Just after turning off the downstairs lights, I find the cat frolicking in a dark corner near the front door, all alone. Or, as I see it when I take another step, not quite alone.
As I go up, I poke my head into the youngest’s room, where he and the middle one are playing some sort of video game.
“Just so you know,” I said, “the cat has a mouse trapped by the front door.”
“Dead or alive?” asks the one in the middle.
“What am I, a doctor?” I say. “I go to bed.”
When I come downstairs the next morning, my wife and the middle one are already thinking about the obvious question: where is the last mouse now, and in how many pieces?
“I haven’t seen anything yet,” said my wife.
“He must hide them somewhere,” said the one in the middle.
“Wherever it is somewhere, the bodies will pile up,” I said.
“And of course you didn’t do anything as usual,” my wife said.
“I let nature take its course,” I say.
“Has anyone checked under that rug?” said the one in the middle raising a bare foot.
“I mean, you wouldn’t rip a penguin out of a sea lion’s mouth,” I said.
“I am surrounded by cowards,” says my wife. The cat, which has been fed twice, approaches me, asking to be fed a third time.
“Where’s your dead boyfriend?” I say.
“Meow,” said the cat.
Three mornings later, I go down alone and early. As I open the back door, I see the cat crossing the garden towards me. Behind him, sitting perfectly still on the grass, is a pigeon. I don’t know the details of the cat’s most recent interaction with this pigeon, but I can guess.
“Miaow,” said the cat, asking to be fed for the first time.
“Of course,” I say. “Enter directly.”
Once the cat is fed, I stand outside watching the pigeon. He looks back, without moving. It looks good, even if it’s obviously not good.
“Please don’t be my problem,” I say, but that’s my problem, because the pigeon is sitting in the path to my office shed.
I go back to the kitchen and make coffee. The cat approaches and sinks its claws into my leg, asking to be fed for the second time.
“Good,” I said, filling her bowl with dry food. I sit down to work at the kitchen table while thinking about my next move. The cat goes out through the cat flap in the direction of the seated pigeon.
I get up, go out, retrieve the cat and lock the hatch from the inside. The cat claws at the hatch until I exclude it completely from the kitchen.
I continue to work, occasionally glancing into the garden. The first time I look, the pigeon is calmly grooming. I feel better already, I think. The second time I look, the pigeon is sunk low in the grass, watchful and motionless. Where I think is a sea lion when you need one?
The third time I look, the cat crawls over the pigeon on the other side of the garden.
“Hey!” I scream as I slam the door. The cat runs away and hides under a bush, but I find it and end up grabbing it. The cat squirms and claws at me as I bring it inside. The middle one is standing in the kitchen.
“He must have come out of an upstairs window,” I said. “He’s after that injured pigeon.” The middle one is looking over my shoulder.
“Shouldn’t we help him?” he says.
“I’m monitoring the situation,” I said.
“Can’t you move it?” he says.
“Where am I going to put a pigeon where a cat can’t catch it?” I say. I think: my office. So: I don’t do that.
“Take that cat,” I said, handing it to the one in the middle. “I have to work.”
Going out to my shed, I stop to take a closer look at the pigeon. He looks at me coldly, but doesn’t move. I look up at the dark, threatening sky. I think, what about an eagle? Is it too much to ask?
From my office window, I continue to assess the situation with mounting anxiety. Soon, I think, you have to make a decision.
The first time I look at the pigeon, it is still sitting in the grass. The second time I look, he’s still there, but with his head turned the other way.
The third time I look, I see my wife crawling over the pigeon from behind, preparing to pick it up in a taut apron. I say to myself: you have done well.