Adventures of Harvey
ALIVE IN THE FOREST –
Short Story by James Strauss
The change in weather was abrupt. One night it was full winter with blowing snow and hanging ice and the next there was only melting everything, with water and mud abounding everywhere. Obligations had not drawn Harvey from the house. Josie, the milquetoast of an indoor cat, was overly demanding inside. Outside prey lurked nearby, abundant everywhere with the renewal of life in the forest. The three crows had started their morning grousing at first light, almost like they were barnyard chickens calling in the dawn. No, the real reason Harvey had to get out there was because of Deuce, the interloper dog from the upper forest across the road. For some reason Right Claw, Left Eye and Nothing Crow had not alerted to his unwelcome presence in the lower forest. The alert had come from deeper downstream in the form of a barely audible howl. Several howls had preceded one chopped off bark from the dog. It had to be Deuce, as every other dog in the area was either restrained by invisible electric fences, or had learned to give the forest a wide berth because of Harvey’s presence. Deuce was back and it was apparent he was going right for the injured fox in Harvey’s territory. Prey had no territory. Predators who became prey through age or injury were the same as any other prey. Deuce had to be confronted again. Harvey’s territorial imperative required it. All animals in his forest were Harvey’s whether they were predator or prey. What to do about the upper forest across the road was another consideration. With Holy Moly and Deuce both obviously inhabiting that area, thought would have to be given about whether maintaining full time patrols, or simply making occasional sallies up to see what was going on, were needed. Predators as powerful as Harvey was did not surrender territory without a serious fight, but with two powerful animals constantly in that area the potential for terminal injury had become something to consider.
The three crows followed Harvey’s run down the driveway. There was no delay. There was trouble in the lower woods and the way to handle trouble was to go right at it. Harvey didn’t slow as he reached the stream, grimly suffering the necessary indignity of having his wonderfully cleaned paws sink deep into the stream bank mud. Harvey vaulted the stream, going even deeper into the mud on the other bank. His human females back home would have their work cut out for them when he returned.
Although there was no further sound from the area of Good Christ’s den the three crows spoke volumes from a tree branch just above. Guided by the crows, Harvey approached, slowing his speed to make sure he had some idea of what he might be facing.
Deuce was inside the den. His rear quarters stuck out with his tail down. Harvey didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the inviting target. Without thought he lunged through the air and sank all ten of his long sharp claws in the left rear hindquarter of the dog, before returning to the forest floor nearby. Instead of running away, however, he performed a maneuver that had helped allow a mere 15-pound cat to claim a huge part of the surrounding area as his own. He landed, turned and then rose up on his hindquarters.
Deuce howled to the point of a scream and leaped backwards from Good Christ’s den. Barely focusing his eyes to see the upraised cat in front of him, he had no time to avoid Harvey’s second strike. Instead of using all of his claws Harvey used only one. He extended the longest and sharpest claw out to its maximum length and swiped it directly across Deuce’s nose, cutting a slice diagonally from the top to the bottom. This time the dog did scream. He shook his head, wildly spraying blood everywhere. There was no time for Harvey to run, or anywhere to run, that Deuce would not be able to outrun him to. The animal was so badly damaged there would only be death on his small mind.
Harvey went directly up the oak that overlooked Good Christ’s den on that side of the stream. He climbed high enough to be safe, settled himself in the comfortable crook of a thick branch and watched Deuce actually attempt to climb the tree to reach him. The dog got about four body lengths up the oak before he fell back. He continued to make attempts to climb the tree, until far in the distance his name was called by his human.
“Deuce? Deuce, are you hurt boy?” drifted vaguely through the trees. Harvey looked over at the three crows sitting in their usual order on a nearby branch. The crows had gone silent following the action below, only cawing softly every time Deuce made a ridiculous attempt to get up the tree.
The dog’s human approached ever closer, his voice becoming louder and more concerned as Deuce had not stopped mewling since Harvey’s attack. Deuce finally got back far enough away from the tree so that he could crane his head up and see Harvey and crows looking back down at him. The dog’s mewling stopped. Harvey saw a fury in the dog’s eyes that he recognized. No matter what happened in the future, Deuce and Harvey were now sworn enemies to the death.
The dog’s cries had alerted more than just his own human. Harvey’s alpha male began to call his name in that singsong way Harvey hated. “Haaarveeey,” came wafting down from the house. The cry was repeated every few seconds. His human approached, no doubt given Harvey’s location by the strange collar thing he was required to wear, although the dog’s cries had also been loud and plaintive.
Both humans arrived on the scene at the same time. Deuce’s human judiciously tiptoed across the branches and bracken that covered the area beyond the stream. Harvey’s alpha male crashed through the bushes and stomped through the mud, complaining as he usually did about the wet bushes and the sticky thick mud. Deuce ran to his human while Harvey’s human looked around for Harvey, but failed to look up until the three crows indicated where he was with some of their more raucous calls.
“Oh my God, Deuce’s human said, as the damaged dog ran to him. The dog leapt up and was hugged in return.
“What happened to you?” the human stupidly asked, looking up at Harvey and back to his dog. “What is that?” the man said to Harvey’s human, pushing Deuce off and pointing upward.
“Look’s like a cat,” Harvey’s alpha male said back.
“A little house cat?” the human asked in shocked disbelief. How could a house cat do this to my dog?”
“Tough cat,” Harvey’s human replied.
“Is that your cat? It’s wearing a collar,” The human observed.
“Not really,” Harvey’s human said after a delay of a few seconds.
“If that’s your cat then you owe me for Deuce’s vet bill,” the dog’s human said.
There was no more chance for conversation because at that instant Good Christ emerged from the den, looked around at all present and let out a hiss that raised the hair on the back of every animal nearby. The big fox wasn’t too injured to attack and cause a lot of harm. The territory belonged to the fox and any question about that was going to be worked out at that instant.
“A fox!” Deuce’s human pointed, in stunned disbelief.
Deuce took off running back toward the upper forest. Both Deuce’s human and Harvey’s alpha male backed slowly away upstream with their hands extended in supplication before them.
“A fox could do that kind of damage,” Harvey’s human stated, dryly, as if talking to himself.
“There’s no cat on earth that could do something like that to Deuce,” the dog’s human agreed. “Deuce is a forest trained hunting dog genetically selected to take down or bring back flying game. A big fox might be something else though.”
Deuce’s human followed the dog’s retreat. Harvey’s human walked back to stand nearby the trunk of the large oak, a good distance from Good Christ’s den. The fox had disappeared back into the den following the violently stern warning.
“So you can’t just come out here and be an ordinary cat enjoying the forest on a fine spring morning,” Harvey’s human said, staring up at the cat high in the tree. The three crows talked back to him but Harvey ignored the comment. “How am I supposed to be friends with anybody in this neighborhood if you keep abusing their animals?”
Harvey felt the message rather than understanding the words. That the human had no clue as to how the forest really worked had been proven so many times it was unbelievable. He rested in the tree thinking about checking on Bad Taffy, whom had not been seen since she had entered her house with all the injuries inflicted by Holy Moly. Harvey’s human, instead of walking out the way Deuce’s human had departed, left the same way he’d come in, through the mud and wet bushes, commenting all the way about the misery of wet bushes and awful mud.