Benjamin, a cat, generally preferred the ground. As a stalking area it was remarkably vast, divergent in topography ranging from the television cupboard, the kitchen tiles, the lawn (in both overgrown and freshly mowed varieties), the street, and the sandy hills of the litterbox. All manner of landscape was available to him, so far as it was land.

The top of the bookshelf, he avoided.

The roof was verboten.

Window ledges, birdhouses, fences, awnings, mailboxes, were not his brand of catnip.

The tallest branches of the oak tree outside Emily’s window were especially ominous, reaching so nearly into her bedroom. Benjamin always gave the branches (leaves, too, in the proper season) a peremptory glare when he entered her room.

But then there was the day the mouse went up the stairs. So Benjamin went up the stairs. And then the mouse dallied in the bathroom. So Benjamin went to the bathroom. And then the mouse scurried through the bathroom to the adjoining room, Emily’s room, and hopped on the window seat, the window ledge, and ran up the branches of the oak tree; and by then Benjamin was ready to grab it and play with it and pound it for a bit, and then bite it and kill it and eat most of it, and when it came to that, that thirsty instinct, he followed it, over the carpet and over the window seat and up the branches.

It was only when he reached the top of the old oak tree that he realized his grave error. Benjamin, the acrophobic cat, was paralyzed. He stuck to the tree, stranded, claws way out, and yowled.

When Emily came home she was not pleased. Benjamin yowled at her to consider his feelings.

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