lip" footsteps that identified his kind—vision wasn't sharp anymore, but nothing was wrong with her hearing. Rose tsked again, and that thorn-in-her-side squirrel chittered back. His fluffy tail metronomed as he gathered himself to launch across to the adjacent oak.

Rose spotted the target of his squirrel-talk: a female. Frisking squirrels in spring promised a new generation of Thorns to wake her. 

Sighing, Rose curled her tail over her pink nose, and sank back into her morning catnap.