This time, the pencil knew what to do. I drew a tree, with thick twisted branches and a canopy of leaves. And on one of the thickest, strongest branches, I drew the leopard. It lay along the branch, its body melting into the pattern of the tree. You’d have to look twice to see it. If you were down on the ground, you’d never see it at all. The leopard lay as if it was part of the branch. Completely relaxed. But its head was up, watching, waiting. Any minute, that long spotted body would pour off the branch and spring onto its prey. All around it, for miles and miles, there were trees and long, dry, golden grass. But I didn’t draw all that, even though I knew it was there. I just drew the leopard on its branch, waiting, watching. Ready to spring and run for miles if it wanted.
‘Clyde!’ shouted Mum from downstairs. “CLYDE!’ Her voice sounded as though she’d been calling me for a long time. I pushed the sketchbook under the bed and went down.
They’d been arguing again. The air was stiff with it. That was why Dad and I had gone to the zoo, because it was Sunday and if Mum and Dad did things together they always ended up arguing. I ate my pizza and I looked down at the table and thought of the leopard, bounding over the long, golden grass.