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  • Kay Fletcher

The Cat and the Stone 11/03/2015

I walk over to pick up the stone. It is standing upright, a perfect heart shape in the verge at the side of the lane. The verge is raised up, a small valley like indent, torn up by a tractor no doubt. Pretty Spring flowers are trying to stake a claim on the rutted and stony ground, occupying a precarious position the flowers could be squashed into the ground at any time, under the wheels of another farm vehicle. But now, in this moment, they are here, offering a splash of bright colour, growing close to the ground and more inured than I to the wind that gathers about me on my walk. I don’t know how I notice the stone in amongst all the others, only that as I look over it seems to face me, upright, a proud bearing to its familiar shape. As I pick it up the wind seems to blow gusts around me, I breathe deeply of lovely fresh, wild, free air. I look back to where I have just walked from and see the little black cat still sitting, watching me, paws and tail tucked underneath her, a defiance against the wind that whips through her fur, parting it in different directions as if it too enjoys the feel of it and plays there happily. She is an old friend. We haven’t seen each other for a while and today as I turned the corner to head for my favourite viewing point, she came running to greet me, tail up as she recognised me for sure, meowing her welcome, and throwing herself at my wellied feet as she drew near. Rubbing against my legs, she weaved a dainty dance in and out, back and forth, all around my feet and legs. I cried. She touched something deep within me. Whether it was her pure pleasure at seeing me that broke me, her innocence, her honesty, her trust, I don’t know, but I cried tears that seemed endless, from a place that felt startled, lost, and conversely empty. How bizarre – such emotion yet such quietness inside, nothing spoke to me of how I felt – no revelation came. I wept and fussed the cat at my feet. As I did so another cat appeared, one I hadn’t met before, he ran to me and to the other cat and pushed between us, insisting he too received attention – ‘my’ little cat distanced herself, walked away and sat down. I spoke to the newcomer, assured him that he too was lovely, stroked his handsome black and white head and walked to the other cat and told her she would always be my first friend, fussed her and walked off to leave them, not wishing to bring disharmony to feline friendships. So there ‘my’ little cat friend stayed, sitting in the middle of the lane watching me all the while I retraced my footsteps, headed back home and bent to find the heart shaped stone on the way. The stone is so light, more like flint, a shard struck from a bigger piece – I turn from looking back at the cat and feel around the edges of its shape with my fingers – there are sharp bits! I can’t get over how thin it is, how delicate it feels, as if I could bend it, snap it in two, how it sits in my cupped hand and only my fingers insistence on tracing its shape gives me a feeling of holding anything at all. There seems something poignant about this, the slight feeling to this heart shaped stone, my ability to hold it in my hand without effort, or if I don’t pay attention, without due care. My eyes search the picture held before them –a heart held in my hand. Shouldn’t it feel greater somehow? Shouldn’t there be more to it? Or is it the consistency of our dreams? I turn the stone over with my other hand and look closely at it. I see little bumps and grooves, yet looking closer still I see there are tiny shells – fossils. Marks of a life lived held by this heart, kept by it. I close my hand around the heart shape and walk on. The wind again my companion, the eyes of ‘my’ friendly cat witness to my retreating back. Something is still, deep inside of me, it feels too quiet, uneasy, somehow wrong, like a pall has fallen. As if something is holding its breath and like the cat, is watching me walk away.

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