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by plurabelle 

Posted: 01 July 2011
Word Count: 713
Summary: This is my first posting in this group. I feel a bit shy about it, because it seems to lack the drama of most other work here. I'm keen to hear how it comes over to others.

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Most cats hate snow. They dip in their paws and shake off the horrid white stuff with distaste and puzzlement – but her little black Nipper with his fierce golden eyes was not to be deterred. He was born to hunt, like his compeers … panther, Siberian tiger, snow leopard … and hunt he would, even if the world betrayed him by turning white and utterly uncomfortable : just one more challenge to his pride and prowess.
January 1940… war, change, fear of the unknown – now the worst winter for years, snow upon snow upon snow. Dad – strange in khaki, his round heavy helmet with its leather inside rim hanging in the hall – was home on leave, but not for long. If only the baby would come soon, so he could be here ! Somehow she felt responsible although she was only seven : Nan lived less than a mile away, but how could she get here quickly through all this snow ?
The girl was looking out of her back bedroom window. In spite of the electric fire, ice patterns were still covering most of the glass. She breathed a hole and gazed out at the garden. Grey…black… white. Next door’s fence looked soggy and baggy, about to fall any minute under the weight of snow. Stumps of cabbage and Brussels sprouts stood in broken rows, forlorn among wind-carved drifts. The white curve of the northern hill beyond looked lonely in its beauty. Dark grey clouds loomed over : against the grey, gulls were gliding, flashing white as they turned : swooping and gliding again, then black in silhouette… She drifted away, up there with the circling birds, round and round – high, high in their graceful dance. She longed to be one of them, almost believed she could be if only she wished hard enough. Their harsh lonely cries seemed to her the deepest music of her heart. They called her to another world that was sad, but true and clear. Maybe it was the afterworld, where everything would be explained and forgiven…
Suddenly she noticed Nipper jumping neatly up onto the next-door fence, which sagged even more as it shed its latest layer of cake-icing. He was at his most hunterly, fierce and proud. Even at this distance she could see the golden rings of his eyes, the wild black pupils round as a hawk’s, an eagle’s.
Someone downstairs opened the back door, threw out some crusts of bread into the snow. Nipper took note of the chance to come in out of the cold, but only twitched back his ears in disdain, keeping his precarious perch with dignity. At that moment a flurry of grey, black, white wings fell down into the garden. The gulls had seen the food from their enormous height and had dived into the drifts with unceremonious squawks, squabbling over the booty.
Instantly the little black cat threw himself like a leopard upon the nearest bird. The rest shot up into the sky. The victim struggled violently, with huge beatings of its wings – but, perhaps hampered by the depth and cold of the snow, it couldn’t get into the air.
Nipper was passionate and brave, but he was small. The gull was cold, starving, and wounded, but it was big. The battle went on and on and on. Neither could win. Behind the frosty window the girl watched, appalled, unable to move.
Dad came out in his army boots and greatcoat. He was carrying a spade. She hoped he would rescue the bird, but it was too late. Grim and white-faced, he began hitting the gull with the flat of the spade, hoping to stun it. In the end he had to aim for its neck, to cut off its head with the spade’s edge. It took a long time to die.
“You black devil ! You black devil !” Dad kept saying to the cat that long afternoon and evening. Mum said it was the cat’s nature, and he shouldn’t be angry; but she too was pale and shaken, and kept hugging her swollen belly as if to comfort the baby inside.
Nipper seemed subdued, withdrawn. He had failed an important mission.
The girl didn’t know what to think.

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Comments by other Members

BifferSpice at 16:37 on 04 July 2011  Report this post
this is really nice. you have a nice way with words, and the story is well contained and, as michael says, poetic.

you capture the visual scenes very well. i could really picture
Nipper took note of the chance to come in out of the cold, but only twitched back his ears in disdain, keeping his precarious perch with dignity.

good job

Becca at 17:38 on 04 July 2011  Report this post
Hello Una,
and welcome to the short story group. Your descriptions of winter and the cold are very convincing and I particularly like 'Stumps of cabbage and Brussels sprouts stood in broken rows, forlorn among wind-carved drifts.' My feeling about the way you write about Nipper however are that there are too many adjectives about his character, I'd have liked to have read more about his actions out there in the snow rather than know that he is passionate and brave etc. The reader knows just a couple of things about the little girl and the family, but I was more interested in them than I was in the little cat and so when the father calls the cat black devil and he kills the bird, I am perplexed and I want to know what has gone on there. I know that 'The girl didn’t know what to think,' but I can see a more interesting story in the background of this story that I'd like to see developed so that I can know what I think. [The father sounds slightly, if not, perfectly, mad and the wife sounds cowed, why on earth......?

plurabelle at 18:48 on 11 July 2011  Report this post
Thank you all for your comments. I seem to have conveyed the atmosphere OK, but perhaps was not explicit enough about the death of the bird - I thought it was clear that the father was attempting to put the struggling gull out of its misery because the cat wasn't strong enough to kill it. (Maybe I should come clean about this as an
autobiographical piece - I was the rather dreamy, anxious little girl in 1940.)

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