A (Very Barely Fictionalised) Story
Narrated by 'O' and featuring his wife Bernice.
Bernice… came… inside carrying a tattered cardboard box holding five kittens.
“I think they belong to the [stray] cat we tried to adopt [from the neighbourhood ‘beat’],” she said, “This box was wedged under some other oddments [thrown into our garden by neighbours] and must have been there for a while.”
“Mother cats move their kittens every few days to stop predators ‘smelling’ out their hidey hole,” I said remembering something I’d read years ago and (possibly) hoping to shelter from reality in sheer information. “So they might have only been there a few days.”
“The kittens or the box?” said Bernice.
I knew cats liked fish and warm milk. I made a dish of both and brought them into the living room. Bernice was sitting on a cushion on the floor, comforting the tiny mewing bundles of fur. “They’re all beautiful,” she said, “And they’re all different. We can give them a bath later to take away the fleas.”
The five kittens were old enough to understand food, whether in dishes or otherwise. Several stopped crying and clambered over to the fish which they ate messily and gratefully. I emptied one of my antique engraved wooden boxes to give them improved accommodation. “These kittens won’t stay long in that,” said Bernice, “They’re already at the climbing stage.”
“What we need is a bassinet,” I said, “With a lid of some sort.”
A somewhat moth-eaten specimen came with the premises. Long forgotten by the earlier lessees, it had been put into storage in the ‘lawn locker’ that sat in the side lane of our house. Leaving Bernice to mind the kittens, I hauled the article from the shed and dusted off the cobwebs. Realising it needed considerably more cleaning that that, I finally resorted to the kitchen hearth brush dipped in a mixture of baking soda, water and vinegar. Having dissolved the worst of the grime from the bassinet, I rushed it into the lounge. Bernice dried it with some tissues. I rummaged in my study for a piece of board I’d been reserving for a 'composition on board'. It would serve as a ‘lid’ unless and until something else appeared.
“We’ll need a litter tray,” Bernice said firmly, “Kittens can be house-trained much younger than this.”
I volunteered to make a trip to the nearby shops to buy cat litter, a litter tray and a supply of cat food....
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