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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Curiosity Killed the Cat (10/10/13)

TITLE: A Final Spat
By Jack Taylor


A Final Spat.

Shiva and Ice Cube’s last meeting was disastrous.

Shiva was one of the seven species of African cobras and she just happened to hide out in the woodpile behind our chicken coop in Kenya. She could often be seen sunning herself among the lettuce leaves in the tortoise pen.

Shiva had a cousin almost nine feet in length whose venom could kill fifteen to twenty people. She, herself, was probably just under six feet from head to tail and she kept her venom primarily for defensive purposes. Rarely did we worry about the safety of our three youngsters as the spitting cobra retreated quickly at the first sign of human presence.

Ice Cube was our tabby. Named by our youngest. Definitely the favourite of our middle child who would cuddle and play and purr as loud as the cat while it rubbed up against her legs. The big tom would rev up his internal motor and lift up the big M on his forehead for a rub.

My wife worked hard to keep the grey swirled wonder outside as much as possible. Undaunted, the cat found a way to often escape detection and nestle up against one of the kids through the night. But on that December weekend we were away and he was left on his own in the yard.

The reclusive reptile was actually quite adept at limiting the lizards, mice and other small prey. Once in a while a chick would go missing but it seemed that the hens and tortoises had come to terms with the presence of the snake and an uneasy truce kept everything in balance.

Ice Cube was a master hunter. Keeping the same birds, lizards and mice under control. The cobra and the cat kept their territories clearly marked and there should have been no reason for an encounter.

It was a scalding day when it happened. Perhaps this season’s mice had all been cleared out by the efficient hunters. Perhaps the lizards had found safer walls to scurry over. Perhaps the birds had found quieter nesting sites. For whatever reason, Ice Cube decided to have a show down with his competitor.

For days the tabby had stalked the snake watching each movement from various positions around the yard. In a tree, from atop the hen house, from on the picnic table, from the porch. We thought him clever enough to guard himself as we pulled away and left him on his own.

The Kenyan gardener who looked after our yard later told us about the encounter.

Shiva had slithered into her usual nesting place among some wilted lettuce remnants which the tortoises had left behind when they settled in the shade of the chicken coop. Ice Cube noticed immediately from his perch on the lowest branch of the olive tree. That branch extended right to the edge of the tortoise enclosure and the cat slunk slowly as far as that limb could hold him.

Apparently, the cat was curious for the first hour – at times stretching out a paw as if to attract attention. The snake was motionless. Finally, the cat dropped to the ground and prowled on its belly toward the snake. Whiskers twitched. Eye focused. Paws moved forward almost imperceptibly in micrometers.

The cat was still four feet away when the cobra shot out an oval pattern of killer spray like a machine gun with 30 rapid fire bullets of poison. Shiva’s venom sprayed straight and true from the tear-shaped holes in its fangs and into the right eye of the feline.

The cat howled in agony and fell over itself backpedalling away from the burning sensation that scalded its vision. Neurotoxins from the venom began their work of blindness and intense pain. The tabby twisted and turned and batted at his eyes but the stinging sensation would not quit.

By the time we returned from our adventure, the encounter in the yard was clear. Ice Cube’s right eye was blinded and he was slightly demented in personality. For days he disappeared into the nearby forest. When he returned he would curl up on that lower branch and twitch his tail like a tiger ready to pounce.

We pulled out our machete and went hunting. But Shiva was gone. No more chickens disappeared. The mice and lizards slowly increased. Ice Cube had forced an encounter and we never did figure out whether he had won or lost. I don’t always choose my battles well either.

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This article has been read 89 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ellen Carr 10/19/13
What an intriguing story (true I presume). You've told it really well. Amazing that the cat lived thought that, and that the snake disappeared as though defeated. Great writing.
Ellen Carr 10/19/13
Should have written 'though' not 'thought'.
Ellen Carr 10/19/13
'through that' - I can't believe I corrected my mistake with another mistake. Sorry to take up reviewing space!
CD Swanson 10/21/13
Amazing story...Fantastic descriptive piece! This sounded like it was being narrated and I was watching the story unfold...excellent job.

I feel sorry for the cat. I hope this isn't a true story, but if so...I'm glad the cat managed to survive such an encounter.

Thanks for this riveting and compelling piece.

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/24/13
Congratulations on placing 19 overall!