Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The cats heard it first....

The mail had accumulated for the month he was traveling. He sat down at the desk to sort through it and pay the bills. Piles of magazines and catalogs were stacked to one side, yellow sticky notes jutting out haphazardly, marking things to remember. He pushed his laptop out of the way to clear a spot to work.

The radio was playing softly; dusk had fallen over the grove. He pried off his boots and set them aside glancing at the globe standing in the corner. The Asian continent was almost rubbed away from being examined while trips were planned or remembered. The world on his globe was the map of a lost world; borders had long since shifted and country names had been changed as regimes came and went. As on the globe, people and places in his own world were slowly being erased and fading away. He thought about his funeral suit shoved to the back of the closet after his wife's death, but hauled out again in January, the cruelest month, when his mother and brother both succumbed to illness.

The ranch was purchased for the quiet respite it offered, nine miles out of town with the closest neighbors acres away.  Gated and enclosed with a 6 foot tall wire mesh fence and razor wire, maximum security was provided. He was frequently absent and needed the protection from crop theft. As he sat thinking, one cat came in and flopped at his feet; the other found a spot on the desk. Both began languorously licking themselves from top to bottom, purring heavily then more slowly, snorting a bit and falling into sleep.

At this time of year, the avocado trees were heavy with fruit and ready for picking. He was waiting and watching the market hoping to get the very most out of the crop this year. Water costs were high and climbing. For once in a very long time, he needed the money.

Penny Savers papers, credit card offers and pizza ads gradually filled the trash can, The once hopeless heap was reduced to a manageable stack. In the distance, rolling booms from Camp Pendleton training maneuvers rolled through, sounding like distant thunder storms.

The cats heard it first, awakening instantly, ears pushed forward, whiskers twitching, bodies alert and ready to run. He turned to the door and listened. A thump, followed by heavy footsteps coming down the driveway, a squeak of the iron gate and the sound of something being dragged.

His rifle was downstairs in the garage, locked in the gun case. 

1 comment: