A Day on the Savannah
August 29, 2006
Stalks of brittle grass, towering and light-russet in color, rose several feet high on the breezy African plain. A faint rustle sounded among the grass. Two sparks of amber, the eyes of a creature, lit up the maze of grass like candle flames, and hovered there. The crackle of shifting stalks grew louder until the grass parted, revealing a magnificent beast, dappled pelt rippling as if made of glistening gold.
Majestically, the cheetah strode into a clearing where a light breeze blew swirling dust at her head. She blinked, unfazed. Only when she looked down did she smile serenely.
Five bundles of feathery ashen down tussled with one another, tails protruding in all directions. Growling and snarling playfully, the cheetah cubs flailed around, oblivious to the sudden appearance of their mother. Eyes laughing, the cheetah mother purred. Detecting the purr, one cub separated itself from the mass and, tail flicking, sat down on her haunches and groomed a paw self-consciously. Purring, the mother sat down next to her cub, who chirped nervously in response. The timid she-cub was missing a claw on her front paw.
At that moment, another cheetah cub noticed his mother, and leaving the game, stalked over to her. Rubbing his flank against hers affectionately, the cub chirped a loud greeting. The timid cub looked reproachfully at her bold brother.
A third cub ceased fighting and pranced to her mother, head held high. Not bothering to mew a hello, she instead strode past, her gaze shifting to a rainbow butterfly, iridescent like stained glass. Licking her lips, the supercilious cub padded playfully after the fluttering work of art.
Realizing their game was over, the last two cubs ambled over, paws moving in perfect rhythm. They were a perfect mirror image of each other. One of the twins stumbled over his large paws, and slid in the sand, spoiling the synchronized effect. Comically, he fell on his side, revealing a long scar on his belly. The other twin snorted contemptuously.
Just then, a snarl followed by a thud made the cheetah mother swivel her head. Eyes shining, tail curling elegantly, the supercilious cub glared back defiantly at her mother, smugly showing off the rainbow butterfly wing poking out of her mouth. Smacking her lips, the supercilious cub swallowed the aesthetic butterfly with a gulp.
A few feet away, the most mature cub helped his klutzy brother to his paws, ignoring his sister's feat. The supercilious cub tossed her head scornfully at both of them. Yowling ensued as the furious cubs lost their tempers at their sassy sister.
Only the timid cub noticed their mother crouching into a stalking position, her muscles pulsing with tension. With explosive speed, she propelled herself across the plain. The timid cub held her breath as she saw her mother in pursuit. A gazelle, sleek and swift, sped across the savannah. The timid cub began trembling with excitement as her mother made one last fervent effort to capture her prey, launching herself at the gazelle. She landed on the back of the animal and slashed it open.
The timid cub's mouth watered. An angry howl behind her momentarily distracted her from the gazelle. Turning her head, she saw her supercilious sister with another bright butterfly hanging from her mouth. She looked back on her mother with a sigh, who was advancing toward them with the prey in her mouth. She delicately positioned the tasty prize on the ground. All five cubs scented the meat and eagerly bolted over to claim their share.
Snuggling together in a bundle, their bellies sated and warm, the contented cubs succumbed to sleep under a blanket of indigo sky, with streaks of sunset mango.