"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." - John Shedd
One of the things I like most about cats is their emotional honesty. By emotional honesty, I mean a cat's direct connection to its natural impulses. These can be impulses of physical desire or repulsion; impulses of mental curiosity or joy. They can also be expressions of affection, loss, fear and courage. What, exactly, is courage based upon? Certainly, its ingredients include bravery, self-respect, strength of conviction and a healthy measure of righteous indignation! Courage – standing up against all odds – is intangible, admirable and beyond reasonable logic … whatever the pieces of its puzzle. Let's take a closer look at what makes courageous people and their cats tick.
Felicia Andrews primped her hair and painted the latest color on her lips. Touching a fingertip to her tongue, she smoothed an eyebrow, straightened her back and ran both hands through wavy brown hair with golden-sun highlights. Life was good, she thought to herself. Life couldn't be better.
“What do you think?” she asked the Persian so artfully arranged on the pillow of her canopy bed as she held up two dresses for the evening. “Cotton or silk?”
The cat, accustomed to such girlie attentions from her mistress, merely blinked.
“I knew you'd pick the silk,” Felicia said, leaning close and kissing the cat on the red ribbon adorning its neck as she pulled on a nylon stocking. “We're so much alike! ”
Alike or not, Felicia and Tippy-Lou shared a queen-sized apartment of white walls, beige carpet and abstract paintings floor to ceiling, a shrine to Felicia's passion for art, literature, music and travel. Indeed, it was on one of those travels that Felicia and Tippy Lou's destinies had merged in the most extraordinary manner.
“Hey, there! Boy!” Felicia had called out to the young Londoner pedaling recklessly in front of her on the dirt road. “I almost ran over you!” Frightened, the boy straightened his bike and hurried off. “You dropped something! You dropped something back there along the road!” Felicia called to him.
Pedaling faster, the boy glanced back just once. Was it something he wanted to say? Curious, Felicia checked her rear-view mirror. Yes, the boy had lost something in the near-wreck that could have cost his bike and scratched the car of the lover she was planning to leave. Better to say the scratch marks were from running over a bike rider than from keying his Mercedes with the keys to the house they shared on Park Street. Felicia's foot, the foot that had just recently kicked her lover in the shin and clad now in a delicate leather Gucci sandal, lifted from one pedal to another, as she eased the car onto a grassy slope.
Did she dare? Did she dare to open her door and step onto the dirt and gravel of the country road she had never taken before? She might ruin her sandals, she thought, but quickly remembered the identical pair she hadn't been able to resist. She would be late for her appointment – but, she was already late, she rationalized. Unlatching the car door, gripping the handle and lifting it upward, she carefully stepped outside … and into the emotional unknown.
To a casual observer, it was just a box – a common, brown cardboard box – the boy had lost. What made the box distinctive, were several holes cut into it … What mysterious treasure had the boy so carefully balanced on the handlebars of his bike, before it sailed so blissfully through the air, only to flop with a thud and roll senselessly a few times on the ground? Felicia considered the possibilities … and the box moved.
In everyone's life, there comes a moment of decision – a crossroads, if you will. For some, the choice is clear. For others, saying yes to one thing means saying no to others and decisions affecting one's future are clouded with fear and uncertainty. Considering the Mercedes, the house, the lover and what lay before her, Felicia reached forward and scooped the cardboard box into her arms.
“Are you crazy? How dare you bring a stray kitten like that into this house!”
It wasn't the welcome Felicia had hoped for, although it was most definitely the reaction she expected.
“I'll take care of her,” Felicia countered. “It's none of your concern, anyway. Not anymore.”
“So you really are leaving, then? It's not a bluff this time?”
Felicia had no response to that. “Look at her,” she said finally. “Can't you give her a chance? Don't you feel anything?”
“I see a worthless, scrawny kitten. That's all.”
Worthless. Nothing could have sounded more out-of-place in a house where every object, every staged arrangement of furniture, color and flowers, were so well-orchestrated.
“Come with me to the veterinary,” Felicia asked.
“I have a meeting. Just have the thing put down and forget about it!”
Felicia couldn't forget. She didn't want to. Something about the kitten, purring against her skin, made her feel needed and special. Something about searching the refrigerator, finding a plate just the right size and heating up a concoction of milk and caviar from a party the other night – something about the whole process of it – stirred an instinct and a knowing deep inside her. Something about the kitten's shiver of appreciation transcended the surroundings of a life all-too-perfect and safe. What was she seeing in this little life?
The visit to a nearby vet was purely an act of social obligation. It was, after all, what you were supposed to do, right? You found an animal in distress and you took it to those in authority. You did the responsible thing, the expected thing, and then you walked away.
Rah, rah! Good for you! Tally-Ho! …. Oh. Better not say Tally-Ho, Felicia thought. “Tally–Ho” was the cry of the hunt. It was the cry of the hounds and horses and running wild across the fields and streams of the countryside. Tally-Ho was the cry of laughter and risk and danger and blood rushing through your veins! It was (Heaven forbid!) the call of taking things into your own hands – taking chances and actually being in charge of your own life.
Was such passion for living only in the movies anymore? Was it only in movies and books and music and paintings? What if books and movies and music and paintings disappeared? What if they faded from society like fading memories, leaving our eyes dull, and our faces blank? What if they … were as lost as a scrawny little kitten in a brown cardboard box?
It was too much to think about, Felicia decided. For now, the only thing that mattered was the fluffy kitten and the veterinarian's surprise. “Well, what have we here!” he asked in dismay. “A fine Persian! And you say you found her? Just found her tossed along the road? Where abouts, may I ask?”
With the skill of two amateur detectives and a few phone calls, Felicia and the veterinarian pieced together the kitten's story. “Young lady,” the vet decided. “This is no ordinary kitten. This kitten belongs to one of the finest cat breeders in all of England!”
The cattery along the country road was beautifully manicured and attended. The breeder's expression of relief was only exceeded by the excitement of a cloud of happy Persian cats of every color surrounding her as she opened the door to an anxious Felicia. “Come in! Come in! Thank you – so much – for finding her. When you told me what happened, I could hardly believe it. I could hardly believe it was our own help stealing kittens and selling them off all this time. Not a hawk – not kittens just wandering off in the yard, but our very own help!”
“I wanted to see where she came from,” said Felicia, as they walked among spacious enclosures of well-groomed cats, past a special kitchen with clean dishes and health potions, then down a flower-lined path leading to an office adorned with prize ribbons, photographs and trophies. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“You're welcome. But I had an ulterior motive,” said the breeder.
“Oh? And what could that be?” Felicia asked.
And so it was, that Felicia Andrews returned to her fashionable apartment at 98th & Broadway in New York City with a new sense of purpose and well-being. To some, she had traded the comfort of a Mercedes, a house and a lover because of a cat. To others, Felicia had found the courage to make her own choices and leap into the waves of an uncertain future, steadied by the faith of a kitten's simple and true heart. What was ahead? She didn't know. She only knew, whatever road she took, whatever accident she might nearly have, whatever unexpected surprises a cardboard box might hold, she would feel every sensation, every emotion and every passion of a life that was her own.
Tippy Lou slept on her pillow and Felicia considered their fate. “I knew you'd pick the silk,” she said, to the cat whose life depended on her now. “We're so much alike!”