Enjoy the story:
To Kill a Mockingbird
-by Harry Widdifield
all rights reserved
“To Kill a MockingBird, by Harper Lee,” Oscar wrote on the top line of his college-ruled notebook paper. He glared at the book flapped open on his bed and then back to his piece of paper. I hate book reports!
Oscar reached down and stroked the calico cat rubbing against his leg. “In a minute, Felix.”
Felix purred and shoved his head into Oscar's meaty hand. Oscar scratched the cat's ear and then retracted his hand back to his small desk top.
Oscar turned his attention out of the window and looked past the street sign at the corner of his family home – marked “Melville Pl.” and “Poe Ave.” and into the face of the angry driver that had just slammed on the brakes of his blue minivan to avoid the neighbor's Collie, Lassie. Oscar watched, amused as Lassie urinated on a fire hydrant and the man in the blue minivan drove away.
Something beside him jumped onto his desk and detracted his attention from the window. Felix.
Oscar scowled and brushed against the cat to move him aside, but to no avail. Felix expertly stepped one paw at a time over Oscar's arm and purred.
“Seriously, Felix,” Oscar said as he reached again for the calico. “I have to write this stupid book rep– ”
Oscar released the cat and turned in his seat. He looked out of his window again and was surprised to find an empty intersection.
“What the – ?” Oscar looked down at the lawn and saw a little grey, black and white finch-like bird with a long black beak hopping across the lawn.
Oscar looked down at his nearly blank piece of paper and smiled. “How appropriate,” Felix purred and pushed into his chest. Oscar pet the cat again and then lifted him to the open windowsill. “Go kill that thing; Will you, Felix?”
Felix turned as if he expected to come back to the desk.
Oscar waived his hands. “fffftttt! Go away!” he said. “You can come back when I finish my book report.”
The cat's eyes enlarged for a moment and he turned and exited through the window, extending his tail upward as if to say “fffft, right back at you buddy. Who needs ya?” Oscar smiled. He loved the little calico cat that had been his closest companion for nearly 10 years. The two understood each other – most of the time. He'd be fine. Problem solved, Oscar returned his gaze to his paper. He reached for his pen and began to write:
“Even when we think nobody else is looking, all of our actions come with consequences. In her tale, to Kill a MockingBird, Author Harper Lee tells the story of –”
Oscar sighed and stood to shut the window. Stupid bird!
Outside, Felix tiptoed across the hot roof, careful to avoid the black tar that he'd learned as a kitten was uncomfortable and difficult to clean off with one's tongue. He found his way to the edge of the roof nearest the branch of the oak tree that he knew would hold him.
Another cat was on his branch!
Felix crouched. Adrenaline shot through his body. He felt his fur begin to stand up along his spine. He'd tussled with the grey and white tabby before, and neither had yet established any sort of lasting dominance.
Felix looked over his shoulder back toward the closed window and then back at the grey cat sunning himself on the branch – sleeping.
Felix took two crouched steps forward. No movement from the tabby.
Felix aimed himself at a spot on the branch just short of where his foe lay sleeping and then he lifted his tail, took a breath, blinked his eyes once and sprang.
He landed inches from the tabby and dug his claws into the branch to keep from being launched from the branch when it bounced from the weight of his impact. The tabby awoke and sprang backwards, but managed to grab onto the branch himself without falling. He still stood between Felix and the trunk that Felix aimed to reach in order to climb from the tree. And now the tabby was awake – and angry.
Felix opened his mouth as if tasting the wind, and the tabby did the same. Both cats released a high-pitched growl that came from deep within their bellies. The tabby's tail twitched. So did Felix's. Both animals crouched, eyes wide as saucers. Felix took a step forward. The tabby took two.
The tabby looked away toward the Mockingbird on the lawn first. Felix took his opportunity and leaped. He extended his claws as he landed on the tabby.
The two cats, tabby and calico, locked talons, hissed, screamed, swatted, and lost their balance. They tumbled toward the ground, neither releasing its grasp on the other until they smacked the ground with a thud.
Out of the corner of one eye, Felix saw the collie across the street first. The mocking bird took flight and perched itself above the fray, on the highest branch of the tree. Felix, gave his feline foe another series of swats and lept back into the tree just as the dog barreled into the front yard and smashed into an empty trash can knocking it over and sending the lid rolling into the street and then back to the curb before collapsing with a bang against the gutter. The Tabby looked away from Felix, took note of the incoming collie and ran, leaving the dog to give chase. Felix climbed higher into the tree, wide eyed and took stock of his surroundings.
Felix looked above his position to see the mockingbird who had changed his tune from the squeal of brakes to the growl of angry felines. The calico opened his mouth to smell the air. Instinctively, he crouched lower on the branch. His jaw began to chatter as he set his sights on the seemingly oblivious bird.
Felix looked over his shoulder to see the collie sniffing at the fence line where the tabby had run, and then back to the mockingbird. He stopped chattering, reached a paw forward and slowly began his stealthy ascent.
“Mrowrrrrrrr!” mimicked the mockingbird.
Back inside the house, Oscar looked up from his book report which and sighed. “Stupid cats,” he whispered under his breath.
He stood and made his way back to the window. He pulled it open and stuck his head out to locate the cats.
Oscar raised his eyes to see the little grey bird and scowled.
Oscar thought about what his mother had said about the airgun he'd been given as a gift from his grandfather at Christmas:
“I don't like guns, Oscar – even air guns.” She'd said. “If you are going to shoot that thing, you take it out to the the country and you shoot cans or rocks. I don't want to ever hear that you've been shooting birds or squirrels or I will take it away. Do you understand me?”
“Let him alone, Marjorie,” his dad had said. “Oscar is a good boy. He'll leave the critters be.”
His dad has tousled his hair and Oscar had agreed to the terms before he was allowed to keep the airgun.
“Mrowrrrrr!” the bird said again, interrupting his thoughts.
Oscar frowned at the bird and then thought of his parents who had gone shopping and wouldn't return for hours. He thought of the gun in the closet and made a decision.
They'll never know!
He raced to the closet and pulled aside the winter coats to reveal the black air rifle, and reached for it. Beside it was a box of pellets. He reached for the box and picked it up, but the bottom fell out, spilling shiny round pellets all over his closet floor.
He bent to pick up the pellets when the mockingbird called again.
Oscar sighed and reached for a pellet and his rifle. He opened the chamber and inserted the pellet. Then he cocked the air lever until he could cock it no further. For a moment, he thought of abandoning his plan. He had, after all, made a promise. But then the bird called again.
Oscar. Raced to the window, knelt down and raised the rifle to his shoulder. He peered through the site and focused it until he found the little grey bird. He moved the rifle until he was satisfied that the winged creature's breast was firmly in the cross-hairs on his scope. “Die, you little jerk” he whispered as he pulled the trigger.
The tree branch erupted in a flurry of leaves and feathers.
“Raowwrrr!” he heard as he lifted his head from the scope and saw the bird take flight, and Felix launch himself into the air, claws extended toward the little grey bird.
In an instant Oscar realized what he'd just done. “Noooooooooo!” he screamed as the pellet slammed into Felix's side and penetrated the calico's chest cavity. Felix fell and hit the ground with a thud. Tears rushed into Oscar's eyes as he turned to race out of his room, down the stairs, through the foyer, and out the front door to the front yard were a calico mass lay in a pool of blood on the ground, not offering so much as a twitch. Oscar collapsed to his knees. He stroked his dead friend and cried, pleading to a god that did not answer for a do-over. It never came.
Across the street, near a grey craftsman style home with white trim, a little grey bird alighted on top of a telephone pole.
“Noooooooooo!” it called, oblivious to the boy crying on the ground three hundred feet away.