A bowl of water, refilled daily, along with some food, can ease suffering immensely.
© 2014 Carolyn Cott
One evening during Spuds and her kittens’ wanderings, they came to a building from which came a chorus of meows and barking. Spuds listened closely. There was a question in each of the sounds, some complaining, but not fear. In a few of the voices she heard glee.
For the next three days she ventured out on her own during the daytime, hiding in the shrubbery and watching that place of meows and barks. People came and went, some bringing animals in—those people were teary with contorted faces. Some brought animals out—those people were happy and chattering to the bewildered-looking cat or dog. Spuds caught sight of one cat in a box with small metal crisscrossed bars. The cat’s feet were splayed out in front of him, bracing against movement, but his gaze was more curious than anything.
A van came and went often, spilling out a large man stuffed into a uniform with many pockets and shiny buttons. His face was always serious. The dogs he brought in on leashes were skinny and mangy and haunted looking. The cats were yowling. Just wait, communicated Spuds silently from her hiding place, just wait: you’ll be fine.
After the third day Spuds gathered her brood over a feast of two freshly caught mice. When the kittens had finished their meal and Spuds had crunched through the remains of bones and tails and toes, after all of them had washed their faces with their paws and were content, she told them her plan. They listened, then slept.
When the moon was still high between the buildings, Spuds nudged the kittens awake. Yawning and stretching, they meandered after her. She settled them down together beneath a bush by the front door of the place of meow and barks, and waited. As the sun rose pink, Spuds licked the face of each of her babies and looked into their eyes, trying to convey a lifetime of love. When each kitten held her gaze and blinked slowly, Spuds moved to the next.
People started coming to the building, sharp, purposeful footfalls clicking on the pavement. Spuds saw the man in the uniform come up the walk. She nudged the littlest kitten out from under the shrub and told her to meow. The kitten did, and the man looked down. Spuds nudged the other kittens, and they followed their sister.
The man looked down and sighed. He scooped up all four of the kittens in his meaty arms and then saw Spuds. He called over his shoulder to a woman coming up the walk. She reached beneath the bush to grab Spuds, but Spuds eluded her grasp. The woman ran after her, but Spuds was faster. Before turning the corner, Spuds looked back toward her babies, watching as the last stubby orange tail disappeared through the door. She had a moment of panic, then darted under a fence and was gone.
Spuds has a hard time getting comfortable at night without the kittens to curl around. She misses her babies terribly. She holds onto a hopeful image: someone taking care of them, giving them warmth and food and water and comfort. With that picture in her mind, she can let go and sleep. But her first thought upon waking is of them: the way the sun shone on their orange fur, their ticked whiskers alternating white and tan to the tips, their small tails, fuzzy and broad at the base and tapering to a point.
She spends nights wandering around, half-heartedly hunting for food, nibbling at some tidbits in the dumpster. Maybe she should have gone in with her kittens, she thinks. She turns that split-second decision over and over in her mind, not clear why she had turned and fled. But it’s too late now.
to be continued….
Chapter 3 – With that Picture in Mind, She Can Sleep
© 2014 Carolyn Cott
Spuds wandered eventually into the city. Spuds learned to spot potential danger and change direction instantly. She came across a band of other cats in the park tried to live with them, but they were as prone to fighting as they were to grooming each other. She left and eventually made her home in a partially crushed box in an abandoned trash pile. It was often bitter cold, but there were plenty of mice to hunt. Water was the issue. She had to learn to drink when it rained and went thirsty when it did not. When the water froze in winter, she went without for longer periods of time. It was difficult not to crave water; sleep was the only escape from that gnawing need, but sleep was never deep and sound—Spuds learned to keep part of her mind alert for danger even in sleep.
By the late winter, Spuds’ hunger and belly had grown. One cold morning she birthed four tiny kittens, three orange, and the tiniest a pale ginger.
Spuds had never loved as much as she loved her babies. The need for food increased, so she’d leave her kittens huddled together, first communicating to them soundlessly not to move, not to mew. She held the gaze of each of them, then trotted off to hunt for her family.
She came to an area where the air was fragrant with food, women’s high-heeled shoes clicked on the sidewalk, and men’s overcoat tails flew behind them in wind. There were shiny lights and big cars along the street, and fragrant alleys and dumpsters behind the buildings.
The next night she moved her kittens, one at a time, in her mouth, waddling as fast as she could through the streets, to their new home. She nudged the kittens beneath a stack of wooden pallets. There was no cardboard to tuck into and the concrete was cold, but food was available. There were always trade-offs.
Spuds would jump easily up and into the dumpster, emerging with delicious tidbits she’d present to her kittens. Once the kittens had eaten, she would do so, and then they curled together, the whole lot of them purring. This was her happiest time.
As the kittens grew, Spuds couldn’t keep them sequestered, so they wandered around together with her searching for food. Twice she had to fight dogs to keep them safe. Once the smallest ginger-colored kitten barely escaped the wheels of a passing truck.
Spuds sensed the time was drawing near when the kittens would wander off and start their own lives. When they settled down to sleep together, she sent them mental pictures of the life she hoped they would lead: images of a warm fireplace, kind hands setting down bowls of food and water, a soft place to sleep, and safety, safety, safety.
to be continued…
photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net