Clair McFarland: inspiration from a neutered witch cat

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
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It was time for a new cat.

Something ate my indoor cat six months ago when I let him out on one of his brief hunting trips. After that my favorite barn cat got run over on the canal road.

I know what you’re thinking, “That woman is a walking cat holocaust.”

But country life is tough no matter how many legs you have, and my dad always gives me the same warning he gave my cats: “If you’re running and you meet a mountain lion, you won’t just do one thing – “eyes shine like Christmas lights in a thaw” – put your head between your knees and kiss your butt goodbye.”

Husband’s advice is more optimistic: “Run with a gun in your back pocket.

But I haven’t done this since the nice older guy who taught me how to handle a loaded gun accidentally shot part of his own behind.

This time the husband and I promised each other that our new indoor cat would stay indoors. No hunting. No scaling.

The animal shelter was full of caged sycophants and psychopaths. But there was this silver, striped, long-haired beauty who fixed her golden eyes on me so intently that I couldn’t tell if he was chasing me or swearing eternal servitude.

What a work of art, I thought, imagining how I could study his white belly as he stretched his long body across my lap.

We adopted him and named him Merlin – the quickest of wizards.

“What a stupid name,” frowned my middleborn son. “Why don’t we ever call them cool stuff, like Wiggly or Hot Dog?”

I cleared my throat to explain myself. “See, in The Death of Arthur -”

“Or CANDY CANE,” Middleborn interrupted. “Or Ninja.”

Merlin hid under the couch.

I took him out and threw him in the litter box several times, to show him where it was. He sped off to a new hiding place each time.

“Why is he always hiding?” asked the tall, gentle twin.

“Yeah! He should come out and play with us,” Firstborn roared as he taught the feisty little twin how to block a punch to the throat. ceiling fan.

“Oh,” it finally came to mind. “We’re scaring Merlin.”

“Who is Merlin?” asked Middleborn, who thought he might brainwash me into not using that stupid name.

The other boys, caught up in each other’s headaches, looked up in bewilderment.

“We’re too loud,” I said. “We’re traumatizing the poor thing.”


“I’m not loud,” snapped Middleborn. “YOU ARE basically a fire truck.”

I stammered, looking for a pearl of wisdom. “May – may your gentleness be known to all! I screamed.

With that, Merlin fled to the basement, to the darkest corners of the maze of storage bins, and stayed there all night.

“Don’t worry,” Le Mari said. “Tomorrow you and Merlin will be home alone together.” He will go out.

But he did not do it. No matter how I coaxed and cooed, the wizard stayed in his cave.

It wasn’t fair, I thought. Wasn’t it mine? Hadn’t I paid his adoption fees, bought him canned turkey and neutered him? Surely that was enough to win a man’s undying love.

When I descended, Merlin’s eyes alchemized the darkness between us. Feeling a tinge of voyeuristic shame, I sighed and trudged upstairs.

I went back to writing. I checked social media sites for topical advice. I ordered Christmas gifts through an all-knowing intercessor who knows my credit card and cell phone numbers.

I figured that with the tentacles of the internet in everyone’s pockets, everything we do gets tracked, viewed, published, monitored, cataloged, and judged. Our phones know our fingerprints and how much iceberg lettuce we waste.

There is no more doubt, no more mystery about the monolithic march of power, the loss of decency, the thin veneer of success and the chasm of political differences.


Downstairs is a cat I don’t own or understand, mumbling incantations into its silvery beard; evoking his exploits, preparing his coup d’etat. He is a mystery incarnate, a complete wildcard in my documented world.

And if Merlin is a rogue ruler, then there must be other realms of being that remain untouched by the world’s ruthless records. There must be glimmers of humanity that no search engine can monitor…

Maybe not too far, people fall in love. Others realize that their last survival tactic is to completely change. Some surrender, almost gently, when it is their turn to die. And even if these tender moments are not displayed and scrutinized for everyone to dissect, they are no less real than the magnificent beast that prowls in my basement.

And I’m better off just knowing they’re there.

So I tiptoed down to the basement and put down another can of turkey.

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