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Cat, Squirrel, and Man

BY RANJIT SINHA ROY

It was late afternoon in a warm summer month. The large leafy tree on the western edge of the lawn cast a long shadow on the green grass. It climbed up the wall and went to the roof. The breeze was light and pleasant. A few small birds flew from branch to branch and two doves trotted one behind the other on the grass. Occasionally, dry brown leaves, detached from a branch and floated down to the green grass.
 
The patio was my favorite place to spend the late afternoon. I would take the newspaper, sit in one of the two wicker chairs and lazily go through the details, which I had only just glanced through in the morning. The second chair was meant for my wife. But she was not very regular like me. Occasionally she would sit there knitting, with a ball of wool rolling on the floor and Kitty, the cat, playing with it. Mostly, she preferred to watch the afternoon program on TV with Kitty curled up on the sofa beside her. Kitty was my wife’s pet.

That afternoon, I was concentrating on a particular news item which I had missed reading in the morning. Suddenly, I heard Kitty snarling. I looked up and found a small squirrel on the grass just below the patio. With his front paws raised, he was looking at me as though begging for something. He was so small and cute. I was fascinated, but obviously Kitty was not. She glanced at me and snarled again. The startled squirrel looked at me, his tail up and legs ready to turn and run away. He wanted my support. Kitty snarled again, tilted her head and watched for a sign of approval from me. I did not give any. Instead, I frowned at Kitty, showing my displeasure at her behavior. Kitty put her head down and through half closed eyes kept a watch on the squirrel. I did not care. The squirrel was a cute little new guest in our garden and I was fascinated.

I got up, went to kitchen and returned with a few nuts in my hand. All the time I was afraid that Kitty would be up to some mischief. But she only raised her head and keenly watched the squirrel, who, apprehending danger, moved away from the patio and looked for something in the grass. He saw me return and feeling safer now, came near the patio as though he did not care much for Kitty.

Kitty raised her head and silently watched the squirrel nibbling the nuts given by me. Kitty looked bored. She slowly climbed down the chair, stretched, yawned, and then without giving me or the squirrel a second look, slowly walked into the house. We were totally ignored.

By that time dusk was setting in. The squirrel bit the last nut, ran and climbed up a tree. He probably had his night resting place in some cozy hole there. I went indoors and found Kitty curled up beside my wife on the sofa. She opened her eyes for a moment and then moved closer to my wife. She simply ignored my presence. Few days went by. It became my daily routine to sit in the patio with a handful of nuts. The squirrel would promptly appear. We became sort of friends, enjoying each other’s company. Kitty never joined us. At best, she would appear at the door, silently observe us for a minute and return to her normal place on the sofa beside my wife.

After about a week, our squirrel appeared with a friend of his. This was surprising. Earlier there was no squirrel in the garden. Then this one came and we were enjoying the afternoons together. Now there was a pair. Kitty would definitely not like it.

A few more days passed by. Both of them would appear together and enjoy the free meal of nuts. I, too, enjoyed their company. The more the merrier – I thought. But after about a week, I observed a change. Their interest in nuts was lessening. Our squirrel became fonder of his new friend than nuts. Mostly they would be running round the lawn, climbing up and down trees, chasing each other. Else they would sit together on the grass and converse in squirrel language. They did not show much interest in the nuts offered by me. Occasionally they would come and nibble a few, as if to oblige me. Gradually their appearance became rare and finally after about four days they were not to be seen at all. I would wait alone with my handful of nuts, but nobody came. Probably they had moved to a better garden where someone was offering sweeter nuts, or perhaps there, they had met more squirrels and formed a large playgroup. Every day I waited till evening in vain and then kept back the unspent nuts in kitchen. There was no trace of either of the squirrels. They seemed to have disappeared forever.

Meanwhile, Kitty visited the patio a few times and looked satisfied when she did not find the squirrels. But she never occupied the chair beside me. She was happy that the intruders were not there, but after making an inspection she would return to his normal resting place beside my wife. Now I was all alone. Both Kitty and the squirrel had deserted me. I felt ignored and tried to concentrate more on the news items, mostly political or social scandals or sports matters. Who was interested in these dull subjects? I desired company, whatever it was - silent or active. Often I would put the paper down and look at the empty lawn or the empty chair by my side.

Then one afternoon, when I came to the patio with the folded newspaper in my hand, I was surprised to find Kitty cozily curled up in the second wicker chair. She looked at me once, probably to gauge my reaction. Obviously satisfied, she closed her eyes again. I put my hand on her back and caressed her fur. She purred. She was happy and so was I. We had returned to our good old days.
 

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