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Kids Funny

Mum is upset. I can tell by the way her hand shoots to her breast, eyes wide as if staring at one of my much bigger cousins. She tries hard to stretch the corners of her mouth in what is meant to be a congratulatory smile, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. She squeals in high-pitched would-be delight and claps, but keeps her distance. I look at the gift I’ve brought her, but by the time my eyes come back up, she’s gone. I get up from my seating position and walk away, dejected. It’s going to be the dustpan again.

I reach the end of my Patch and cross the Border, flattening myself between the metal bars. I skirt on the left side of Neutral Territory till I reach Old Shoo’s Patch. The grumpy Mum has the biggest persimmon tree in the area, and it’s a constant battle to keep pretenders away from it. The daily watch and the nights spent patrolling can be tiresome, but nothing a nap under Old Shoo’s hydrangea can't fix. I sit at the base of my watch-tower and look up at the blackbird picking at a fruit. It looks down at me and I let it fly away, not in the mood.

I remember how Old Shoo used to storm out on the porch, screaming and swinging that scary stick Mums use to kill spiders in high corners. Shoo, shoo!, Old Shoo used to yell, and I would go and do a recon to give her time to cool down. All of that changed when I started collecting prizes for my hard-working Mum. Those blackbirds are fast but after a few weeks Old Shoo was really impressed and began leaving little treats in a dish near the porch—being as busy as I am, it’s usually the hedgehogs who get them, but I don’t mind, my Mum makes the best food anyway. But for some reason, she wasn’t as happy as Old Shoo with the way I repaid her efforts.

It wasn’t until I ran into the Enemy last week that I realised why.

The Enemy’s Patch runs along the right side of Neutral Territory. It used to belong to me, but this feisty young kid appeared one day, demanding rights with his spiky back and hissy fits. I could have put him in his place, but the Nine Tails Posse from the West give me enough headaches with their constant trespassing, so I let the Enemy have some space. Tiny as he is, he doesn’t need much at the moment. We’ll renegotiate the terms of the truce when he grows up.

I was taking my last catch to my Mum—number thirty-six I believe, but who’s counting—when the kid almost ran into me in his pursuit of a lizard. He growled—or tried to—as he took it in his mouth, and I stared back with disdain. The thing was still breathing, and I scoffed. Amateur.

The Enemy ran back to his Mum as she was draping sheets under the sun. He has a weird-looking Mum—no bumps on the chest, patchy dark fur on her face and a bulge between the legs where she probably stores treats—but she must be nice because the Enemy was trying to bring her a gift, although his style left much to be desired. I laid my catch on the ground to wash some dust off my face, but stopped short in disbelief at the scene unfolding in front of me.

The Enemy’s Mum took the gift with what looked like genuine happiness, patting the kid on the head and giving him a back rub. The Enemy ran inside where, no doubt, his lunch was waiting for him, and I stared at the Mum as she took the wiggling critter to a corner of the Patch and laid it down with reverence. I couldn’t see exactly what she did with it as she was behind some leafy bush, but I could imagine. My tongue darted out at the memory of the last lizard I managed to catch myself, when I was many summers younger.

I was stunned. Mum always gets a dustpan and throws my gifts in the tall box outside the Border for other Mums to collect once a week. I must admit I resented her ungratefulness, and marked the house for a couple of months after the first time it happened, to get my complaints across. But after watching the Enemy’s Mum, it all made sense. I rubbed myself against my Mum with more vigor than usual that night, to let her know I finally understood her. She wanted a catch too.

But seven days later I still haven’t managed to hone my life-preserving skills. It’s not that I don’t try, it’s those black things fluttering everywhere. Before I know it, a fang sinks too deep and Mum is upset again.

I tried different critters, but the hedgehogs are too painful, the lizards too fast and the rabbits too big. I remember the last time I got my Mum a snake and I lick my ear, the memory of her scream still vivid. She locked me in the house for two days, and wouldn’t listen to my pleas to let me out. She scolded me again when I turned up the day after my newly regained freedom with a painful bite mark on the neck, and I made a point of ignoring her as she dressed the wound. What did she expect? Two days of no patrolling is all the Posse needs to close in. I might have been wounded, but I managed to chase them away. And I was in no hurry to upset my Mum to the point of grounding me ever again, I've got important work to do. As I stare at the blackbirds from the shade of the hydrangea, I wonder if I will ever have the skill to bring my Mum a gift she can enjoy.

I blink at a spot of sunshine peeking through the persimmon’s leaves, ready to nap, but a commotion to my side startles me.

The Enemy runs along the Neutral Territory, chasing a butterfly. He tries to grab at it but misses repeatedly and I scoff again. But then his Mum drops down and strokes his fur, and I’m stunned again. My Mum would have yelled at me for accidentally squashing the bug while playing with it.

As the Enemy’s Mum picks the kid up and takes him away, a disturbing scenario plays in my head and I lay down, disheartened.

I might have to get the Enemy to teach me his skills.

August 08, 2020 12:59

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1 comment

Dunya Zatde
21:18 Aug 19, 2020

I loved how the story evolves. It’s really creative! Keep it up!

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