The canaries escaped from the aviary...and our cat crouched low to the ground, ready to pounce.
Once a year, on Valentine's Day, Mama paired the male and female birds and asked God's blessing on their union. Come spring, dozens of baby canaries hatched, and we moved all the families to the aviary my daddy had built in the garden.
Our cat, Christian, picked out a nice shady spot where he could watch the canaries fly around in the big structure wrapped in wire netting.
Then one afternoon Mama called urgently: "I forgot to close the latch on the aviary door! Some of the birds have escaped!" I rushed outside. "They're only babies," Mama cried. "They're sure to get lost or hurt!" At that moment Christian got up from his place in the shade and stretched. Or eaten, I thought.
I crept slowly to two yellow birds peeking out of a bush. "Stay there," I whispered as Mama advanced with the net. She brought it down with a whoosh, but the birds flew right out from under it in a flash.
"Where'd they go?" she asked.
"There's one!" I called, spotting a shot of yellow in a tree. "And there! And there!" Canaries were everywhere! Mama ran back and forth with her net as Christian fixed his gaze on one hapless creature perched on a low branch. Our cat crouched low to the ground, ready to pounce.
"No!" Mama cried, but Christian sprang through the air and snatched the baby bird in his jaws. I covered my eyes. I couldn't watch. It was too gruesome even to imagine.
"My, oh my!" Mama said. Strangely enough, I heard relief in her voice.
I peeked through my fingers. Mama was just putting the captured bird back in its cage as the cat caught another one! He padded over to Mama and ever so gently placed the frightened ball of feathers in her hands. Then he rescued another.
When he had seen all the escaped canaries safely home, Christian lay back down in the shade. I'd say he was smiling—like the cat who didn't eat the canaries.