THE CAT AND THE RATTLE SNAKE
A Short Story
Marsh Mellows frosty white fur fluffed up gently as the breezes of her new home in the Blue Ridge Mountains passed threw it. Her curiosity quickly demanded that she explore this new environment that was so completely different from the one of her recent suburban past. Gone were all the paved roads with their perilous dodging between moving cars just to reach the other side. Also gone were all the sheds and garages that were all-to-often closed without regard to any four footed creature that may have found their way in. And Marsh Mellow seemed to understand and appreciate these differences.
What now lay ahead for her were brilliantly brisk autumn afternoons where trees danced in a rainbow of colors over a paradise full of adventures that only a cat could truly appreciate. Huge boulders became springboards for long joyful sprawling leaps into mounds of soft fallen leaves. And when Marsh Mellow tired of this then it was off to find one of the many fleet footed rabbits that appeared to have been created for no other purpose then to offer her, as yet uncertain feet in this rugged terrain, the pleasure of a good chase. A chase that always left her brisling with a feverish, almost kitten like, excitement.
And then came the darkness of winter, along with her deep impenetrable snow fall’s, sending the land into a state of drab but natural sleep. Marsh Mellow, like the rabbits, awaited spring’s reawakening in sleepy anticipation. However spring was almost as bad as winter that year for a cat who watched its icy rains fall day after day, and then week after week. And then just when she might have thought that she would never again put one paw outside of her new home, the sun broke open the clouds setting life into motion once again beyond her windowed fortress.
The trees stretched their long grayish brown limbs, while dangling new delicate green finger like leaves, in the warming gentle breezes as they passed effortlessly on by collecting the scents of the awakening that was now well underway. And not to be outdone by the trees, on the ground, the shrubs and wild blueberry bushes opened their veins letting the life giving sap flow upward threw the tiny branches that would eventually create the shade and ground cover for all the living things that would reside beneath them. And the ground that had been brown for months on end, magically, turned green once again.
Marsh Mellow pursued a butterfly as it danced above a small blueberry bush unaware that her harmless game of chase was putting her square in the path of danger. The sudden rattle from a spot that was both far to close, as well as still unseen, sent her white fur spiking upwards as her muscles instantly tensed to defend herself from this nearly invisible intruder. With a quick search of the ground beneath the bush Marsh Mellow locked onto those shimmering slits of golden eyes that seemed to be only connected to the dark, musty, earthen floor. She answered the rattle with a furious his of her own. An instant passed as cat and snake sized the other up.
It was instinct alone that caused Marsh Mellow to spring sideways a split second ahead of the snake that shot out from obscurity and across the distance that separated them, only missing its target by the smallest of distances. Sensing the snake’s sudden disadvantage after the attack Marsh Mellow made a quick lunge for its head only to retreat just as quickly as the snake gathered itself up once again with remarkable speed. The cat and the rattle snake both held their ground for several moments as they both braced for another attack each knowing that one or the other, or both, would die if this stand off continued.
Marsh Mellow finally decided that all of the advantages in this underworld of shrubs and weeds belonged to this ground hugging animal that could move like nothing she could have imagined. And so, with the greatest of caution, she began her retreat from this glaring, unblinking, enemy. The snake watched as the cat backed off one foot behind the other, inch, by inch. The winds hushed as the world seemed to hold its breath as the two adversaries watched death fade into the distance that now separated them.
It wasn’t until Marsh Mellow sensed more then saw, the base of a tree beside her that she took her eyes off of the snake and moved up its trunk passing many a limb in her agile ascent. When she finally felt a safe distance had been reached she stopped on a secure branch with her heart still pounding rapidly and gazed downward. It was only then that the snake with almost an equal amount of care began to ease out of his deadly coils and move towards a thicker more protected area of undergrowth several yards away.
Marsh Mellow knew she could never again be so bold and carefree in this place that was now her home. And as for the snake, to survive each day was a struggle, and now there was just one more surprisingly fast creature in his world that he would have to be cautious of.