The tune

The tune

“The one who pays the piper calls the tune.” – classic idiom

“The one who loves the Piper hears music all day.” – Tabby’s Place

“I accept compensation in the form of Venmo, Velveeta, and infatuation.” – Piper

If we were fortunate enough to have sadists for music teachers, we have all been pipers. Circa fourth grade, we were instructed in “the recorder.” It is the clarinet’s doofus cousin. It is incapable of sounding good. The sound of 30 children massacring “Lightly Row” is still haunting our parents’ dreams.

But even sadist music teachers have their reasons. It turns out the recorder was excellent practice for real music.

Enter Piper. She has never tootled a piccolo. Her toes are too few to grip an oboe. She is closest to a joyous jazz saxophone, but Piper is no instrument. She is the song.

She is the song that makes you sit in the driveway, even with ice cream in the backseat, so you can hear the whole thing.

She is the song that you play three times in a row the first time you hear it, because it might be the first time you feel heard.

She is the song that braids itself into your brain until you are singing it from the shower to Starbucks, and you don’t particularly want to get it unstuck.

She is the horn section that hooted “hee hee ha ha!” over the glurge and dirge of a “hopeless situation.” Our lithe and lyrical tortoiseshell has feline leukemia virus (FeLV), that cymbal crash that crumples the sheet music on a thousand stands. In a public shelter, her song was jarring and her psalm went unheard.

But Piper is the fourth-grader who believes in her music. She does not need to practice. She happens to be made of orange fur, black fur, and every note in every octave. She is too joyous to be perfect. She is too irrepressible to attempt to impress.

She had a whole hymnal in her arsenal, and “hopeless” could hardly squeak out a rebuttal.

In the concert hall called Quinn’s Corner, the tune calls itself. It is a raucous recorder concert. Oram, who has never practiced anything an hour in his life, improvises exuberantly, his stomach jowls slapping out the rhythm. Sammy is the small cat who commands the sousaphone, the angels’ personal favorite oom-pah. Durin looks delicate but turns full Animal on the drums.

Cats with FeLV love their lives loudly.

We are rewriting the rules of rhapsody with friends who never heard a song they didn’t like.

They can’t carry a tune, but they can carry us, and we get to carry them.

Piper may be one of our newest Quinn’s Corner cats, but bandleaders are born, not made. She has everyone at Tabby’s Place singing down the halls, “have you met Piper?” “Have you experienced Piper?” “Have you heard the lyrics of your own loveliness? No? Report directly to Piper’s classroom.”

Just like the recorder children we once were, Piper believes in her music.

But like the children we are all becoming, she believes in everyone’s music.

She believes that life is worth listening to, even if it hasn’t been tuned in ten years. She strums exuberance with all her toes. She pipes music directly into your soul when you hold her. She stares impatient into your eyes until you hear it.

This world is a faeryland of cheese and hugs and solariums and neon purple mice. Somewhere out there, walruses and wombats exist. Somewhere right here, people are kissing cats who were “hopeless” one song back. Someone ought to write a song about this. Piper hopes it will be you.

She is polyphonic joy played by an orchestra of innocents. She is so happy, you hear only hope all the way home.

The secret of Piper’s song is not her beauty. You hum her under your own heartbeat because she has sung you to yourself. You will catch yourself whistling “Piper” ten years from now because she sings of the splendor under every ordinary-oatmeal day.

You will want to repay the Piper for reawakening you. She will accept forehead kisses or Velveeta.

PS: Raise your clarinet if you are astonished that Piper has been adopted! As expected, I see not a single reed.

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