Extract

White Chin

Dusk deepened into dark. The cat sat down by the wall. He was perfectly still, but for the tip of his tail which twitched, repeatedly, as if it had a mind of its own. As White Chin stared out into the velvety shadows around him he felt a turmoil of emotions. He was unsure what to do and he felt frightened.

Eventually White Chin rose and stretched lengthily, knowing one thing for sure; it was plain hunger that was nagging at his belly. The owls had been calling for some minutes and were in full voice as he walked out of the garden and made for the tree-clad acres beyond.

The lie of Troonholme Park was very different from High Fell Woods. There were wide avenues running through these woods that would take a vehicle, the trees ran along the valley bottom and there were traces of many rabbits. The cat encountered one almost immediately. But the rabbit, on sighting him, thumped the ground hard in warning to others, before flashing his white tail and racing into the shelter of the undergrowth to disappear from sight. White Chin didn’t attempt any pursuit.

The hunting was good however, as having started with a wood mouse, he then caught his first fully grown pheasant. She had been roosting too close to the ground and he was surprised at how clumsy her attempt to fly away had been. He got her round the back of her neck and killed her quickly, but she squawked a great deal and flapped her wings. The feathers proved a problem to begin with, but once he had mouthed them away from the body, he found the meat was good. So large was the pheasant that he couldn’t finish it and had to dig the remains into a shallow grave for future use, leaving a spill of feathers on the ground. Having eaten his fill, White Chin continued on his quest.

At the far side of the woods, the trees gave way to rushes and heather and the land climbed upwards, ever higher into a vast moorland. It stretched way beyond the little cat’s vision. White Chin was tense with curiosity. He held his body still but his eyes moved rapidly scanning a wide area and his ears revolved 180 degrees, absorbing every sound like a radar dish. Lifting his head high, his nostrils twitched as he unriddled the wind.