Log Cabin Chronicles

cat Shiner

Translated by Jane Goyette

The tiny village of Owl Hollow is slowly waking to a new day. On this particular morning, Shiner the cat is patrolling his territory. (His master calls him Shiner because of the big black blotch around his left eye.)

As he makes his rounds, he's soon off on an adventure tracking down the smells of autumn wafting on the breeze.

Oops! Just behind the hedge he comes nose to nose with that bad-tempered dog, Shadrach, who goes out of his way to make trouble in the neighborhood. For one long moment Shiner freezes.

cat Then, with Shadrach hot on his heels, he races for the closest escape route -- a tall maple tree in his master's backyard.

Fear and panic make him climb higher and higher until he's nearly at the top. Down below, Shadrach's furious yelping causes such a commotion that the neighbor lady comes to see what's going on. She calls Shadrach in and he reluctantly abandons his vigil to go into the house.

"Well, well," says Shiner as he looks down from his lofty perch, "it's obvious dogs can't climb trees. That's good to know. Next time, I won't have to climb so high and then I can taunt that miserable mongrel from just out of reach. Ho, ho, the joke's on him."

He has a good laugh over this but can't forget his narrow escape and how scared he was. As he calms down he begins to notice cars, trucks, bicyclists, people, as they move about below. They look like miniatures and he thinks, "I feel like the king of the universe up here."

On a branch not far away, Theo the Sparrow has been observing the stranger in the tree. "What's he doing up here? He's a funny looking bird. I hope he's not another census-taker." Theo thinks about this curious creature as he gets ready to leave for the winter.

After several hours, Shiner feels strange rumblings in his stomach and remembers it's been ages since he's eaten. "OK, that was fun, but I've got to get back down before I starve."

Suddenly he discovers he can't get down. "Oh, no, I'm stuck up here. It seems dogs can't climb up trees, but I can't climb down."

Shiner is very frightened - he's afraid he might die of starvation up in the tree, or worse yet, he'll fall from the branch and crash to the ground.

Now he's wondering what The Doorman, his master, is doing. (He calls him The Doorman because every time he meows to go out, his master opens the door.)

Night is falling fast and Shiner is still up in the tree. He begins to meow pitifully, but the noise from the traffic below drowns out his calls and no one hears him.

Theo hears the stranger making a terrible noise so he decides to check it out.

bird "Hello, I'm Theo. What's up?"

"My name is Shiner. I'm stuck up in this tree and I can't get down."

"Why don't you do what you did to get up the tree, only do it in reverse?"

"I'm too scared."

"You know, sometimes in life you have to conquer your fear. I'll give you an example. When we were nestlings, my sisters and I, our mother pushed us out of the nest high up in a tree."

"Oh, my, that's awful."

"Not at all, Shiner. We didn't have any choice -- law of nature, you see. And it turned out all right, we all began to fly. And it was so wonderful that we soon forgot our fears. Once you overcome your fear you'll discover all sorts of things you wouldn't have experienced."

"I never could have done it."

"It's only fear that's preventing you from getting down out of that tree, you know."

"So how would I go about it, Theo?"

"Easy. You just have to imagine you've tossed your heart down to the ground. You can't live without a heart, so you'll pretty quickly decide to follow it."

It all seems so difficult for Shiner. But he's determined to give it a try. He concentrates very hard like Theo suggested. And this is how he finally conquers his fear.

With his claws firmly planted in the tree bark, he slowly and carefully backs down the tree. Inch by inch he gets closer to solid ground. "What a wonderful feeling to get back to Mother Earth."

But what he's the proudest of is that he conquered his fear and now feels stronger and more confident than ever before.

"I think I'd better find The Doorman before he gets worried and alarms the whole neighborhood. Good night, Theo, and thanks a million for your good advice."

Mario Leblanc writes in Stanstead, Quebec..

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Copyright © 1998 Mario Leblanc/Log Cabin Chronicles/12.97