Sunday, June 8, 2014

Two Lucky Cougars

It's late spring, and the young cougars are on the move.

They usually have to move out and find their own territories, but with 50% of all the forests being cut down in the last year, they're in the neighborhoods this year. This year, a young mom cat and her half-grown kitten were wandering after food and shelter like German refugee women in 1946, and mostly for the same reasons.

The zombie neighbor across the street lets her chickens run loose. Having a rooster three feet tall didn't stop an early-morning raid, not when the cat's starving and has a baby to feed.

Buster can take on human kids, but not so much big cats, and all the squawking called out the zombie household with armament to defend the homestead. If Snotboy hadn't been there, the mom refugee cougar and her kid would have been just another pile of carcasses with some zombie Tarzan-footing on their ribcages.

The zombies were screaming unintelligably at the hissing adult cat in the front drive, chickens going every which way, the desperate rooster taking swipes at mom cat's flanks until a big paw sent him bowling down the asphalt to the road. He was still trying to shake himself back to a new attack, when Snotboy stepped in. And just in time, because the  dead guy from the house was out there with a hunting rifle.

Snotboy stepped right in front of the cougar family, with his back to the neighbors. Usually you don't turn your back on zombies, but even dead people are more afraid of the cats. Especially dead people - they can't even heal a scratch back, let alone can let a broken limb set.

They stood there with their mouths drooping open, saliva stringing cold, matching the strings from the jaws of the cougar kid, taken advantage of mom's stand-off to go for food. He cowered behind her with his jaws clamped desperately around a dead red hen - the first food in who knew how long since he lost his home?

Snotboy said to the cats, "You have your dinner. Go someplace and eat it."

The mom cat stopped growling, and seemed to get sane in the eyes. She turned around and loped off down the road, back toward what remained of the woods on the ridge, followed by Junior. They wasn't here for territory, just a full stomach. Nobody else saw them, because most people on Slip Point don't get up very early.

Snotboy turned around and said to the neighbors, "You better lock your chickens up. You just taught them we got food down here. If we put all the food away, they'll go find another home."

If there's one thing zombies get, it's food. They nodded and started herding chickens back to the pen, including Buster, who they had to convince not to hit somebody hard. Daylight was coming, and they wanted to go to the beach. They're cold people, and the beach is warm when the sun hits it. It's usually where they are, playing with little rocks, and catching sand-fleas in a net for snacks. Or crunching up dead seabirds that wash in after the spring breeding mortality. Snacks, ahoy.

Snotboy went off wherever he was on the way when the attack happened. He's liable to be up and about any time at night. He got named when his elder brother fell off a fishing boat and disappeared, and his mom cried and cried so hard that it seemed as though she'd built him out of snot and water. He doesn't seem to resent the nickname. It's one the natives use for one of their myths, or something. Something about a revenge spirit, made of tears and snot.

There's nothing revenge about Snotboy. He's tall and dark; sometimes he looks Hispanic, and sometimes he looks Indian, and sometimes everybody just shakes their head because his mom is German and Swedish and his dad - could be anybody. His mom's had troubles.

You'll have to ask him his real name. The teachers know it, so they say, but his family keep to themselves, supposedly up the Hoko River valley. They're not like everybody else who boils out of their house up there and hope you'll stay and talk and have coffee - or even stay overnight. Nobody knows how they make a living, because there aren't any signs on them, and they're more likely to hitchhike or walk than own a truck full of equipment or firewood. Two of them are said to make twig furniture and sell it on ebay, shipping with UPS. Could be. It's all Rumor To Rumor, up here.

Maybe somebody will get him to open up some day.

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