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Gulled By The Gull – The Smart Bird Strikes

 

seagull-beakI was by the harbour – chilly though it was – standing on one of the wharfs that was still in sunlight.

I had been cautious as I approached the edge, because I did not want to disturb an injured seagull, It was huddled beside a corner post, trying to stay out of the wind. I figured there was enough room for both of us.

The gull did shift its weight from time to time, and seemed to keep its side toward the wind. It was not a sleek-looking bird, and had misaligned feathers on one of its wings. It favoured an odd side-hop when it moved. I wondered what misadventure it might have experienced.

There was little traffic on the harbour, but the sunshine and clear sky made the water a deep and beautiful blue. I was looking out toward the ocean proper when a commotion startled me. My decrepit gull was fast into the air and then, even faster, into the water. Seconds later the bird was back in the air, its beak full of crab.

The gull landed a very safe distance from me. It began to dispatch the crab with fast and furious strikes of its beak. The gull kept the crab on its back as it pecked away at the softer underside. This was no delicate fine dining, as pieces of the crab’s shell flew in various directions, and made sounds as they landed on the surrounding dock. Soon, the only motions the crab made were from the piercing of the gull’s beak.

Considering that I dine – admittedly, with a tad more finesse – upon lobster, I had no problem with the gull acquiring its own meal. It had been earned.

And I will make no more assumptions about the state of gulls by appearance alone.

(image) http://www.cepolina.com/photo/nature/animals/birds/seagull/gull/4/seagull-beak.jpg

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An Attack Dog Makes An Attack from “The Bonner Prediction”

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In my NATO thriller, The Bonner Prediction, one of my main characters is Louie-the-dog, a Cane Corso trained for both attack and defence.  Here he is in action, and it ain’t for defence.

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“Hey! Old man! Stop the fuck there!”

The voice comes from behind General Bonner. He does as he is told, reasoning that if his fate was solely to be shot, it would have happened by now. He also assumes he would have been shot if the voice had seen his machine pistol. He can’t remove the strap from around his neck, but he does shove the weapon under his jacket. He pulls up the zipper then lets his hands swing by his side.

“Are you one of the army guys?” The General does not turn, does not provoke.

“Holy Jesus Invincible.” The earpiece snaps immediately into authority. “Everyone quiet down out there. General, give us clues.”

“They’re swarming all over the ship.” The General makes no motion.

“Never mind me” The voice does not come closer. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Ship’s pilot.” General Bonner guesses the voice is in one of the few pockets of darkness. “They’ve called me to take this ship out of the harbour.”

“Who called you?”

“NATO.”

“But it’s leaving tomorrow.”

“Not any more.”

“Where’s your uniform?”

“They got me getting ready for bed.” General Bonner turns around, putting a hand up to shield his eyes. “With a beer in my hand. Said there was an emergency.”

“Where’s it going?”

“What?”

“The ship. Where are they sending it?”

“I don’t know.” General Bonner sees a form on the far side of the second tier of containers. “I’m just getting it out of the harbour. I disembark at Herring Cove.”

“Why aren’t you in the Wheelhouse?”

“I always pace out the size of the deck.” General Bonner laughs. “I call it walking the dog.”

“Bess!” The earpiece knows that she has heard but what if there is that one in a thousand chance she has not.

“Louie can never get down the stairways fast enough.”

“Then a diversion.” The earpiece wonders how quickly he can get a sharpshooter in place.

“I was just going to the Wheelhouse.” General Bonner touches one of his legs. “Thank God they have an elevator, or this bum knee would be going through hell.”

“Is there an elevator?” Bess takes Louie’s leash from her pocket.

“Yes!” Major Kennett pinpoints it on the Wheelhouse schematic. “It’s on the dock side, at the rear of the central core.”

“Who’s up there?” The voice in the shadows steps closer, but does not come into the light.

“Some ship crew and a dozen army.” General Bonner keeps rubbing his leg. “With more coming, if what I heard is true.”

“Can you get me off the ship?”

“I stand in the Wheelhouse for an hour.” General Bonner chuckles. “I don’t know the rest of the ship.”

“I’ll take you hostage.”

“Good luck with that.” General Bonner speaks for his audience. “They are not going to negotiate with you, son. They want this ship out of here.” He raises his voice. “I can be replaced.”

“Louie and I are in the elevator.”

“Can you get him into the light?” Colonel Bonner has already positioned the best sharpshooter among the commandos. He is in a corner window of the wheelhouse. However, he has expressed concern about the thickness of the glass. It might interfere with the trajectory.

“You think I’m fucked?” The voice is both frightened and angry.

“There’s always over the side.” General Bonner points.

“It will probably kill me.”
“Yup.” General Bonner takes a few steps forward. He stops and spreads his hands. “There is always surrender.”

“They’ll execute me.”

“Not in this country.” General Bonner takes a further few slow steps before stopping. “What have you done, son? Have you rigged the ship to sink?”

“To blow up.”

“Jesus – when?” General Bonner makes some forced laughter. “I’ll get off with you.”

“There’s no where to go with this bomb.” The anger flashes. “Fucking CURACA.”

“What?” General Bonner has found a spot where the deck lights are not directly in his eyes. “We get off and run like hell.”

“It’s an A bomb.” The voice is strident. “Fucking Atomic. There’s no place to run.”

“Calm down, son.” General Bonner puts his hands up in front of him, palm out, as if stopping a car. “If it’s true, that’s what I’m here for. Get the ship out to sea. But you better give yourself up.”

“CURACA is on this ship.” The voice moves forward. “He’ll figure some way to stop these soldiers.” His words race. “That’s why I stayed behind. He’s fucking crazy.” The figure steps into the light. “You’re my only chance to get off here.”

“Then your chance of escape is a dog’s dinner.”

“Louie is loosed!”

Bess’s voice is overtaken by the opening of the metal door. General Bonner goes to the zipper of his jacket as the shooter turns toward the sound of a growling dog. The shooter raises a hand to again shield his eyes as he raises his weapon. General Bonner frees his machine pistol just as Louie barrels past. The shooter manages a scream as he both open fires and turns to flee. General Bonner has the shooter’s wide back as a target when Louie leaps for the man’s weapon arm and hauls him down. General Bonner lowers his pistol as Bess runs past, her own revolver drawn.

“Stand down.” Colonel Bonner says this directly into the marksman’s ear.

Louie has the shooter’s arm impaled as Bess runs forward. She kicks the man’s weapon out of the way. The shooter is screaming and rolling and trying to cover his head. General Bonner strides forward and kicks the man in the face.

“I told you to jump.”

(image)1.bp.blogspot.com/-hdxw8i4YrLI/UTus8tCBsjI/AAAAAAAAITA/BeyS7-885hY/s1600/Cane-Corso-6.jpg

When The Other Animals Help Humans To Stop Satan

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A prominent American politician (you know who you are) recently opined that a gang of murderous humans were a bunch of animals. We are all animals, and it should be of no surprise that the other animals never act with the hate and horror of humans. The true insult is to call someone “human”.
In my first Satan novel, There Has Been A Sighting, my human animal characters join with the other animals on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan in Botswana to confront a true Beast. This is the abridged encounter.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Caleb and I agree.” The old nun glances at Dorkas, then looks back to the Kgosi. “You must have your people move with them.” She speaks loudly, so other ears will hear. “Whether they join us, or we join them – we are all in this together.”

“My people – ”

“Will follow the crook of your finger.” Caleb is now standing on the other side of the Kgosi. “That’s what Dorkas told me, and I see she is right.”

“Am I now to trust the wild animals?”

“They are here.” Caleb points. “One must assume they are trusting us.”

“It seems to me.” Dorkas speaks softly. “Their leap of faith is greater than ours.”

“I will do as the white witch tells me.”

“No.” Dorkas puts a hand on his arm. “You must overcome your human limitations. You must act with the conviction of these other animals. This is not an order for me to give.”

“Talks With Devils wants a lot from me.”

“And I plan to get it.” Her grip becomes so fierce she pulls the Kgosi toward her. “And I plan to get it here, from this second forward.”

Letsolathebe looks around the tight circle of faces. He does not see fear or hesitation, and he regains his confidence.

“You seem ready to walk into Hell.”

“It’s an easy walk.”  Mother Ursula smiles.

“Is it an easy walk back?”

“Jesus did it with alacrity.”

“I am not the God woman’s God.” Letsolathebe wonders at the comment. “To say that puts a great burden on me.”

“Our Lord was also a human being.” The old nun chuckles. “And looked a lot more like you than me. It is as a man we know Him, and through His trials as a man that we more fully understand God.”

“Didn’t He die first, before He entered Hell?”

“There are drawbacks,” admits Mother Ursula.

“I can not tell my people that death is merely a drawback.”

“Perhaps we tell them too much as it is.” Caleb raises his voice, and Shona does likewise. “Perhaps it is time we listen.” He turns a slow arc to address their silent followers. “Listen to the other animals.”

“Listen?” asks Letsolathebe.

“And smell, and use all our senses.” Mother Ursula answers. “To become like them, so we can more truly become ourselves.”

A sigh of intense interest spreads to the furthest reaches of the assembly, then quietly ceases without question or comment. They all stop to listen to the animals. The other animals.

As the sounds of the people become just breath and heartbeat, the other animals keep their silence, and keep to their waiting, but their tension eases. Their erratic pawing of the ground, which had sounded so loud on the rough, hard earth, stops altogether. They no longer search for predators, or flex their legs for immediate flight.

After a long period of time, the other animals begin to move.

They move in unison, with tentative steps of invitation. Each and every person present is startled by the slow and careful approach of one of the other animals. They no longer mingle in a random way – they are choosing partners. The people stand silent and tense, and some shiver when an erratic flip of a tail catches them by surprise.

“Jesus,” whispers Shona.

The other animals sniff their way, hunting for scents which are compatible. They rarely hesitate, although the ones which have their young are more cautious, with many a backward glance. But the young follow their parents without deviation.

The presence of young animals makes the people less cautious. They feel no threat from these small animals – if anything, they have the desire to protect them, and save their future. The people began to regret they have not brought their own children, even though they realize their offspring are far more defenceless than any of these active cubs and kids. Their children can in no way fend for themselves.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Letsolathebe marches forward without another glance, barely noticing that the child’s hand has slipped into his own. They hold onto each other for dear life and expected death, as they race toward the flickering flame held high by Mother Ursula.

“Oh boy.” Caleb sighs.

“Do we follow?” asks Shona.

“Follow?” Dorkas shakes her head. “We join them. We match them. We become one with them.” She looks at Caleb.

“Mother Ursula may be right.” He smiles. “When is the last time we had Satan on the run?”

“Now or never,” says Dorkas. “It’s as easy as death.”

Caleb makes a slight bow to Dorkas, and to Shona, and then speaks loudly so she will translate with the same force.

“It seems to me this is the perfect time for Talks With Devils to have her say face-to-face.”

And as the three begin to race headlong into the darkest part of this darkest night, the thousands of their brethren and the thousands of the other animals are right at their heels.

And that beast.

That beast of time and terror.

That beast attached to life like a nodule of cancer.

That beast as strong as any lust.

That beast spread so deeply across the expanse of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan.

That beast, recognizing in its fetid mouth the taste of defeat, lingers on the periphery of one glowing candle.

“You will never win.” Mother Ursula speaks softly. “In spite of all your victories, we are still able to care for each other.”

And that beast, afrighted by the light, and sacrifice, and the raw power of life, moves elsewhere.

“God woman.” Sekgoma tears across the rough ground and throws his arms around her. “Mother is safe?”

“This is a madness you have brought us I don’t wish to see again,” chides Letsolathebe. But he too puts an arm around the old nun’s shoulders.

“None of us can promise that.” Dorkas is breathless.

“Talks With Devils is always so strict.”

Letsolathebe takes both her hands, and leans forward to kiss her on the forehead. And then he does the same with Caleb.

I am the Kgosi, and I tell you this. Tomorrow night we will dance, and drink, and feast.”

His gaze sweeps over his people and the thousands of the other animals.

“But no roasted flesh.”

(image)https://cdn.audleytravel.com/960/{height}/79/212189176054008187132011038171243114197246168206.jpg

Ogma Meets A Unicorn (for National Unicorn Day)

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Twitter and many other parts of the world are awash in comments and observations about National Unicorn Day. Since so much of it seems frivolous, here is an excerpt from my novel, A Lost Gospel, where unicorns are as real as the fingers on your hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You want us to think like the unicorn?” Ogma was irritated, and spoke with deliberation. “The ways of the beasts are even beyond the girl. At her best, I believe she just follows.”

“There are times, Ogma, when the worth is not in the accomplishment, but in the attempt.”

“I’ll be a better man by trying to think like the beast?”

“You can’t help but be a better man, Ogma.”

“Well. That’s spoken like a Head Druid.” Although Cowin could not see his actions – perhaps because Cowin was unable to see him – Ogma held out his hand and rubbed his fingers together. “Here, beastie, beastie. Uncle Ogma has a wee treat for you.”

“Is that what you think a unicorn thinks?”

“But if you come up to Uncle Cowin,” Ogma’s voice now had a sing-song tone. “Just jab him in the arse with that big horn, for he doesn’t have anything for you at all.”

“A least I promise nothing.” The Head Druid had finally deduced what Ogma was doing. “But what will be the reaction of those very sharp teeth when your hand is found to be empty?”

“What?” Ogma hesitated.

“Does the unicorn possess your sense of humour?” Cowin did not try to suppress a chuckle. “Or will your empty hand be empty even of fingers?”

Ogma momentarily considered the question, then quickly raised his hand. He was about to make an obscene gesture, but instead turned in the direction of a distant noise. He could feel by the brush of Cowin’s cloak that the Head Druid did the same.

“We’re being approached without hesitation.” Ogma whispered the words.”By more than one, if the sounds don’t play tricks.”

“That isn’t possible in this fog.” As the oncoming noise shifted, Cowin turned slightly. “I don’t suppose you have a knife under your cloak?”

“No, Head Druid.” Ogma stared into the dark. “Like most, I rarely carry arms while on the Island.”

“The times are changing.” Cowin looked at the vague shape of his companion. “Keep no more than a few strides distant.”

“We’re not prepared for a fucking invasion.” Ogma got into a crouch and flanked the Head Druid.

“Maybe they won’t see us.” Cowin leaned toward the approaching noise.

“I think that’s a false hope.” Ogma moved into his fighting position, bracing for an attack. “They’re aiming right in our direction.”

“The fog will give some protection.” The Head Druid also crouched into a combat stance. “Let as many as possible go past, then jump the ones at the rear. If they’re armed, we might wrestle a weapon from them.”

“Or a body to use as a shield.” Ogma wrapped his cloak around his arm to help deflect a thrusting sword.

“Nothing fancy.” Cowin dug his heels into the earth. “We have to go on this voyage – nothing is more important. If we’re overwhelmed, we must try to escape.”

The fog seemed to muffle noises which were close, yet make distant sounds crack like a whip beside their ears. This aided to the druids’ confusion, and they couldn’t tell who was approaching, or from where. It was Ogma who spoke first, using an oath which held traces of fear around the words.

“Something’s brushing against me.”

“What do you – ”

“Curse Manannan’s damn fog – it’s at my legs.” There were sounds of commotion, and then of a body rolling on the earth. “Fucking sword of death.” Ogma’s voice was high.

“Where are you?” Cowin stared uselessly through the fog.

“By the gods of hell. Get it away from me.”

“Ogma.” Cowin moved toward his voice. “I can’t even – ”

“It’s the beast.” Ogma shouted. “The damned beast.”

“Beast?”

“The unicorn.” Ogma was sputtering in anger. “It’s pulling my clothes with its teeth, and that horn has come inches from – ” Ogma’s voice moved. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

“Ogma.” The Head Druid was both concerned and relieved. “Don’t struggle – it’s not going to hurt you.”

“You don’t think being frightened can’t hurt you?” Ogma’s voice was sharp, but the rage was ebbing from it. “I’m stopping, you bag of shit. I’m sitting on my arse and not lifting a hand, so get your head away from me.” There was a pause, filled only by the heavy breathing of the unicorn. “This damn thing is bigger than you’d think, Head Druid.”

“Do you still have all your fingers?” Laughter surrounded Cowin’s words. “Or does the unicorn look upon you with a smile?”

“This was its game?”

“Be thankful.” Cowin walked toward the other man’s voice. “You found out the unicorn has a sense of humour.” He reached his hand to help Ogma to his feet.

“The beast does not go after your fingers,” complained Ogma.

“I don’t tease him.” Cowin rubbed the animal’s neck. “Nor do I speak of him in such a rough manner.”

“You think it understands me?”

“Not the words – but the intent.” Cowin felt the unicorn become tense under his hand. “The girl approaches.”

Louie-the-Dog Dines Well After A Day With NATO

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An excerpt from: The Bonner Prediction

05:14:31 ZULU Time

“I’ll sweep the house.” Bonner puts the keys on the dining room table.

“That’s fastidious.” Bess looks at her watch. “It’s a quarter past one in the morning. Who’s going to visit?”

Bonner gives her a closer than usual look to make sure she is kidding. She winks and sets out to find dishes. He stops her with a hand on her arm.

“Are you familiar with NATO safe houses?”

“Nope – never been in one.”

“Don’t try to use the back door.” Bonner points through the kitchen. “It’s wired with explosives.”

“You call this a ‘safe’ house?’

“Makes it safer for us.” He removes his hand. “It will explode if someone aggressively attempts to break it down.” He smiles. “We can also detonate if from here, if necessary,”

“But this wasn’t your idea?”

“No – alas.” He starts away with his handheld. “But I approve.”

The house is conventional in its layout, ready for a family. She wonders if there are families any more. If these buildings have been relegated as guest accommodations, she doubts either diplomats or military travel with a family.

She removes the food from the containers and places it on dishes. As she puts them in the microwave Bonner passes with his electronic handheld. She thought he might give only a cursory search (no one can possibly know they are staying here) but – no. The walls, the light fixtures, the electrical outlets, the appliances, the taps, the windows, the doors are all given a sweep for tell tale signs of transmission. The doors are closed and their locks are tested. As with any place of sanctuary, every room can become a ‘safe’ room. If this dwelling is like others she has experienced, the windows can even withstand an RPG.

When Bonner is finished, he goes to the cupboards and removes napkins. On his way past the fridge he takes out a bottle of wine. He shakes his head disapprovingly.

“Screw top.” Bonner carries the wine and napkins to the table.  “Not the usual standards of NATO.”

“I was planning on Sprite.” She looks toward the kitchen as the microwave beeps. “NATO lives it up while we Swiss live in parsimony.”

“If NATO inclined towards having us live it up, they would have put us in more graceful accommodations.” Bonner twists off the cap. “At least it’s white.”

“Where’s the dog food?”

“They’re a tidy group. I bet food will be in the kitchen.”

As Bess takes the food from the microwave and hunts for plates, Bonner searches for dog food. Not only does he find a bag in the corner, together with a foil pack of dog treats, but there are two shiny, new, metal dog bowls – one for food, one for water. Bonner guesses that a member of the supply personnel is a dog lover and raided the stores of the guard dogs.

“How much?”

“Two scoops.” Bess is putting the salad into a bowl.

“What about treats?”

After.” She looks at him. “I bet you don’t have kids, either.”

“Nope.” Bonner puts two generous handfuls of food into the dish. “I’d make a lousy father.” He runs water from the tap then fills the other bowl. “There’s time.”

“Not that much time.” Bess takes their food to the dining table.

“Ouch.” Bonner has little interest pursuing this thread. He opens a cupboard and takes out two wine glasses. “Louie is fed and watered.” He carries the glasses to the table. “And now, soon to be us.”

Bess looks over to Louie. He is attentive to her, but also has side glances to the kitchen.  She waits until he is only looking at her, and then makes a hand gesture.

“Go.”

Louie is out of the room before Bonner can pick up the wine bottle. His claws clatter across the kitchen floor, quickly followed by crunching and the scrape of the dog bowl on wood.

“He’s not going to savour, is he?”

“Nope.” Bess takes her wine glass. She is about to take a drink but stops. She extends the glass toward Bonner. “It’s been a night.”

“But our wee family is safe to home.” Bonner clinks her glass. “Though Louie’s table manners could be more refined.”

DE

(image) http://www.madrivercanecorso.com/wp-content/uploads/Smiles6-2-1.jpg

A Badger Takes A Languid Stroll Through A Graveyard

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It was a sweltering day, which August sometimes keeps in reserve. There was no mad walk in the noonday sun for me. I waited until some semblance of evening appeared before I went outside.

It was to be a brief walk, twenty minutes or so. Through a graveyard, along city streets, crossing the “Bridge To Nowhere” (a pedestrian bridge over four lanes of traffic) to watch the broad river. Then back.

As I walked through the historic graveyard (more than two centuries of the dead) I saw an animal deep among the grave stones. Larger than a cat, smaller than a dog. I went to investigate.

I was reasonably close when I realized it was a badger. Not a beast to toy with. They can be vicious, so I was careful to keep my distance. Feet and toes in sandals might be too inviting. The badger kept a close eye on me as we approached each other.

I reached the point where I had decided to go no further. When I stopped, the animal made a quick run and disappeared under a gravestone. It was a long stone, flat to the ground, covering the length of the grave. On closer inspection I noted burrow holes at either end of the stone. Entrance and escape when necessary.

I had the desire to investigate further, but good sense and the heat of the day dissuaded me. I listened a moment for any rustle underground. Any gnawing on bones. However, I wanted my own fingers and toes intact. I left, pondering what its burrow might consist of.

DE

(image)https://s3.amazonaws.com/gs-waymarking-images/c00591ee-0251-4bf2-a8fa-271ba4f2898d.jpg

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