An affair of numbers // short story

The room is dark and slightly musty, the pipes in the toilet are leaking, the bed sheet stained at the corners and shriveled to a state beyond saving, the view of the beach is obscured by some villainous vines, the balustrade threatens to let its user fall into the mouth of thorns below, the wallpaper strays from the wall and droops as it pleases, the floorboard creaks at lightest touch, the door-lock deals dubiously with thieves, the curtains unroll clouds of dust, and all about the room shifts and shivers an eerie air.

“Could it be Casper?” You ask.

“I don’t think so. He’s imaginary.”

Perhaps it really is a spirit of some sort, eager for escape or, worse still, for our attention. The latter seems more right. It is often the recreation of spirits to disturb and frighten us unknowing humans. I have never considered that thought. Well, it’s ludicrous at the least. I shouldn’t bother.

“But last night, I heard taps on the table. Are you sure those things are imaginary?”

“Yes, my dear. I’m quite certain.”

And that sets you all at ease. I watch as you slump back against the cushioned headboard of the bed and return to alongside the wild characters of your book. Don Quixote. You tell me all the time how funny you find him; his outrageous chivalry. And in your recitals of the lines, you would always feign a deep voice and try as hard as you can to suppress a hysterical laughter. But no more than five sentences in and that laughter would creep out from the sides of your mouth and there pry open a great yawning cavity. I smile. Who could resist smiling?

Outside, a little nightingale perches itself on the balustrade. Its neck is cuffed in blue rings. I count four. Before I can point it out to you, you exclaim: “Look there! Isn’t that the bird we saw yesterday by the beach house? Oh, what an adorable thing!”

You said the same of it last night. The beach house had been a much needed respite from the room. It rests about a mile from the resort. And we would never have discovered it had not we tailed a chubby porcupine to its owner, spoke to him about how he manages such a pet, and then have him recommend a place to recuperate from the chase.

“It looks amazing! I think we should live here.” You exclaimed gleefully upon seeing the place.

It was a house on its own: single-storied and small, but not stiflingly small, and complete with a tropical thatched roof and strings of Balinese lights entwining every naked pole and railing. The sun had already begun its descent into the far end of the sea by the time we got there and the restaurant was crowded with people. We feared that we wouldn’t be able to find a table. But a man standing at the entrance waved to us. He raised his fingers, smiled amiably, and beckoned for us to enter.

The menu unfortunately was in a foreign language. At first we tried to decipher the headings. There were six sections. The first section must be the appetizers, you said, and the last the drinks – or could it be the desserts? In the end, having succumbed to the puzzle, we ordered our food by pointing to those on the other tables. You loved the grilled Barramundi; told me that maybe it was their salsa sauce that gave it its flavor. “We should’ve ordered more,” you lamented. “One is quite enough,” I laughed. You have always had a habit of ordering more than either of us could finish. And I would always have to rope you in.

“The fairy lights!” You spring full of startling urgency from the bed. “I think we should get them!”

Of course, the fairy lights. It was the name you gave that standing light whose slim steel column branched outwards like a tree and bore at the end of every branch a glistening star. The whole time, you stood there admiring it, contemplating whether to buy it or not. Occasionally, you lifted your finger to your lip then frowned slightly and turned to me: “how about we get two?” I left it up to you and stood purposely still as you deliberated in your usual dainty, shifty demeanor. Could I not help myself from chuckling?

Eventually, we left without any fairy lights. We figured that they were too pricey. It was to be a cheap holiday- the cheapest we could plan. We left and you pouted. And again, I laughed. You are always so endearing.

“Never mind, it’ll be such a hassle bringing them home,” you speak heartily, staunchly, resolutely, as if to yourself. “Yep, zero chance!”

I acquiesce silently, delightedly.

You draw the curtains and slide open the door to the balcony. The room is lit and the muskiness is flushed out. The leaking pipe in the toilet has ceased its childish dripping of droplets. The bed sheet is still crumpled but at least it is soft and comfortable. We climb onto the mattress in a fit of playfulness and watch the waves march towards the shore in uniform lines. The balustrade threatens only a feathery thing that flies. The torn wallpaper makes for good art. The floorboard cannot permit a creak since no one is standing on it. The door is open and its lock can perform no mischief. The curtains – well, we’ve already dealt with the curtains. And the air: has there ever been merrier one?

The Flame // a short story

I have just now come from a party which I had imagined would be the most fulfilling of the year. She was there. And I was certain of my character. But something happened and I left. Quite abruptly I did – and now, I want to shoot myself.

The party had begun some time in the evening. There were lots of people. The hubbub of sentiments could never take its seat. I too had contributed to that hubbub – I was disposed to. I knew so many people that whenever I closed a conversation with one, another would immediately spring into view and make a decorous inquisition. Politely, I would reply and then inquire, as the person had, about the person’s self. And from first bricks of preamble would be slowly constructed an edifice, whose architecture and significance will naturally beg further discussion. That was how most of the conversations proceeded. Mechanically.

I had been listening to a lepidopterist’s passionate ramble on the butterfly that inspired his career, and which I distinctly remember for the aptness of its name, The Flame, when I caught sight of her.

She was gliding across the hall, a plastic cup in hand and the tails of her black dress fluttering in delight, as if indicating her inner jubilation. I watched as she glided from person to person, presenting at every stop a smile no less heartening than the previous. I watched as she folded her arms and leaned in closer whenever the conversation appeared to meander toward some less frivolous matter. I watched as she tipped her head back in delicate laughter. I watched as she swayed gently, both eyes to the ceiling, pondering an invisible thought. I watched as she took an occasional glance about the hall. I watched till she finally departed from the crowd.

She stood at the buffet table with a contemplative finger perched on her lower lip. There was the opening, I immediately exclaimed to myself.

I ironed out the creases in my confidence and sauntered to where she was. I made some casual remark about how we can imagine a taste better if we shut our eyes and moved our mouths in a chewing motion. I asked her to try it. She laughed and refused. Then I closed my eyes and began chewing on air. The souffle is incredibly tasty I finally said. She laughed and took a a cup of it.

In the next moment, witticism was streaming excitedly from my lips. And there she was, seated across me; laughing, smiling, then laughing again. We shared about ourselves, about our families, about our baptism, about the blueprints of our dreams, the sources of our sighs, the distant glory of our futures, the potential overshadowing of that glory and our living in cram apartments, our joining in the unavoidable march of the working, our fantastical adventures at the top of a beautiful mountain, in the colorful splendor of coral reefs, in the lively jungle with Bambi and Bimbo, at the toe-tip of the great sphinx or in boundless cavity of the sky. How surreal that moment was; like skating on the rings of Jupiter. And how dearly would it please me to live forever in that fleeting frame of life.

The night soon aged and the crowd gradually thinned.

I had hoped from the outset that she would be going home alone, and then I would offer to accompany her. When better to foster romance than in the quiet charm of the night?

So I turned to her, ready with the words that I have glazed over and over again in my mind. I was nervous of course. What if someone else were already sending her home? What if that person had the same intentions as I? What if she already fancied someone else and I were really pursuing this to no fruitful end? What if our conversation dwindled into an uneasy silence because we were both so languished by the party and the socializing? What if this walk home ruined everything the majesty of all that was built just now?

Departing from that abstract place of anxiety, I returned to standing before her. She was looking at her phone. She must’ve noticed me looking for she lifted her head and peered quizzically at my vacant gaze. And at that instant, something came upon me. I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. But it fell upon me with such weight that I could no comprehend my motives. It inverted my thinking, and my bearings were thrown into confusion.

There she stood so pure and jubilant, and in her friendliness so unaware of my intentions to win her heart. Was it not criminal of me to prospect every contingency, to attune myself to her jovial nature, to revel in advancing my motives rather than in the spring of friendship? And what love that would arise from this endeavor would be no genuine love forged in the fires, but a wrought love hammered into shapeliness by a contriving smith.

No, I could do no such terrible thing to one so lovely as her.

And that was when I left.

How to rightly move through a forest // a short story

How to rightly move through a forest?

First, one must have all the necessary equipment, or as the professionals will loftily call: paraphernalia. Before plunging oneself into the foliage, one must say a prayer in case one does not make it out of the labyrinth within. It will be good if one has a partner – preferably a dependable and resourceful one whom knows by heart the rules of forest-traversing, and whom will know what to do should in case one clumsily slips into a hungry but indolent quagmire. Having a partner too will relief one of boredom. There isn’t much of a conversation to be held among the stern-looking branches, the haphazard assembly of leaves, the bustling insects bustling in the busiest haste, the coiled up python ready to spring, the growing flower eager for beauty, the pillars of sunlight that support a webbed canopy, the berries that shine in sugary venom or even the unfortunate traveler who leans motionless against the trunk of a tree, gradually becoming one with the forest. The quiet can be quite tormenting.

Upon stepping out of the sunlit field and into the murkiness of the forest, one may immediately feel encroached upon by a sense of horror, as if some slumbering evil palpitates at the center of that menacing system. And it is natural to want to back out of the adventure, or even angrily chide one’s own foolishness at having agreed to it in the first place. Death rises up before one in such clarity that one begins to wonder: what happens if I really do die – where will I go? It rises up in such immense force that one will almost be able to feel a physical repulsion. Hence, one’s courage must be firmly anchored.

Once inside, one must make haste, but at the same time be careful to not fall into the many traps laid by the forest. The paths usually diverge after every twenty paces, each leading into a misty unknown that echoes in terrifying emptiness. Always take the leftmost path. Sometimes, that path may be blocked by a disowned branch or a tree felled by ravenous decay. This is again the work of the forest’s deviousness. In its loneliness, it longs only for company. And in its longing, it will do its best to mislead the traveler.

Haste is no less important than making the right choices. For when the night arrives, the entire forest shall be shrouded in an impenetrable darkness, and all those strange creatures from grim fairy tales will begin their prowling. But not to fret, for if the equipment had been properly packed, one should find in one’s bag a vial containing an invisible potion, which if one duly consumes, will last one through the night. Nonetheless, it is always better to not spend a night in the forest.

In such a haste, one may sometimes carelessly graze oneself against a hostile twig or be pricked by the temperamental thorns of a wildflower. But one must not panic. Panicking will only pry a crack open for fright and anxiety to seep in. One must calmly treat the wound, and then quickly carry on. Furthermore, the forest can easily sense uneasiness. And when it does, it shall know exactly where lies this hapless victim. And when it does, a nightmare will be all the more easier to orchestrate.

If in the unfortunate case that it rains while one is traversing the forest; when the ground is slippery and the earth soft, one must be especially careful. The rain will blend the quagmires into the ordinary. And one must surely know how relentless a quagmire is once it grips on to its prey. So take one step at a time; test the grounds beyond one before setting one’s entire weight upon it.

Finally, one must always have hope – hope that this perilous maze is not unconquerable. One must always imagine oneself bursting through a wall of foliage and back out into the comforting illumination, and squinting as one tries to accustom one’s eyes to the foreign glare. One must imagine looking back into the darkness of the forest and settling one’s heart in an ineffable relief, in a vast openness that guarantees freedom. It is this hope that will stop one from leaning, forlorn and full of despair, against the trunk of a tree because one has circled the forest countless of times and still could find no exit.

It is quiet here. Hurry along, fellow traveler. Hurry along before I begin to feel lonely.

She in the striped blouse // a short story

I espied, from the corner of my eye, a lady in a striped blouse – its black and white lines racing to no end around her circumference. She has worn such a blouse several occasions. In fact, I think the dress has already settled itself on the impressionistic portrait I have of her.

I didn’t dare look back. I knew, I feared, that if I did, I might realize that it wasn’t actually her that stood behind me, but some stranger who fitted her sweet, saintly silhouette, and in that instant all my rapture would vanish, much like when a child realizes that the magic is but a rabbit hidden in the sleeves.

So I continued to look ahead, pretending to not have noticed her, and imagining that were I glance behind, she would immediately notice me and smile.

The skies soon began to rumble. I wondered for how long more I could remain here, poised to cast the first sparks. In my peripherals, I could still see her fidgeting, perhaps searching for her umbrella, I thought. The opportunity beckoned to me, but I was fearful. Why? Was I afraid that I would have nothing to impress her with nor anything meaningful to speak to her about, and the conversation would quickly wither into an uneasy silence? And then I shall have ruined not only a great opportunity but also the impressions which she has formed of me. More than that, I might never again be considered by her heart. And what harsher punishment can be dealt a pursuant than to be doomed from the outset of his pursuit?

I figured at that point that I simply wasn’t ready to speak with her; to assume a delighting character and set her in such an ease that our next encounter would be made as seamless as the meetings of decennial friends.

The skies rumbled once more, this time consuming the crepuscular glow along with the quiet hum of nature. I took it as a sign that this opportunity is one to be let pass. Fate works in the most enigmatic ways. It is up to us to discover and decipher the many messages it playfully hides among the ordinary. “Save your the valor for another day, Winston,” the party of clouds murmured.

Just as I was about to stand and leave, a butterfly settled itself at the edge of the bench. Calmly, it brought both its orange wings to a vertical still, revealing a light brown underside. It was the first time I ever saw such a butterfly here. Unhesistantly, I took as a sign. In fact, I think there were black markings at the edge of the wings that seemed to spell a certain discouragement. “The flames are not be fanned today,” spoke the butterfly.

I heaved a sigh of submission, looked up, and through a gap in boughs above caught sight of an especially bright star. Whenever I think of bright stars, I always immediately think of the Corsican stars. Frobisher had in his final notes told his lover that they shall in the next life meet again under the Corsican stars, and I can only imagine how beautiful they are to have been among the last thoughts of a dying man. “The clouds will soon come to conceal me,” lamented the star of Corsica.

Finally, I stood up. A droplet of rain tapped on my sleeve and dissolved into a darkened patch. Time’s up. How tempting it was to venture a quick glance and discover whether it was truly her that sat behind me.

Then, all of a sudden, it came upon me that the answer had already been revealed. Fate hadn’t been trying to tell me what to do – it had been trying to show me the answer which I didn’t dare discover myself.

I seized my umbrella.

I am a bird // a short story

I am a bird. I have spent much of my life in the skies. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do in this endless gouache of blue and white.

At first, flight was magical. I could soar to unimaginable heights. I could shrink the world into a canvas and appreciate from that exclusive space the meticulous strokes and brushes of nature. More than that, I felt free. There was something about flying, so light and quick across clouds, like the swift hands of an artist, that excited the spirit yet calmed the mind. But that is no longer the case. I have grown bored of it all.

Sometimes, whilst in the air, I would look down and observe those strange beings seemingly bound to the earth by their weight. They have neither wings, nor feathers, nor talons, nor a tail, nor a beak. But they have limbs – long, sturdy and dexterous, with little claws at the end. I see them climb trees, run across fields, wield objects, write symbols, paint pictures, and all these with the aid of those trusty limbs. How delightful it would be if I too had limbs like theirs.

Perhaps, if I think hard enough and let my mind consume the world, the skies will solidify, and my feathery wings turn into hairless limbs. Perhaps, with an ardent enough belief, I shall be able to convince myself that I had, upon seeing a bird streak across the sky, climbed down my favorite apple tree, dashed across a brown field of barley, pulled out a wooden stool, and begun to write in the language of those strange beings. And I thus started: “I am a bird.”

Bad weather and narcissism // a short story

I see a man. He is sweeping leaves off a path just beyond the house opposite. He is whistling a cheery tune that I have never heard before. I find it strangely alluring. The afternoon is sweltering, and I wonder what great fortitude it takes for a person to so willingly let himself be scorched.

Thankfully, I am in the shades, and nestled comfortably in smooth, soft linen. Above me, the fan whirls a gentle breeze.

How quite different are our inclinations – for while I prefer the whiff of books in a cool still, he prefers the rustle of shriveled leaves in a trembling heat. Still, I don’t understand how a person might possibly find enjoyment, in however enjoyable an endeavor, when the air all around stifles and sears in its super-heated form.

I finally tear my eyes from the window and try to find the word from which I had earlier departed. “Naivete”. There is it. But before I could finish it, I found myself trailing a thought that had curiously wandered back to that mysterious sweeping man.

Trying to read is pointless when your mind is distracted. I know that no speculation can ever satisfy as sweetly as the truth itself.  I am going to ask the man for exactly that.

I step out of the house, and immediately, I am illuminated. It is so bright that my eyes instinctively seek seclusion behind a pair of valorous lids. Accustomization takes a while.

Just as I am about to greet the man, whose back I face, he swivels around and, from under his straw hat, offers a friendly smile. I have not known strangers to be so forthcoming; not especially when they have no favor to ask or message to transpire. Nevertheless, I return a smile. I point towards my house and tell him that that’s where I live. He nods; his slight smile never diminishing. The heat begins its ascent. My pores are pried open and, slowly, I feel the tickle of sweat. I casually side-step into the shade beneath the mango tree; I have not endurance to remain for long in Phalaris’s bull. Hastiness is key.

“Why do you sweep at this terrible hour?”

At first he seems to not understand me. Perhaps the heat waves had distorted my words. I repeat it more slowly.

He tells me that he does not mind the weather at all – he has long gotten used to it. Next, he tells me that sweeping is enjoyable and, furthermore, he has nothing else to do. At this point, I become so vexed by the heat and the sweating that I lose complete focus on what the man is saying. And by the time I’m done dabbing the sweat with my sleeves, he has already stopped talking.

He likes sweeping and he does not mind the weather. A personal preference, simple. This is all that I came for. Why did I even bother coming down.

I wish him well, wave goodbye, then hurry back into the beckoning solace of the house. I splash my face with cold water and quickly, the accumulated heat is flushed out.

When I return to my little nest beside the window, I again see the man; sweeping and whistling in that same insouciance, and bathing blissfully in the heat that intended to torture. I flip my book and locate the sentence I had just now failed to properly digest. “..because he claims that we have lost naivete.”

Suddenly, the sweeping stops. I look out the window and see the man hoisting a huge black bag of leaves. He slings the bag over his shoulder and disappears to beyond the frame of my window.

What was it that he had said just now? I think he said he had a family to take care of. And maybe he said that he enjoyed his work.

The unpleasantness of a man // a short story

“You do know that you’re ugly?”

“Well, I..”

“Then do well to remember that, in my eyes, you are nothing. Not a speck dust, not a floating particle, not an inscrutably small electron. Nothing.”

When a woman is in such fit of rage, it is unwise to try and disprove her theories, or attempt at pacific reasoning. So I kept silent, and let my eyes keep a keen watch on the fury within hers.

“Do the world a favour and hide yourself in the closet.” With that, she walked off.

I had liked her for a year, and that was first time I had mustered enough courage to admit my liking for her. What a fool, what a great ignorant fool of the age to think that she would have responded well to my admission. Courage and confidence, they said, are what it takes to enamour a girl’s heart. Yet, they kept secret the most important pre-requisite: good looks, or at the very least, pleasant ones. I shall have to be more logical next time.

Her name was.. Never mind, it should not matter now.

I first saw her when I was attending Sunday church. I was nestled in my usual corner seat when she breezed past; her skirt fluttering entrancingly, and her scent quickly pervading all about her steps. Then suddenly, she stopped. She whipped her head around as if something were amiss, tilted it as if she were perplexed, then finally spun around and continued in her trajectory. I managed a fleeting glance at her face – beauty, quintessential beauty that even the most resolute pair of eyes shall fail to avert. And immediately, her perfect image was etched with perfect clarity in my mind. That enrapturing still shall be one to never leave my memory.

Every Sunday, I would return, delighted at the possibility of seeing her again and catching a scent of her redolent perfume. Sometimes, she never showed, and I, in all my dismay, could only send a phantom of her breezing along the empty aisle.

I never did speak to her in all the Sundays I saw her. I lacked the courage. And it was no confounding knowledge that I possessed terribly inadequate looks, quite as much as it would take to abhor the girls in whom I took interest – they were all very pretty, and she especially so. As it was, I let her whisk by again and again, like a bird of paradise whisking at an unreachable height.

A year passed, and I grew tired of watching from the darkness. Not even Quasimodo could remain forever in the Cathedrals of Notre Dame.

As the reverend father spoke in his usual commanding volume, I expanded a bubble of my own, and whilst trapped in its quiet, rehearsed my lines:

  1. As much as I desire to tell you that I love you, it would a blatant lie. I can only profess to love you, but to actually love you is something else completely. To love you would be to act in ways favorable to your disposition, even when I have to make some great compromise. Love, my dear, is a culmination of actions and attitudes, and words alone simply have not the capacity to contain all that is love. But, nonetheless, I will profess here, my inexplicable love for you.
  2. To say that shall I love you for all eternity, which I gladly would, would again be a lie. I have not been granted immortality and thus all eternity is not mine to fill; and when my mortality is extinguished, I shall no longer be able to love you. The promise is broken, you see, my dear. What I can do then is to tell you that I shall love you till the month passes, and promise that on the eve of the next, I shall renew my vows and tell you again with as much ardor as I do now, that I shall love you once more. And be not fearful, for I am not one to break promises; not especially to one so dear to me.
  3. Finally, I fear that the oft-repeated praise of you being the most beautiful in the world, which I find myself quite convinced of, is another lie. Were I to say that you are the most beautiful girl in the world, I would have to first collect through all the faces in world, juxtapose them and by objective comparison, conclude that you indeed are the most beautiful of all. It is a task impossible. But I shall have you know that though the greatest beauty on earth may not be by you possessed, your beauty is the only that I seek, and the only which gives me such bliss. True pleasure, my dear, comes not in having the best but in having what most pleasures you.

I recited these all like a mantra, picking at every word to make finer its poetic tune. I desperately wanted her as my audience. I imagined her absorbing every syllable that rolled off my tongue, and then procuring a gentle, affectionate smile as if to acknowledge the warmness of the words. That would have made up all the wine I will need to survive this prosaic life – the love of a girl. What attainment in life could possibly be more fulfilling than to secure a space at the centre of a girl’s heart?

Presently, I stand alone in a light drizzle, and ahead, she recedes into the darkness.

How tempted I am to speak of the drizzle as it were a reflection of my sorrowful tears. Yet, within me is contained not an ounce of sorrow. My looks have on so many occasions been ridiculed and abhorred that I now no longer feel the pierce of insults. I do not pity myself for no amount pity can disfigure me into a less pitiable state. And like Samsa, I have grown into my skin; learnt to take no heed of the form to which I am bound. I live in a world of my own, and all reality is only as true as my perception.

Had I perhaps started with the third point, she might have reacted less indifferently and played wisely the audience I had expected, and I, in hopes of quickly extinguishing a pointless conversation, would not have had to say those mean, hurtful things to her. Not everyone can stand as well as myself at being called ugly.

A Tale of a Boy and his Cat

There once lived a boy who came across an exceptionally friendly cat; an orange tabby that when approached would purr as gently as the night breeze, roll onto its back and paw affectionately at whomever towered before it. It was a stray; it had no home and survived on the little food purveyed occasionally by a kind, caring old lady living just down the street. So, valiantly, the boy decided to take it into his care.

He saved up what pocket money he was given to buy cat food and would always watch on, so pleased and mirthful, as the cat gobbled down the food. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, whenever he felt bored or lonely, he would run to his gate and call out to the cat, and the cat, from its usual resting place in the shades of the drainage channel just outside the boy’s house, would yawn and stretch before crawling indolently out to meet the boy at the gate. A great delight would always come upon the boy when he saw the cat. He would carry it close to his bosom and run his hand through its smooth coat of orange, and confide in it the many tales of his life. Occasionally too, he would lie down beside it and just stare into the space before the both of them, enjoying the company of his feline companion and the sunny insouciance of the moment.

After a week, the cat began to yowl loudly during the nights and often got into fights with the other stray. The boy felt vexed for the noise had on countless nights kept him awake, and also because he did not understand why the cat had come to bear such aggression.

One day, he noticed a gash on the cat’s left cheek. He felt worried at first, wondering if he ought to ask his mother to take the cat to a vet and have the wound treated. But eventually decided against it, thinking that the gash would likely heal overtime (after all, strays are far sturdier than the domesticated and would probably be able to care for themselves) and that the cat ought to be taught a lesson for all that fighting and the ruckus it has been causing. And so he turned his back on the cat’s persistent burbling and went back into the house.

On the next day, while at school, the boy began to feel a certain apprehension, for the night before had been disquietingly devoid of the cats’ habitual hollering, and resolved to have the cat treated as soon as he got home. The apprehensions grew stronger as the day wore on, and there could survive nothing in his mind but pessimistic contingencies – what if his resolution had come a day too late? On his way home, he saw a huge pipe coming out of a manhole and several workmen with helmets gathered around it. The road had been cordoned off and the boy had no choice but to take the long way around to his house. When finally he reached home, he called out loudly for the cat. Again and again he called but the cat never came. All there stood in sight was the other stray, licking its paws and watching quizzically on at this strange, raucous being. But still, the boy clasped on to hope, convincing himself that it is but the nature of cats to wander, and that eventually, his companion would find its way back.

The days passed and still the cat never showed. Yet, every day, the boy would sit diligently by his gate for an hour; peering now into the shades of the drainage channel and now into the space before him.

A month later, as the boy walking through the neighborhood, he espied the kind, caring old lady setting a plate of food on the sidewalk for the strays. She happened too to see the boy and as she rose up, turned to him and said warmly: “someone’s gotta care for these poor little things.” And as she rose up, there stood, revealed like a surprise behind stage curtains, the now healthy orange tabby.