The Man Who Couldn't Spell Cat

by Peter Cherches

            There once was a man who couldn't spell cat.  He was a perfectly good speller otherwise, but for some reason he couldn't spell cat.  Not only could he spell dog, he could also spell Siamese, Cheshire, black, and kitten.  But he couldn't spell cat.  So when he wanted to write “Siamese cat” he'd end up with “Siamese cheese” or “Siamese nutcracker.”  He knew it was bad luck for a black cat to cross his path, but he couldn't write “black cat.”  Sometimes it came out “black hat,” which was close but confusing, or “black elephant” which was bad in a different way.  Sometimes he'd resort to tricks, like writing “grown-up kitten” instead of “cat.”

            You'd think that not being able to spell one little three-letter word wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but it drove this man crazy.  I don't get it, he thought.  I was the spelling bee champ in fifth grade.  I spelled triskaidekaphobia, which means fear of the number thirteen.  If I can spell triskaidekaphobia, why can't I spell cat?

            Finally, the man was so upset over his inability to spell cat that he went to see a psychiatrist.  “Doctor, doctor,” the man said, “you've got to help me.  I can't spell cat.”

            So the psychiatrist accepted the man as his patient.  The man went to the doctor twice a week, for an hour at a time.  He'd lie on the psychiatrist's couch and talk about his childhood, his fears, and his dreams.  This went on for years, and the man paid the psychiatrist thousands of dollars.  But there was no breakthrough.  No matter how long he stayed in analysis he still couldn't spell cat.

            After fifteen years even the psychiatrist was frustrated.  “I've never had had such a stubborn case in my entire career,” the doctor said. “I've tried everything in my power to help you, but I've failed.  Either I'm a bad psychiatrist or you're a stupid idiot.”  Then the psychiatrist pointed his finger at the man and started yelling, “Yes, yes, that's it!  You're a stupid idiot!  You can't even spell a simple word like cat.  C-a-t!  C-a-t!  C-a-t!”

            “C-a-t?” the man said.  “Thanks, Doc.  I'm cured!”