07 October 2004

An odd event

Odd things happen when you least expect them. Like unexpected and unfortunately very necessary DIY: removing giant frogs from a chimney so that the house doesn't catch on fire, for example. At the end of it you realise that it was quite fun, but you sort of wish it had never happened in the first place.

I say this as I learnt of a little story recently. It concerned a very odd occurence.

A happy-go-lucky man was strolling through some woods one day when he saw a blue cat staring up at a tree. The cat was staring so intensely at something among the branches that the man stopped too and started to look. As far as he could tell, there was nothing there, just a few leaves and branches, but as the cat continued to stare, so did he. There must be something very grand up there if it can interest a cat so much, he thought.

The man waited and waited for something to happen, and after ten minutes had passed a small group of people passed by. They too saw the man and the cat staring purposefully into the tree, and so stopped and looked. They chattered among themselves; it was all very exciting, we can't wait for something to happen, they muttered

Over the course of the day many more people came across the tree and the small group of people staring at it. By evening, that small group was a merry gathering – people just kept on arriving, and by nightfall the word had got round to such an extent that there were nearly 100 people transfixed on the tree. No-one dared leave for the sake of missing what was going to happen, so people fell asleep standing up, in the knowledge that someone would wake them up if whatever was going to happen happened.

By the morning, the crowd was nearing 1000 in number. Noblemen and noblewomen arrived on horseback in droves, and even the King and Queen appeared with their entourage. Flocks of birds flew to the nearby trees to watch the happening, herds of cows meandered to the site, and a legion of clucking chickens marched up to the tree from a nearby town. It was all too exciting to be missed.

For three days the crowd grew and grew, everyone watching the tree with such a devotion, it was unnatural. And then at some point on that day, the very first man who had stopped at the sight of the cat realised that the creature had vanished. The cat had mysteriously walked off without waiting to see what happened with the tree. And then it dawned on him that the cat had fooled him. It had played a big game and tricked every one of the thousands of people filling the woods, many of them not even able to see the tree from where they were.

He slung his head low and crept out of the mass of people. A woman told him that he was a fool to leave now when something might happen at any minute. But he just blushed and kept walking.

Eventually, after a few weeks of nothing happening, the crowds dwindled. People finally went home. A fun time was had by all, but it was slighty tarnished by a feeling of anti-climax.

People never talked about it afterwards. Only one man knew why everyone was standing there, but no-one could remember who he was anyway as there was so many people present. It was one of those collective feelings of embarrassment that chooses to hide itself forever, rather than cause blushing and silly feelings all round.

But the cat remembered it for a very long time, and always smiled when it wandered through the woods.

Silly humans, it thought to itself.