15. Another Lesson
The silence of the living room was broken by the pounding of kitten feet and the thud of a small body careening into the wall.
“Little One” Bandit chastised his young student. “I think they heard you coming several houses away. You have to be quieter.”
“How can I be quiet and fast at the same time?” Little One protested. “I can be real quiet but then it takes me too long.”
“Yes, you can.” Bandit stated. “You are focusing too much on one or the other. You think too much about being quiet or too much about being fast. A true hunter knows how to balance both. Now watch.”
Bandit whipped the small blue catnip mouse across the room. Little One watched as his mentor crouched low to the floor. Bandit’s tail flicked from side to side and his eyes steeled on the small mouse. Suddenly, he sprang into action. He cleared the distance between himself and the mouse in matter of heartbeats. The mouse was quickly impaled on razor sharp cat teeth. Little One realized he had not heard Bandit cross the room, even though he had done it extremely fast.
Little One sat in awe of his older friend.
“Wow.” Little One said slack-jawed and stunned.
“Now you try again.” Bandit said as he once again whipped the mouse across the room.
Little One tried to imitate Bandit. He tensed his body up and locked his eyes on the little blue catnip mouse. He watched his breathing and waited for the right moment. He sprinted off across the floor towards the mouse.
Little One was a lot smaller than Bandit and took many more steps to reach the little blue mouse. His footfalls were also not as accurate or as silent as Bandit’s. Not just the steps he took leading up to the mouse, but also the several that he took as he rocketed past the mouse and crashed into the sofa.
A cry from one of the Twolegs alerted Bandit and Little One that their activities had caught the attention of the other inhabitants.
“Come with me.” Bandit picked up the mouse in his teeth and guided Little One back to the sunroom.
The afternoon sun had flooded the sunroom with an abundance of warmth, and sure enough Uncle Magoo was sound asleep in a bright, sunlit patch of carpet on the floor. Bandit dropped the mouse to the floor and then deftly whipped it towards Uncle Magoo. The mouse landed precisely next to Uncle Magoo’s body, dangerously close to his front paws, but without touching them. Little One looked at Bandit and waited for his instructions.
“Little One.” Bandit said. “What I want you to do is to run towards Uncle Magoo and pull the mouse away from him without waking him up.”
“That’s impossible.” Little One protested.
“Then this lesson is already over.” Bandit started to walk away.
“Wait.” Little One pleaded. “I just have to knock it way from him right.”
Little One moved closer to Uncle Magoo as quietly as he could, his footfalls were nearly silent on the sunroom floor. He looked where the mouse was laying and the orientation of Uncle Magoo’s body and his legs. Little One swung his approach wider as he tried to pick the optimum path to the mouse and past Uncle Magoo.
Little One looked over at Bandit, who nodded his head in agreement. Little One slowly moved towards Uncle Magoo. The lessons from Bandit rang in his head. On approach each paw must follow the preceding one exactly; any deviation might disturb something new and alert your prey to your approach. Extract your claws only enough for extra traction. Eyes follow target, front legs follow eyes, rear legs follow front, tail follows body. Little One positioned himself carefully and readied to attack the mouse next to Uncle Magoo.
Uncle Magoo stretched restlessly as he slept. Little one took his new position into account as he readied himself to pull the mouse away from Uncle Magoo. He tensed briefly. With a sudden silent intake of air, Little One dashed towards the catnip mouse. He felt each beat of his heart as the distance between him and the mouse closed tighter and tighter. One heartbeat. Two heartbeats. Three heartbeats. Four heartbeats. The mouse was within the reach of his right paw. His claws extended and he snaked his paw out to flick the mouse away from Uncle Magoo. Little One suddenly felt his head being pulled violently towards the ground. His forelegs buckled as his body’s inertia flipped him onto his back. The entire exercise ended with Little One firmly pinned under Uncle Magoo’s large paws.
“What do you think you are doing?” Uncle Magoo demanded angrily as he woke from his stupor.
Little One struggled vainly to extract himself from Uncle Magoo’s grasp. Uncle Magoo may have been the oldest cat in the household, but he was also the largest and the strongest.
“Sorry. Uncle Magoo.” Little One cried.”I was just playing.”
“Playing?” Uncle Magoo challenged. “Why is waking me up considered playing?”
“Ouch!” Little One cried out again. “That hurts!”
“Well maybe you’ll think twice about bothering me while I sleep.” Uncle Magoo was relentless as he nipped and bit at the helpless kitten.
Little one tried to squirm and fight his way out of Uncle Magoo’s fierce grasp, but it was hopeless. He would not get away unless Uncle Magoo wanted to let him go.
“That’s enough, Magoo.” Bandit warned as he strode over.
“Are you behind this?” Uncle Magoo snapped as he released Little One from his grip.
“Quit being such a grumpy old fart.” Bandit snapped back. “Little One was just practicing his hunting skills.”
“Well then, why bother me?” Magoo demanded. “I deserve more respect than this. Woken up from a perfectly good nap.”
“Because,” Bandit challenged Magoo.”Next to Momma Cat, you have the third best set of reflexes in the house.”
“Oh.” Magoo replied.”Who has the best reflexes? Next to Momma Cat of course.You?”
“Yes. Me.” Bandit replied.
“Harumph.” Uncle Magoo snorted. He did not feel like challenging Bandit today. “We shall see about that.”
“Any game you want. Magoo.” Bandit stated. “Jumps, Chase, Swats or even Spats.”
Bandit watched Uncle Magoo stand up and walk to another sunny spot on the floor, far way from Bandit and Little One.
Little One looked up at Bandit.
“Is Momma that tough?” he asked.
“Little One.” Bandit chuckled. “You need to realize that no Tom would ever mess with a Momma Cat defending her kittens. As tough as I ever thought I was or am, if it came down to Me or your Momma defending you. I would put all the kibble in the world on your Momma.”