“Just got back from the mountains. I was there a week,” said the middle-aged man sitting across from us on the ferry.
“O yeah?” smiled his friend, a younger, be-newspapered man, dressed in a similar khakis-and-shirt combo that is the Business Casual trend in the Bay Area. “What’d you do up there?”
“Armed nature walks,” the first man laughed. “Some people call it ‘hunting’.”
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There is a name for the creature that hunts all other creatures in Larkspur. It is a growly, scarred thing with matted fur and a crusty slit where its left eye should be. They say it comes out only at night, but I have seen its jagged shape, white like jaundiced corneas, stalking the underbrush.
Its name is Mrs. Pingle, and it is the Persian Cat From Hell.
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I enjoy sitting outside on our patio in the empty autumn nights, every once in a while glancing up at the clear sky at the stars in constellations I am too impatient to learn about. Several nights ago, I heard rustling in the lawn next to the patio of the first-floor apartment, so I leaned on our railing and peered over the edge.
To find myself staring at deer. Not just a lone deer, but a doe, a many-pointed buck, and three fawns. They couldn’t have been more than ten yards from my fingertips as I clutched the railing to keep myself from giggling out loud in delight.
We stood, the six of us, them munching on the low grass, me gaping, all silent, until another rustle echoed throughout our corner of the courtyard. It was slower, even ominous, and the deer froze perfectly as I startled into motion, creeping to the other side of the patio to see what was coming.
That’s when I saw Mrs. Pingle. All twenty pounds of her, poised for the hunt.
The deer disappeared: they were that fast. No trace of them remained except the hollow clops of their hooves on the pavement as I pictured them crossing the street and clambering up the steep, rocky hill. Mrs. Pingle followed at a leisurely canter, her knotted, brambled fur streaking dangerously through the landscaped bushes.
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Between the hours of eight and ten in the morning, Mrs. Pingle stakes out our corner of the courtyard, barely visible unless you know her hiding place in between two particular bluish-leafed bushes that give her an adequate view of the rest of her domain. She sits, and waits, for deer or skunks or raccoons or – god forbid – smaller creatures to pass by. And then she need only stand, as only cats can stand, with the leisurely unfolding and stretching of each miniscule muscle that seems to whisper, “After I’m done with this … you’re next.”
We unarmed creatures back quietly away.