Mack Williams: Cat and squirrel
No, this isn’t about some parallel universe in which there exists a cartoon show starring a flying squirrel teamed up with a cat (instead of a moose), set in a parallel-universe Cold War.
The other morning, before daylight, when the only thing saying “A.M.” was my clock, I heard a “scratching” (not a “tapping,” nor a “rapping,” because Halloween had come and gone a couple of weeks before).
This scratching sound seemed about mid-wall height, and I remembered a scratching sound some weeks before, inspiring my setting of a mousetrap or two.
This “wall clawing” sound being quite pronounced, my imagination made the leap from mouse to rat, from pest to pestilence (Black Death, Plague, “Bring out the dead,” etc.).
With daylight, the intermittent scratching sound continued, but now I could readily see its source: a nice-sized cat (instead of a cat-sized rat).
From my angle within the apartment, the creature appeared spread-eagle-splayed on the outside screen door of the two large glass doors on the building’s northern side, the feline’s ventral side facing me.
The question:”Where have I seen this before?” popped into my mind. Then came the answer: “The Garfield plush toy cat with suction cups on its paws for attachment to the glass of automobile windows.” I wish I had a nickel for every one of those I had seen in previous years in the passenger windows of cars pulled up beside me in an adjacent traffic lane waiting for the light to turn. It’s been years now since I’ve seen them.
Similarly ventrally “displayed” upon that wiry medium was the cat’s intended prey, an eastern gray squirrel!
A cat’s lightness and ease of movement is legion, but it seemed that in hanging onto screen wire for dear life, the squirrel was better at it (perhaps the cat would have benefited from the stuffed Garfield cat’s suction cups). The cat’s relative heaviness in comparison to the squirrel became apparent, when in slipping, then catching itself to thwart a fall, I saw a little wobbling of cat fat (another possible allusion to Garfield).
As far as BMI was concerned, the squirrel looked pretty taught! The squirrels’ movement evinced “bones and fluff,” whereas the cat’s movement evinced something weightier (and of actuality): “flesh and bone.”
The cat seemed “more substantively aware” of its precarious angle, but the squirrel seemed not to have a care in the world (except for the proximity of the cat). It was as if the cat were behaving a little like an Old World Portuguese sailor, clutching dearly to, and trying its best to not fall off the edge of the known (“screen”) world.
Seeing these two four-legged creatures ventrally (from below) as opposed to dorsally (from above), I was seeing them from the same vantage point as that of the ground, the earth itself, against which all of our affairs, be they of plant, beast, and man are played out.
If I heard such scratching on the following night, I would now know its source, and see the silhouetted figures of cat and squirrel against the sky, stretched out like two “dark matter” constellations, one named “Felis,” the other “Sciurus.”
I have one of those super lumen flashlights which can also be used as a star pointer. Perhaps if I switch it on during another nocturnal “scratching time” and aim it outwards through my glass doors, it might be reflected back to me in the form of a couple of “shooting stars” pursued by a pair of iridescent, hypnotic “moon globes,” each marked with a central, pupil-form, black rift valley, longitudinally lined from pole to pole.