The tabby rested in Peter’s grip. Dead weight. That’s all it was. Dead. Weight. The warmth in the feline’s almond eyes was gone, and her soft orange fur had been scorched right down to the pink skin beneath. It’s face was crooked in a howl, as though in the last moments it had been calling out in a plea for human decency. The once pink tongue had been singed off in the attempt. He remembered reading about Asians boiling felis domesticus overseas. He had found it in a book about China at the local library, and remembered that this was a traditional meal for them. He thought this was how the creatures must have looked as he examined his catch.
The library wasn’t the first place Peter had encountered felis domesticus as a delicacy. Two years earlier the local Chinese restaurant up the way had to shut down after a federal investigation. As it turned out, the restaurant was serving máo to customers as the main product in the Sweet and Sour and General Tzu’s. It had been three years since it closed, but Peter still remembered the smell.
The aroma was strange, different. In a way almost sweet, like the perfume his mother wore. A strange urge crossed his mind and he reached inside his back pocket. Peter pulled out a dull Swiss Army knife he’d received as a congratulations gift when he caught his first rabbit in Scouts.
Scouts met once a week. He never missed a meeting. Survival, he reasoned, was the one thing he needed to know if he dared to live in the urban jungles of the manmade, especially with the constant prattle of war nowadays. Should it hit home, he’d be ready. He’d need to know how to survive then. Especially if there was the chance he might be driven from a life of civilized manners and domesticity into one of savageness.
He’d trapped many things since the rabbit, mainly squirrels and fish, but this had been a real challenge; and, in his opinion, the easiest source of food if such a thing were to happen. This is why, when he noticed one of the creature’s hind legs still had fur, he quickly made a trophy of it. With a hard snap and forceful twist, he detached the small ball-shaped joint from his prey, easing the knife across the sinews. He then proceeded to shove it into his pocket while a few coagulated droplets of blood fell to the ground.
Slowly, Peter carved into the soft underbelly of the tabby, gutting it from inside out. Even the organs were slightly burned, at least enough to eat. Everything’s eatable except for the liver. He remembered reading that too. He set the organs aside, as an experienced hunter would do. This may be all he’d find for days. He had to ration his find. With his free hand, Peter pulled the flesh back around the underbelly and pushed it back with the tip of the blade.
The knife grazed into the flesh of a limb, and tore a small piece of flesh. Peter proceeded to place this into his mouth. Even without the sauce, he realized he preferred the taste to chicken.
Peter wiped his lips with his hand and continued his work. He ran his knife along all the little nooks and crannies, like an expert of his craft, separating the eatable from the garbage.
The fur of the beast he decided to keep, and gently folded it over and stuffed it inside his pocket next to the hind paw to dry out later in the day...
The paw now attached to the keys clipped on his belt. He thought of this incident while his teacher, Mrs. Leigh, droned on about basic division. “Peter, are you listening?” she said. “Peter, your mother and I are worried. You’re not making any progress. We need you to focus--”
Peter turned his head toward the strange woman. He'd been so engrossed in the memory of incident that not once did it occur to him that he was in the middle of a parent-teacher conference.
His mother stood behind him, slightly to his left, squeezing his shoulder as if she knew the past ten minutes had slipped away. Behind them, on the chalkboard, was a series of simple problems to which he could attach no recollection. That distant, glazed look in his eyes was what had prompted his mother to take off work that afternoon. He'd been falling so far behind...
“I’m sorry, Mother,” he said with a faint smile. “I think I was nodding off.”
“Peter, if you want to pass the 3rd Grade, you'll have to pay attention,” Mrs. Leigh said. “Do you hear me?”
Peter looked at Mrs. Leigh. Her head was slightly crooked in a howl. He felt inside his pocket, and began to examine.
S. Coelho received a BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University in her hometown of Richmond, VA. While getting her BA, she interned at Style Weekly and Richmond.com, and found that while she loves reading the news, she hates reporting it. When she is not writing from her shadow self, she enjoys reading Bentley Little and Peter Benchley or researching Milton and 16th century libel. She is currently studying in London for her MRes in Renaissance Literature.
|< Prev||Next >|