The Cat

I actually felt sorry for the cat today. It’s 14 degrees and snowy, and there he was in the snow. He’s a bit on the scrawny side with long black fur. It just didn’t seem like he should be out there in the woods.

But the thing is, he isn’t a cat. He’s a tree stump. A tree stump that’s shaped like a cat.

It’s been several months since I first saw him — ummm, first saw it — and I mistook it for a cat. Now every time I pass that window and glance out, I see a cat again. It doesn’t matter that I know it’s a tree stump. For the tiniest split second, I see a cat. And this morning I felt a wave of concern that the cat was out in this cold, snowy weather. Or rather, that the tree stump was out in this cold, snowy weather.

People have suggested taking the tree stump out. I strongly objected. I like the illusion. I enjoy the trick of my mind. I also enjoy not having to care for a real cat. Or worry about it, or deal with gooey cat food, or wonder if it’s relieving itself in my large potted plants. Take the tree stump out?? Heck no.

Back in the days before all clocks were satellite clocks, people used to use that same trick of the mind to help them get places on time. They set their clocks ahead by 5 or 10 minutes in order to startle themselves into not being chronically late. You’d see the artificially late time, and a little “YAAAG, I’m late!!” response would kick in. With a little boost of adrenaline and the hidden few minutes to spare, most of us who run late were better able to get where we needed to go and be on time. A controlled mind trick.

Having a tree stump cat out in the snow is much the same. We knew that the clock was set ahead. We know the cat we see is really a tree stump. But in a fanciful way, the “cat” is fun to have around. He’s like a ghost cat or a wild animal who comes to visit. I hope he’s around for a while. He brings a quirky, delightful moment to my days. I’ll miss that cat when he’s gone.

(c) 2021, J. Cools

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