On the L

On the L

“There are no ordinary cats.” – Colette

“Give me an L. Make it a double.” – Collette

This is the “author photo” on the back flap of all Collette’s books.

Tabby’s Place cats have numerous vocations. Among our hundred fifteen residents, you will find world leaders and poets laureate.

There are sanitation workers and poultry spokesnuggets. There are a multitude of researchers, pursuing post-doctoral interests in mozzarella melting points, the centripetal forces of jingle balls, and Cher.

But there is only one “woman of letters.”

Both Colette and Collette bear this title, but only one has ever lived on the reception desk at Tabby’s Place.* With apologies to the French author of Gigi, our cinnamon intellectual has infatuated the entire alphabet.

Who is the teacher, and who is the pupil? Prescott and Collette feel no need to clarify.

Collette was not immediately identified as a genius, but a generation seldom recognizes its great minds in real time.

Collette was simply a stray, teetering on the brim of her teen years. She did not inform Animal Control of her intellectual interests. She did inform every living creature of her affection, which is the highest use of the intellect.

But Collette could not conceal her lettered life for long. Her tabby stripes are college-ruled, the better to cram more prose per page. Her eyes are so greedy for knowledge, they sometimes point in opposite directions. Her coat is as soft as an epiphany yielding to your touch.

Her age is irrelevant.

A woman of letters is wise enough to keep learning, which keeps her young. Collette is game to attend Prescott‘s lectures. She is patient as the younger cat instructs her in Receptioning, Desking, and Hanging Up On People Not Calling To Donate Nuggets.

But our oracle is fully aware of what she brings to the Lobby. Even as Hips shows her the finer points of hand-to-hand combat, Collette is doing the real teaching.

Even as staff and volunteers show her the ropes, Collette is doing double-Dutch. (Collette is fluent in Dutch, Urdu, and Grecca.)

Collette cannot widen her eyes far enough to take it all in. Collette can only take us under her wing.

Whether you are feline or human, street sweeper or Archduke of Belgium, Collette takes you seriously. Collette takes you so seriously, you begin to believe that you bring something special to the Lobby, too. Collette brings you back into your own good graces, which are a labyrinth where most of us get lost.

Collette finds new fascinations every hour, and most of them have names.

Which brings me to Collette’s sole request.

From Socrates to Mrs. Frizzle, Mr. Miyagi to Minerva McGonagall, the greatest teachers have always been humble. Collette will eat the same freeze-dried giblet stars as the kindergarten class. She will even teach them to spell their names in fish sticks.

But she will not abide the lonely “L.”

It may have satisfied the other Colette, but she was not a tabby.

In the Tabby’s Place Lobby, “L” is the letter to embroider on your bookmark.

“L” is the shape a human makes when he becomes a lap.

“L” is the knee bent to kiss a cat forehead, which is a form of prayer.

“L” is the Reception Desk, radiant at dawn.

“L” is for “liverwurst” and “learning” and “love, love, love, love, love.”

Collette’s real name is Colllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllette, but she can live with the abbreviated version. She can gavotte in the guise of “ordinary” until we are all wise enough to giggle.

She might even convince us that we are not ordinary cats.

*Make that lived. Past tense. You guessed it, filles et garçons: Collette has been adopted. Plus merveilleux: her new Mom is a magnificent volunteer.

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