The rumors are true. The Pizza Cat is real.
How do I know, you might ask, skeptical gleam in your eye, that such a creature exists? Have I seen this mystical, mozzarellical thing scampering around Balboa Peninsula and lived to tell the tale? Did I run into one, many moons ago, stumbling out from a bar in those precarious, late hours when darkness bleaches light and street lamps barely matter except to cast strange shadows on the Newport Beach sidewalk below one’s knees? And there, standing in the cottony fuzz of daybreak, with tequila-soaked tongue and IPA-dipped hair, did I first see its grey, striped tail, its pepperoni coat, its crust of a neck sticking out from the scraggly fur by its ears? Was it in this moment that I caught a first glint of the silver fork most Pizza Cats carry (or so I’ve heard) like a four-pronged sword to combat any who try to take a bite? And on this same night, feeling uncharacteristically courageous, did I then reach out and pet its cheesy back, yelling toward the dawning sky, “Aha, you fools! Here’s the proof! The Pizza Cat is alive! Tonight I’ve found one for myself and years later, I pledge to tell a person who’ll really listen that the Pizza Cat lives on!”
Is that how it happened for me and how I’ve come to deliver the truth, like warm Laventina’s pizza, to you today?
Let me set the record straight on one point before we move forward or backward or in any other direction that seems better than the one we’re traveling in right now: I’ve never seen a Pizza Cat and I probably never will.
I’m not ashamed to tell you this Pizza Cat-less truth. The Pizza Cat is a member of the feline-ius rare-ius species (I’d image), as uncommon as a toe ring on a toeless, tone-deaf sloth or a flowering summer plant of Mezaluska that blooms only on a winter’s day. (I could go on with the examples but by now you should get the point and if you don’t, you should at least see the point hovering before your eyes—it might be colored green but it also might be a sort of golden-brownish blue—and you should be readying your right hand, or the left if that’s what you prefer, to catch the point when it draws near to your nose, close enough to grab.)
So, I’m not exactly upset that the only information I know about the elusive Pizza Cat comes from whatever bits I’ve gotten from my friend Cecilia who saw one last year crossing the road by her house. (Yes! She! Did!) I must say I’m lucky to have her as my source of Pizza Cat knowledge; Cecilia is not just an authority on the species but also possesses an undeniable talent to bring up her Pizza Cat encounter at every conversational turn.
“Oh, Cecilia, have you been to that new shop on Hidalgo Street that sells only items colored red?” I might ask in a casual tone some afternoon over lemonade, lemon pie and lemon scones. (As Cecilia says, “One can never eat too much lemon if one wants a life that tastes both bitter and sweet.”)
“No, I haven’t,” Cecilia might afterward reply, taking (perhaps) a sip of her lemony drink and a bite of her lemony scone. “Although I was wearing a bright, red blouse the day I saw the Pizza Cat.”
“Well, what a coincidence,” I’d mumble because this talent of hers was, amid all the lemons in our friendship, the sourest one for me.
It’s almost astounding how Cecilia is able to weave her Pizza Cat meeting into any topic I come up with—the worst kind of pillowcase covers, the best kind of nail polish remover brands, the awful weather in Jimpolaya, the excellent state of our country’s sheep—except in the end, I don’t blame her; if I ever got face-to-face with a Pizza Cat, I’d do the same damn thing.
Why? Because there is absolutely nothing better than a Pizza Cat. Let’s say a man named Henry—Henry because it’s a nice, plain name—asked me to create a list of the single-best events one should look forward to in life. Do you know what I’d tell him? I’d say, “Listen, Henry, put ‘encountering a Pizza Cat’ on the very top of the list.”
“Really?” He’d question, because Henrys can be quizzical like that.
“Yes, really,” I’d repeat then go on to explain. “Henry, If paradise was ever really found, it would be discovered to be made of Pizza Cats.”
“Well, who knew?” He’d cut in but I’d continue without delay.
“And if perfection were a place and not merely a noun, it would be built entirely from Pizza Cats. Or if flawlessness were a walk it would walk like a Pizza Cat.”
So much for Henry and his single-best events list.
Poof! Henry is no more. (You understand now why he had to be called that name and why he was a man nice yet plain; in this little story he doesn’t last long.)
Alright, drumroll please … It’s time I revealed Admission Number 1: Just at this exact moment, discussing the Pizza Cat at length with you, I’m beginning to wonder (and worry) if the animal is really real.
Admission Number 2: A small part of me hopes it isn’t.
Admission Number 3: I know Admission Number 2 makes me sound like I’m crazy, especially after the ways I lovingly spoke of the Pizza Cat this whole time, but don’t people who dig down and get their hands dirty with the mess of living usually find themselves labeled crazy a time or two or three?
Let me explain my sudden conclusion and then you decide: The reason I’m OK with a world that doesn’t include Pizza Cats comes down to the simple fact that if there were an animal so idyllic, the rest of anything to do with anything would never seem as wonderful as the Pizza Cat professes to be. The world as we know it would turn lifeless and dull, melting in comparison to the heavenly cheesiness of a perfect Pizza Cat. Also, if I’m being honest, I’d prefer a Wine Dog any day.