Birds have nested just outside the front door of our apartment. Our cat would like very much to kill them all.
There’s a missing brick on the outside wall, and a family of birds — starlings, I think, though I rarely get a good look at them, and what the fuck do I know about birds anyway? — have moved into the hollow space behind the bricks. I’ve almost been decapitated on my way up the front steps a few times. In the last week or so, Mama Bird’s eggs must have hatched, because Ashley and I can hear the chicks chirping through the living room wall.
Ashley and I, and Ottie.
She knows the birds are only inches away. She can definitely hear them, and probably smell them, too. She jumps up on the arm of the rocking chair next to the door. Sometimes she’ll stand up on her hind legs, shove the blinds aside and stare out the window. She can see the space left by the missing brick from there. She can see the birds coming and going. A cat, sharing a living space with her natural prey, but cut-off by a few layers of wood and drywall. It must be agony.
Often she’ll perch on the arm of the rocker, sitting up straight, her muscles trembling anxiously, her tail flicking from side to side, thumping against the chair. I’ll sit on the floor and watch her, but she won’t even notice me. Her eyes are fixed on the mouth of the nest. If I reach out to pet her, she ducks my hand. How dare I disturb her concentration?
It’s not that she needs the food. Our Friskies store is well-stocked. Ottie’s fascination with the birds springs from pure killer instinct. This family of birds in our wall — so tiny, so vulnerable — has stoked something primal within her. Ottie is like Lieutenant Worf on that episode of Next Generation where he lands in the Klingon/Romulan prison camp and teaches the young warriors how to track and hunt live game and sing the blood-soaked anthems of their people, thus rediscovering his own Klingon heart. Ottie has lived in luxury with us for a year and a half now. She practices, certainly, but tennis balls and loose change are not particularly cunning prey. Her hunting skills have dulled, but the lust to taste live, warm flesh, to feel bones break in her teeth, remains.
She sleeps now on the couch, curled up, but with an ear turned always toward the front door. Vigilant. Waiting.