Farul was a goatherd. At times, she met with the shepherds; they would invite her to sit and eat with them, sharing bread and cheese, kumis and cold coffee, tobacco and gossip. One warm summer evening, they got to talking about their dogs - for every shepherd in the village had at least one sheepdog.
"Farul, my friend," said Shabash, "do you have a dog for your goats?"
"No," said Farul. "You cannot heard goats with a dog. The dogs cannot climb the mountains or trees like the goat, and the billies are likely to turn and gouge with their horns if pressed. No, I have a cat."
That drew a small laugh from the women and men, but Shabash asked: "I have never seen you with a cat."
Farul shook her head and sipped her kumis. "The goatcat does not stay with the herd. She stalks in the tall grass, or on the ledges above the path, her eyes watching everything. The goats know this, they feel that gaze upon them, and so stay together. Like all cats, she is not a pet, exactly; she is a working animal, some generations removed from the wild cats that strangle the kids and rip and tear the bellies out of wild goats. The teeth and claws that can chase a goat anywhere, to corner them in a tree or up a mountain, to outrun them as they go into the valley, the devil that takes the hindmost." She sipped again. "Would you like to see her?"
The shepherds had gone quiet as Farul had spoken, for this was a lore they had never known. All eyes turned to Shabash as he nodded. Farul let out a cry - or maybe a low hiss ending in a yelp. A piece of the evening detached itself from the grass and stalked toward the shepherds.
It was taller at the shoulder, longer and heavier than a housecat - and striped, dark brown on black coat, fading lighter toward the tip. Farul reached into a pouch at her waist, palmed something pink and wet, and tossed it toward the goatcat, who rose up on its rear paws to catch it. The teeth flashed and bit into the meat, then slipped back into the tall grass.
"What did you feed it?" Shabash asked.
"Goat meat, of course." Farul replied. "They have to get a taste for it."
Post a Comment