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Lauren Goodman

© Copyright 2000 by Lauren Goodman

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Hello. I am 17 and I wrote this story one night after chasing down my fiesty young cat, Oscar.

The thick, lush grass is wet and frigid against my bare feet. A dull wave of numbing cold slowly spreads from my toes to the soles of my feet, and I know I won't be able to stand there much longer. A bright, piercing moon spills white pools of light between the dark canopy of trees, covering the lawn in a haphazard mosaic of illumination. From the corner of my eye I catch sight of my shadow, grotesquely contorted over the dark grass, wildly shaking the head of a small, furry plastic pelican.

I am looking for my cat, Oscar, and I am beginning to think my search is in vain. Oscar is a small, short-haired black-and-white cat with an unquenchable thirst for mischief and an incurable case of allergies. When he was a little hairball of a kitten he would purr and cuddle for hours, but now that he's entered his toddler years he's become quite a nuisance, if not an all-out terror.

Oscar likes to hide on the cellar stairs, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to open the side door. As soon as he hears the slow, familiar squeak of door hinges swinging inward, he bolts. If you know what to expect, it isn't difficult to block his escape, though it does require a certain degree of speed and agility, as a swift foot is usually needed to block his tiny, determined head from slipping through the crack of the closing screen door.

I am usually able to stop him before he reaches the front stoop, but tonight I had other things on my mind, and it wasn't until he leapt past my startled body and darted into the night that I even thought to look for his blazing green eyes. Sighing, I turn around and step back into the brisk air I had been trying to escape, deciding I didn't have enough time to search my room for a pair of sneakers. I am cold, I am tired, and I am not happy about having to look for Oscar.

Scanning the darkness, I start whispering to him, hoping that my neighbors can't hear my pleading words. "Oscar," I hiss, beginning to root through his favorite hiding places, "where the hell are you? Come on, you little jerk, it's cold and I want to go to bed. Just let me catch you please. I really don't have time for this." But the words, of course, are just for my benifit, and still Oscar remains hidden.

I stand still, listening to the evening on all sides of me, waiting for a signal from the cunning escapee. Finally, I see his little black body fly by me, tearing across the lawn at a truly Olympic pace. I know my words and soft cooing are not going to work tonight, so I grudgingly retrieve the torn pelican head from its hiding place in the cabinet above the stove.

The ratty, chewed toy with the piercing squeak is my last resort, and I begin waving it maniacally through the cold night air. I can see Oscar, his panting body crouching tensely beneath a nearby bush, his eyes fixed on the tantalizing object in my hand. A stream of frustrated obscenities pours from my shivering lips, as I throw the toy to the ground just a few feet in front of me.

I am hoping that the sudden movement will interest him enough to warrant an investigation and, thankfully, I am right. He moves slowly and warily toward the mangled head, but he continues to approach, nevertheless. I am silent now, afraid that even the slightest noise will send him tearing back into the dark bushes.

Oscar lowers his sleek head to sniff the helpless toy and I take a small, timid step forward. Immediately, his back arches and his eyes snap upward. For a moment, our gazes lock, staring each other down in a primitive ritual of power and control.

In that instant, I suddenly find my weary mind putting myself in Oscar's fur, feeling completely free and young and alive in the thick, frigid grass and bright pools of moonlight. I imagine what it must be like to live life indoors, being forced to find adventures in such mundane things as kitchen sinks and picture windows. Maybe I should let him keep running, I think to myself, but then I remember that he has been de-clawed and would be little competition against a hungry raccoon or truculent dog. Thin whispers of guilt run through my mind, but I push them away, concentrating solely on the task at hand.

A ripple of understanding passes between Oscar and me, and I use this brief moment of vulnerability to lunge for his motionless body. He anticipates my move and begins to flee, but I have grabbed enough fur and flesh to end his little peccadillo, and I quickly pull him toward me. I breathe a sigh of relief, because at least I know he is safe in my embrace, away from the cruel world of cars and raccoons and wandering canines. Cradling him in my arms, I move out of the numbing grass up onto the deck and head for the door.

But before I can slide back the heavy glass door, I stop. My eyes once again drift toward Oscar's, but this time I do not see defiance, I see defeat. Those same whispers of guilt and now pity again begin to torment my exhausted mind, but I decide that Oscar's happiness and well-being are more important than a few extra minutes of sleep for me. Turning away from the door, I move instead to the far corner of the deck, carefully easing myself and my dark, precious bundle into a damp plastic lawn chair.

We sit there for some time, Oscar and I, examining the night with all its wonderful and mysterious sights, smells, and sounds, and he does not stir. I smile as I watch him purring serenely in my arms, and I realize this was all he really wanted. I realize that he needed a change, needed to be outside and to feel alive for a few moments, and I realize that the same is true for me. I stroke his tiny head and silently thank Oscar for allowing me to take part in the ritual of his chase, to remember what it is to see the night for the first time, to breathe in the cold night air and to feel alive, if only for a few moments.

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