Tag Archives: birds

My cuddly little carnivore

Chocolat the Literary Critic

Chocolat the Literary Critic


It must be the time of year – early summer – or the arrival of the South-Easter, or the phase of the moon – whatever it is, my cat Chocolat is filled with bloodlust and comes home almost daily, bringing me PRESENTS.  Those of you who work as Staff for Cats will know what I mean.

She comes trotting through the door and instead of her usual loud greeting, all I hear is a suspiciously muffled call. It’s muffled because she has a mouthful of bird, or small creature, usually alive, if not actively kicking.  Oh dear.  Not again. I leap up, but she’s a lot nippier than I am, and always dives under the bed with her latest prey.  If the little body is limp, I leave her to it, and close the bedroom door until she’s finished.  Urrggghh.

But if the creature is alive, kicking and bent on escape we then have a three-ringed circus: cat v.s. human and prey; prey v.s. human and cat; human v.s. cat.  I have recently caught small birds desperately trying to fly away and stunning themselves on the glass. It just depends who gets to them first – me or Chocolat.  Rescued birds don’t do well, I think it’s the shock that kills them. Mice are a better bet.  I rescued a charming yellow-striped Cape mouse last week, managed to catch him with my famous braai-tongs, and release him over the neighbour’s garden wall, with Chocolat watching angrily from the locked bedroom.

Those braai-tongs are wonderful: not only do they enable me to pick up small objects at floor level, they make an excellent rescue tool too.  Because they have a long handle I’m able to reach under tables, cupboards and into corners.  I even managed to rescue a lizard, lying on my bedside mat – lizards are the devil to catch, not only are they very quick but they shed their tails as a get-out-of-jail card, and usually all you’re left with is the discarded twitching tail while the lizard has hidden in an even more inaccessible corner.

Big grasshoppers are the worst, and Chocolat loves them – they’re so lively, and interesting and provide hours of fun. Major fun! For her, but not for me! By now I must be well on my way to Bodhisattva status due to my rescue work.

What fascinates me, is that Chocolat dines lavishly on high quality cat kibble, so she’s not hungry. She just enjoys the sport. Proof of which are the shrews.  She hauls them inside, leaves them under the bed and walks away; apparently cats won’t eat them because have a bitter taste. I ask myself : then why bother in the first place?  But I know the answer to the rhetorical question : cats are hardwired to hunt.

But what really gets my goat, is her attitude to proffered tasty titbits on a saucer, after my meals.  She will approach the saucer with more caution than a Bomb Squad Disposal member approaching suspect terrorist unexploded ordnance. Having established that the saucer and titbit might be edible, she then carefully sniffs and examines the food like a nervous guest at a Borgia banquet ….  and then has a cautious nibble. She might then condescend to eat the titbit. CATS!!!!  Sigh.

So basically I’m harbouring an efficient cold-blooded killer, dressed in a sleek brown fur coat, and disguising her true nature by playful winning ways.  Hmmmm.


Filed under CHOCOLAT: MY CAT


 Here is another short flash fiction piece, at under 500 words.


Lifting-moving-placing; pausing; lifting-moving-placing; pausing;  with exquisite care Karen is doing her walking meditation. Each step a slow, attentive ballet.  Her careful feet make a crisp crunch on the dry winter grass.  Her nostrils register the dusty smell. Her ears pick up the wind in the gum tree plantation at the bottom of the hill.  Otherwise its quiet, really quiet.  No voices, cars, music; just the muted sounds of the countryside at the hermitage in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Karen reaches the end of her allotted ten paces, stands momentarily, before slowly engaging with the process of turning her body, 360 degrees, so that she can embark on the return journey, ten deliberate steps in the reverse direction.  Her eyes involuntarily fall on the ground to her right.  What is that on the ground? She looks at the dark form on the grass. It takes a second or two for the image from her retina to register in her brain.

It’s a dead bird.  Her gaze take in the thin, stiff  legs, the curled claws, the buff chest feathers, the black head and tail, the white marking around the eye, the slightly opened beak. She looks steadily.  It’s the first dead bird she’s ever seen. If you live in central Joburg you don’t come across dead birds.  Apart from squashed pigeons on the road, but they’re usually a mashed smear of feathers ground into the tarmac. They don’t count.

She tentatively nudges the tiny corpse with the toe of her takkie.  It’s so light! Suddenly a torrent of little black ants boil out of the beak, onto the grass, running in frantic random patterns.  She draws back, startled.  Until now the dead bird has been impersonal, a little feathery husk, but now …. all those ants ?  Her heartbeat quickens, her palms are sweaty, she can’t take her eyes off the rigid scrap of feathers surrounded by the swarm of little black ants.

Those frail  leathery legs, those curled claws – they remind her of something; no, of someone. Her mind skitters to the Joburg Gen, visiting her Gran just before she died. Gran’s arms were frail and leathery, Gran’s fingers were little curly claws, Gran …. blood roars in her ears,  her breath catches, her throat spasms, red-hot tears leak out of her eyes.  She takes in a gasping lungful of air, then another, then another, but still the sobs build in her chest. She holds her ribs, gasps, wails, bends over, stands up, clutches her arms around herself, wails, throws her head back , scrunches her eyes closed, but still the tears stream down her hot cheeks.   She never cried at the hospital, or at the  funeral, but she’s crying now, alone, under the midday sun in a clear blue sky, mourning her Gran, and understanding the flavour of impermanence, death and dying, way beyond the Teacher’s dry lecturing. This fleeting world – like bubbles in a stream.   The words echo in her mind, sink into her heart.