One Pleistocene Morning

Smilodon populator

Fearsome sabertooth of old

By ancient ungulata

Was disliked, we are told.

 

“It’s a nuisance and a pity

“We must be impaled upon these fangs,

“Every time this awful kitty

“Is beset by hunger pangs.”

 

“Are you referring to theethe teef?”

Thaid Thmilodon, feigning thurprithe,

“They’re harmleth! Decorative, really!

“Don’t be mithled by their thithe.”

 

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It was raining

Rain pattered down on a brachiosaur
Who was peacefully chewing a tree. 
She squinted an eye up at the thunder
And thought, this time it better not be me. 

Beneath her a little crowd had gathered
At different points of evolution
Some had grown paws and some brilliant feathers
And some perfected binary fission.

The river roared full and cycads fell over
Volcanos spluttered and boomed
And the critters squabbled and chattered and munched
Not caring they were soon to be doomed.

A clean new day dawned and the herd lumbered forth
Seeking horizons of mystery
That they are all gone, while we fester on
Is the saddest mistake of prehistory.

 

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Pointosaur relishing a sudden shower.

 

A Day in Court

He begins with an image. Say, of a bird sitting behind a desk. A very large bird, an imposing desk, facing a room. The room was a courtroom. There was a buzz of conversation. 

All of a sudden the bird – he noticed, a vulture, a Gyps himalayensis to be exact – rose and  unfurled its enormous wings. The sound was a snap and whoosh, a dusty blanket shaken in the wind. The chatter came to an abrupt halt. 

The Gyps turned its long neck, this way, that way, and bottomless eyes found his face. Sitting as he was in the far corner, by himself. 

It opened its cavernous beak, and there was a grating roar as it said:

It’s three o’ clock in the afternoon.

“It’s – it is three o’ clock in the afternoon, your vult- er – your Honour,” he replied. 

The Gyps looked at him for a long moment. It turned to the room and said:

Proceed.

A group of small and medium birds at the other end of the courtroom began to sing:

“It’s three-o’-clock in the aft-er-noon

The ther-mals are high and strong

They bear the scent of the fresh-ly dead

Whose bones be-long to-us – all.”

 

Court in session. Present the case, said the Gyps.

Below, a colourful reptile cleared its throat.

“Docket number 1,123 (A). Cattaparthy versus Jarkub.”

“Jacob. It’s Jacob,” he said without thinking, eliciting a roar of Silence! from the Gyps.

Read the charges! it said.

The defen-daaant is charged with attempted theft of property of the plaintiff, under Section 421 (A) of the Indian Penal Code,” drawled the reptile.

He was on his feet. “Theft! Attempted! It’s a mistake! Your Honour! Mr. Catter – Mr Cattaparthy!” he bawled, while the plaintiff glowered at him, tail flicking.

The courtroom exploded in excitement.

Silence! Sit DOWN! shouted the Gyps, flapping mightily, and there was quiet.

Mr. Jarkub, it said. Are you cognisant of the penalty for repeated interruption of court proceedings?

“No, your honour,” he said, shaking.

Good. What is your plea? it said. 

“Not guilty.”

Present the evidence, said the Gyps. 

A lithe animal, some sort of weasel, he thought, rose to its feet next to the plaintiff.

“Your honour,” it said, “In lieu of arguments, we will present video evidence, it being exceptionally clear.”

A large screen flickered to life to the right of the judge’s bench. At the top, 02:02:04 appeared in blocky script. There was a crisp blue image of a wall, with what appeared to be a small brass plaque set in it. The numbers counted up and a second passed. Another second. From the right, a man staggered into the frame, back to the camera. 

The man looked sideways briefly, and swayed towards the wall. Thirty seconds passed as he looked downwards, fidgeting, and then the assembled watchers heard a long sigh as a pool appeared between the man’s feet. 

The courtroom murmured. 

A ball of fluff exploded onto the screen from the left, knocking the man off balance. Ball and man collapsed to the ground, and confused shouting and yowling could be heard. The video went dark.

“Your honour,” said the weasel, “The Court has seen irrefutable evidence that the defendant attempted property theft by over-marking the clearly marked territory of the plaintiff, Mr. Cattaparthy.”

More murmuring in the courtroom.

“Aforesaid theft being prevented only by the direct and courageous intervention of the plaintiff. Will your honour please review evidence that the property has been continuously marked by the plaintiff for fifteen years?” said the weasel, approaching the bench with a sheaf of papers.

After a few minutes, the Gyps turned its dark eyes towards him. 

Do you have anything to say, Mr Jarkub?.

“Sir! Your honour! Not guilty! Mistake!” he shouted. 

Mr. Jarkub, the Court will make it very simple. Do you deny that the person in the video is you?

“No, your honour.”

The Court finds Jarkub guilty as charged. Silence! said the Gyps, as the chattering began again.

Proceeding to sentencing, it said, squinting down at something on the desk. 

Ten thousand rupees to be paid to the plaintiff, or else dismemberment. 

What is your choice? said the Gyps, and he could hear a note of hope in its voice. 

“I – I’ll pay, your honour.”

And thus ended his day in court. 

 

 

 

 

In tribute to the anti-alarm clock, devised by K-man and yours truly.

A (partial) feline vocabulary

Disclaimer

Two weeks of sporadic research
And n=1
But n is also =
My very expressive Son.

Who enunciates ‘M’s and rolls his ‘R’s
And is proficient in A and Ow
But will not utter, not being a mutter,
The common canine Bow.

 

Regular Sounds Yowl sounds
Ah Aaow
Errrr Ahhaggow
Iweaw Maaauw
Maa Mgwow
Maaw Moe-uuw 
Mah Muggow 
Moowaw Murrow
Mowaw Ow
Mrrwaah Ow-ow
Nyow  Rraaowh
Rrrrnyow Ugwow
Uwkg Wgeaow
Waaw Yuggow
Woo
Woouw
Wrnye 
Wrreah 
Wrroing
Wrrow 
Wrrr-rr
Wrrraa
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The Volunteer

Corbett Business

Something pungent in the wind
And the wail of the one who circles overhead.
Sprays of purple flowers
Frame the heavy footsteps
Raising dust up in the shafts between the trees.

And at dusk, a chorus warns you
That something is on the move.

Eagle business, tiger business
Spider business, babbler business
And the dark and furtive business
Of the watcher on the hill.

And when, far far from here,
There is a hole that cannot be filled
You think about their business
And the world begins again.

 

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Dhikala Business

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Statue

There are always more in January, said the old man.

What, dada? I said, crouching low as I watched one lazily circling the boat, its yellow eye never moving from mine. A cold, cold mind, I thought, lies on the other side of that eye.

What dada? I repeated.

My uncle said: Muggers. There are always more in January. Do you know why?

I threw the left oar into the bottom of the boat, and raised the other at an angle, gripping it steady in both hands, metal spike pointing out and down. The best way not to lose an oar, if one was obliged to strike. I shuffled slowly in a circle, facing the croc, matching its arc around us.

The yellow eye blinked once, and the animal sank, leaving not a ripple on the surface of the water.

It’s revenge, he said.

Revenge? For what? For the floods? They should be grateful, I laughed.

From when it was built, he said gesturing with his chin towards the collosus that loomed over the open ocean.

I looked at it, the impassive expression on the giant head. Patel Statue? I asked. What, a hundred years ago?

Seventy, said my uncle with a tinge of irritation.

Yes, seventy, I said. That’s right.

Your father was working for the Efdy then. They had to move 500 muggers because of it, my uncle said.

He told me they had to do it that January. The same year it was built, he said.

Why? Mr Patel didn’t like crocodiles? I asked.

Must have been something like that, said my uncle. I don’t remember.

If Mr Patel didn’t like crocodiles, I am a fan of Mr Patel, I remarked, with my eye on another grey shape that had bobbed up ten feet from the boat.

 

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“I object in the strongest possible terms to this deeply prejudiced characterisation of my descendants.” Mugger, Chennai Crocodile Bank

 

This vignette is inspired by recent news.

 

 

The Pilgrims

When I sleep, I am warm beneath
A blanket made of birds.

Slave-birds, sadly, chattel
Who never felt air ruffle their wings
And did not doze on mountain lakes
Or graze on summer grass
And could not hear the call
When the ice came creeping in.

But high above, look
Pilgrims in long straggling skeins
Span the sky and fill our ears
Urging us, landbound and forlorn
Leap, migrate, join the ecstatic exodus
And leave your worn skins behind.

 

 

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Greylag Geese with goose down intact, Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Jan 2019