Gary's off this week (back Tuesday), Today, we're reprinting one of his columns from Feb. 28, 1982.
Those slinky beasts
Have you ever seen your cat staring across the room, deeply intent on watching something when you know that nothing is there?
The fascinated feline slinks softly off the arm of your chair, eases around behind your legs while never once removing its eyes from the nothingness that seems to attract it like iron filings to a magnet.
You can place both hands in front of the cat's face and it merely slides its head sideways, intent only on watching that now almost palpable emptiness. You can move it to another room and the instant you release it, it is back to the door and carefully easing around the corner as if expecting attack from any direction.
I recently experienced such an occurrence with a friend's cat. She was a young Siamese and was sitting in my lap as I was reading a book. I was just turning a page when I realized the cat had moved off my lap and under my arm and was staring -- no, glaring -- into a corner on the opposite side of the room.
Thinking that maybe she'd seen a mouse or a spider, I tried to see if I could find it. I even got up and moved to the corner and examined every square inch of space. Nothing.
But when I was back in my chair, I discovered that the cat had moved to the floor and was flat on her belly, her tail flick-flickingits "I see a bird" beat, her back feet making bread on the rug as she dug in and prepared to charge.
But she never moved. It was as if she had become frozen in time. An ivory sculpture forever posed in the beginning of a leap.
And then I heard it. A high-pitched chattering sound, like frightened teeth at the midnight creak of a haunted house. And the back of my neck and all across my shoulders got prickly, and I felt a surge of adrenaline through my body.
The sound was from the cat. Her bottom jaw trembled as if she was staring at a flock of birds through the kitchen window. Only she was staring hard into that opposite, and empty, corner of the room.
I got up again and went once more to the corner. As I moved past the cat, she mewed plaintively, as if she were trying to tell me something. But look as I might, I could find nothing there.
If you're a person with half the imagination I have, you'll understand how I felt. Dark corners of my mind told me that maybe I should jump into the car and take in a movie. And my logic was telling me that the idiot Siamese had a screw loose.
What does a cat see when nothing's there? Surely, if you own one of these slinky beasts, you have experienced such an occurrence. It's quite disconcerting.
And what if something is there that only a cat can see?
I read a science-fiction short story once that said cats can see into the future and they are watching something that has yet to come, or maybe something from the past that already has been. Or something that never might be.
Mysteries such as this have followed cats from the very beginning as they slink down the hallways of time. Their toughness and ability to survive seemingly insurmountable problems have earned them their mythical nine lives. Black cats are said to consort with witches, and books have been written about the superstitions that fill their paw prints.
With all this swirling around my head, I did the only logical thing to be done under the circumstances. I locked the cat in the bathroom and sat down to write this column.
Funny thing, though. I keep having the creepiest sensation that something is reading this over my shoulder.