a short story
GOOCHA CAME HOME WITH an arrow in him. He knew he was home, but couldn’t get through the cat door as the shaft was sticking out both sides of his body. A good cat, he sat at the back door waiting for Josa to return, but she was at the other house. Goocha didn’t know that.
Goocha couldn’t have gone to the other house if he wanted to. It was too far away, three hours by car. He had liked the other house when he lived there by the lake with Josa and Jan. Now Jan was gone and he and Josa lived in this small town in the mountains, where there was only one grocery store which did not stock brand of cat food he required, so his bowel movements had become loose, and he gagged up quite frequently. It was also a town where frustrated, or perhaps just bored, deer hunters shot arrows at any small creature that moved.
Initially it had almost been fun. Goocha had never seen a bow hunter in his former hometown by the lake, which banned all hunting, except that done by cats. The first arrow that came his way while he was stalking a squirrel in the woods had missed. Here was something different, something he had not seen before. The long straight stick had come from the man very fast, and with a twang and then a hiss. Now it stuck into the ground at a strange angle. On the other end was something that looked like feathers from a bird. Goocha knew about birds. He hunted them; not that he ever caught one. He had once, and Josa had taken it from him, and scolded him telling him he “mustn't do that.” So now when he waited for them in ambush, and dived out of his cover, he only scattered them into the sky, holding up if it seemed like he might actually get one. He did the same thing with squirrels, even though no one had warned him against catching them. After all, he had plenty of food at home in his dish, which Josa always kept filled.
The sound of the arrow had startled Goocha, and caused him to break off his chase of the squirrel, a change of track that probably saved his life. Now, he heard the swishing sound again, and quickly dived under some ferns. The arrow stuck in a tree trunk, vibrating just above his head. The man walked toward him, then stopped to pull his first stick out of the ground. Goocha took advantage of the man’s distraction and scooted for home, careful to keep his tail down.
It was a new game to play, he thought. No one had ever harmed Goocha, or even threatened him; although he had had his tail accidentally stepped on once. He had no fear. Then one day, while chasing a squirrel, Goocha saw one of the arrows find the little animals back. The squirrel was pinned in place. It tried to run, but eventually realized it was going nowhere. Then it shuddered and went stiff. Goocha watched from his concealment as the man came to claim his stick, and the skewered squirrel was pulled off and thrown into the brush. The cat went looking for his friend, wanting to know what had happened to him. Spying the squirrel trashing behind some bushes, Goocha approached cautiously, stalking through the low grass in a crouch, with his ears back. He was near, but now the grass had given way to a grave path. Caution told him he must hurry across this open space. In the middle of the path he felt one of the sticks go through him. He tried to run, but could only drag his back legs behind him. His body hurt, like it had never hurt before, and now fluid was coming out of him, warm fluid which he licked at with his tongue. Not knowing what else to do, he hid in the bushes until the hunter was gone, then he crawled home to find Josa. He knew she would help him, as she always did. But she wasn’t home. Goocha waited at the back door for three hours, and then he died.
Etienne Espye was born in Paris in 1938, and moved to the U. S. A. with his parents just after the Germans invaded Poland. Etienne grew up in New York City where he attended public schools, and took night classes at the New School for Social Research. He presently lives in Upstate New York, where he works as a part-time cat sitter.
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