Title The least of These
There was a corpse on the doorstep.
His little wings were stained with blood. Mary squatted down to look more closely. A thrush. Up close Mary could see how fine his colors were, the browns and tans of each feather were distinct and perfect. His tiny feet drawn close, black and dry and seeming already more dead than the rest of him. The cat had eaten the head off. This, she thought, was the Mister of the pair with a nest in the box hedge. His wife would have a time now, feeding the chicks.
The cat was new. He had come to the wild rocky area behind the doctor's house, with the spring. He was last summers kitten, she supposed, and trying to make a living. Now it was almost July. He was still kittenish, a wild and rangy thing, hand-shy and hungry. Sometimes he lay out in the sun, resting, not sleeping, watching. His fur was dense and lovely, stripes of orange and cream. Mary imagined stroking it, rubbing under his chin, and along his sides. She knew she never would. She had left food out for him, when the nights were cold, left milk sometimes. She could not really say why, not out loud. But he was hungry and alone. There was something in his gaze that reminded her of Mr Kennedy.
She had thought, at first, that the dog Cloud would see him off. But Cloud had showed little interest. Now Cloud sniffed the dead thrush and gave a heavy sigh. No help there.
“I'll put food out for you, cat--” Mary said. “I don't mind that. But I will thank you to not kill the doctor's song-birds.”
She lifted the tiny thing, and cast it into the trees. Cat could eat it there.
She brushed her hands off on her apron, and went inside.