EXIT

Cat's Eye

for Sarah

I left my screen door open a couple of weeks ago and this red-tailed hawk walked in and said "Hey man watch this marble for me will ya?"

No good morning, how ya doin', nothing. So I took the marble from him and I said, you know, "Nice marble" and he goes "Yeah. I know. Can you watch it?" "Sure, dude. Whatever."

"Thanks, buddy."

Well at least he said thanks. And I liked that he called me buddy.

"My name's Jim. What's yours?" I didn't know if I should extend my hand to shake his talons so I just kind of twitched awkwardly at the shoulder.

"I'm a hawk. We don't have names. Just call me hawk."

"OK hawk. When are you coming back for this?"

"I don't know. Just watch it good. I fuckin love that marble. And thanks again, pal."

After he took off I looked at the marble for the longest time, turning it around and around in my fingers. I could see what hawk meant. It was a golden cat's eye and it was beautiful. There was a hairline crack deep inside that ran between two identical tiny bubbles. The golden center, the cat's eye part, looked to me like a perfectly captured explosion, maybe a suicide bomber or a train wreck or a church group beach trip bonfire with post-pubescent Christians roasting marshmallows and singing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore", their newly sprouted breasts bursting urgently through evangelical halter tops.

Or not.

I was finally pulled from my reverie by one of Cedric and Jonathon's spats. As a gay couple they were no more tempestuous than most but as rats they could really shake the walls. ‘Hey keep it down in there fellas!"

"Sorry, Jim."

Rats are so cute when they're sheepish. I noticed that it was dark outside and I was fiercely hungry. A one-legged cricket inched out from beneath my couch. Actually he was just missing one hind leg so I guess he was really a five-legged cricket but you get the picture. He looked like a pirate.

"You seen hawk?"

"No." I lied, not knowing why.

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. I- hey wait a minute! That's my carpet you're standing on, dick. I'll ask the questions. How did you get in here?"

"Dude, I'm a cricket."

"Good point. Now fuck off before I squash you like the bug you are."

"So you have seen him. OK, just checking. Well when he comes back tell him we haven't forgotten."

"What the fu-"

"Just tell him. And you might want to do something about that screen."

I've always hated crickets. Roaches with musical pretensions, if you ask me.

The sun was extra crispy the next morning and I kept to the shady side of the street as I walked to the store. This brought me by Bruno's yard and I had some questions for him. Now Rotweillers are a fairly loquacious breed and Bruno is chattier than most. He's no Shi-Tzu, mind you, but he's certainly no Beagle either. I once saw him weigh in on the Liv-A-Snaps versus Snausages controversy for twenty straight minutes (he's a stalwart Liv-A-Snaps guy. Tres old school. ). So when I gave him a piece of my donut and asked him what was new, I expected a full neighborhood report.

"Not a damned thing." he said and started to walk away with my maple bar.

"Bruno what's up? Are you mad at me?"

"No I aint mad. Just busy. It's eight freakin forty five and I haven't even licked my balls yet. Lay off, will ya?"

"Whatever, dude. Get to lickin'. I heard those were plastic implants anyway."

"Implants! Come over the fence and I'll show you implants you candy ass commie punk! You'd better mind your marbles around me, boy!" he barked.

I could tell that he could tell that he had said too much and I walked away grinning and no better off.

It seemed the sun was frowning at me now and I began to see a funny shade of gold in every window on the street. Cars reflected it too and as the sun was getting high I saw the sky was just a trampoline the playful sun was jumping on, singing schoolyard taunts and squealing as it tumbled back to earth.

For a second I thought a softly swaying cluster of weeds was whispering to me but that's just crazy.

I found a bus bench and sat down. Feeling suddenly very tired I lay down, the concrete feeling cool on my temple. Shifting my shoulder I found the place of perfect comfort. Soon the bus bench and I were as one and I slept hard.

God I wish I could sleep like that again. I had one of those intense full body dreams with flying and fire and breathing under water and everything.

"Sit up. There's a cop coming." It was a chubby grey pigeon.

"Fuck off, pigeon."

"Fine. Be a dick. I was just trying to help."

I sat up. "Sorry. I just didn't want to wake up

"Word." said the pigeon as the cop car rolled by.

"Thanks."

"You know, people talk a lot of shit about pigeons but we're really not so bad. I mean-"

"Oh Jesus. Here we go."

"No. Shut up. I mean we do make a lot of noise and we shit on everything but there's a good reason people feed us. Why just the other day-"

"I gotta go."

"No. Wait."

"I gotta go, pigeon!"

"No. Wait! I came to tell you something. Don't be so sure everyone's against you on this."

"On what?"

"Please. Just know you're not alone. You have allies. Some of the cats in the neighborhood can be relied upon."

"To do what? I hate cats."

"Of course you do. Who doesn't hate cats? Selfish pricks, every one. But cats have a code of honor and they're with us on this."

"On what? And who's us? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Oh you're good. Very good. You gonna eat the rest of that donut?"

"What? Oh. No. Here. Knock yourself out, pigeon."

"I do have a name, you know. It's Berniece. I'm not a hawk, f'chrissake."

She started to waddle away and then stopped. "Oh and speaking of… Hawk's coming by your place tonight and he says have it ready."

"No problem." I patted the pocket where I'd put the marble. It was gone. I resisted the urge to barf and made a beeline for the house. All the crosswalk lights turned red and all the sidewalks turned to quicksand as I struggled through the high-viscosity morning air. I knew I had put it in my pants, I remembered the denim tugging at my wrist as I'd pulled my empty hand away. Frantically I pulled the pocket inside out to check for holes and finding none I left it flopping.

Wait! The sharp edges of the landscape softened as I realized that I had changed my pants that morning. The marble was safe. Maybe.

I was pretty sure I'd closed my bedroom door but here it was ajar. Hmmmm. And I had no doubt that I'd taken off my pants in the bedroom but here they were stretched across the hallway. I held perfectly still and tried not to breathe while I listened. Excited whispers filtered through the wall.

"Shut up!"

"It's fine. Let's go."

"No! Are you crazy? He totally hears us! Hold still!"

"You are such a fag! We've got the damned thing now let's get out of here!"

Cedric and Jonathon had the marble. Those fuckers. They had the fucking marble.

"Let's go!"

"One more second. I think the coast may be clear."

"Of course the coast is clear you ninny!"

"Jonathon I agreed to do this and I'm doing it but if anything happens-"

"OK, OK you're careful. I do love that about you. We'll just sit until you get your sea legs, honey. We'll be fine."

"No. You're right. Let's go."

"You sure?"

"Yes. I'm sure. Let's go."

When I heard them scurry towards the front door I panicked. Why I don't know. How that marble became an issue of national security in my mind, how its recapture was going to end world hunger or stop the spread of AIDS I still can't tell you. All I knew was I had to get that marble back. Just fucking had to.

Cedric made his move for the door with Jonathon close behind. I don't even remember picking up my boot but I remember it sailing across the room and knocking Cedric flat. He lay twitching on his back, Jonathon froze and the marble just rolled to a stop. Then Cedric stopped, too.

Jonathon just stared past my face and started to cry. Have you ever heard a grown rat cry? Trust me you don't want to. I hear him every night about two or three. If I shut up long enough I'll hear him now.

Something had softened in Hawk's eyes.

"Too bad, kid. For a fucking marble, no less. I mean that rat's just wasted meat to me. I'm a hawk. But you- Too bad, kid."

He took the marble and flew away. I watched him disappear behind a billboard as the sun began to sink, casting long droopy shadows from the power lines and cars. I turned to go back inside and saw a gopher staring at me from his hole.

"What?!" I tried to sound defiant. What?!"

He didn't say a god damned thing.