Some things are exceedingly rare:
Then there are those things perceived to be rare, but actually quite abundant:
Darling, docile, not-a-drop-of-“diva” calicos.
And so we see our soloist in Suite B.
But before we raise that curtain, let’s return to one of those rarities.
A fortnight or so ago, I heard my name being called over the paging system at Tabby’s Place. I couldn’t make out anything else, other than a certain weariness, sprinkled with resignation. Someone was paging me with an audible sigh.
“Did you hear what they wanted?” I asked an innocent volunteer.
“Sounds like you’re supposed to go to Intake.”
Another volunteer added, “These men who seem to know your crime will surely come a second time.”*
Duly warned, I dutifully marched back to our Intake room. There I found Danielle, Jess and Jane surrounding one very beautiful, very small, vigorously muffin-making calico cat.
“Angela,” Danielle sighed, “give us a Les Mis name.”
I uttered something brilliant like “Sqwaaaahreallyyoumeanit?”
“Tell me in the next sixty seconds or you will lose your chance.”
“Fantine!” I shrieked. Then I locked eyes with the calico, who proceeded to make marching muffins so quickly she nearly achieved liftoff. “No, not Fantine. EPONINE!”
Danielle nodded briskly. “Eponine. OK. That’s not that awful.” (Jonathan would soon vehemently disagree, roaring, “It sounds like a hemorrhoid medication!” But I digress.)
As longtime readers know, my incurable love of that most gut-wrenching musical is matched only by the rest of the Tabby’s Place staff’s collective loathing. I pleaded to name a cat “Jean Valjean” for six years before I was grudgingly given the opportunity, and then only as an act of pity. After another two years, I was granted a “Cosette.”
So why a third name, and why now?
We have Cosette and her heart full of love to thank for that. Although Cosette had long since been adopted, it turned out she’d left a sister behind at the supermarket where we’d first trapped her. When our TNR folks returned, they found a muffin-making mush-mouse of a calico. If this elegant lady was Cosette’s sister, then she’d need an appropriate name, and that only meant…
And the name fits, kittens — let me explain.
While Cosette and her kittens and the other cats of Super Stop and Shop were scooped up, Eponine stayed behind. Was she caring for kittens of her own? Did she have some sacred charge to keep? We don’t know. But, knowing this generous spirit, I’m confident it was for good reason that she only just emerged.
The eponymous Les Mis character is a tragic soul. But what lingers after her final words split the air is her self-sacrificing love. Eponine lives with her heart wide open, has her heart shattered, and chooses to give both her love and her life, even knowing it will never be reciprocated in this lifetime.
Greater love has no one than to live like an Eponine.
The feline Eponine took this to heart from her first hours at Tabby’s Place. Straight from the “feral” kingdom, she made multitudes of muffins…and never stopped. Even from Intake, there was a frenzied glee to that love-march that made it clear: Eponine wasn’t so much glomming for love as she was giving it, with all her strength.
A diva? More like a saint.
Once she made it to Suite B, Eppie continued pouring forth love. She yearned, with all her might and her massive mirth, to delight you — whoever you might be.
Like all of our cats, Eponine started her suite life in a cage, so as to see and smell her neighbors before having to interact with them. She was happy, generous, preoccupied with our well-being even then. Enter the suite, and Eponine would give her all to give you a smile. If you gave her a kiss or a hug or a pet, that was only gravy.
But tragedy was just beyond the barricade.
No sooner did we end Eponine’s imprisonment, than she may have started wondering if she was better off on her own. Handsome, hard-hearted Valentino took one look at our little waif and went all Inspector Javert. It became a cruel game of Whack-An-Eponine, with the imperious black cat beating our calico until she retreated under the bank of cages.
When a human entered the room, Eponine would risk brain damage to peek out — Bonjour, je t’aime! — only to be clobbered again.
philosophical a frickin’ idiot, I couldn’t help but see shades of the other Eponine in our girl’s pining predicament. All Eppie wanted was to love, and be loved in return. All she got was a beating. All she gave was everything.
And that’s where the Eponines’ paths diverge.
The calico who confounds all “calico” stereotypes would not end up alone. She would not walk, dreamlike, through a fog, only pretending to be loved.
She would have the hands-on reality of l’amour.
And, in one day more, she will be in her besotted forever home.
I’m a squall of snot as I type this, smitten as I am with Eponine.** She’s one of the ones who broke through, as cats are wont to do. Part of me will always pine for her.
But a bigger part will sing on, stronger and sweeter from her self-giving love.
Eponine’s ship hadn’t sailed, and neither have yours and mine. We’re not on our own, amis. So, whatever you wait for this day, give it one day more.
**And I assure you this has nothing to do with her name. If we’d called her Sia or Sparklehorse or Senator Palpatine, I’d love her just as much.