-Excerpt III: Hyena Subpoena, cd/book (2014)

Mona empathizes with the antelope she has met. This calls up the predator-prey dynamic in human society and a personal memory of victimization.

  1. The Lottery Cat Kidd

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THE LOTTERY

You heard it from an antelope and tried to tell your analyst        
 the rational explanation for your n-n-n-n-nervousness

Listen, no impala is stupid. We may look that way
’cause of the staring and chewing, staring and
chewing, but listening intently is what we’re really
doing. We have no choice, we know stats –
we’re the primary diet of various big cats, painted
dogs and spotted hyenas. Essential ingredients in
Nature’s great Opus – but unfortunately for us,
It’s a cookbook.
Look
, it’s no coincidence there’s over a hundred
thousand of us impalas here in Kruger Park but only,
like, sixteen hundred lions, all too delighted to invite us
to dine. Hey, here’s some ruminant humour for you,
How d’you get a hundred impala to leave your house
party? Just drop everything and listen –

When I was young I used to wait
for everyone to suddenly start running all at once
in same direction at a frantic pace –

Except for that one dude. Too old, too young,
too sick or too stunned stupid to move, even when
pheromonally warned to by the whole group,
but the poor dupe, his last words were,
“Where’s everyone running to? Oh dang,
I’m screwed…” then those dreadful guttural noises
of predator crushing esophagus. When the rest of us
finally reach safety, maybe we try to comfort each
other –
Well, you know, Joe, that whole branch of the family shrub
is so slow, it’s a wonder they didn’t all die out aeons ago…

For an antelope, the age of innocence is short,
but what can you do? You gotta know, if you’re not
trying to eat anybody, most likely somebody’s trying
to eat you. They say we all drink from the same pool,
but no antelope takes lingering cat-naps in mid-
afternoon unless he’s a damn fool. We’re at the
bottom of the pyramid, so our numbers need be
myriad. We lack the luxury to lounge around belly-
aching over how they misspelled our names on the
Menu – we’ve got more important things to do than
ruminate over the meaning-less-ness of existence with
you. Leave the philosophizing to the predators,
who do love to have something amusing to muse upon
while they loll about digesting.

After an antelope reaches maturity, it serves no
earthly purpose to assert her personality against
the rest of the herd – that kind of behaviour is
never in the interest of self-preservation.
When you’re a prey animal you need to blend in
with the herd – not be seen, not be heard.
Because it could be any of us, at any time, it’s pretty
random, really. The young bucks are lucky for their
antlers and their speed, but all of us are fast –
you have to be or you’re lunch meat. Scapegoat tartare.
It’s a little like living in a science fiction movie,
or in Shirley Jackson’s short-story The Lottery
the very collectivity we rely upon for security
also makes us complicit in this ritual culling of
antelope society. It’s roughly the same every time –
as soon as the day seems to be going maybe a little
too peacefully, we all get to feeling jumpy, like we’re
being spied on by leonine eyes or leered at by sneering
hyena. The chief does his best to warn us about
whatever-it-is but very often another mother’s child
goes missing again. There’s no justice in it,
it just is like this.

An antelope needs to hit the ground running even
before the word Go – quadrupedalism ain’t as easy as it
looks, you know – any new born oryx or gnu needs to
sort it out soon so he can hoof it with the rest when he
hears the alarm, then we all just try to hang together.
Whoever becomes separate from the group is pretty
well doomed and everyone knows it – yet some of us
seem to be brought into the world for little more
reason than this. So folks think we antelope don’t care
about our kids as much as certain other animals do,
because we don’t spend like a whole year teaching
them how to hunt and fish. They say we expose our
kids to too many treacherous situations too young –
as though we have any say in the matter, other than
smothering every single one. If it’s not my child who’s
taken to feed the lions, it’ll be another mother’s child,
so it’s no less my loss than hers if she’s bereaved first,
it could really be any of us. Do you think antelope
have time to mope about at funerals, like elephants do
for their dead? There’s not usually much left of us,
to be blunt about it. So we don’t take each other’s
company too much for granted, keep ears and eyes
open, and try to blend in with the foliage.

Early life can be a minefield for any kid who’s a little
bit different. It seems inevitable even junior society
will pick out and crucify certain personalities as a sign
to the rest to stay in line – some are cast out in the
wilderness, where they stumble into the clutches of
predators, brambles of crime running rampant all
around them. Because there very often is no warning
sign, and there is no Catcher in the Rye. You can’t
ultimately protect a child from barreling blindly head
first into her own fate, now can you? Couldn’t it be
she’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Couldn’t it be she’s just walking home from Seven-
Eleven a few blocks from her house, even feeling
a wee bit saucy in her new maroon ski-jacket and
stretch denim jeans, grade eight being the first year
she doesn’t have to wear those polyester flood pants
with the elastic waistband, no, but actual clingy-ass
stretch denim jeans?

Then lo and behold, a full pack of grown men
with ice cold Extra Old Stock beer in stubby bottles,
sunglasses, sideburns and moustaches, whistle at her
as she passes the front porch, where they’re standing
around like the spitting image of a Bob Seger tribute
band. This gang of jackasses is out there partying
every week in that yellow house right across the street
from the high school. They like to tell a girl one of her
friends is already there at the party, then maybe they
give her her very first beer, so she has no way of
telling if it tastes a bit queer, then Hey, wait a minute,
there’re no other girls in here –

But now who’s this guy with the worried eyes,
claps his buddy on the shoulder, says, “Thirteen gets
you thirty, Kevvie,” some kind of brotherly warning
you don’t fully grasp. The same worry-eyed guy
who’d asked your age and you’d lied and said
thirteen when actually it was still three weeks ’til
your birthday. But it’s too late, you already hate your
stretch denim jeans, if they just make you look like
some dumb slut flattered by drunks whistling at her
butt, but resistance is chemically dissipating,
as though your brain were melting in a pool of wax
beside the bare mattress, as though you’d solidify
there by the bare zebra-striped mattress, unaware and
completely unconscious of how you got upstairs in the
first place.

And no, it wouldn’t get Kevvie thirty years or even
thirty grey hairs if he didn’t get caught, which he was
not apt to do if you didn’t press charges, which you,
in perverse defiance of your parents, are not on your
life about to do. Not after having to deal with being
dragged to Emergency, and having your mother,
who hasn’t even said two words to you, hovering
over you in the examination room. She doesn’t speak,
doesn’t seem to want to touch you, just keeps her arms
wrapped tightly round herself as though afraid her
ribs might fall open, while her adolescent daughter
lies askew on the white sheets like a peeled carcass.
It seemed the only way to reclaim your own dignity
was to say No.

No, you didn’t want to press charges. No, no, a
thousand times no – you’d really rather forget the whole
fucking thing, thanks all the same. You didn’t want to have to
see that gang of creeps again, you kidding?
Hell no. You have no intention of even mentioning the
subject to anyone. Ever. Again.

But then, two days later find yourself wandering back
to that same yellow house, as one returns to the scene
of a crime, to find it gutted. No blaring Silver Bullet
Band, no puffy vinyl furniture seen through the
picture window. They probably left that stinky bare
mattress right there on the upstairs floor, though,
no one would bother saving something like that.
Suddenly a man speaks and scares you half out
of your wits, but when you turn round it’s only the
elderly owner of the building asking if you knew the
guys who lived there. No. You don’t know them at all,
why does he want to know?
“Because they just packed up and left overnight
without telling a soul where they were going”, he says,
“Every last one of those young men, took off out of
here like they thought someone was chasing them.”
Like they thought someone was chasing them, you
heard the man say – as though you were the predator
and they were the prey.