Bars was poised in the long grass, his tail swishing from side to side, as he readied himself to pounce on the vole who had just emerged from a hole a little further down the hill to where Bars was crouching. All Bars’ faculties were focused on the vole. Ears forward, eyes large, whiskers out. He was just about to launch himself when suddenly he was aware of a shadow passing over him, then a great weight on top of him, and then teeth gripping the back of his neck. “Daaaaaaaad!” Bars roared, “I forgot! I did! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’ll remember. I will. I will. I will.” Claw let go of Bars and put his huge paw on Bars’ head and pushed it to the ground. Bars watched the vole skitter away through the grass and his whiskers twitched with the desire to get after it. “And what did I say, young Bars?” Claw said. Bars drew in a breath, let it out and then began, “You said, ‘Never forget that you are not the only one hunting. Never forget that as you watch so you shall be watched and as you hunt so shall you be hunted.’ And I forgot. And I nearly had that vole. I did. I would have got him. I would,” Bars said. Claw took his paw of Bars’ head then gently rolled him over and nuzzled his belly with his head. “Dad, that tickles, stop it!” Bars said. “This is serious Bars. You will be a mighty hunter but you have to start doing what I say, no more, ‘I forgot.’ Do you hear me, son?” Bars turned to look at his father, the mighty Claw, who now towered over him. “I hear you dad. I do. Really. I do.” “Then catch that vole, Bars. Now. Catch him but don’t let me catch you. Do you understand?” Bars nodded and before Claw could say another word Bars was off, leaping through the grass, ready to resume the chase.
Bars got his vole, then another, then a mouse. He was feeling strong and confident and just then, as he was thinking, he caught a glimpse of Claw, slowly, and stealthily making his way through the grass up ahead. ‘He doesn’t know I’m here,’ Bars thought to himself, ‘He’s too busy hunting! He forgot!! ’ And then, Bars had an idea and a little smile danced across his face making his whiskers twitch. Up ahead there was a gully with rocks on either side. Claw was tracking something, Bars could tell, and now, Bars told himself, he was tracking Claw. “And as you hunt, so you shall be hunted,” Bars said, to himself, in his softest, smallest voice. As Claw made his way up the gully, Bars made his way up the rocks to the side, pressing him self close to the rocks, moving slowly and steadily. Ahead, Bars could see the rabbit that Claw was tracking. It was a big, full grown rabbit and Bars could tell that it did not know it was being stalked. Below, Claw was readying himself for the kill. Bars could see the muscles rippling beneath the fur as Claw coiled for his lunge. At that very instant Bars leapt and swept down, landing on Claw’s back. He tried to bite Claw but before he could get his teeth into the fur he was thrown off and pinned to the ground by a massive paw. Bars was staring into two wild and terrifying eyes that burned like coals before him. It was not Claw. “I could have killed you!” The bobcat said. “I might still kill you! Who are you? And what do you think you are doing?” Bars moved his lips but no sound came out as the pressure from the paw that held him to the ground was too great. “Speak! You lost me my rabbit, I demand you to speak.” Bars felt the pressure lift from his back and then the bobcat’s face was right next to his. “Now! Speak!” Bars shook himself and stood up. “I thought,” Bars said, “that you were my dad and … “ Bars bowed slightly in respect, “and we’d been training, and he’d pounced on me when I was about to pounce on a rabbit and …” The bobcat nodded and his eyes narrowed slightly. “Two mistakes in one day, little one. That is not good. And your dad?” “Claw!” Bars said. “Claw!? Claw?” The bobcat boomed, “my brother is your father! I have been attacked by a nephew I’ve never met. A nephew I could have … never mind.” “My uncle? You. I? I tried to …” “Stalker,” the bobcat said. “Stalker?” The bobcat nodded, “Uncle Stalker to you, Stalks to your father. Now I haven’t seen him for years though I did hear about his new family but we hunt different grounds. And now, nephew, you owe me a rabbit and we’re going to see my brother, Claw.” Bars’ eyes grew wide and he swallowed and opened his mouth, his chin quivering, “Are you going to tell … I mean, what are you going to say to … ? Stalker through his head back and laughed, then he rolled Bars over with his paw and picked up by the scruff of his neck using his teeth. Bars was kicking and wriggling. “Are you going to take me home like this Uncle Stalker? In your mouth, like you just caught me? First dad and then you?” Stalker lowered Bars to the ground and poked him with his paw. “I don’t know what I’ll say yet, little one, but I’ll say something. You don’t have to worry. I think you’ve learnt your lesson for the day. Don’t you think?” Bars nodded. “I have. I did. I learnt a lot. That is not going to happen again. It won’t. It can’t. I’m Bars. I have to … I’m going to be … Soon I will … I wil be.” “Shhhhhh!” Stalker said, “Take me to your lair. I want to see my brother and meet his wife and your grandmother.”
Bars led the way down the hill, past the stream and into the woods, then up the hillside towards the lair. Bars let out his home coming, “Prrrrrrrrrrrrruttt,” as he arrived. Claw was sunning himself on a rock but he opened one eye as Bars returned. “So there you are! I was beginning to wonder what had happened to you.” Bars looked up at the rock as Claw lay his head down and closed his eyes. “Nothing happened. But something did happen. And … I … well. It’s not just me.” Claw opened his eyes, “What are you talking about?” Claw stood up and stretched. “Shhh,” Claw suddenly said, and in one leap he was by Bars’ side. “Silence. I heard something. I smell something. We’re not alone.”
“No, you are not alone,” a voice roared from the rock above. “See!” Bars said, “it’s Uncle St … , “ Claw bounded up to the rock and Bars watched as the brothers patted each other and butted heads. “Stalker! I haven’t seen you in, in many, many, many, too many moons and then, out of nowhere …” Stalker looked at Claw, “Not out of nowhere. I ran into a brave young hunter in the woods. He stalked me.” Claw looked at Stalker, “He stalked Stalker?” Claw looked at Bars who was remembering the red burning eyes and Stalker’s paw on his throat. “And we talked and we discovered that we were related!” Claw looked from Bars to Stalker and from Stalker to Bars. Claw was about to say something but thought better of it. “So brother,” Stalker began, “I’m visiting. I want to meet your family. I want to sun myself on your rock. I want to hear your tales and I want to play with this fine young hunter son of yours. Stalker winked at Bars and Bars straightened himself up and let out a “Purrrrrrrrrrt.” It had after all been quite a day.