Every day he looks out that window and most days Chops looks back at him. Chops is short for Chop Suey which is a nickname for Susan which is an acceptable name for a cat, he thinks. Chops is the neighbors’ cat and he doesn’t speak with them very much and has never asked them what Chops’ real name is. That would be an interesting conversation.

“Hello, I know we don’t talk much, but I was just wondering, what is your cat named?”

And what if it wasn’t their cat? What if Chops belonged to the people one house over and snuck into the Walkers’ yard every day without their knowledge? Either way, such an inquiry would make him appear very silly and the name wasn’t so important after all.

Anyway, he feels like he and Chops have a special connection, which is a comfort to him when his work is going poorly. Because, yes, after he looks out that window he has to sit himself down and get to work. He spent the first 14 years of his life not getting to work, and look how that turned out, he likes to say to himself. He also likes to remind himself that talking to oneself is the first sign of insanity, but he doesn’t really believe it, or else he wouldn’t say it.

But when he gets to work it’s pretty much a whole other world from the one with the window and the cat and the neighbors. I could tell you some of the things about this other world, but I’d have to omit the things that I can’t describe, and your perception of it would be off. But when the work is going poorly he’ll draw into this other world the memory of the outer world, and he’ll imagine Chops looking over at him and squinting her eyes in that warm, satisfied way that cats do. It usually doesn’t help with the work, but it makes him feel better.

Nobody really understands his work, which is why he doesn’t show it to anyone. Or rather, they wouldn’t understand it. He doesn’t even let his wife into his workroom because he’s afraid if she sees what he does she’ll misunderstand it and not love him anymore. But sometimes when he’s asleep she sneaks into his workroom and looks at his work and she weeps because she can’t tell her husband how beautiful it is, because he’d resent her going behind his back and not love her anymore.

He’s pretty sure Chops would understand if she wasn’t a cat, but he doesn’t hold it against her, and he doesn’t mind particularly. He sort of likes the feeling of working in total secrecy from the world, somewhat stoic in his inability to show his work. Of course, when he dies he’ll be a great success, a world renowned master of the craft. Someone out there will understand and help others understand, but he can’t stand the pressure of being present for the process, so they’ll have to wait. They’ll just have to wait.


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