There was a cat. Shy. Sweet. Brave.
Her days were inside with a view of the street, the trees, the sky.
Her nights were inside in a soft nest of her choosing.
She had food and water.
She had comfort and pats.
She had hiding places and places to stretch out on her back in perfect relaxation.
When she wanted company, there was a person to be near.
When she wanted excitement, there was another cat to chase and be chased by.
When she wanted sleep, there were hours and hours of day and night to fill and hundreds of surfaces and positions to choose from.
When the sun shone, she would sit at the window and watch the tiny movements in branches and guttering and shadows.
When a breeze blew, she would sit in the doorway and listen to the soft sounds of rustling and skittering and whispers.
But the birds would tease her. They would land on the balcony as she sat gazing through the screen door. And they would shout at her. Laugh and shout. So she would mutter at them. And then walk away.
One day, though, a bird flew down onto the railing while the cat sat at the door. And the bird didn’t taunt. It looked at the cat carefully. It tilted its head. And it asked, “What are you?”
“I am a cat,” said the cat. “Of course.”
“Look at yourself,” said the bird. “For if you are a cat, you are rare one.”
The cat looked down. Her paws were cat’s paws, her black fur was cat’s fur. And the jutting tufts of grey that had begun to sprout from her sides were in need of a clean. So she began to lick and comb and groom. With a tongue that was a cat’s tongue.
“How can you be a cat?” shouted the bird. “You are growing wings. Grey wings there behind your front legs.”
“Wings,” muttered the cat. And walked away.
She asked her sister “Are these wings growing from me? I just thought that it was long grey fur.”
“I don’t know,” said her sister. “But if I had wings, I’d use them to chase those birds. To fly after them so that they couldn’t tease me any more. I’d love to have wings.”
The cat walked away.
“Are these wings?” she asked the person. But the person just patted her and scratched her under the chin and smiled.
The cat walked away.
And went to sit in the window.
She looked out at the tiny movements and listened to the soft sounds. And she wondered.
And then she had some food.
And some water.
And some comfort.
And some pats.
One day, much later, as the cat sat in the doorway, the bird landed on the railings again and shouted “Wings! Chase me, Wings!”
And the cat blinked and shrugged. “Pah! … wings … who cares? As long as I’m safe and I’m clean, I don’t care if I have wings or I look as if I have wings. I don’t care what you see or what you call me.”
“C’mon then, Wings! Fly! Fly and chase me!” the bird goaded.
The cat licked her paw and wiped her ears. “I don’t need to fly. I just need to clean and watch and eat and sleep.”
“I’m a cat.”
And the cat walked away.