People call him Maurice

People call him Maurice

I have been talking to Maurice about Paris.

I have been talking to Maurice about Paris, even though he is from New Jersey, and I am from a place in New York that is essentially no place in particular.

I have been talking to Maurice about Paris, which is to say that I have been talking to Maurice about Tabby’s Place.

Maurice is not our first resident to be convicted of a crime. That would be Thomas, our very first cat, whose marmalade mysticism was in flagrant disregard for international limits of lovableness. (True fact: all 4,000+ subsequent residents have been in violation of the same law.)

Maurice is our first resident to be booked at a police station. His accusers deposited him there on charges of inappropriate elimination, the forensic term for “peein’ where peein’ ain’t proper.” I am not making this up. If Tabby’s Place hadn’t come along, there might be twenty-four pinto-bean toe prints and a shaggy-haired mugshot on Maurice’s record.

But Maurice now has a record. He has trespassed against the litter box. He has the rap sheet that rattles adopters. People have patience for many hues of hooliganery, but inappropriate elimination is often a bridge too far.

So we will just have to meet Maurice on the Pont Alexandre III.

To me, Maurice is Jean Valjean, the hero of Les Miserables. In France’s darkest time, a good man with a good name was reduced to #24601. Like Maurice, he did commit the crime. Like Maurice, he was not a criminal. Valjean stole bread to feed his family. Maurice urinated outside the lines because…well, artists don’t usually unmask their muse, but we know he had a good reason.

Guilt galloped after Jean Valjean all his life, but grace ran faster. “Inappropriate elimination” may scruff Maurice’s record, but grace has the stronger grip. I say this with confidence, because we are in Paris.

Like many 42-year-old little girls who have never crossed the Atlantic, I am infatuated with Paris. My desk at Tabby’s Place abounds in Eiffel Towers. I walk along the Delaware and pretend it is the Seine. I remember exactly eight words from high school French, and I speak them to the cats. I do not know what it means when they respond “quelle moron,” but if memory serves, they are telling me I am lovely.

Paris, it turns out, is Tabby’s Place.

I have been talking to Maurice about Paris, because we have both been convicted of crimes. I have been talking to Maurice about Paris, because we are both in need of a cathedral.

At Tabby’s Place, Maurice has been magnifique in matters pertaining to le bac à litière. History is not destiny, and he is doing his doings like a veritable gentilhomme. Perhaps those “creative” days are done. He is, after all, quite occupied with his latest chef-d’œuvre, the ancient art of loving well, the art at which we are all eternal infants and amateurs.

But at Tabby’s Place, Maurice shall be magnifique if he regresses to l’enfant terrible. At Tabby’s Place, Maurice is magnifique because he is a baby, our baby, as innocent as the love that runs laps around our worst lapses.

You have your Paris. It may be Prague or Cincinnati or a place that is no place in particular. It is an emblem. It is your personal geography of grace. It is the land where the lights on the river remind you that you cannot cease to be safe.

It is what we are going for at Tabby’s Place.

J’adore, Maurice. Matter of fact, you having us all singing of the pompatus of love.

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