Sunday, November 15, 2009
Bear packs her bags
Up until that point, the couch remained relatively intact. With Quincy leaking all over the place, it was off limits, which seemed fine to him, he preferred to mope on the floor, when he wasn’t sneaking away for a wander outdoors. The couch was still mostly Bear’s domain.
Occasionally we would hear the rasp, rasp of her tongue on the couch as though she had been licking her paw when her tongue slipped from her fur and found the velour texture irresistible. She would zone out and lick and lick until someone said her name sharply. Stopping abruptly, she’d cast a quick look sideways at whoever caught her in the act, as if to say “what”, with a certain tone that thinly masked her guilt.
She always seemed to lick the fibres in an opposing direction from which they were supposed to lie and they would dry and harden like that, leaving a crispy patch with a cowlick that reflected the light in a completely different way and left a dull circle amidst the natural shine of the surrounding material.
When the kittens showed up, the couch was Bear’s safe island above the chaos. For a little while at least.
The kittens were too small to even be called kittens when we brought them home. They were more like overgrown mice. They huddled together in their box and scrabbled at its sides when we pulled open the flaps each morning, letting in the light. Just like little birds, the minute we covered their lair with a towel for the afternoon or evening they stopped their peeping and mewing, which was otherwise constant.
Our days started to revolve around feeding times. Each kitten needed to be fed from a syringe an exact amount of milk replacement, like baby formula for cats. Morgan sat on his chair while I perched on the edge of the couch scooping up kittens one at a time as though they were on an assembly line. We held their wriggling bodies in one hand and slowly depressed the plunger on the syringe with the other while each little pink tongue worked desperately to get every drop of food. The room filled with hungry high-pitched mews that left us wondering if we’d fed them enough.
As they grew, they quickly became little explorers, marching along the floor with purpose as though setting off across a vast desert, or tromping over blankets like mini-mountaineers. Outside on the lawn the kittens scrambled across the grass, taking the biggest strides their little bodies allowed, chasing my big brave black lab who leapt up and just about tripped over herself trying to get away from the tiny terrors. We teased Bear relentlessly about the kittens thinking she was their mother.
There were three boys and three girls and they all instantly had their own personalities. The runt of the litter and the largest were the first two we named. Both boys and both orange, the large one, almost twice the size of everyone else was clearly the bully, throwing his weight around from the word go. We called him Dr. Evil, which could only mean the tiniest guy would be dubbed Mini Me.
The smallest girl, a pretty little beige and grey calico - who would become the roundest cat I ever met - was the brunt of her siblings’ jokes. It was her we would find wandering around the livingroom after all the kittens had been tucked inside their fortress-like box and we imagined the others had hoisted her up and out through the cardboard flaps, a practical joke that started with them getting her excited about a covert mission.
Twice we found her with not a wisp of a whisker left on her face. I have no idea what happened, but again we pictured the others ganging up on her, holding her down and chewing them off. She seemed completely unconcerned by the whole thing, staring at us blankly as we questioned her about where her whiskers were.
The other two girls were also calicos, one beige and grey with dark-rimmed eyes that made her look exotic, the other a more traditional brown and black. Then there was the third boy, the orangey-beige one I plucked from the box that first day and accidently began to reel in tiny strands that marked the beginnings of our bond.
We didn’t plan on naming them all, once you name them it’s harder to give them away, but circumstances soon arose that made it impossible not to.