Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
The following is a piece of writing submitted by Douglas on March 10, 2008
"Yes, this one is non-fiction."
The Strange Behavior of Piper the CatPiper thinks he belongs to me. I'm not sure when this adoption occurred, or why I never received any notification or legal paperwork. I'm also not sure why it happened, though I do have a theory.
Piper's other family consists of a mother, a father, and a little preschool girl named Lily. Though Lily is quite charming and friendly, my experience with cats has led me to believe that there is a natural sense of unease between cats and children under the age of five or six. Perhaps it is an instinctive caution bred into the species after many generations of ear pulling, tail yanking and other expressions of juvenile affection.
But for whatever reason, Piper has decided he wants to be my cat. I first noticed this last year when Piper started hanging out on my porch, waiting for me to exit or arrive. At first he would merely study me as I walked in and out, and I thought he was just curious to see who the neighbor was. Little did I know, he was actually timing out the whole process of the screen door opening and catching on the hydraulic closer, the inner door opening, me stepping in, setting down my groceries, and then kicking the door closed behind me.
Since then I've timed that sequence out myself and have come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, a long enough time span for a clever and swift animal to scurry between my legs and reach the safety and comfort of the indoors.
Piper is both clever and swift, but the first time he made his move, I caught the motion out of the corner of my eye, and my foot was there to block his path.
I could almost hear him saying "Coises! Foiled again!"
I think he tried about twelve different times before he finally succeeded in entering my home. Before I even realized he was there, he was up the stairs and inspecting my bedroom. Wisely, he turned around and came back downstairs, which is where I caught him and tossed him back outside.
After that, Piper became increasingly adept at entering my home, until at last, apparently, it ceased to be a challenge for him, and he decided to turn it into a game.
The game began one day last year when I opened my door, stepped out, and saw an orange streak of fur racing toward me. The furball, moving so fast it was nothing but a blur, originated on the sidewalk on the other side of the street, two houses down, and came to a skidding halt at my feet just as the screen door closed behind me.
Better luck next time, kitty - maybe if you munch your PacMan power pellets on the way across the street you might win this game. On the other hand, if you're not careful, you might end up like poor Frogger.
Now I don't want you to get the wrong impression; I actually do like Piper. So much, in fact, that when he's standing on my porch I'll stop, stoop down, and scratch him behind the ears or tickle his little chin for a minute before I move on to more pressing matters. I think this is what led to the next stage of Piper's strange behavior.
It started one afternoon when I was walking from my house down to the church. Piper wasn't sitting on my porch, nor was he racing across the street. He was lying on the sidewalk, directly in my path, with his back arched, his mouth open in a wide yawn, and his legs splayed out in all directions in a post-nap stretch.
He was just too cute to resist, so I stooped down to pet him.
The next day when I left the house he was doing the same thing. And the next day. Soon I was thinking to myself, This cat does nothing but nap on my walk all day!
It was about a month later that I realized the truth. I must have been a little quieter than usual exiting my house, and Piper didn't hear me coming. There he was, sitting still as a statue in the grass, staring (as Piper so often does) at a poor, unsuspecting and innocent robin. As soon as he realized I was coming, he lept down from the lawn onto the walk and sprawled out in front of me as though he was just waking up from a nice afternoon nap.
I discovered yesterday just how smart Piper really is. But before you can understand his feline intelligence, you need to understand the layout of my home. Just inside my door (which has a window in the top half) there is the stairway that leads upstairs, and an old dark brown newel post with a domed top at the bottom of the stairs. Because I am too lazy to hang my coat on a hangar in the closet, I always drape it over the top of the newel post. Then I either turn right to enter my office, or go straight up the stairs if I want to go to my bedroom or my livingroom.
If you were paying close attention to that description, it might occur to you that someone (for example, a clever furry feline) sitting on the rail of my porch just outside my door would be able to tell whenever I went upstairs or downstairs.
And if that thought occurred to you, then you are smarter than me, for such a thing never occurred to me until yesterday, when I glanced out the window in my front door and saw Piper sitting on the porch railing, staring back at me.
It only felt a little bit creepy.
But he stayed there all afternoon, so every time I went upstairs, or came downstairs, those unblinking eyes were watching my every move. The entire creepy episode came to a conclusion when it was time for me to go down to church for evening services. I trotted down the stairs, exactly as I had several other times that afternoon, and reached out to grab my coat from the newel post.
The moment my hand touched the fabric of my coat, Piper was once again a blurred streak of orange fur, leaping down from the porch railing to sprawl out in his post-nap posture in front of my door, so I couldn't leave without stopping to pet him.
I found myself wondering: How long has this cat been stalking me, studying my every move, in order to know that the simple motion of resting my hand on the newel post means I'm coming outside?
That felt a lot creepy.
Today I was driving down main street when a thought crossed my mind that was so startling I nearly drove my car off the road. With Piper's unending patience and attention to detail, his ability to slip undetected into homes, and his devious nature hidden beneath an innocent facade, I can't help but think that perhaps Piper is the feline equivalent of a Private Eye.
And now the paranoid side of me is wondering: Who in the world is having me investigated?
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