Despite neglecting it, this pointless photograph has contrived to follow me everywhere. The scene it depicts must be at least twenty years old and is the only photo I took during this period. It has this habit of turning up between the pages of books. I never consciously put it back in a safe place. If it disappeared from my life forever, I wouldn't mourn its passing.
But it is a remarkable photograph. I know it is because of the effect that it had on the only person I have ever shown it to.
He was a big shot. He'd seen the writing on the wall and had set off for America to make his fortune. The fortune duly followed. About once or twice a decade he returned home to England and the visit was anticipated like a state occasion. Here was the guy who'd been brave enough to actually do what the rest of us would only talk about.
We sat on a sofa while he smoked Camel after Camel – the same ones that would eventually kill him a year or so later. I don't how we got onto the subject, but for some reason showing him the photo seemed like the only sensible thing to do.
The photo was like looking into a tree. Millions of green leaves filled the frame. Not everyone saw it, but if you stared hard enough you'd eventually see a pair of electric yellow eyes beaming back at you. Once you'd located the eyes, it was a simple enough task to make out the ginger face of the cat that they belonged to. If you then looked at the trunk of the tree, the small part that was visible in the photo, it was possible to see a very strange thing. An outline, shadow was marked onto the bark that made the body of a cat as if reflecting the real creature above. Weirder still, this wooden body had a head made of twigs and ears shaped from leaves. A pair of green acorns hung precisely where the eyes should be.
The big shot inhaled the lethal Camel sharply. He got it immediately.
I got up. Casually stuffed the photo between the pages of a magazine. Promptly forgot about it for another season, by which time even the widest of profit margins hadn't been enough to save our stately visitor.