April Foolishness: The Calligraphy Cat by Shana Marshall

Today's bit of April Foolishness comes from my very talented niece, Shana Marshall, a student at San Francisco's School of the Arts -- who while not singing opera, dashed off this very sweet and funny feline tale.

(For cat lovers:  don't miss the anthology, Contrary Cats where cat tales, funny and not, abound.)




The Calligraphy Cat
Shana Marshall

           His hand shook as he glided the quill across the paper. He was almost done, and this commission had been the most difficult and most tedious of his entire career. Although Jim was only twenty-four, he had a nearly thriving career as a calligraphy artist. I say nearly, because it’s difficult to ever truly have a thriving career as a calligraphy artist, but Jim was about as close as it gets. He had been awarded a slew of unrewarding jobs in the past few months, until he received a call from Dean Sarah Stein from Harvard University, commissioning him to design the graduation diploma for the 1974 graduation year.
            It was 7:46 am on the day that they had asked Jim to submit his final design, and he was on the final word- “university.” His meeting with the Harvard faculty was set for 9:30,  Needless to say he was running late. He had planned to complete the design the night before, but of course his mother had called asking how to change the ribbon on her brand new typewriter.  Jim, being a good son, had walked her through it step by step. Unfortunately, after he got off the phone, Jim thought he deserved a break and sat down to watch Johnny Carson, after which he fell asleep.
            As Jim scrambled to finish the last few letters with beauty and consistency in the rest of the document, he noticed his cat Alfred meowing loudly and rubbing against his leg.
“Alfred, I swear to god, just give me two minutes here and I’ll come and play with you.” 
Alfred was a needy animal, and decided that Jim’s offer was not up to par with his desires. He leaped up onto Jim’s desk, much to Jim's dismay. Jim was in the middle of a word, and could not lift the quill off of the paper, let alone push his 18-pound cat off of the small, square desk.  Alfred tiptoed across the desk, completely ignoring Jim’s anguished yells, and then it happened. Alfred was not particularly graceful for a feline, and he had accidentally dipped his paw in the ink, and then gotten scared and jumped off of the table, treading all over the document on the way.
            Jim was in shock. He sat there with his mouth open, staring at his ruined masterpiece. It was now 8:37 am and Jim was still in his underwear, with messy hair and coffee breath. He needed to clean himself up and get from Brooklyn to SoHo in the next fifty three minutes. Jim was at a loss. He looked at his design, “it’s not THAT bad,” he lied to himself under his breath. The complete document actually looked quite beautiful, save for the four Alfred-sized paw prints that made it look like something you’d win for shooting the most ducks in one of those carnival games.
            Jim thought for five more minutes while he went to brush his teeth, 8:42. He finally decided that:
A)    He didn’t really need to shower, he had showered the day before and he wasn’t an extremely sweaty or smelly person
And
B)    He would bring the diploma to the meeting and calmly explain to them the situation, and that he would have a new one for them in a week.
Jim took deep breaths, attempting to calm himself down as much as possible as he got onto the subway. It wasn’t his fault after all, how could they possibly blame him? Or give the job to someone else? ….Or completely ruin his reputation in the calligraphy business? Or fuck up his entire life? No job means no money which means no house or food, and what would he do with Alfred? When was the last time you saw a homeless man with an obese orange tabby? Maybe in a moment of madness from the hunger, he’d be forced to consume his beloved cat? Wait, he was the one who got them into this stupid mess in the first place! He deserves it!
STOP.
Jim took his inhaler out of his briefcase and took a few puffs. He looked at the frightened woman sitting beside him and apologized profusely. Luckily he had snapped out of it at the right time because this was his stop. He apologized one more time, and then got off the train.
He exited the subway station and walked to the building, scrambled up to the elevator and pressed the button for the eighteenth floor. It was now 9:27 and Jim was wondering how he ever managed to get there on time. He sat in the lobby and a moment later a woman came out and said “Mr. Young, they're ready for you."
Jim walked in and they immediately asked to see his work. He took it out of his briefcase, a stern looking man grabbed it out of his hands and before he could utter the words "let me explain" the man said "thank you, you can go now."
That was it? Jim was distraught. This was his big break and it was all ruined, by a cat no less. They didn't even give him a chance, how could they not even let him explain what had happened? Jim was a timid man and obeyed. He walked out of the room.
Three days went by and Jim didn't leave the house. He lay in his bed, ate potato chips and watched the Newlywed Game. He decided to spite Alfred by only feeding him two cups of food a day as opposed to his usual three.  
On the third day of his hibernation, Jim received a call from the Dean of Harvard University. "Hello Mr. Young, this is Sarah Stein, thank you for your wonderful design for the Harvard graduation diploma. We thought it to be a bit avant-garde at first, but after much thought we came to the conclusion that the deep metaphoric symbolism about the animalistic tendencies of the real world, and how the graduates will be entering into it is exactly what we were looking for with this diploma. It's a step in the right direction for Harvard University. So thank you Mr. Young, for putting so much thought into this project. We hope to see you at graduation."  
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