So what’s a legend, then? It has to have some basis in fact, some antecedent which makes it believable but almost unbelievable in its believability. There was a real person, and another one behind that who might have been the actual person, and then someone writing about the both of them, obliquely, perhaps, who had some claim to see it all go down. What I have, instead, are someone else’s documents, and two mandates. The first is self-imposed: I’m going to figure out what these things mean, how they fit together, what story the maniac behind them was trying to tell. When Jack looks over my shoulder and sees himself mentioned alongside the morass of dates and misremembered quotes, he tells me that “there’s a lot of loose change in there, pally.” And then he chuckles like he does, makes me feel at ease but reminds me that a lot of loose change may or may not add up to anything of real value. The second is Society-mandated: time again to bring the good word to the good people, and the tales that appear in this space will be among the fruits of that effort, as always.
Let me say outright, even though I know I’m going to say it again in the course of this telling: I don’t think everyone is a refugee. To be a refugee, you need to have had a home and be driven away from it. I don’t like the idea of refugee as a metaphorical status when one considers the unique combination of misery and hope, terror and strength, which is embodied by people who find themselves thusly labeled. I also don’t think solidarity and empathy require misidentifying oneself with an experience they simply haven’t had. Having said that, what are we dealing with here, exactly?
For one, Cat In The Hat is neither a Seussism nor a feline, he is—or perhaps, by this time, was—a person. There is no way his given name, in any conceivable language, could have been those four words, but insofar as he was recognized, and there seems to be some sort of resident alien card amongst his effects, he was recognized as “Mr. In The Hat,” and almost exclusively simply “Cat” to his friends. Lucky him, I suppose. The other thing one quickly notices in leafing through the shoebox full of papers in that none of it seems to refer in any meaningful way to his time before appearing in Brooklyn. Not that it required much in the way of proof of how dire his straits actually were—there’s not much here that mentions his presence without impending doom inching into the frame. Still, it’s all a little vague, to say the least, and will require some time and creativity to reconstruct. On that note, probably not wise to expect overly faithful chronology here. The events at hand, even the most important ones, seem like they could have happened in a variety of different permutations, each one lending a different shade to what actually happened. But there is no “actually happened” anyway, or none to which I’m beholden. It’s a legend, remember?
We are fortunate enough to trace some of Cat’s steps on this trip, Jack demanded it in order for the story to make some kind of sense. Whatever was going on with Cat, and whatever I’ll be able to pull together here, at least you’ll know the Society rumbles on. There ought to be some comfort in that. It certainly lends me some. The world continues to come apart, we might just find some inspiration in an unlikely tale. Let’s find out.