CAIRN

 

“Help!”
It was a drawn-out, wailing plea. Distant and nearly inaudible. Had there been any sound at all? I stood motionless, senses sharp, twisting slowly to the left and right, scanning for signs of anything that might indicate someone or something in trouble. There was nothing!

It’s strange how the peacefulness of a quiet walk through the woods can suddenly come alive with chatter when you want to listen for a particular sound. Any hope of hearing it again was lost in nature’s sinfonietta — tree branches whispering in the breeze — dry leaves rustling past my feet  —  birds singing. My senses strained to filter the noises of nature’s harmony but failed.

‘Just cry out once more —  I’m here,’  I mentally pleaded, questioning my sanity of searching for a sound I wasn’t even certain had occurred.

“Yowl!”

There it was! Again faint and lost in wind. But, I definitely heard it. Different now — muffled — but still filled with painful distress. Perhaps it was simply a pair of intertwined trees, groaning as they twisted and rubbed in the breeze. My curiosity remained intent.  I had to find the source.

The sound had cut its way through the forest noises, but from what direction had it come?  I turned and left the path to search the forest.  I moved forward, gingerly stepping over the leaf-covered ground, trying to keep any noise I might make to a minimum. My senses were keened to anything unusual; ears tuned for the slightest of sound.

A twig beneath the leaves snapped in an explosive demolition under my weight. I jumped as if I was about to be attacked, tripping myself to nearly stumble to the ground. I took a deep breath.

‘Settle down! Relax!’ I told myself.

“Where are you?” I called out as if expecting a voice to reply, ‘Over here!’

I waited, hoping for a reply, but there was none. Perhaps, whatever had made the sound, used its last ounce of energy in one final cry-out, then expired. I would wait and listen. A fallen moss-covered oak provided a sit-upon.  I sat down, to watch and wait for just one more cry of distress, frustrated that I was too late — unable to track the sound in time to have saved a life?

Fifty feet or so to my left I noticed a pile of rocks, decorated, like my log, with moss and decaying leaves. It made me think of an ancient druid ceremonial gathering spot. I found myself studying the nearby oak trees for mistletoe growth they would have used in their fertility rituals.

Then, in a moment of symphonic respite, the sound happened once more. It was louder and closer. I was certain it had come from the rock pile. I moved to investigate this ‘cairn-of-ceremony‘ more closely.

“Are you there?” I called out, leaning over the tomb of rocks. “Can you hear me?” A cry echoed from deep within the pile. An animal — somehow trapped. I moved a few rocks to one side and heard another weak howl. It sounded like a cat, but whatever it was, it was still alive and I was here to rescue it.

My heart was pounding as I removed stone after stone. I began to wonder what Druid curse I might incur for my destruction of this possible shrine. I frantically worked my way down to the animal buried below me.

As I thought about the entombed animal I was attempting to save, my thoughts drifted, to a stray cat that had chosen to let me share my property with it over the past year. When it first took up residence in my yard, I was concerned that it might become a threat to my chickens. I only had a few hens, mostly for the eggs — and Rusty my rooster. Until the cat’s arrival, raccoons had been my biggest problem. I didn’t want to have to also defend my chickens against a cat. But it seemed to have no interest in chicken meat or their eggs.

In fact, besides showing his talents as a yard mouser — apparently one of its favorite foods — it wasn’t long before I realized my raccoon problem had all but disappeared. I was quite content to allow him the run of the yard. I had determined it was a Tom. For whatever reason, he remained shy of my efforts of friendship, always keeping his distance when I’d approach. Although there was no hesitation to feed on the bits of food and cream I’d leave on the porch for it each night. I’d watch from the window, as he would sneak between the outbuildings, then bound across the yard and up the steps for dinner.

Unfortunately, the cat had disappeared as he had appeared; moved on; or he was possibly taken by a raccoon that was too big to handle. The way of the wanderer —here today, gone tomorrow.  Now I began to wonder. Was this my tom-cat?

There it was — well, its tail anyway — flicking back and forth as if warning an aggressor to, stay back. It had found its way into the pile, perhaps after a small rodent,  but having gone too far, was unable to reverse direction and so was stuck. Already in its grave, it could only wait for death. As I removed more stones from around it, I could see it must have been here for some time. A few more rocks and I waited for it to back out, but it appeared to lack the energy for even that. If it was my stray, he certainly looked different, very scruffy and emaciated. I gently wrapped my hands around the cat’s middle and with no fight left in it to object, I lifted it from the hole.  It was pathetically weak, as I coddled it into the fold of my jacket for warmth. Its eyes shifted to meet mine in a weak thank-you. We headed home.

I named him Cairn. It seemed fitting and I thought it might appease any Druid spirits that might be evaluating me. A symbolic gesture of respect. Cairn regained his strength and made his return to controlling the mice, and chicken and egg-stealing raccoons. But he spent his nights in the house, either on the rug in front of the fireplace or on my lap. Our relationship had bonded.

 

 

A Hit by NATURE

A HIT by NATURE

   A SHORT STORY
—by—
A James Hindle

 “Too often I  suffer a  lack of inspiration when I sit down to write. In an attempt to get my brain functioning, I’ll scribble out a bit of ridiculous rambles, written as they occur. They are usually nonsensical and confusing. At times, with a little touch-up here and there, the jumble of words form an ‘Almost Story’ —  an addition for my “Files of the Ridiculous.”
Here’s a sample.”

There was a knock at the door. The dog barked — the cat meowed. When I went to the door and opened it, no one was there. I closed it—confused.  I went back to whatever it was I was doing. There was another knock at the door. The dog barked, again. The cat meowed, and I once more went and opened the door. Still nobody.  I wondered, ‘Were we being tricked’?

As I stood in the open doorway, a foul-smelling scent wafted past. The stench was horrible; nausea and shivers ran through my body, while the cat and dog shook, possibly in fear. Strangely, curiosity beckoned us, and together we left our safe, cozy cottage and ventured into the forest.

We were immediately cornered by a large wolf that had just burped, after apparently finishing a satiating meal. Bad breath? OMG! The same odor we’d witnessed in the doorway of the cabin. On the ground before him, lie a red cloak-n-hoody sort of thing. It tweaked my interest. Was this the cape of Little Bo Peep?  Surely not! I knew that she was still in the hospital after giving birth to a little ba-a-a-a-stard after she was sexually assaulted by a rogue ram while tending her sheep in a meadow somewhere up the mountain. Sad story . . .  , but getting back to this one . . .  No! This must have been Little Rrrr . . .  Little Rrrr. I couldn’t bring myself to say the name.

My thoughts were interrupted when the wolf, feeling comfortably full and not overly aggressive, asked if I happened to have a cigarette.  I knew I didn’t, because I’m allergic to all tobacco products, alcohol, sex and vulgar words, ever since my mother told me as a boy that I was allergic to all tobacco products, alcohol, sex and vulgar words. She said if I ever were to use any of them, I’d turn into a dog or cat molester . . .  Uh! . . .  Never mind about that.  Just because I love my dog and cat doesn’t mean I . . . . .  . I really don’t want to talk about that, right now!

I knew I had to think fast, so I told the wolf about a stash of funny grass that the cat was hiding in her bed, back at the cabin, and that it could possibly be smoked if one were so inclined. I knew it was just dog hair because when I rolled it in paper and lit it there was a funny smell, kind of like when you roll dog hair in paper and light it.
You’re probably curious why there’s dog hair in my . . .  , I mean, the cat’s bed.  I’m not certain, but I think they’re having a kinky affair. But that’s another story.
Anyway, I thought if I told him about it—if he took the bait—it would give me a chance to come up with a better plan to save us from the wolf.  We all walked back to the shack.

I’m sure my plan would have worked, but just as we were leaving the edge of the forest, heading back toward the shed, it happened . . . like ketchup from a bottle when you shake it —thinking the caps on tight but it’s not — and ketchup flies all over the room—well, kind of like that—blood was flying everywhere.

Like the blaze of fire and destruction from the barrel of a gun, the large birds attacked.  Legs outstretched, mouths so big they could swallow a Cocker Spaniel whole . . . (Pause) . . . . . .

“Rex?  Here Rex!”  Where was Rex?  Oh, my Gawd!  He had been such a good dog.

They came from the treetops at the edge of the forest. Streaking down on us in a voracious fury; their fiery-emblazoned eyes locking on their prey; their ear-piercing screeches wreaking fear and horror over their intended victims. Razor-sharp talons and slashing beaks tore into their prey in a rampage of explosive, ravenous energy.

Then . . .  , just as they had arrived, they were gone.

I was lying, cut and bruised on the ground — certain I had to be seriously injured because I was lying cut and bruised on the ground. I’m repeating myself, I know, but I was certain I’d been hurt.

It had happened so fast I wasn’t even sure where I was wounded. I looked around and noticed the wolf was dead—bits and pieces of him here and there: legs, chunks of fur, a big paw, a wolf head. That was the clincher: a severed, mutilated head. Yeah! He was dead all right. Somehow, it could have just been luck, but I was alive and I had all my parts.

I gathered what energy I had and lifted myself to my feet, surveying the area, turning slowly, soaking in the carnage that had just happened. Suddenly, a rush of pleasure overcame me. Well, not the kind of pleasure one would feel during some ‘rush-of-pleasure’ circumstances. Say no more. 

Umm! Well, as I was saying . . .

More of a rush-of-happiness. There she was, Freckles the cat. I called her freckles because she was jet black with one little white spot between her eyes; kind of a freckle.  Made me think of a target’s bulls-eye. Not that I’d ever . . .  . Anyway, as I was about to say, Freckles was alive, hiding in a hole under a log, her hair standing straight up, looking like a large puffer fish with hair. She was staring up at me and I could tell she wanted to come out and leap into my arms, claws outstretched in a fit of excited relief and celebration.
Gads!’ I thought. ‘This could turn out almost as bad as the bird’s attack.’

Then, more elation shot through my traumatized body.There, gazing up at me was another set of eyes, sparkling in the darkness from behind Freckles. It was Rex! He was alive! Oh, glory days. The three of us had survived. Only the wolf had bought it, in that venomous wrath of assault and carnage.

Had it been a strange, ‘hit’ by nature?  Could the wolf have been singled out for annihilation for killing and eating, the owner of the red cape? Was that person really, Little Rrrr . . . . Little Rrrr . . . ? I still couldn’t bring myself to say it.  Perhaps she been coming on a visit to see us when the wolf . . . ? We all so enjoyed her visits. She so loved Freckles and Rex. And, she always brought such good cookies. Damn wolf; must have eaten the cookies too!

But, was it really her that had been devoured by the wolf? Or had he just had his lunch wrapped up in a red cape to keep it warm? I knew I would be pondering this for some time to come. At least until Little Red visited us again. If she could. We all headed back to the hut.

I couldn’t help thinking, ’who were those pecksey—get it, pecksey, not pic . . . oh, never mind—who were those pecksey birds?
What was their driving force . . . .  , I mean besides their wings
.’
Were they Special Agents of Creation?
Natures “Assassins of Control?”

But, that’s another tail . . . , ah . . .  , tale . . . , no . . .  , tail . . .  .
But, that’s another story, when I get it all figured out.

The end . . . . . . . for now.