The Cat: “Bird’s Sweet!”
After Friz Freleng’s “The Last Hungry Cat.” Merrie Melodies, 1961.
Sylvester panics to think he’s finally eaten luscious canary. A kill in the cage. Much better than in the hand or bush, as Hitchcock explains. The shade rollers it down to a pang in the cat, where it sticks, and it is that darkness, near lives seven through nine, that slurs whenever the cat speaks. I taught I ate a putty tat never slipped from his bird-salivater when, perched atop a tower of stools, chairs, piano benches, and Granny’s floral cookbooks, he savored yellow victory. To the eyeballs feather engorged. Mouth fulla caution tape, school bus (and chicken). Poor Delicioush Dear. It had just been swinging, a song in its heart. That very tiny perch. She could have been a star but she turned morsel instead. We can’t help it, can we? Incisors melt for butter canary (Minus the personality, Bub!) Once, Granny left her broom a loaded gun by the door. That two-handed engine for thrashing feather afflicted felines. Still, the yellow called. And still he answered. Tuna sirens during cat famine (cat clocks are set to famish). It comes first as taste, then as pang. After, it is a hero song — real braga-cat-chio. For a sigh of “O Brother”, it was a jig on a string, playing the tango with itself and morphing into headless dancers doing a quadrille along a strand of saliva suspended between two fangs. They held tight as E flat and just as ready to snap a few rounds of ‘Bird Jump Inna My Mouth’. It dirged out in a few hours but this time Granny did not come back. There was no old lady to rescue the yellow singer gone from her cage. Path the whithkey, wouldja? There she sang perfectly serviceable. Never mind the sibilance, Buster! Or the italics. Tweet’s croon was a touch nasal, but she hearted harder than any robotic bird ever could coo to a king! Never mind how old or gaunt upon a crooked schtick… This Yellow Bird had stars in her eyes, I tell ya, STARS! But she got the short end of it right into thith cath mouth. <camera fades to bongos, self pity, and the tympanic crash of furniture> We never forget what it looks like when the cat gets his bird at last. Eyes, balloons. Paws: holding 2 cups of tar next to lips busy with 10 cigarettes stubbing eyes to bloodshot moons. Cartoons speak poverty fluently. There’s a ripped sash in the window. A lightning bolt on a chest means one thing. On a cartoon windowshade it sings Oliver Twist highnotes of squalor. So here you are, you naughty cat. You did it this time, didn’t you? Atop your tower of chair, stool, and desk. Your cookbooks with your claws at the ready and your fangs firing succulent and true. There’s one connecting the tip of one fang to another. The endless catch and rebuff by the umbrella and the broom or the newspaper rolled up, the bag of groceries or that rubber Hot Wheels track made for car racing, or that one time with the wooden spoon. All weighted to the arc of Granny’s stick hand, the one she keeps strong for carrot-less cats. Why keep such bad-old cats around? To mind that bird in the cage and — !BUMBER-SHOOT! “Stop it with your questions, young man,” Granny cringes. Well, well, well, that old woman knows how to stage a random exit. That’s for sure. No Baron von Munchhausen was slyer about neglect as her constant goings and nick-of-time returnings. Pretty fast for an old lady, eh Granny. But what can you say? At the center of every wheel is a god indifferent to turning. Paranoia is an echo evening cats and crying babies know well. They’re hiding behind torn curtains with many cups of tar, many little cancer sticks, and many more whiskers swirling fume. The whole thing a chopped onion salad for eyes darting lights from the Shazam curtains. And the blinking sign with the ironically missing letter. Bakeries and banks, depots and bars, all reduced to a winking, sleeve-wiping neon. EAT AT JOES — Didn’t that sign just say DEATH AND JAWS? Every blink a bugle. Banjos and broken trombones. Tom’s bones and cacophony. It’s never enough. More innocent headlamps gild the curtain’s rents. The cat loses lives four through six just reading about life number two in the newspaper. ‘Bird Thought Dead. Cat On Run.’ Tar kicks in. Eyes bloodshot. Cancer sticks stinging the conscience electric. (Turns out, the conscience is a gland behind the cheek.) And there’s bottles even the cartoon can’t show in use. Some have skulls on them with exes for eyes. BIRDS FROM HELL — Barbershop. Bakery. Bank. How shrill the cartoon song, Parakeeticide Paranoia in the key of commodity flat. That whoosh of cigarette smoke engulfs the cat, stuffed to the socks with guilt for murder delicious and dismally poor taste in shades.
Michael Chaney has been published in Michigan Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, Los Angeles Review, Minnesota Review, New Ohio Review, and Prairie Schooner. He lives in Vermont.
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