I’ll tell you one thing about a cat in her prime: she can go from zero to sixty and back to nonchalant in less time than it takes for a Christmas tree to fall down. We know this because of a particularly arresting display during Tater’s first Christmas with us. We were two rooms away from the tree when she barreled in like a sentient pipe-cleaner and sat down and started licking her paw. Then came the thump of the decked-out tree in all its jangly glory. That puts her at not quite 9.8 meters per second per second, because the tree stand was probably doing its level best to hang on before throwing in the towel.

In any case we have a good idea how fast a motivated cat can travel. The speed of the feline sympathetic nervous system in engaging the arrector pili muscles to produce horripilation (a.k.a. pipe-cleanerage) is, if anything, even faster.

No Christmas trees since that first Year of our Tater have been so much as glanced at by that cat, but the entire scene came back in vivid memory this last New Year’s Eve. We were observing our New Year’s tradition (ignoring New Year’s) when there came a tremendous if muffled thud from the other side of the house and the cat showed up totally pipe-cleanered. Our Christmas tree this year was only two feet tall. The cat was now two feet wide. You could clean out a dryer vent with her tail.

“What was THAT?” Dave wanted to know.

I didn’t want to know.  Only thing I could imagine was there was some sort of rodent incident in the other room and something big got thumped down, and I did not care to speculate on the size of the rodent that might have been involved. I can barely contend with ants; I do not want to have a house capybara situation.

My solution was to ignore it and maybe it would go away.

And that might have been the end of it, but it was New Year’s, after all, and the next morning I actually remembered to look for my First Bird of the year. It’s a birder thing. I can prepare for this without getting an accidental fly-by because we don’t have any birds in our yard until I put on my glasses. The most likely possibilities are crow, gull, junco, Anna’s hummingbird, and lesser goldfinch, but I wanted to go for glory and see if Studley would be my first bird. So I covered my eyes and walked into my writing room, where he frequently perches in the cascara tree just outside the window. And opened my eyes.

There was no tree at all. The cascara, a pretty sorry specimen by any non-bird standard, was entirely in a heap between our house and the neighbor’s. Nothing on either house got clipped or mashed. It was a little miracle, and not one, Tater says, that she had anything to do with. Tater was all alibi. Tater contends she was nowhere near that tree and, in fact, can’t rightly remember anything about a tree being there in the first place.

The tail said otherwise.