When the web of Life turns ugly

The wonder of the natural world: Flies and ants compete for freshly killed vermin.

Only yesterday, my brother-in-law Andy (who apparently thinks he’s too good to accept my heartfelt offer of Internet friendship and social-media bonhomie) wrote a charming and thoughtful Web essay about a tragedy narrowly averted on the cat-eat-bird streets of South Philadelphia.
You should read it; it’s good. This is no surprise, since Andy (I’ve never called him “Andy” before. For the near-decade of our brotherly loving relationship, I have employed the more formal “Andrew.” Well, fuck that shit. It’s time to put the familiar back in the family.) is a fine writer and sensitive human being. A few years back he published an entertaining and edifying novel called “Mother’s Milk.” You should read that, too.
This is not an attempt to match or even one-up my beloved brother-in-law. There is no chance of that. This is not a charming story about a would-be victim miraculously escaping the nefarious clutches of a vicious predator and living to see another day (or hour, or minute or second).
No, this is a pitiless story about death and depredation in nature.
This is the horror I glimpsed upon walking out my front door this afternoon:

This is not a feelgood story. There is no happy ending. Not even for the vultures pictured above, who soon would be deprived of their unexpected bounty.
There is no redemption in this story. Nor is there a moral.
There is only death. Death and the cruel, Darwinian struggle for survival.
We do not know the identity of the killer. But we have a feline of interest.
The evidence is purely circumstantial. Nonetheless, I’m ready to summon the kangaroo court and extract a conviction. She won’t stand an Arab’s chance in a U.S. military tribunal.
She looks something like this:


If you’ve seen this face, please contact the authorities. And if you haven’t, we’d be happy to send her your way for an indefinite, nay, infinite period of time.
Don’t be fooled by the closed-eye affectations of sweetness and docility. This cat is a deranged killer. A deranged killer, I might add, with a fetid arsehole.
You might ask how I know this. I’ve observed this killer in action for nearly five years. She’s been the bane of our existence ever since I went soft and let her stray ass in the house in the fall of 2007.
Don’t get me wrong. I love animals, and adore cats in particular.
But this girl, the girl we call Caldonia, is a different story. She insists on thrusting her foul-smelling butt in my face at all hours of the day. And she insists on taking unprovoked runs at and generally making life miserable for Lester, our beloved feline.
Oh Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?

Not only is she crazy, but she’s a pestilential menace. First thing she did after offing that poor rat was come strolling in the house and bounding up the stairs before settling down on a pile of my clean clothes.
Oh Caldonia, sometimes I wish you were a dog so I could call you a bitch.
Anyway, as you can plainly see, the situation got ugly in no time. A rapacious cadre of ants soon dispatched the flies, and before I knew it they were colonizing the poor, deceased varmint’s ears and eyes.
It was, verily, grotesque. And just a little bit unhealthful.
And so the hazmat team was summoned, and the vultures evicted and the dearly departed given an unceremonious sendoff by way of a thoughtless discus throw into the nearby woods.

Max learns a difficult but valuable lesson about the ephemeral nature of life on earth.

I wish we could’ve given the poor soul a more appropriate sendoff, a more dignified benediction.
I wish I could tell you the victim sprang to life like a disease-carrying Lazarus (actually, when you think about it, old Lazarus must’ve been fairly ripe his own self, what with him moldering in the grave for four days while waiting around for resurrection), caused me to drop him in terror and then scampered off into the underbrush, no worse for the nasty bout of cat-on-rat violence.
But I can’t tell you that.
All I can tell you is what I’ve already said: A rat is dead, and somewhere in the woods adjacent to our house, somewhere thankfully beyond our sight, remorseless varmints are no doubt devouring its lifeless carcass.

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6 Responses to When the web of Life turns ugly

  1. Arnold Lytle says:

    The only constructive thing I can say about this essay is:

    Max got a summer haircut!

  2. Andrew says:

    I loved the story and have shared on some of that social media you mentioned, but that brings me right to:

    >>Andy (who apparently thinks he’s too good to accept my heartfelt offer of Internet friendship and social-media bonhomie)

    I have never turned down bonhomie of any kind! To what are you referring? You don’t appear to be on The Facebook or The Goodreads, the only social media I use much. Friend request me and I’ll accept it in a non-dead rat’s heartbeat.

    I’m going to read some more of your polished prose now, when I should be getting work done.

  3. Lauri says:

    We see what you’re up to. You’re building a case against poor Caldonia in order to be able to sign off on the execution warrant without guilt. Slanderous, I tell you.

    Meanwhile, Jeff wants to know, while the rat was in his death throes, do you think he was erstwhile and disgruntled? And was the cat mouth happy?

  4. rubewaddell says:

    To my knee-jerk-liberal cat-loving tree-hugging chicken-raising vagina-empowering friend Lauri: You want to step in and grant Caldonia asylum at the Peoples Republic of Ecobrewerania, feel free. The true power resides with the people.
    And Jeff: I’m sure, in the moments leading up to becoming an erstwhile rat, the poor rodent most certainly was disgruntled. And perhaps the cat was for a spell mouth happy before realizing she had a dead rodent on her tongue. That’s probably about the time she dropped it in disgust and ceded the field to the flies and ants.

  5. Lauri says:

    better not be using that kind of vulgar language in michigan.

  6. Kelsie says:

    Max is absolutely huge! And adorable…

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