Back over one shoulder, a crouching human could be seen creeping through the wet soggy grass that led up to the edge of the forest. Harvey waited, standing upright, shifting his gaze from the ungainly man to the forest and back. He turned his head each time, there is no need for stealth until true entry had been made into the dense welcoming bracken. The human knew nothing about hunting, as evidenced by his ridiculous attempt to remain soundless and close to the ground. He failed miserably on both counts. Harvey would have sighed but he didn’t have that emotive power built into his lungs. He was purpose-driven.
“Okay, I’m here, right behind you,” the human stated as if there was any doubt.
Harvey glanced upward were three crows sat along a single branch of a Chinese Elm. The crows cawed in their usual obnoxious manner. The message of the human’s attempt to hunt was being broadcast over the top of the entire basin the forest-covered. Birds, hard to catch. Not particularly tasty and always a pain to have around. Harvey flicked both ears and then moved. He made sure to enter the forest by passing under a pine so large that the low hanging branches didn’t touch the thick bed of boughs below. The human followed, stumbling and lurching along. The stream ran down through the center of the small forest and it took almost no time to wind through the remaining trees, bushes and dead seasonal bracken left over from the long winter.
“Great crick flowing through here,” the human whispered, letting every alert creature in the valley know exactly what and where he was. Harvey sat at the edge of the moving water, glaring at the man.
“What?” the man murmured in question, throwing up his hands innocently.
Harvey had spent long periods training the human. It had taken a week to finally convince the man that hunting in the forest was possibly the finest experience in life. But there the man was, acting the way all humans acted most of the time. All emotion. Little intellect. No instinct. There was no help for it. Harvey weighed in at 11 pounds, according to the awful woman who occasionally measured and probed him with rubber hands. The rabbit was a monster. It had no place in the forest. Harvey had tamed the place years earlier. Sarcastic birds lingered but stayed high up out of range. Foxes came and went, as did the occasional lone coyote, but they did so with respect or paid in blood. Even the winter deer, bedding down through the worst of it, stayed a healthy distance from the forest’s prime predator. But then had come the rabbit.
Two years earlier it had just one day been there. It had taken over an old fox den higher up where the stream penetrated under a concrete road. It offered nothing. No warren. No little ones to make snacking pleasurable, just a big ugly gray rabbit with floppy ears, ears that had more notches out of them than Harvey.
For two years Harvey had plotted. Four times he’d gone at the offensive furry beast. The rabbit had casually ignored all of his best threats. Hissing had no effect whatever. Neither did leaping through the air, landing on it and jumping away. The big rabbit was only furry on the surface. Underneath was a muscle structure like a stone. Their last encounter had been terrible because of those unexpected and unbelievable muscles.
When Harvey had finally been ready to bite the creature’s neck, since no respect whatever had been paid, the rabbit had kicked him in the chest. When he fell away, the beast kicked him again. Harvey was put on a horrid concoction he’d been fed daily for three weeks to heal up. The rubber glove woman had stated to the human that he’d been attacked by some large predator, like a mountain lion. It was the only part of the story that offered any succor at all.
But now he was back. The human was twenty times the size of the rabbit. After the incident, an idea had been born. Harvey had attracted many animals to come by when the human was doing yard work. The man had driven those animals off with whatever implements he’d had at hand to save Harvey. The way the man saw it being a very successful predator Harvey knew well that if you approached another animal in the forest, like a raccoon, and then ran, the animal would give chase.
The rabbit had no idea that Harvey was bringing in reinforcements. The human couldn’t hope to hold his own with such a large rabbit, let alone have the speed to interdict such an animal. No, the human would be Harvey’s stalking giant. When the rabbit was shocked from his lair in terror, Harvey would strike.
The human followed. And noise followed with him, but Harvey was not disturbed. He stopped frequently so the man would know where he was. The man talked to himself, or to Harvey, constantly, which indicated he’d never hunted before, but again it didn’t matter. Harvey had studied the monster rabbit for a long time. The rabbit did not hear well, or it simply ignored sounds that should have alerted it. Either way, it didn’t matter. The human was merely to take his place, stand before the rabbit hole and provide a properly large terrifying image. The shock would do the rest. Victim after victim over the years had fallen under Harvey’s claws while struck still due to a larger threat that wasn’t a threat at all. That knowledge drove the cat on.
“This is awful. My Mephisto’s are covered in mud,” the human whispered, stopping to lean down and try to wash the expensive shoes clean in the nearby running water.
“Damn,” he said out loud, his balance shifting and causing him to end up with one foot stuck deep in streambed mud.
Harvey stopped and crept back. Sitting nearby, as patient as he could be, he swished his tail back and forth. The human would either follow or go back, he could do nothing.
“Harvey. Harvey. Harvey,” the man repeated as if Harvey was not sitting ten feet away, regarding him with faintly disrespectful curiosity. “Come on, let’s get out of here. It’s time for dinner, anyway.”
Harvey sensed weakness, but a weakness to be exploited. He crept under a nearby pine and let out his most mournful of small meows. Then repeated the sound, as if he was in some kind of trouble. He moved another tree closer to the rabbit’s deadly lair.
The human followed, saying such things as “C’mon Harvey, and even “Here boy.”
Harvey knew he had him. The human would now follow him until they came to some clearing or open area large enough for him to be spotted and cajoled in or run down.
The man would not leave him, as had been proven many times before. Sometimes Harvey ran up a tree so the man would have to run around below in order to secure a most favorable position to catch him from when he leaped. Which the man always did, totally unaware that Harvey intended to be caught. The warmth of the house, with pillows, rugs, and blankets all about and readily available food, was always welcome, unless the intensity of a hunt required his full attention, as it did at the moment.
Harvey moved ever closing to where the rabbit had to be. The animal foraged close to the hole, the forest being bountiful in flora of all kinds in the spring. How the rabbit made it through the cold and snow of winter Harvey had no clue. Such regard never even entering his small brain. Other animals and plants simply were, as was Harvey himself.
He looked back over his shoulder as he moved under the last pine. The human had one black leg from the knee down and made a loud squishing sound with each step. Old pine needles had somehow become threaded into the fur hair atop his head. His eyes peered into every nook and cranny as he moved, searching for Harvey who was in plain sight right in front of him. Harvey would have shaken his head, but that was another gesture completely foreign to him. Humans were like the other things around him in his life, although they were by far the most mysterious.
“Harvey,” the man complained, finally spotting him among the covering brush fronds.
“What are you doing? This is terrible out here. Bugs. Mud. Junk all over. I hate this,” the man intoned, understanding that Harvey wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to his complaints.
Finally, they were there. Harvey went into his attack posture with tail straight back, the tip of it faintly waving behind him, while his low crouched view of the rabbit hole drew his seeming full fixed attention. Part of him, however, listened for the lumbering bulk of the human to clear the tree and bracken around them. A small flat area of rabbit consumed weeds and grass lay before them when the man stepped through, almost coming to a stop at Harvey’s side.
“What’s this?” he inquired, questioning the strange unnatural looking glade and Harvey’s intent-driven posture.
The rabbit hole was apparent, due to the amount of vegetation the rabbit had consumed. It was an old den that had been carved into the side of a small hillock, instead of simply being a hole in the flat ground of the surrounding area, which the water table would long ago have filled.
Harvey sensed movement deep within the blackness of the gaping how. He very carefully moved forward and to the side of the hole, as close to the earth as he could get and still remain suspended just above it. He’d calculated with great precision. The human could be counted on to approach and grab him up if he made no attempt to evade. Such movement would cause the rabbit to stir from his hold and then panic when he took in the enormity of the apparition just outside his den. It was at the moment of his blind flight that Harvey would strike from the flank, securing a death grip on the animal’s neck. The human complied, even adding to the effect, by talking loudly while he moved in.
“That’s it. I’m tired of this game. We’re getting the hell out of here.”