Shadow on the Wall
(when Nechama looked at me)
Back in the day when I was looking for contemporary literature that would move and inspire me as much as some of the literature I read in my younger days, I asked for recommendations from my readers. I haven’t yet finished reading all those books that were recommended, but I did read ‘Shadow of the Wind’ that was suggested by a number of readers. That volume offers both a story and a story within the story. It tells the tale of a man who discovers a writer he really loves, but it turns out that there has been someone who’s been chasing down all of his books and destroying them. We find a hint that the fellow who burns this writer’s books is the devil himself. The suspense around the hounding of the wonderful writer, and the rarity of his works provides an important ingredient in the telling of the story. I couldn’t help but think about the possibility of such a thing happening in our day. But of course, once some writing or picture has been uploaded to the internet, it is hard to imagine that anyone would succeed in making it disappear.
And then, this very weekend, a short while after I published my most recent post on this blog, I started getting mail from readers that they had been informed by different ‘feeds’ that I had written a new post, but were unable to find the article after following the link. And to make the matter all the more interesting, the post that they couldn’t find was called, “It’s a cruel world”. My imagination came to life as I contemplated the possibilities. Could this be the result of hacking by the ‘league of positive thinkers’ in an attempt to put an end to negative comments about the world, or the spread of sorrow by way of the pens of pessimistic scribblers? The more I thought about it, the more outraged I became. I discussed it with my cat, and though she doesn’t have time to read blogs on the internet, she too was offended. Something’s gotta be done, she said.
But it was then that I remembered how that post had come to be written. The truth of the matter was that I hadn’t written it at all, Nechama, my cat, had. She’d tried to convince me to go back to blogging, claiming that a lot of people weren’t enjoying their Fridays as much as they had been before, bereft of the enjoyment of reading my blog. As I’ve mentioned previously, I found it hard to write after the war we endured this last summer. Sometimes, I couldn’t even talk. ‘You know, Friday is fish day’, said Nechama with a glint in her eye. Okay, I said, giving her some fish. And then I started thinking about her comment. Was she trying to hint that there was something fishy about my avoiding the blog? ‘I just might write a post myself’, she continued, ‘if you don’t come up with something for your readers’. We tossed the ball back and forth, and I asked her what she’d write about, if she were to take my place at the laptop.
She mentioned that I come across like such a friendly old gent, that it might be a service to the community were she to present a portrait of me from another perspective. ‘they deserve to know the truth’, she muttered under her mustache. What truth? I asked innocently, thinking that as a cat, she couldn’t possibly understand my real sins. ‘Well, what kind of man serves pumpkin pie with whipped cream to a cat?!’ she asked in a growl that betrayed deep seated resentment. I burst into laughter. Is that what you’re going to tell my reading public? And with that, she started making her case. You know, when you live with a pet, they do adapt your ways. She was shoving ancient history at me, including the menus that were enjoyed by cats in the Greek temples when their occupation was protecting the local gods there. The more she told me, the more I laughed. Till finally, she got really irritated and asked why I wasn’t writing it all down.
I told her I’d write it down, exactly as it came from her lips… very thin lips… but I wouldn’t sign my name to anything like that. I’d put hers on the by-line. This rather pleased her, and her story became still more colorful as she progressed. I was writing and she was telling it. I was drinking whisky and she was eating fish in a sour cream sauce, right there on the table next to me. Towards the end, she started including little parenthetical remarks mentioning a number of her friends by name, just for the fun of seeing their names in print. I kept saying, now that is off topic, and she would say, ‘when you write, you can decide what the topic is. This is my post’. And when we finished she just had to look over my shoulder, and asked where it said that she had written the blog post.
She decided on the name of the post. I myself would never have written anything like that. It was all hers. And I had a riotous two hours writing down what she said. I thought it was one of the funniest pieces I’d ever heard. After we finished, I published the post, and we both went to bed for a bit of a cat nap. But when I got up, the thoughts in my head sounded like the sound of bowling pins falling in the alley. I went to the computer, and checked out the post that I’d published. It sounded hollow. I didn’t laugh once. I pressed the edit button, and ran through it again. It wasn’t funny at all. So I threw it into the trash. All through the Sabbath, Nechama kept coming by and rubbing herself against my legs. ‘Any comments yet?’ she would ask. You know I don’t check the computer on the Sabbath, I told her.
But when the Sabbath was over, I turned on the computer. That’s when I found all these letters from people wondering how my post had disappeared. I really didn’t know how to answer them. What could I possibly say?