Riddle me this, righteous ones.
Who’s smaller than Prince, more curious than a kindergartener, and stranger than an entire stage of preening presidential candidates?One more clue: she looks like she’s been staring at one of those Magic Eye illusions for a little too long.
Of course I’m talking about Bubbles.
But of all the things to which we could compare Bubbles, perhaps the best is the Claw Machine Of Futility.
You know the one I mean: right when you walk into an arcade or bowling alley, there it is, leering at you. A great big glass box of marshmallow-soft stuffed animals. They can be yours for only a quarter.
A quarter plus a bit of skill. Or at least “skill.”
So put in your quarter. Flex your fingers. And do your dangdest to get that big mechanical claw to capture a stuffed animal.
And then do it again. And again. And again. Until you storm out quarterless, hopeless, cursing the claw. It seemed so close — even picked up one of those $&@#ing stuffed animals, picked it right up! — but then hope fled from you, dropped right from your fingers. Again. Again. And again.
And still you came back.
As cute as those cuddly stuffed animals may be, they’re no equal to Bubbles. Her photos, I regret, fail to do her justice. Bubbles is approximately 0.0001 pounds, as white as a new lamb and so cross-eyed that, were she any more cross-eyed, her eyes would have to switch places.
And — hold on to your hummingbird hearts — she’s really, really, really interested in you.
You, there, with the mustard stain on your shirt.
How do I know this?
Because you are a human.
Bubbles is enchanted by humans. If she were in college, she’d major in Humanology. She just can’t get enough, and her insatiable googly eyes will drink you in to your dregs.
Walk up to the Special Needs Suite, and Bubbles will pop up from wherever she lies. Frantically, her elfin form will fly to the window, where she will stare at you from the essence of her soul. Stare on back, and Bubbles will start to burble. “AAAH! AAH! AHHHHHHHHHH!”
Crossed eyes. Open mouth. Soul all splendorous at the sight of…you.
If somehow, at this point, you have not been liquefied to a blubbering puddle of humanoid goo,
you are made of stronger stuff than me you may think Bubbles wants to interact with you. Being a mere human, you shall be forgiven for such a naive thought.
But you’ll lose that innocence as soon as you act on your instincts. Go ahead, go right into the suite. Surely that charming, chirping little wisp of a cat wants me to love her! you squeal to yourself. I can’t wait to pet her! you burble. I’m going to catch the cutest stuffed animal with the claw this time, I just know I am.
And then you learn. My stars, how you learn.
Bubbles, it turns out, does not — most assuredly not — want you to interact with her.
She does not want you to come near her.
And what she wants less than anything — less, even, than a Trump presidency or a night locked in Chuck E. Cheese — is for you to touch her.
The Bubbles who stares at you is full of wonder.
The Bubbles who you try to touch is full of terror.
Will the two ever come as close as Bubbles’ crossed eyes?
We have our hopes.
The Bubbles who stares may not yet be the Bubbles you can touch…but she’s a far cry from the Bubbles we first met.
Bubbles, you may have guessed, came from one of our feral colonies. As a “true feral” (to use an admittedly inexact term), she wanted nothing to do with filthy humans: Leave the food, and leave before I have to lay eyes on you. Okthxbai.
But even the fizziest feral has friends — like it or not. Bubbles had friends and saints and angels on her side, and they all got fluttery when they saw the little cat getting clobbered.
It seems there’s a feline Ronda Rousey out there in one of our colonies, and she and her posse were whipping our waifish, wobbly, bobbly-eyed Bubbles to bits. Bubbles couldn’t even get to the feeding stations. Something Good had to happen, or Something Terrible was going to happen.
We chose the former option.
So Bubbles came to Tabby’s Place, a known “true feral,” and we tempered our expectations as she raged. We talked to her, offered her food, loved her with our eyes and our voices and our gentleness. Bubbles responded with a level of violence that could best be translated as “YE SHALL DRINK THE FOAMING CUP OF MY WRATH, YE WORKERS OF INIQUITY!”
Even 0.00001 pounds of fury can be frightening. Yes: we were collectively frightened of Bubbles.
But then Bubbles started…staring.
Slowly, surely getting smitten with at least the sight of us.
So while we still can’t touch our pixie, the days of rage are over. Will days of love be far behind? I don’t know, and I don’t offer any expectations. Bubbles deserves better than our trying to shoehorn her into any predictable progress report. Maybe the stares and songs are as far as she’ll go; maybe we’ll never feel our fingers on her marshmallow fur.
But those searching eyes know and show: Bubbles is seeing love at last, and she’s getting it.
Only good can gurgle from this.
*Actually, please don’t. For Bubbles’ sake, but also because I like you and I’d hate to see you bleed and/or cry.
All photos by the incomparable Mary B.