An Account of Malicious Intent
So he went down there in his truck, like I said. Down to Batch, Alabama, he went, which is where I was born and raised, you see. He was looking for engendered birds, so he says.
Mr. Pass, excuse me, but don’t you mean endangered birds?
Ya’sir. Ain’t that what I said?
No, what you said was, . . . never mind. Please continue.
So he went down there. Like I said. Where he was looking for en . . . what you call them, judge?
Yeah, that’s what they was. En-dangered. So he went down there from up north somewheres. I don’t know where, exactly. Maybe Little Rock, or Dee-troit, I don’t guess it matters too much ‘cause them northern cities are all the same, you know what I mean, judge?
Not really, Mr. Pass. Please continue.
Like I was saying, he went down there. He went in his truck. Down to Batch . . .
Mr. Pass, I appreciate your effort to establish the events leading up to the incident, but if you don’t mind, please move on to the crime in question and to your eyewitness account of the sequence of events from that Tuesday evening, November 7th.
I was trying to get to that point, judge, but every time I get interrupted my brain says I got to start all over again. I don’t know how to get to point B without first starting at point A, you know what I mean?
Yes, Mr. Pass. I do believe I am beginning to see what you mean. Go ahead and get yourself to point B, even if you have to start again at point A. But do everything in your power to avoid any interruption, and I will do the same from up here.
Sure thing, judge. So he went down there, like I was saying, in his truck, down to Batch, Alabama where he was looking for en-dangered birds. Now, you may wonder how I know that, but I seen him every day for three weeks, because he had to pay the toll on Willets Bridge, and my job is manning the toll booth every morning from six a-em to twelve noon. Well, on about the third day I says, ‘Hey, mister. Nice day, ain’t it?’ and he says, ‘Hello,’ like he’s from Little Rock, or something . . .
Mr. Pass . . . point B . . . PLEASE.
Okay. Sorry judge. Let me see. Point B. So I got this cat I call Roger. He lives under Willets Bridge and he comes to my booth every morning at sunrise. I feed him extra strips of bacon I make at home ‘cause at first he was a scrawny thing and could barely cry. I’ll never forget the first day he come up to me. He looked like a empty sack of potatoes on four stick legs, he did. I seen him coming up the bridge, his mouth opening and closing, but there was no sound coming out, you know? When he got to my booth I slid the door open and bent down. The poor thing looked up at me with his mouth so wide I could see the emptiness in his belly. There was barely a squeak that passed over his tongue. So I reached into my brown paper lunch sack and . . .
Mr. Pass. I dread doing what I am now in the process of doing—that being interrupting your train of thought—but in the interest of time, I must insist you get yourself straight to the crime in question.
Sure thing, judge, but what I was getting at is I named the poor creature Roger because he reminded me of my great-grandfather, who was also named Roger, but after about three weeks of feeding bacon to the poor thing, he began to plump up, and he began to purr, real loud, like baseball cards on a bicycle wheel. You ever do that judge, when you were a kid, put baseball cards in the spokes of a bicycle wheel? Sounds like a mini motorbike, it does. The faster you peddle the quicker the motor clicks. So to speak, I should say. Oh, I forgot to say why I named the cat after my great-grandfather. You see . . .
Mr. Pass, it is not necessary for you to establish the connection between the cat and your great-grandfather. I understand you are attempting to assist the court, but we need to move on to the facts in the case. Please proceed with your testimony.
Sorry again, Judge. I guess I don’t sit in this chair every day so it takes a little getting used to, you know what I mean? No, I don’t guess you do, cause you’re the judge and why would you be in this chair when you’re meant to be up there? Don't make much sense now, does it? No, I guess it don't. So I seen that man every day. The man who went down there in his truck. Down there by the marsh, snapping pictures of birds and whatnot. But on that evening of November 7th I was filling in for Joe Armontrout—now there’s a character if there ever was one. I remember this one time . . .
Damn—I mean, beg your pardon, your honor. Seems I get to yakking so much my brain don't know which creek my mouth is fixing to jump into. So like I was saying, I was filling in for Joe Armontrout in the booth that evening and the sun was setting behind me, leaving a bit of a nip in the air. I seen the man sneaking up on a bush, real slow like, and when he stopped and was about to raise the camera to his face, there was Roger, leaping in the air and snatching that little red bird out the bush, all in one instant. That’s when I seen the man pull a rifle out his pack. I didn’t think his pack was that big, but there it was, plain as day. Didn’t think nothing of it at first. Didn’t think nobody would shoot a cat for catching a bird. I mean, isn’t it a natural thing for cats to do? So I didn’t pay it no mind until I heard the man scream like a stuck pig and I seen him chase old Roger up the bank.
That’s when he shot him, judge. In cold blood he shot him for doing nothing more than what comes natural to him. A real crime, if you ask me. Some creatures got no chance against a nut case with a gun. I considered running down there myself and giving him a piece of my mind but I didn't much want to end up like poor Roger, that’s for darned sure. So I called Sheriff Huxford and, well, you pretty much know the rest of it, I suspect. Well, that's my account of the events as they happened, your honor. Roger didn’t have no voice when I found him and he sure ain't got one now, not since that bird lover shot him dead. Guess some folks are either a bird lover or a cat lover and that's that. Guess they only know what they know and don't consider the nature of other creatures. Guess that's how a lot of things end up dead.
Thank you, Mr. Pass. You may step down.
Richard Osgood likes to curl up the ears of beagles and rub them against his lips and nose. They are warm and soft and smell like cheese popcorn. Publication credits include Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Hobart, Write Side Up, Shine Journal, and The First Line. He continues to mourn the deaths of Steve Marriott and Syd Barrett.