The Cats’ Eyes.

The car pulled away, faded, and a choir of unseen gulls followed tractor engine noise beyond the dense hedge to his left. On the other side of the road rose a dense, steep wood of pine, the limbs of the trees strung with a laundry of mist. He began walking again, kicking at the cats’ eyes and every so often, should a pair seem to give beneath his toe, he’d pause, encircle, peruse and dig further at them with an enquiring toecap. The sole of his boot slid over the rubber cupped globes to no avail.

As a boy he had crouched on a similar road (or, not at all similar) and prised the clear glass spheres from their rubber sockets with a knife. He had kept the cats’ eyes in a soft, black drawstring pouch in an old tin with a faded jolly Jack tar on the lid. The tin contained also a wishbone (one tine missing), a shiny white button that resembled a shield, a marble – dinted – with a twist of pale blue and cream, a porcupine spine, an old coin with many sides, a thoughtful, moustachioed lead die-cast toy soldier; exquisitely painted, thumb-sized, wearing chalkwhite crossed bandoliers, prussianblue tunic (tiny golden buttons, epaulettes, implied insignia), a tall, black, peaked cap, plumed with lead feathers (chalk again), a sabre, sheathed in a scabbard, his right hand crossing his belted waist, clasping the supposed weapon. The long, black rendered boots were planted forever, at ease, on a lozenge of green painted lead. Upended, the tiny slab revealed the epitaph Prussian Grenadier, 1805. W. Brittains.

No traffic passed him for some time and the sheets of the woods began to tumble toward him until he was completely shrouded in them disappearing everything, even the cats’ eyes.

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