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For the New Black Cat at the Sanctuary


Contest Winner

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     Dancing girl, you are the first of your kind. You have everybody talking, twitching, asking. Your answer to every question is "yes."

     Jellybean, black meteorite, you have created quite the power surge in the cat shelter lobby. This is no small feat in an atrium known for a yodeling senior tabby and a tailless white rhinoceros. But none of the cats know what to do with you.

     You scarcely know what to do with yourself, but you have something greater than knowledge. You have the dance.

     To untrained eyes, your moves are erratic. Your shaggy pantaloons appear to be filled with black Twizzlers, all bendy and betwixt. You sizzle and shake, brain and body having separate conversations.

     You are a small cat by material standards, but centimeters are no measure of real size. You are the full range of motion, multiplied by joy. You are astonishment in a sooty sweater. You are undomesticated gratitude.

     You are the dance.

     You are giving your neighbors an infestation of "ants in the pants," to use every grandmother's expression. Your gladness drives them mad, as they have been taught to avoid live wires. They snarl and run, misinterpret your moves, wish you would contain yourself.

     You don't take this personally.

     You do take sunshine personally -- also lunch, and the lunches of others, and the lunches of other others, and the existence of jingle balls, and your own improbable existence.

     You, dancing girl, can't quite get over the fact that you exist.

     Perhaps this is why you totter. Yes, there is a neurological explanation for your Special Needs, some knot of know-it-all neurons that make you shake like a raven blizzard. That was your ticket to this cat sanctuary, and they’re still untangling your diagnosis.

     But the brain can neither cause nor contain the chaos of a dancing star.

     You totter because the world is shocking, this world they told you was cruel. You were warned of a brokenhearted world, where shaky black cats are spurned and exuberance ignored. You were informed that there is no lasting love, not even if you are the first of your kind.

     You rioted against such lies.

     You launched an unyielding "yes" to every dream in your heart. You mutinied by making muffins, declared war on woe with your twittering toes. You expected exclusively miracles, stacked end-to-end like sardines. You tapped and twirled and thanked the world in advance.

     You were born to dance.

     You rejoice forcefully, awakening the sleepers. You are polka and salsa, two-step and swing. You will not wilt your joy like steamed spinach. You fully expect your neighbors to catch up with you.

     You tilt at motorized toys and tilt the earth's axis. Other cats suggest that your cheese has slid off its cracker.

     And to this, as to everything, you admit: yes. Yes, you are several Babybels short of propriety, an entire mozzarella moon shy of decorum.

     But manners are no measure of wisdom, and you, dancing girl, are a rollicking oracle. You appreciate wildly in all directions.

     And so it happens that the wobbliest cat at the shelter gives direction: Dance against the dark. Believe in love until it comes true. Believe in yourself, and your sprightly pantaloons, and the gift of existence. Receive the promise that's followed you all the days of your life.

     Dancing girl, little black Jellybean, this is the first day of your life and ours. Tomorrow we get another.

     The only acceptable answer is "yes."

Angela Townsend is Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary, where she bears witness to mercy for all beings. Her work appears in Cagibi, Fathom Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, LEON Literary Review, and The Razor, among others. She graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and Vassar College. Angie has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 33 years, laughs with her mother daily, and loves life affectionately.

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