William-o the Pirate King in: Water Torture

(An Odyssey Journal)

Rain dripped from the barn’s eaves: plip, plip, plip, plip, and so on. After sixty plips, a fallen maple leaf at the puddle’s edge tipped, trickling the excess in over the floor. Dahlia the cow chewed her cud and digested: fourteen chomps, then a rest, then three, then a rest. She never once batted an eye. Hammy the farmhand dozed leaning back on two legs of a rickety chair. Every four breaths, a greasy lock of hair caught in his nostril and caused him to snore.

William-o the Pirate King, the barnyard cat, lay sprawled out on a wooden beam seven feet up, his legs dangling high in the air. On either side of him the age-dark wood was scored with marks where he’d sharpened his long, black claws. His one good eyelid drooped, then fluttered open, then drooped again. He twitched his scarred and battered tail. He yawned. He watched a spider crawl all the way along the beam from the empty stall at the barn’s southwest corner to the tool cubby on the other side, and begin a new web between the riding mower’s front left bumper and the handle of a hoe.

Outside in the rain, toads frolicked in the puddles. In their dry birdhouse in the crook of the maple tree, the bluebirds warbled unceasingly. Far away in the house, fat mice played shuffleboard with toothpicks and piecrust crumbs across the newly-polished kitchen floor.

And William-o the Pirate King could ruin none of it.

The spider’s new web was nearly finished when a new leak began to form in the roof. A fat water droplet fell on William-o’s battle-scarred left ear. He yowled and twisted, batted at the offensive droplet, lost his balance, and fell from the beam into a pile of musty green hay.

Enough is enough, thought the Pirate King, and bounded out onto the muddy floor.

He leapt straight through the spider’s new web, tearing it to shreds, and smooshed the spider. He stalked into Dahlia’s stall and dug his teeth into her udder. She lowed and stamped and kicked, but he was gone long before her hooves hit. He went over to Hammy’s rickety chair, and knocked its legs from underneath him with one swipe of his paw. Hammy roared and cursed, and grabbed for a switch.

But William-o had disappeared into the rain.

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