The Red Button (part 2): The Cat on the Wall

The cat stared at him, as it did every morning when left for work, and every evening when he returned home. He had grown very fond of it, for although their relationship had never extended beyond that of watcher and passer-by, the cat’s regular presence soothed him. It reassured him that, for the moment at least, he was only partially lost. His physical self was following the path home, at the right time, and in the right shape.

Robert looked into the cat’s eyes this morning, smiled, looked away, and continued on his way to work. The cat in its turn returned Robert’s gaze. Though the cat was black from head to toe, a line of white fur around its mouth looked suspiciously like a smile. A fact Robert had as of yet failed to be unsettled by. It waited for him to walk out of sight, stretched out and jumped down from the fence. It landed in a yard Robert had never seen and made its way through a thick patch of leafless sumac.


It was the end of February, and though as an act of environmentalism Robert walked to work every morning, it was the first day since late November he felt more than just the dull throb of responsibility behind his steps. The sky was cloudless and the huge snow banks along the sidewalks and piled up around the bases of street lamps glistened, eagerly preparing to melt. Preparing to flood the sleeping world with the first pulse of spring.

“It’s prespring” mused Robert, “This precious season between the sadness of winter and the wild excitement of spring.”

He laughed at himself. He had always hated the idea of the four seasons. As a child, it had been obvious that winter did not simply turn into spring, or that summer sat unchanging from June to September. Even fall, which people always discussed with such astonishment and surprise, was not the abrupt melancholy end to summer it was chalked up to be. No, if Robert had learned anything as a child it was this, the world moved in a much more gradual way. It moved seamlessly from moment to moment, without fuss, without announcement, and without regret. As a result of this, Robert found the best way to observe the passage of time was through the behavior and performance of life.

Going off this irregular calendar Robert had been organizing his thoughts and important plans since his early twenties. He of course kept a “regular” calendar, since the rest of the world felt the need to organize and order. It hung above the desk in his office, unpleasantly present. Nevertheless, the really important dates, the ones Robert looked forward to ever year happened in their own time.

As he stepped into the cedar bush the surrounded the university he realized one such date had finally arrived. Once again his thoughts escaped him and turn to the fresh rush of green the rest of the world called spring.




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