Mark had a colleague in town last month from London. He said very British things like, "rubbish, lovely and loo." I was charmed. A Londoner in Kansas? In our house? Look at my husband bringing home The Classy Brit. Quite a different lot than back in his roofing days when those guys came with their GEDs and outstanding warrants.
Keith and Mark have known each other for years. In January they ran into each other at a meeting and Keith said he was coming to the States in June. He told Mark he'd love to spend part of his holiday seeing what Mark was doing research wise, and was especially interested in going to the Flint Hills to go bird watching.
"I'm an avid birder," he told me the first night over dinner. "My wife has no interest but I love it and couldn't wait to see your prairies and all the species I don't normally get to see in England."
"Jolly ho, chap," I said. "You boys have at it."
Jet lag hit him as soon as dinner was over and he went straight to bed. The next morning I got up in the wee hours, put the coffee on and cooked some bangers and crumpets. Our new housemate, The Brit, came down sleepy-eyed, poured himself a cup of brew and then went out onto the screened-in porch to watch the birds go about their morning chores.
Eventually Mark woke up and joined him on the porch. I fell back asleep for awhile and when I woke Mark told me that our cat, Pip, killed a bird right in front of The Brit.
I was gobsmacked.
"Right in front of him? Today? Right now? Pip killed a bird?"
"He did. It was bad."
"Oh geez, Mark, when did the cat start killing birds? Mice? Fine. Baby rats? Sure. Chipmunks? Okay. But birds? Not birds and not this weekend."
"Yep. A baby woodpecker right in front of us."
"You know this makes us look like bloody a*******, don't you? Classless Americans with killing machine pets that's what we are. How did The Brit take it?"
"Well, it wasn't good I'll tell you that."
I was in a kerfuffle. I wanted to make a good impression on The Brit and at the first break of dawn we had a dead bird and a cat licking his chops.
That night when the blokes returned I expressed my condolences over the incident our guest had witnessed. "It was a downy-headed woodpecker," The Brit said. "A baby. Female. Those things happen I suppose." Well, at least it wasn't by gunshot I wanted to say. Then Mark and The Brit opened the wine and got bladdered - probably to drown their sorrows over what they had seen at the start of their day.
The next morning they went off to the prairies and I puttered in my garden. On one of my trips in I noticed something black at the bottom of the stairs.
It was a bird.
There was a dead bird in the house. My knickers were suddenly in a wicked knot.
I chased that cheeky cat out of the house because I was so mad at him for killing another bird. Then I chased him back in the house so he wouldn't kill any more birds and told him to bugger off. Then I scooped the dead bird up and put him in the trash.
What was happening? Why was this cat killing birds all of a sudden? And why did he have to do it when The Brit was here?
The Birdwatchers returned home later that day. Knackered from the prairie winds and their ornithological trek, we turned on the telly and watched England get kicked out of the World Cup in record time.
Keith left early the next morning to shop for a laptop for his son as they are much cheaper here in The Colony than over in England. Mark offered to go with him but he declined. "Cheerio, good man," I yelled after him as he appeared to be running to his rental car.
Later that day I told my next-door neighbor what happened and how I'd never seen either of our cats kill a bird. "Oh I have," she said. "My cats flush them out and then your cats go in for the kill. There's all kinds of dead animal bodies around here. Between your cats and mine it's like we're living with gangbangers."
Well ain't that a kick in the arse.