I wish to report a homicide. A murder, actually. A cold blooded, premeditated,
serial murder. I witnessed it this morning in my back yard.
The victim is one Tamiasciurus douglasii, AKA Douglas
The assassinI guess Im supposed to call him the suspectwas
my cat Milo, a duplicitous figure with a long record of felonious
The facts are not in dispute: The squirrel, attracted to my back yard
by sunflower seeds in the bird feeder, was scampering through the
shrubs in an entirely non-provocative manner. Just as he passed the
acuba japonica, the catwith malice aforethoughtsprang
from his place of concealment under a cedar tree and landed on his
hapless victim with all fours. It was a savage ambush, over in an
The assailantexcuse me, the suspectthen trotted
toward the house, the victim hanging lifelessly from his mouth, and
deposited his prey on the mat by the door, as cats do. I didnt
want to watch what happened next he has previously deposited
the grisly remains of bats and birds and small rodents, some of them
not quite deadso I pretended nothing had happened and escaped
into the morning paper.
About an hour later when I had to go outside, the cat was still
crouching attentively by his victim, seeming to work it over with
his mouth, butstrangelythe corpse of the squirrel was
still intact. Well, not entirely intact. Its head was missing. Apparently
Milo is not only a terminator but a decapitator.
Since Ive already fingered the culprit, this story is obviously
not a whodunnit. The mystery lies elsewhere. Since the cat didnt
seem interested in actually eating the decedent but only in pretending
to eat it, what became of the decedents head? I could guess,
I suppose, but Id rather not think about it.
What is far more mysterious and does bear thinking about is
this: Cats have ostensibly been domesticated for thousands of years,
but in the eons weve spent trying to civilize them, theyve
only pretended to buy into the program. Its all a front.
Underneath, theyre still creatures of the jungle. Give them
all the food they can eat and theyll still pounce lethally on
rubber mice and anything else that moves.
Why do I harbor in my home a creature I know to be a calculating,
cold blooded, self-centered, unrepentant serial executioner? Not only
do I house him, I feed him, water him, pay for his license, and foot
his expensive medical bills. I buy him little toys for his amusement,
as well as a spiffy little collar with his very own name tag. I provide
a warm lap when hes inclined to want it, and I arrange for his
care when Im out of town.
I am then complicitous in his little murders, just as I aided and
abetted in the death of the squirrel by inadvertently baiting him
with sunflower seeds. Oh heavy deed. My offense is rank; my guilt
So why do I go along with him? Because although hes a terminator
and a decapitator, hes also a skilled ingratiator. Thats
it. I have no other excuse. Side by side with his impulse to kill
is a cunning, conniving knack for appearing lovable, andpoor
dupe that I amIm completely taken in by the trick. To
the charges of entrapment and harboring a serial killer, therefore,
I plead guilty and ask for the mercy of the court.
But what about the cat? His court appointed attorney would argue this:
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, defendant Milo is entirely
blameless in this affair. In taking the squirrel he merely did what
Nature has destined him to do, what cats have done for thousands of
years. Killing is his raison dêtre. Well, killing
and sleeping, to tell the whole truth. Killing is a congenital part
of his psycho/genetic/cultural/biological make up. In fact he is fundamentally
incapable of not killing, and therefore can no more be guilty
of murder than he can be of eating or breathing.
But Ill go even further, Milos lawyer might
argue. Its clear that by flaunting himself so brazenly
in front of the afore-mentioned acuba japonica, the squirrel
intentionally baited my client. It was a case of wanton titillation.
Simply put, had the squirrel not behaved so provocatively, he would
still be alive today. You must therefore do your duty and find in
favor of my client Milo.
If that gets me off the hook, its good enough for me.
TheScreamOnline regular Rob Woutat has contributed a wide variety of pieces to newspapers and magazines and to the National Public Radio affiliate in Seattle/Tacoma. He has written two family histories and a memoir and is now working on a novel. Please check the Talent Index to see his other work.
He can be reached at rwoutat[AT]tscnet.com.
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