A literary sketch depicting a slice of life in 500 words or less.
Published weekly at 2PM each Tuesday.
To view the works of Stephen P. Byers visit www.booksbybyers.us
Reincarnation is a concept that after death a soul begins a new life in a different body that may be human, animal or spiritual. I do not raise this point to initiate a discussion on the truth of such a proposition, which I suppose could be considered the ultimate recycling, but rather because I have a friend I am sure existed as a dog in a former embodiment. That friend is now a cat that displays canine characteristics that are not noticeable until after one has observed its behavior.
On the day my wife and I moved into our new home, we did not notice this delightful creature nestled in the padding of a garden chair on the neighbor’s porch. The trundling back and forth of the dollies, grunts and groans of the movers, or the general hustle and bustle of activity did not disturb it enough to make its presence known. The first indication of its existence occurred after the departure of the van, when it roused itself, ambled across the street, and lay down on the concrete walk at my feet obviously inviting petting. Jet black, without other coloring save its yellow doleful eyes, it induced a friendly scratch behind its ears and stroking of its back. I learned from its owner she called it Toby.
The cat required no further introduction. The next morning I found it parked outside our front door, sitting patiently as if awaiting companionship. I wondered if perhaps the previous occupants had fed it, or left a dish of water, never imaging they might have allowed it into their home, but indeed that seemed to be the case. The moment I opened the door, it darted in, proceeding from room to room quizzically examining the unfamiliar furnishings. After completing its inventory, it settled at my feet, its position much like that of a dog, arousing my suspicions for the first time.
So it came to pass, I set about to observe the behavior of this unusual cat. The incontrovertible moment arose when an elderly gentleman passed our home with a small white terrier on a leash that on sight of Toby set up a feverish yapping, tugging violently its tether. Instead of the expected feline reaction of arched back and fear-filled eyes, Toby strolled calmly towards the terrier until they stood nose to nose, the dog stunned into silence. The gentleman, intrigued by the conduct of the cat, made a practice of walking his dog along our street. Before long Toby and the terrier cavorted about on the lawn for all the world behaving like two dogs. In search of an explanation, I questioned Toby’s owner about the matter.
“I took it in as a stray,” she said, “a scrawny thing, halved starved to death. I felt sorry for it so I named it Toby after my pure-bred black Labrador, a beautiful dog, so gentle and well behaved. You know, that dog had a peculiar phobia. It was always afraid of cats!”
To treat your facts with imagination is one thing,
but to imagine your facts is another. ~ John Burroughs