There’s an old adage that one should “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” At the same time, a little more skepticism over a certain gift horse might have served the Trojans well. Which really just goes to show that you never know.
The old man had lived most of his life in envy of nearly everything around him. He’d actually lived a rich life with interesting experiences to share, but was swamped by envy and discomfort in social settings, and so allowed the world to pass him by.
Except for just one day a year, when he forced himself to be open to the idea that his past might have done good in the world. There was no fixed date for this momentous occasion, but it often occurred in the spring when the birds returned from their winter abroad, the early flowers were in bloom, and the young squirrels were first popping up after a hard winter. This year he chose a day near the end of April, and even went so far as to mark his calendar.
In the meantime, he was as curmudgeonly as usual.
He did make some time to turn over the dirt in his garden and plant a few things.
“Plant some catnip.”
The voice was quiet, but clear. He looked around, but saw no one.
“Catnip. And a little oat grass would be welcome too.”
He wasn’t prone to hearing things, and had trouble taking advice from those he could see. But in spite of all his instincts, he found himself at the seed store the next day shopping for catnip, oat grass, and other cat-friendly treats for his garden. The whole time he kept telling himself he was going crazy for hearing the voice, and then taking its advice. The voice was quiet the whole time.
While he settled in his new purchases, he said to no one in particular, “that should come up soon.”
“It better be catnip.”
He turned quickly, but again, no one was there.
He did get a glimpse of an orange tabby tail, but that couldn’t be related.
This went on for several weeks, until the plants were just setting in their first sets of mature leaves. The shrubs nearby would wonder if the catnip was ready. He’d avoid answering directly, but would occasionally talk to himself while tending the garden.
The one day, coincidentally on his pre-determined day of acceptance, a large tabby strolled up to him in the garden as if it owned the place, and settled in to watch closely as he fussed with the first nearly mature sprigs of catnip. When he was done, it followed him to his door, then into his kitchen where it promptly occupied the best spot between the stove and the fireplace where it could continue to supervise.
While fussing with his dinner, he was almost certain that he heard someone say “don’t forget to feed the cat, slave”. He knew better than to argue with the voice by this time, so he merely went about his business and prepared a small plate for his new roommate.
By the next year, he was regularly taking advice from a voice that he “knew” was not the cat. The voice agreed. Then went back to playing with the old sock it had stolen months ago.