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Exercise #174 : The Man & His Cat

You see an odd-looking man in a bar in a strange town. He has a cat on his lap, and he orders a cup of coffee, slowly spooning sugar into it. He strokes the cat's black fur and says, "This contact is illusory. The cat and I are separated as though by a pane of glass, because man lives in time, in successiveness, while the magical animal lives in the present, in the eternity of the instant." What do you say back to him? And he to you? What does the cat do? What happened to this man before he came into the bar? 

1,2,3, GO!

Not quite a black cat, but close enough...
My mouth gapes open as I cock my right eyebrow upwards.

"What?" I ask.

The man's eyes focus on my face. They are a clear, crystal blue, light enough to appear unnatural.

"Hello," he says, "What's your name?"

"Lucy. You?"

"Philip J. Berkowitz," he says in a crisp, British accent while extending his right hand. His left hand lays gently atop his cat's haunches. "Lovely to meet you." I can't help but wonder what this man is doing in a bar... with a cat.

"Right." Unsure if I actually want to get into a philosophical debate with someone I just met, I hesitantly ask, "Are you a philosopher or something?"

"No, not quite. Philosophy student."

"And who is this?" I reach out for the purring cat in his lap, and he stops me, lightly placing his free hand on my wrist.

"This is Baruch," he said, smiling. "I'm afraid he's a bit testy with anyone other than me." The hair on the back of Baruch's neck bristles slightly, but when I move away he seems to relax.

"Sorry, I sometimes get a little too excited when I see animals." The redness intensifying on my cheeks grows quickly to engulf my whole face. There is something so penetrating about his cool blue eyes, and it makes me nervous.

"No need to be sorry. Baruch here just doesn't deal well with strangers."

Aching to change the topic, I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. "So what are you doing here? You don't really fit in with the rest of the patrons."

"Neither do you," he says quickly. "Does that mean you have to have a reason to be here as well?"

"I guess." I absentmindedly tap on the bar counter. He doesn't need to know why I'm here.


"And... that's really none of your business." I regret saying it the minute it escapes from my mouth, but it's already been said. I can't take it back. Trying to hide my remorse, I look downward at the scarred, wooden floor.

"I see." A few awkward moments pass between us, but he breaks the silence with a warm smile. "I'm lost, actually."


"Yes. I was on my way to a convention somewhere around here, but I got completely turned around and haven't been able to turn myself aright since."

"Well, where were you headed?"

"I can't remember."

5 minutes up.

And that's that. What did you come up with?



CarrieMarie said…
Taking him a little too literally, I look at the cat and say, "That's sad."

"Why?" he asks.

"Well, that you can't be more like the cat, taking each moment you get to stroke his fur as a blessing, enjoying the moment."

"And you? You would enjoy every moment?"

"Yes, or at least I try. I'm Leah, by the way. Sad or no, it's nice to meet you." I smile, and hear the cat purring.

"Wilbert, and it's a pleasure. Most people see me with the cat and immediately assume I'm a bit knockered."

"Well," I draw the word out as if contemplating that very thing. "I suppose we're all a bit knockered or we wouldn't be here," indicating the bar. We both take a moment to notice the other patrons. Some are wearing brightly colored clothing that could only be described as "loud." Some gather in groups to discuss the day's bounty, while others quietly contemplate the drink in front of them.

"Sometimes I wish I wasn't stuck here..." I say this wistfully, although mostly I'm happy to meet the people I do at Uncle Titan's bar.
Unknown said…
"Um, I really don't understand?" The green eyed boy says. "Oh, Nevermind." The man holding the fat cat says. "Anyway, I am Ethan." The cheerful boy says.

"Oh, Yeah I'm Azie." The man says.
"Excuse me." The boy says. "My name is Azie, Are you having problems hearing...Or Something?" The man says confused.

"Um, Sorry Azie is really a strange name." The young boy admits.

"Well. I can be called my real name, I bet you can't pronounce it though." The man says. He softly strokes the fat cat. The cat purrs softly. The guy reaches for his beer and drinks a bit of it.

The young boy slowly backs away in remembrance that he shouldn't talk or be around drinking people.

The man looks at the boy while the overweight cat jumps off of his lap.

The boy giggles and looks at the cat running across the small bar.

The man sits down his beer and slowly moves out his hand. The boy reaches his hand out and shakes the guys hand, The young boy feels the rough palm of the guys hand.

"Any who, I really have to go..." The young boy moves his body closer and closer to the door.

"Well, Bye." The man says standing up looking for the cat.

The boy shakes his head and runs out to door, heading to the car of his family that was sitting in the parking lot.
Alessandra said…
Almost without thinking I say: "Are you sure we're so different than our animals?"
" Why?" he answered, "would you want to be just like your cat or your dog?"
"Sometimes I do" I answer, still without paying too much attention to the man himself. since the drink is taking a little too long to get here, I sit down and proceed to expand on my answer.

As I begin to speak, I notice the guy bears a resemblance to my husband, maybe more than a resemblance. He has bright blue eyes, shaped like almonds, and thick brown hair that he keeps straight. Large shoulders, a white t-shirt and jeans complete the look.
"Sometimes it's easier being an animal, if your circumstances are right" I continue; 'by the way I'm Faith.'
"Angelo" he says, as he continues to lightly stroke the cat, whose purr is quite loud.

"Why do you think it's easier to be an animal?" he asks, almost as if he knew the answer already.
I stop to swallow, and to push back the tears that are beginning to flood my eyes and my throat. I knew this wasn't a good idea, why go to a bar, when I've never gone to one by myself before? And of all times, I pick the first anniversary of my husband's death to go, way to go Faith.

Before I can speak, my new found friend goes on: "Animals have feelings, they can sense fear, sadness, joy. When somebody important to them disappears from their life, they miss him, they don't feel like eating or playing, but they don't know why, neither do they ask themselves why. After a while, they begin to lose that sense of emptiness, life goes on, and soon the image of that very important presence in their lives vanishes, never to be remembered again" I look at the counter as he speaks, his voice almost seems to come from another dimension.

" But animals do have it easier than humans" the voice continues.
"They do not feel pity for themselves, and don't wallow in the past for very long. It's almost as if they know, their job is not finished. They continue living in the now, in the present, because that's where life is"
"It's time you do the same"

When I hear those last few words, I become angry. Just who exactly does this bar fly think he is. He doesn't know anything about me, about what my life has been like for the past year, as I tried without success to put back the pieces of my shattered existence.
I am alone, I have been alone for a year, except for this deep pain at the bottom of my stomach. I don't sleep at night, I barely make it to work, I'm a mess, and I'm entitled to it, thank you very much.

I lift and turn my head to give Angelo a piece of my mind, but as I do, I feel a draft, a light cool breeze. I look over at his stool, but there's nobody there. He's gone and so is the cat.
Serena said…
Great i always enjoy reading your posts. really enjoyed this one.

happy wrting

Alina said…
"Did the cat come up with that or did you?", I reply with a grin.

"It's funny you ask," the old man says, keeping his stern tone of voice.

Meeeooowww, the cat purrs - as if confirming that she is the brains behind all this talk.
Anonymous said…
This is such a hard one! I can't wait to see your response!
Guy Duperreault said…
"Are you talking to me?" I ask the shelf of spirits behind the bar's working area. I figure that since that is what the cat-man seems to be talking to, I will follow along. But I shift my eyes left to better see the pair.

But before I can even register the cut and colour of his jacket, my eye becomes fixated on the cat's very green eyes. They are so bright and so wide open that they seem to pierce my left eye. After a moment I am quite sure I hear it say, just audibly through the bar noise, in a monotone baritone "What's it to you?"

I take a sip from my glass of beer, sigh with pleasure at the cool bubbles in my mouth and throat after I swallow, and wonder how I heard a cat talk. With the back of my hand I wipe away the foam that I feel caught in my moustache. Philosophically, it is an interesting question, I think. I mean the cat's question: What is it to me? Or is that, What's it to me? Or, what if it's What's it to me?

The subtle variations of meaning give me pause. I don't know how to answer. Nor how to ask the cat for clarification.

I take another sip. Or, maybe it means What is it to me? Too many questions, too few beers.

I take another sip, a little longer, a little slower. Then I turn to look at the cat.

"I," and I place big stress on that 'I,' "see you."

The cat says nothing. I think I hear it begin to purr. It slowly closes and re-opens its eyes, and with a rock steady gaze resumes its stare into my eyes, and perhaps into my soul. I do not blink. I dare not blink!

The man takes a sip from his martini, eats an olive and fingers the empty plastic stick with the one hand while rubbing the cat's head between its ears with the other. The cat lifts it head in obvious pleasure with each rub of the man's fingers.

There is no glass separating them, I think.

'That's what you think,' I hear the cat speak without moving either its lips or jaw. 'He never ever gives me a martini. Hell, I'd even take a foo-foo drink. But no. By the end of the night, he's feeling no pain, and I'm left feeling left out.'

I nod with a rueful smile. That I understand. I turn away from the cat-man and his cat to take a slow sip from my beer. While looking at the plethora of colorfully bottled spirits, I think, Beer may well be the gods' greatest gift to man. But just mans'? I wonder.

I turn slightly to take another side-look at the cat. I see with my left eye that the cat is still watching me, even looking into my soul. The man finishes his drink and I see him, without a breath of pause, gesture for another from the keep.

I become aware that my right arm has moved, without my knowing it. Is still moving with my half full glass firmly clutched in its — my! — hand. I watch in amazement, as if in slow motion and outside my time reference, as my beer is moved by me towards the cat, and then slowly tilted. As if this moment will last forever, the cat turns its head upwards, and my golden beer flows in a graceful, gentle arc into its sharp fanged maw.

'Thanks,' the man says.

I don't say anything.

The cat says nothing. I hear it burp and watch it lick from its whiskers a small splash of beer foam that had missed its mouth. It slowly blinks its bright green eyes, and I feel it rubbing itself against the legs of my soul.

And I wonder, Who of me here could hear the cat purring?

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