Don’t call it a comeback

Don’t call it a comeback

Rawlings came back, but Rawlings came back.

It’s enough to make you twirl your mustache like a cartoon villain, minus the villainy.

“Once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a Tabby’s Place cat” is such a truism, we mumble it in our sleep. It is our default answer to difficult questions (e.g. If the train is moving west at 63 kilometers, and Paris bans trombone solos, does Guy Fieri wear magenta? Answer: Once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a Tabby’s Place cat). We assume it is the password to speakeasies and meetings of all the cool kids.

We are correct.

“Once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a Tabby’s Place cat” brought Rawlings back to our arms like the cantaloupe-cheeked Care Bear he is. By no fault of his own, and by no fault of his adopter’s, Rawlings was simply not the right fit.

By no fault of the other cat in the home, Rawlings got cheeky. I will not say “thuggish.” I will not say “Genghis Khan in grey stripes.” I will only say, “once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a Tabby’s Place cat.”

You need high ceilings to fit cantaloupe cheeks.

You need delicate diplomacy to combine cats.

You need a twirly Cheeto mustache to be Rawlings’s cat. But I am getting several cheese sticks ahead of the story.

Rawlings came back, a plot twist that wrings some grins into groans. We like smooth stories with wide sidewalks and big streetlights. We expect our ever-afters to stick.

All the while, colossal grey cats skateboard down the steep street without expectations. Rawlings may wear a coat of gravel, but he’s magenta in his mind.

When your mind is set on color and your lines all read “life,” you can ride all kinds of stories. Rawlings came back, but Rawlings saw no need to bounce back. The return was no deflation. The sight of Suite FIV — “you hooligans again!” — was an opportunity for a coronation.

Any day you can fill your cantaloupe cheeks with chicken product is cause for jubilation.

Rawlings came back, and Rawlings came into his comfortable kingdom again. Once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a king. Once a Tabby’s Place cat, always provided with swooning mush-people in the wings. The play was written for you. You are permitted to play.

So he did.

He came back, and he came back to himself. He came back, and he became his full grey greatness. He came back, and he came to new levels of life.

His face says “grump,” but it’s no fault of Rawlings’ that he was born with the inverted-V mouth of a solemn stuffed animal. He says it’s just his Maker’s sense of humor roller blading down his DNA. The most serious-mouthed cat is really the lord of laughter.

After all, isn’t it funny to come back to Tabby’s Place? Aren’t interludes intoxicating? Rawlings went from love to love and back to love. Tabby’s Place mended his wounds. A new friend loved him truly. His old friends welcomed him home. We fell over ourselves jumping for joy and made wise fools of ourselves smooshing his face. What’s the problem?

That question is too difficult for Rawlings, so he went looking for new solutions.

He resolved to start a gnarly collection of hugs. He jabbed Spaghetti with a wooden spoon. “Hey. I’m gonna catch ’em all.”

He resolved to cross off every “state of matter” on his bucket list. He would turn dense as a neutron star in our arms, only to turn effortlessly aqueous in the solarium tube. And if you doubt that a cat can condense into liquid, behold our boy oozing the ramp.

He resolved to make every hour matter, marveling at meals and kisses and the secret feline sundial in the solarium.

He resolved to remain surprised. Do that, and you just might stage a comeback every hour.

“Once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a Tabby’s Place cat.” It sounds like the guarantee of a lifetime, snug as a sleeping bag. But wake up and splash water on your cantaloupe cheeks. There is a risk in being so intensely loved.

You just might feel safe enough to get dangerous.

You just might risk your reputation as an “only cat.”

You just might see a Cheeto mustache and smile.

Like most of history’s greatest events, it passed unnoticed. No film crew captured the hour of bonding; no poet witnessed the flash of love.

But like the sun on the cantaloupe patch, Mr. Mustache dawned. Rawlings handed in his Curmudgeon Certificate. The cat returned for “inter-cat aggression” chose unconditional affection.

Don’t call it a comeback. Don’t call it a rewrite. Just call it “once a Tabby’s Place cat, always a Tabby’s Place cat” — a guaranteed formula for miracles greater than guarantees.

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