As recounted by Leslie Fish, who had to clean up the mess.

It had been a bad summer for the cats ever since the gang of Illinois bluejays moved into the big Catalpa tree just outside the bedroom window. These were not your cute little east-coast jays, mind you, but big mean midwestern babies with voices like politicians and personalities to match -- the sort that would wear battered derbies and smoke stinky cigars if anybody made those commodities in their size. Their gang (flock is the wrong word) was big enough to pester dogs, harass cats and seriously mob kittens. They'd been bothering my cats all summer, the kitten didn't dare poke his little black nose outdoors, and in the hot weather this was real oppression. The cats were miserable, irritable, and just plain pissed off.

My senior tomcat, Mrrrp (he'd picked the name himself; he'd say that to announce himself whenever he walked into a room full of humans), was studying the problem. On that particular hot Sunday afternoon I was sprawled out on my bed under the window, goofing off, reading some good Sci-Fi, and Mrrrp was sprawled at the side of the bed, looking out the window at that Catalpa tree full of bluejays.

He'd been studying that gang of bluejays for a good hour when he visibly got an idea. His ears went up. Then his head went up. Then he jumped off the bed and went trotting through the apartment making a weird noise that I'd never heard him use before: a sort of "whrrEEE, whrEEE" like a siren. It was obviously some kind of Troops Assembly call, because every other cat in the house woke up and came running.

Mrrrp led the troops into the bedroom, and hopped up onto the bed. The other cats obediently followed him up onto the bed. I jumped off the bed, seeing that there was suddenly no room for humans, and something feline and devious was afoot (a-paw?). I watched as Mrrrp nudged and shouldered the other cats into place with the precision of a good general aligning troops for an ambush. In a few minutes all the other cats were arranged in a line on the bed, right under the window. Finally, Mrrrp nudged and growled and shoved the kitten up onto the window-ledge where the bluejays could see him. The bluejays saw, and started to squawk. The kitten crouched down and kept glancing nervously at Commander Mrrrp, who wouldn't let him get off that exposed position. The other cats licked their chops, crouched down, and waited.

Squawk by squawk, hopping up and down, flapping their wings, (much like a street-gang nerving themselves up for a rumble) the bluejay gang worked itself up for the attack. The kitten stayed put, crouched down, looking suitably scared. Finally the bluejay-gang got their nerve up to attack-pitch, and altogether they jumped out of the tree and came zooming at the window. The kitten jumped off the ledge and down onto the bed. I jumped for the doorway, made it through, slammed the door behind me and watched through the keyhole.

Sure enough, all the bluejays came storming in through the window -- straight into a small, closed room with only one way out. And then all the cats jumped up onto the window-ledge and blocked that one way out. The jays were trapped, and trapped good.

After that, it was a massacre. While at least one cat, and usually two, held the ledge and batted joyfully at any bluejay who came close, the other cats climbed hand-over-hand up the curtains to the curtain-rod at the top of the window. From there, they'd launch themselves into the air, swatting at bluejays on the way, land on the top of the bureau across the room, leap from there to the bed -- batting at low-flying jays in the process -- and then run up the curtain again. The air was full of flying cats, panicked bluejays, and a thick blizzard of blue feathers.

I wasn't about to intrude in that mess and get shot at by both sides, thank you. I just took my book and cigarettes, made myself a drink, went off to the living room and sat down to read my book in peace and comfort until the noise stopped -- which took about an hour. I'd spent years protesting the Vietnam War, but I knew better than to try to stop this one.

Well, when all was quiet on the bedroom front, I eased the door open and poked my nose in for a quick reconnaissance -- and what an eyeful I got. I've seen human battlefields that didn't look half as messy.

There was a light dusting of bluejay feathers on every horizontal surface. Among the feathers were strewn bluejay parts of every size and description. Bluejay guts festooned the mirror. The kitten was batting a bluejay head across the floor like a soccer player practicing for the finals. The other cats were lolling about the bed, cleaning their weaponry, purring like buzzsaws, looking smug and well fed.

What a cleanup job. I got the broom and dustpan and gently shooed the furry warriors out the door (the kitten went last, carrying his trophy in his mouth, intent on further playing -- and I wasn't about to stop him). It took me several hours of sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and laundry to get the room cleaned up, and I wasn't completely successful even then; weeks later, I was still finding bluejay bits in odd corners, behind books, and under furniture.

Somewhere during the long cleanup I happened to glance out the window at the Catalpa tree. Huddled in its branches sat maybe half a dozen bluejays -- all of them missing feathers, scratched up, looking very glum and subdued -- the few survivors of the ambush. I'm afraid I showed no sympathy for the vanquished; I just laughed like hell and tossed them some suggestions on where they could go.

I guess they took my advice, because next morning the tree was empty. The bedraggled survivors had taken themselves off to a safer neighborhood somewhere else.

And that afternoon, all the cats went out and played in the yard, merry as kittens, until dinnertime. Mrrrp spent most of the time sunning himself on the porch railing, posed like the Sphinx, looking utterly pleased with himself.

And every time he looked at the empty Catalpa tree, he purred and purred and purrrrred.