Suddenly a scrabbling noise came from the darkness, and I thought for a moment that it might be a rat, but as I stepped back, a young woodpecker came out, more hopping than flying over Portia's head and leaping into a narrow space beside the washing machine. Neither I nor the cat could reach the bird, but I wanted to give it a chance to escape so I took Portia indoors. Another hour passed, and I checked the garage to see if the bird was still hiding there. I couldn't find it, so I let Portia back out.
Another hour passed, and I heard the low yowls that usually mark the early stage of a cat fight. It was full night by now. I went out and saw Portia at the end of the driveway, facing away from me. Approaching slowly with my flashlight, I finally saw a glint of eye beyond her, and saw the other cat, crouched near the body of the dead woodpecker. It was Farah, and she was the one making the threatening noise. It wasn't too difficult to snatch Portia and carry her indoors. Later, I went back out and both Farah and the bird corpse were gone.
So I don't know if Portia found and killed the injured woodpecker after it had escaped the garage, or if Farah found it and finished it off. All I know is that it almost ended in a fight between them, and the bird is dead. Farah will undoubtedly offer the prize to her kittens, who will refuse to eat it, and the cadaver will slowly molder somewhere in the back yard. A depressing end to an otherwise quiet Sunday.
Amid the note cards and long, yellow legal pads, the late
nineteenth-century journals containing poems by Swinburne or
Rossetti or Lionel Johnson, the Yeats edition of Blake with its
faded green cover and beveled edges, I and the other readers in
the British Library began to feel an odd presence. We lifted our
eyes in unison to observe the two small deer that had entered
the room so quietly, so very discreetly, the music of their
entering suspended above us, inaudible, but there, truly, as the
deer were there. They paused, we could hear their breathing,
or so it seemed, and no one moved. What could we do, there
were deer in the room, and now hundreds of deer reflected in
our eyes. The silence was unbearable at first, and the librarian
in the linen blouse, her long fingers trembling, began to weep.
The deer sensed this and, without seeming to move at all,
came closer, licking her elbows, sniffing the soapy fragrance
in the well of her neck, staring into her watery eyes. At some
point beyond memory we could no longer distinguish her from
the deer, it was all stillness anyway, everywhere the silence
covered us like a silken net, and the books began to darken and
crumble with age. We had all found our place, our eyes were
full of deer, and our sadness was without cease.