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The King's Cord: nonfiction by Angela Townsend

Photo: a pile of laundry, towels---beige, brown, gold, and white, image by Liz Toms, on Pixabay, modified.

laundry, image by Liz Toms, on Pixabay, modified

The King’s Cord

There is a cord stronger than a double helix.

Most cats believe it is made of kielbasa.

Arthur knows there is mystery deeper still.

Most of the time, we are too busy to meditate at the cat sanctuary. When the laundry cart

is Vesuvius, the litter boxes impersonate the Tower of Babel, and funds must be raised for

insulin and sausage, we can’t sit like lotuses and contemplate our calling.

But the hour comes when it hits us like a jingle ball: we are up to outrageous business here.

When I glimpsed Arthur, I gasped. It wasn’t his Stanley Tucci eyes or his faded tuxedo. It

wasn’t his wrinkled resume: 2010 - 2023: Street. Objective: Stay one block ahead of death.

It wasn’t even the beady red eye of his test for feline leukemia, a one-way ticket to doom anywhere but here.

It was the unmistakable silhouette of life, loosely wrapped in fur. Bony, but dignified, equal

parts starvation and integrity, Arthur was a cat unfit for a calendar, eternity under a thatched

roof of time.

He was weariness with whiskers, a knot of needs. There was no gleam in his coat, no coin

in his pocket. He was empty and honest.

He was not a first-choice cat, not a poster cat, low-gloss and high-need. For the inconvenience of love, he had nothing to offer but the everything of Arthur.

He was instantly, unconditionally, our king.

This is outrageous business.

In a world of reciprocity, townspeople make honest trades. You give me a bushel of rutabagas, I’ll give you a wool blanket. You give me your effort and your energy and your appeal, I’ll give you my affection. We shall each give 50% and check the numbers twice.

But our cat sanctuary is in rural New Jersey, beyond the furthest suburbs of the reciproCity.

The sanctuary reaches beyond the sensible boundaries of self-protection. The sanctuary fails festively at the math of merit.

The sanctuary takes an aching Arthur and declares him king.

We realize we could have a flotilla of dukes and princes in Arthur’s place. If we prioritized

“adoptable” cats, our numbers would be bigger than the laundry pile. If we turned away

the tired and the troubled, our expenses would shrink to the size of cat treats.

But that has never been our temptation.

Perhaps it’s because we are too aware that we’re all Arthurs here. The beady red eye of frailty has glowered at us, and we have wrung our empty hands. Just when we had nothing to offer, someone—a cat, a Grandpa, a wild six-winged angel camouflaged as a stranger—dressed us in royal robes.

We were worthy simply because we were.

We were instantly, unconditionally, initiated into a kingdom of kindness.

It’s a ragged, outrageous place, this realm of ours. Arthur’s needs are real, and Arthur’s future is uncertain. We prefer to keep busy enough to forget that this is true for all of us, even the upright townspeople. But cats are honest.

Arthur is telling us the truth.

The tie that binds us is as sure as grace.

The real outrage is to put ourselves outside the web of love.

We live on a mysterious Möbius strip with the cats “no one wants” and we are all one twist away from dependence.

We are all living on the free mercies of love. Most of us are just too temporarily-strong, or busy with the laundry, to remember.

Arthur remembers. And Arthur is reminding us.

As Development Director at Tabby’s Place,

Angela Townsend bears witness to mercy

for all beings. Angie has an M.Div. from

Princeton Seminary and a B.A. from Vassar

College. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes

for 32 years, talks to her mother every morning,

and delights in cats and the moon.

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