There is a cord stronger than a double helix.
Gator believes it is made of kielbasa.
Arthur knows there is magic deeper still.
Most of the time, we are too busy to meditate at Tabby’s Place. When the laundry cart is Vesuvius, the litter boxes are impersonating the Tower of Babel, and funds must be raised for insulin and kielbasa, we can’t sit like lotuses and contemplate our calling.
But the hour comes when it hits us like a jingle ball: we are up to outrageous business here.
When I glimpsed Arthur, I gasped. It wasn’t his Stanley Tucci eyes or his faded tuxedo. It wasn’t his wrinkled resume on dot-matrix pages: “2010 – 2023: Street. Objective: Stay one block ahead of death.” It wasn’t even the beady red eye of his FeLV+ test, a one-way ticket to doom anywhere but here.
It was the unmistakable silhouette of life, loosely wrapped in fur. Bony but dignified, equal parts starvation and integrity, Arthur was a cat unfit for a calendar, eternity under a thatched roof of time.
He was weariness with whiskers, a knot of needs. There was no gleam in his coat, no coin in his pocket. He was empty and honest.
He was not a first-choice cat, not a poster cat, low-gloss and high-need. For the inconvenience of love, he had nothing to offer but the everything of Arthur.
He was instantly, unconditionally, our king.
This is outrageous business.
In a world of reciprocity, townspeople make honest trades. You give me a bushel of rutabagas, I’ll give you a wool blanket. You give me your effort and your energy and your appeal, I’ll give you my affection. We shall each give 50% and check the numbers twice.
But Tabby’s Place is in rural Ringoes, New Jersey, beyond the furthest suburbs of the reciproCity. Tabby’s Place is outrageous, beyond the sensible boundaries of self-protection. Tabby’s Place fails festively at the math of merit.
Tabby’s Place takes an aching Arthur and declares him king.
We realize we could have a flotilla of dukes and princes in Arthur’s place. If we prioritized “adoptable” cats, our numbers would be bigger than the laundry pile. If we turned away the tired and the troubled, our expenses would shrink to the size of Temptations.
But that has never been our temptation.
Perhaps it’s because we are all too aware that we’re all Arthurs here. The beady red eye of frailty has glowered at us, and we have wrung our empty hands. Just when we had nothing to offer, someone — a cat, a Grandpa, a wild six-winged angel camouflaged as a stranger — dressed us in royal robes.
We were worthy simply because we were.
We were instantly, unconditionally, initiated into a kingdom of kindness.
It’s a ragged, outrageous place, this realm of ours. Arthur’s needs are real, and Arthur’s future is uncertain. We prefer to keep busy enough to forget that this is true of all of us, even the upright townspeople. But cats are as honest as they are perfect, and king cats reign in truth.
Arthur is telling us the truth.
The real outrage is to put ourselves outside the web of love.
We live on a mysterious Mobius strip with the cats “no one wants,” and we are all one twist away from dependence.
We are all living on the free mercies of love. Most of us are just too temporarily-strong, or busy with the laundry, to remember.
Arthur remembers. And Arthur, our beloved Arthur, is reminding us.
The tie that binds us is as sure as grace.