You probably do not consider chicken nuggets and cornbread an elegant meal, unless you are either feline, or ten years old.

Fortunately, Chicken Nugget is both.

Don’t misunderstand our second largest tabby. He will not spurn your fawncy Beef Wellingtons. He has an open admission policy for Oysters Rockefeller and Lobster Florentine. Send forth your dainty mollusks and Parisian cheese.

But if he’s being honest — and he is always being honest — Chicken Nugget is a chicken nugget kind of guy. Fortunately.

“Fortunately” is not the adverb one might first assign to Chicken Nugget’s life. “Neurotically,” certainly. “Bashfully,” by the bushel. “Lugubriously,” if he’s trying to impress Cornbread, whose vocabulary is vast.

But “fortune”? That wheel was for rich kids. Long-haired calicos and sophisticated Siamese got preferred seating. Dainty kittens were spoon-fed sardine stars. Warm arms were for other cats.

As for a plain brown tabby? He contented himself with crumbs.

Cornbread crumbs.

Chicken Nugget had something far fairer than fortune, until the pretentious pickle-heads took it away.

(That would be us, brined in our own good intentions.)

We thought our esteemed Nugget would be happiest in the Lounge, really we did. Alas, we are not half as wise as we were back when Happy Meals were enough to delight us.

We moved Chicken Nugget to the Lounge. He moved into a bungalow called Grief. We moved heaven and earth and many adverbs trying to sell him on our excellent idea.

We told Chicken, in word and deed and giblets, that he was the Nugget we’d been waiting for. We told him that he was the whole enchilada, except that we prefer chicken nuggets to enchiladas. We told him that he was better than Bruce Springsteen in a pom-pom hat.

He could not hear us over his gloom.

But a funny thing happens when you foreclose on fortune. Life gets luscious on the far side of luck. Give up the gamble, and you might fall face-first into grace. Go all-out honest, and your humble dream just might come true.

Reunited and it feels so good.

Get brave enough to grieve in the open, and you might convince creatures with curly fries for brains (that would be us) that all you need is a plain grey tabby named for a yellow carbohydrate.

The Nugget and the ‘Bread go back before Tabby’s Place. They go back to the prison grounds where they were found together. They may go back to the time before time, known only to gnomes and fairies and Bruce Springsteen.

They go back to the place where one soul sees itself in another set of eyes. They go back to the place of utter belonging. In the short term, they go back to Suite FIV, where their favorite recipe was the Double Double: Chicken Nugget + Cornbread in a solarium tube wrap.

And then the buffoons came along and thought we knew better.

When Chicken became a diabetic Nugget, we decided he would thrive in the Lounge. There would be birdsong. There would be kisses and camaraderie with a support group of pancreatically-challenged cats (the Lounge being home to the dignitaries Baby and Taylor Ham).

There would be instant, deep-fried depression for a Nugget with the Cornbread scraped off.

There was only one thing to do. Chicken Nugget had to go home to his humbler suite. The Lounge was lit, but Suite FIV was home. Cornbread was home.

Diabetes was about to make the world feel more like home. This is the part where we all get breaded in surprise.

You probably do not think insulin out-sparkles champagne, unless you are a diabetic cat or a chicken nugget guy. Fortunately, Chicken Nugget is both.

Once diagnosed, Chicken Nugget required twice-daily impalements. As a new diabetic, he joined the starry host of legends who command the day at Tabby’s Place.

It’s true. The cats with petulant pancreases need their elixir of life at twelve-hour increments. Our schedule orbits our diabetic cats like the earth around the sun.

Chicken Nugget realized what was happening.

He was being prioritized, which meant he was precious. He was being saved, which meant he was worth saving. Life was insisting on sweet, which meant he was going to have to savor it.

He was back in the room that made him happy, with the friend that made him whole.

He was doted on by dozens a day.

A happy meal.

He rolled back and forth in the remarkable.

Chicken Nugget found himself breaded in devotion, and braided into our family.

Not “fortunately.” Much better: “irrevocably.”

Chicken Nugget sees at last. He is a furred bird of paradise. He is love’s face in striped suspenders. He is the ordinary meal that is everyone’s favorite.

He doesn’t favor anything fancy. He is emphatic on this point. He wants to laugh at Rawlings‘ inappropriate jokes and fall asleep to Josephine‘s stories. He wants to commune with his Cornbread at the molecular level. He wants to loll like a liquid Leviathan in the solarium sun. He wants common chin scratches and ordinary forehead kisses. Belly rubs taste best from flawed and freckled hands.

He wants us, just as we are, ragamuffins and rapscallions.

He is a green tractor, not a Lamborghini. He is a pocket T-shirt, not Louis Vuitton. He is a Chicken Nugget, not swordfish mousse.

But if that’s what you were planning to give him for his birthday, he’ll accept it. You never need to feel ashamed around a chicken nugget guy.

Leave a Reply