Once upon a time, in a condominium in the centre of a big city, there lived a slightly plump cat who was never let out. Every day, she would stare out the screen window of the condominium at the traffic and the people rushing by and the dogs being walked and the bicycles tinkling their bells and, of course, at the birds.
One of those birds, which was also slightly plump, perched on the streetlight outside the condominium window every day. And every day the cat who was never let out would crouch down and stare at the bird who was never let in, and the bird who was never let in would stare back.
I imagine the cat who was never let out envied the bird who was never let in. I imagine she imagined chasing and catching and eating the bird, and imagined it tasted delicious. I imagine she wondered what it would be like to be outside. I wonder if the cat could ever remember being outside.
I imagine the bird who was never let in wondered what it would be like to be inside. The cat who was never let out seemed very content and well-fed and perhaps a little lazy. What would it be like to never have to do anything, to get food and warmth for nothing?
One day, the cat who was never let out got a special treat: Her breakfast was served on the window sill where she watched the world and the bird who was never let in. This was too much for the bird who was never let in. He flew down onto the cement awning (over the first floor shops below) outside the second-story window where the cat who was never let out was eating and staring. He walked right up to the window and pecked at the screen where the breakfast bowl was sitting. The cat who was never let out lunged and the screen gave way, falling onto the cement awning, with the cat tumbling on top of it. The bird who was never let in retreated to the streetlight.
For a moment the cat who was never let out (who was now out) froze. Then cautiously she crept to the edge of the awning and peered over the edge.
Suddenly the bird who was never let in made a beeline for the cat’s food on the window sill. The bird who was never let in was now in. The cat who was never let out, who was out, charged back in in pursuit. After much noise and feathers flying the bird who was never let in emerged and retreated towards the streetlight again. The cat who was never let out came back out and lunged after the bird who was never let in (who was out, on the edge of the cement awning) and toppled over the edge, twelve feet to the sidewalk below.
Slightly dazed but not hurt, the cat who was never let out, who was now really out, panicked at the shouts of a cyclist whizzing by, and she darted into the traffic. Horns honked as cars screeched to a halt, but she made it safely across and cowered in a basement window grating, mewing piteously.
Meanwhile, the bird who was never let in, was back in, eating the food of the cat who was never let out, who was out. Screams ensued as two women appeared at the window in panic. One of them ran out the door to the stairs to find the cat who was never let out (who was out) while the other picked up a broom and began chasing the bird who was never let in (who was in) all around the condominium apartment.
The poor bird who was never let in (who was in) was squawking in terror, trying to find the way out in the maze of little rooms in the little apartment, and to avoid the swinging broom of the hysterical woman. Finally, he found the exit and swooped out, and the woman carefully retrieved the screen from the cement awning and put it back into place.
The other woman had by then retrieved the cat who was never let out (who was out, hiding in the window grating) and was scolding her angrily but holding her tightly as she crossed the road and went back into the apartment.
And so the cat who was never let out was back in, and the bird who was never let in was back out.
The next day, as the cat who was never let out jumped up to the window sill, she discovered the window had been closed. She could still look out, but she could not hear the sounds or smell the smells.
Soon after, the bird who was never let in soared down and perched on the streetlight. The two creatures stared at each other. Can you imagine what they were thinking?
And then suddenly, it was as if the cat who was never let out winked at the bird who was never let in. Or was she blinking back a tear? And then the bird who was never let in shrugged and tilted his head and laughed at the cat who was never let out. Or was it a sigh?
And since then, every day the cat who was never let out waits for the bird who was never let in, and they stare at each other and gesture to each other. As if they know something we could never imagine.
Category: Fables (for my granddaughter Cassandra)
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No Use to the World Broken
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If I Only Had 37 Days
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This Body Takes Me For a Walk
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Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
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What's Apparently Happening
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Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
How Our Bodies Sense the World
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Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
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