Sawyer sat on the edge of the shelf, staring at the mysterious box with narrowed hazel eyes. Soon, he thought, the time would come again. Every time the spinning stick pointed straight up, his enemy would appear. And every time, she got the best of him. But not this time. No, this time, victory would go to him. He would make sure of that.

The sound of ticking was the only noise filling the air. Sawyer’s tail flicked for the umpteenth time, and his whiskers twitched. The tension was almost palpable. Just a little more, he thought, flexing his legs and digging his claws into the wood. The stick was nearly vertical now. Just a tiny bit left, and at last he would catch her…

Sawyer and his enemy had been at war for a year. He knew this because she had entered his life the last time his owners had set up the lighted tree in the living room, the same way they did every year, the same way they had last week. The year before, one of the boxes under the tree contained this strangely shaped object, with two spinning sticks and a little flap behind which lived…

The cat shuddered. He didn’t even like to think about it. Oh, how he loathed her. She was awful! From the moment they’d met, all she ever did was annoy him. And what was worse, she did it all day, every day! No, it wasn’t enough to make irritating noises just once in a while; she had to pop out and mock him from her high perch every time the larger spinning stick made a full turn. Why every time? Didn’t she ever get tired? Didn’t she have anything better to do than wait for the stick to spin all the way around yet again? Sawyer couldn’t imagine she did… but it didn’t matter. Soon he would catch her, and his family would surely thank him for ridding them of this terrible nuisance. That was, after all, why they had recently built the shelf right next to her, right? Right? Yes, he’d be treated like a hero, but in all honesty, he would just be glad she was gone.

A loud chime suddenly rang through the room. That was the signal. In the blink of an eye, Sawyer screeched and pounced at the box the exact moment he knew the flap would open. Yes, there she was! Halfway through the air, he could already hear her horrible high-pitched tweet.

Cuckoo!”

The feline unsheathed his claws, a split second from the box now. He was so close, he could already taste victory. But wait, what was she doing? She was already retreating? No, he couldn’t have miscalculated! Yet by the time he was close enough to swipe at the bird, she was halfway back into her nest. Unbelievable, he missed her by an inch!

Sawyer cried out in frustration, flailing his paws wildly in a flash of orange fur. He wasn’t about to admit defeat. He could still catch her; there were a few chimes left before she settled into her nest for another hour. His claws still unsheathed, he just managed to grab the swinging weight under the box before he fell to the floor. This wasn’t over yet.

The cat pressed his back paws against the wall to steady himself. Startled by a loud splintering noise, he looked up at the flap to see the bird emerging again.

Cuckoo!” she cried a second time. Surely she was laughing at him. Infuriated, Sawyer cried out again and swiped his free paw up at his enemy… but before he could touch her, the wooden box collapsed from his weight, and the next thing they knew, cat and bird were plummeting to the hard floor together.

CRASH!

A dazed Sawyer scrambled to his feet and looked around. Strewn about the ground were dozens of pieces of wood and metal. Lying amid the shattered remains of the box was the little brown bird, finally off her perch and, more importantly, silent.

Satisfied to finally see his enemy immobilized, the orange feline was brought abruptly back to his senses when a group of humans came rushing into the room. Looking up at his family, Sawyer took a seat beside the fallen bird and started to purr with pride. The job was done; all he had to do now was wait for the praise…

“SAWYER!”

The woman at the head of the group started toward the cat. Sawyer had seen that look in her eyes enough times to know he didn’t like what was coming. Quick as a flash, the confused feline turned and fled from the humans hurrying to see the remains of the shattered box. Leaping up the couch to the top of the armoire, he looked down and watched his family pick up the scattered pieces of wood.

The girl kneeling by the box lifted the fallen bird and showed it to her mother, who shook her head at the sight of it. Sawyer tilted his head. How odd… Weren’t they glad to be rid of that pest? Of course; they were just surprised. Yes, that must have been it. After all, they probably thought they’d be stuck with her forever. Lucky for them, they had a hero in the family.

The people set about cleaning up the mess, while the cat looked on from his perch. The sight of his enemy being swept into a dustpan with the rest of her broken nest filled him with immense satisfaction. Come to think of it, destroying the box wasn’t part of the plan. He knew how much his humans liked it. Why else would they hang it on the wall if they knew what lived inside it? But if that was the price to pay for getting rid of the noisy bird, it was worth it.

Purring softly, Sawyer curled up and closed his eyes, ready for the nap he had earned. There would be plenty of time for praise later. For now, all he really wanted was to enjoy the peace and quiet.

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