of the Lion -- Purr of the Cat
times in the early morning stillness of those Texas summers, I
would awaken to the irregular tap-tapping of the screen door bumping
against the door jamb, as our cat, Ming Fuey, scratched and pulled
till she jerked it open enough to get her head in. Two more bumps
against her belly and hips and she could pull her tail right on
A little before I did, she had caught the whiff of homemade sausage
frying. Daddy, standing with spatula in hand before the stove,
would look down as she marked him and begged by rubbing back and
forth across and between his legs. He liked to reach down and
pick her up by one ear, hold her frozen body up to eye level,
turn his head on angle with hers and say, What do the animals
in the jungle allow, cat? Then hed laugh as he dropped
her and took up cooking again. Ming Fuey would shake her head
back right, then take up marking and begging again with each pass
through his legs. After breakfast hed pour the sausage grease
over the table scraps that hed split between her and our
Daddybig, round-chestedwho cowed from no man or object
in his way, made his entrance into the house a bit more dramatic
than the cat. And everybody knew when the old man was home. He
always drank when he had money, and you could tell he had been
drinking by looking at his car. If it was caddy-wampus in the
driveway, or if it had missed the driveway completely and had
a wheel hung in the ditch, Daddy was home and had been imbibing
a mite. His vehicles always had dents on both sides, battle scars
from those that got in his way on the trail between the beer joint
and home. And there was no difficulty hearing him. He was loud
and profane when he was sober and louder and more profane when
he was drunk, plus the whiskey brought out a disposition akin
to a stepped-on water moccasin. Anytime I was in my house playing
with friends and Daddy came in the front door cussing and yelling,
the kids skedaddled out the back door with me close behind. I
played more at my friends houses than the other way around.
At times he was another man. I never saw him turn down helping
any white man in a tight spot. When a family was moving in the
house across the road, Daddy was there quick to help the man tote
in the refrigerator and stove. That night, Daddy fried up a bunch
of catfish he had caught and made sure the new family got plenty,
as well as giving them more fresh fish packed in ice for another
meal. Later, I was outside with the man and Daddy. Daddy nipped
his whiskey and passed his bottle to the new neighbor, and one
pass to me, all the time telling bawdy jokes that kept us laughing.
One summer Saturday morning, I was watching my favorite Tarzan,
Johnny Weismuller, on TV. Just as he had made his yell through
cupped hands to rally the elephants to his side, I heard Chewber
outside barking and popping his chain as he lunged out at something.
Then I heard the clanging sound of a trash can falling over. Daddy
was in the kitchen stirring red-eye gravy to go along with our
fried country ham and biscuits. As soon as he heard the can fall,
he lowered the fire on the stove and walked through the living
room to the closet to get his favorite twelve-gauge, which was
loaded like all the guns in the house. I watched as he pushed
the screen door open with his bare foot, stepped out on the porch,
and raised the shotgun to aim. Two scavenging dogs next to the
overturned trash can looked up long enough to see the black eye
of the barrel leveled on them.
One dog sensed trouble and took off in a run up Arden Road. The
second dog looked confused as he saw his partner high-tail it,
then was turning his head toward Daddy when he got ita swarm
of number nine bird shot that stung him from head to tail. The
sprayed dog tore off down Arden Road, yelping in time as his paws
crossed in, reaching and pushing to gain ground a bound at a time.
Daddy raised the Remington to his shoulder and racked in another
round. He raised his sighting up slightly and led the first dog.
Then he squeezed-off another round. The target let out one loud
yelp, tucked his tail, and pulled in his rear end as he ran, so
whatever it was that bit him could not quite reach him next time.
Down the other direction, the first-shot-dogs yelping turned
to a long continuous squall after the second shot, which was not
even aimed at him.
I stood beside Daddy, taking it all in, ears ringing, nostrils
filling with burned gunpowder. He put the gun butt against his
right hip with the barrel pointing skyward. Then he laughed and
yelled to no one in particular and to everyone in earshot. And
stay away you sons of bitches or Ill part your eyes with
an aught-six round, I will!
Mr. Turentine in the house just beyond our lot came out on his
porch cussing. What in the damn hell is going on out here?
Then he saw Daddy with his shotgun still smoking and purred, Hey
there, Worley. Hows ever thing this mornin?
Seeing the trash can mess, he said, I hope you got them
dogs. Damned nuisance is all they are.
Daddy racked another round in the chamber, put on the safety,
spit off the porch and said, I got emall I aimed
to anyway. I dont spect em back for a while.
The dogs were out of sight, but their squalling could still be
I reckon not, Mr. Turentine said. Not if they
got a lick of sense between em. He opened his screen
door and threw up his other hand, And good morning to you,
sir. Yall come see us.
Yall too, Daddy answered. Then to me he said,
Get out there and clean up that mess, and get my shells.
Yessir. I jumped off the porch and got the shotgun
shells and examined them. They were in good enough shape for Daddy
to reload. I put them in my back pocket and went to the garage
where I was able to drag open one of the doors enough to get in
and get a broken-handled shovel and a worn-out, c-curved broom.
Cleaning up was easy, as all the time I was reliving the moment.
Once, I held the broom to my shoulder in deadly aim and swung
right to left and made that second shot he did, only I dropped
a charging rhino that flipped head over heels from my perfect
aught-six round that split his eyes.
I swept up the last of some eggshells and coffee grounds. I found
a half piece of burned toast that somehow got past the animal
scrap pile from a previous day. Heading back to the house, I saw
Chewber in his doghouse with his head lying on his paws. He looked
up at me, big eyes begging. I squatted down to reassure him with
a head rub and the piece of toast he devoured in three crunches
and a gulp.
Back at the porch, I sat down on the steps and played with a shotgun
shell. I heard Ming Fueys purring just before I felt her
rub against my bare back. Reaching behind me, I pulled her to
my lap and petted her in long, even strokes. It was then I noticed
that the only sound was her purring. No birds chirped, no ones
TV or radio could be heard, no talk. Nothing moved. Then I heard
a clear clink and knew it was his whiskey bottle that he bumped
against the plates as he pulled it down from the cabinet for his
first drink of the day.
The lion had roared and the others in the jungle, motionless,
peered silently through the blades of blinds and decided there
was no outside need that could not wait a while longer.
O. Jones has taught college English courses for thirty years.
He writes humorous personal essays and reads at local open mic
events. Read "A Tale of Two Chickens" at Southern
Humorists.com. Neil is also published in Perceptions
Neil O. Jones