This is not quite a Tale of the Backyard. In fact, this happened before I had a backyard at all.
Let me take you back, gentle Reader, years and years. The Little Prince was not born yet, the Princess was very young, and we lived with my ex in an apartment overlooking a very nice almost-lake (somewhat bigger than a pond) that unfortunately was right on a migration path for a lot of geese. (Needless to say, walking around barefoot was NOT encouraged.) Ex-husband had a cat and several houseplants, which I took over the care of; longtime Readers will recognize CrankyDuck!Cat long before he was the sour, quacking onlooker to several Backyard Adventures–most notably, the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom. (That jade plant never recovered, poor thing.)
CrankyDuck!Cat had just been neutered–not a moment too soon, if you ask me–and shaken off the lethargy of recovery. He was somewhat calmer than he had been, though no less crafty. He was not the old gentleman of the backyard then, but a lithe, talkative mischief-maker with a hairtrigger startle and wicked claws. Nevertheless, we got along swimmingly, and he slept with the Princess nine nights out of ten. (The tenth was spent crying to go out on the balcony and share the song of his heart with the neighborhood. Ah, youth.)
The particular lovely summer evening in question, I’d left work and brought the Princess home from daycare. Dinner was courtesy of the grocery store, where I’d stopped and picked up a rotisserie chicken, tomatoes for a salad, and a loaf of French bread. Simple, easy, I didn’t feel like cooking in the heat, even though our apartment was so shaded it rarely got stuffy. I had just finished making the salad and popped the lid on the chicken to tear some of it off for the Princess’s plate–my ex was due home any minute–when I was called away by an emergency having to do with hair gel, the Princess, and one of her dolls. To this day I don’t know how the hell she got that little travel container of gel–I never used the damn stuff, and neither did the ex. Just one of those daycare mysteries, I guess.
I negotiated a release of the hair product with a promise that we would do the hair of every doll in her room that weekend (I had high confidence she would forget that before dinner was finished) and was just coming back down the hall when I realized CrankyDuck was not underfoot. It did not concern me as much as it might have–since I moved in, the entire place was a lot neater and cleaner, things he could get into put away and out of sight–and so I was unprepared for the sight greeting me as I sauntered into the kitchen holding that tube of hair gel.
Counters gleaming, the salad a jewel in its glass bowl, the bread neatly sliced and waiting to be piled on a plate, the breadboard out with the chicken set proudly atop it, the plastic dome that had been covering yon fowl spinning lazily on the linoleum floor…
…and a cat’s hindquarters just visible, tail lashing with glee. I could only see his hindquarters because his head was buried in the chicken’s, um, cavity.
It took a second for my baffled brain to make sense of the picture this presented, and when it did its immediate response was a hearty “SONOFABITCH.”
In retrospect, I should have practiced my ninja stealth, but really, when you see a cat with a chicken on his head, ninja is the last thing you’ll likely do an impression of. As it was, my sudden horrified exclamation penetrated the layers of fowl, and Cranky!Duck decided to beat a hasty retreat. I probably would have let it go at that, really, if not for one stroke of bad luck for all concerned.
You see, while Cranky!Duck had wormed his head into the chicken, he had not given adequate thought to his exit strategy. Which meant that his lovely, springing leap backwards off the breadboard might have been a marvel of grace and authority, except for the chicken deciding to come along, still firmly attached to his thick noggin.
Fowl and feline hit the linoleum with a splat, and I had one mad thought–does the two-second rule apply?–as I dove to grab either a handful of cat or chicken, I wasn’t picky. Cranky!Duck, however, found himself trapped in a meat prison and sensing the approach of a fast-moving monkey did not aid his (sadly subpar) decisionmaking capabilities.
In short, he fled. My fingertips slid across roasted chicken skin studded with herbs, the hair gel went clattering away, and the chicken, well.
The chicken went with him. And that’s when things got interesting.
To be continued…