Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chapter Seven -- I Have Moxie

By the time I woke up the next day there was noise coming from the kitchen and more interesting smells. I detoured to the dirt box then went to see about breakfast.

The door had no give when I nudged it which was doubly frustrating because the smells coming under it were like nothing I was familiar with. But I was really willing to try.

I mewed a few times but that didn't see to get any attention so I started scratching at the door. In short order I was told to "stop that goddam noise" but I wasn't looking for advice so much as breakfast. So I kept scratching until I heard footsteps. The door opened and we had another staring contest.

"Pipe down and I'll get your goddam breakfast when I'm good and goddam ready and not one minute before," he said in a rather unbecoming tone. "And don't even think you're coming into the house."

May God strike me dead if I'm lying but until he mentioned crossing into the house I was fixated on what was cooking. Then it hit me. Food came from inside the house. Door into house is wide open. Motive, meet opportunity.

Before god could get dam'd one more time I shot between his feet and skidded across the kitchen floor. Inside that room I smelled food smells more magnificent than any cat in recorded history. I would have gotten dizzy with excitement had I not heard Finn bellow and coming stomping after me. I exited further into the house ignoring some rather aggressive suggestions.

"Come back here you little bastard!"

Finn was at a clear disadvantage. First, I was scared out of my mind, which meant I ran faster than I normally would have. Second, there was the whole food thing. Third, I was up to the tip of my tail being told by swagger sailor what I could and couldn't do.

I kept scooting and he kept yelling and suddenly it occurred to me he was no longer behind me. He didn't know exactly where I was and took off where he assumed I was. None too bright, this ol' son of the sea.

With much care I verrrrrry quietly made my way back to the kitchen. I went under the table and hopped up on to the chair pushed under it. I could see the whole room and he'd never know I was here.

I cocked an ear and, sure, enough, he was still at the other end of the house -- breakfast! I inhaled as deeply as I could and smelled something new and probably wonderful. There was only one chair pushed out so went to the floor to that chair to the table and there it was.

It was white and round and had a big yellow thing in the middle. I jumped on the plate and licked the yellow thing and suddenly it was everywhere -- on my chin, my front paws -- it was a gooey mess that tasted like I had been kissed by the angels. I swooned.

And that was a tactical error because before I could slurp up some more angel kiss a large angry man grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and suddenly I was looking at some really pissed off eyes. It seems I misplayed his sense of generosity.

"My goddam doctor gets on my ass about my goddam cholesterol and I finally decided I'll goddam eat fried eggs if I want to and because of you I can't even do that!"

I didn't understand most of that but I guess eating off his plate wasn't the nicest thing I had ever done. The fact that he was yelling into my face as I hung in midair had pretty well eliminated my appetite but I didn't think that was going to matter. Where was that bucket?

I did the only thing I could think of. I apologized, which sound a lot like the mew of a frightened kitten. He just stared at me for the longest time. After what seemed like days I felt a glob of goop drip off my chin. And for the first time I heard Finn's laugh, which could be louder than his angry. He set me down on his plate.

"You've got moxie ya little bastard. May as well enjoy you last meal in this kitchen."

Now that should have disturbed me but I was lapping up that yellow stuff so happily that I wasn't listening. And neither of us knew at the time how wrong he was.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Chapter Six -- But Enough About Finn.....

When I was last a player in this story I had just been scooped up by Finn and carried into the house. Actually the garage is as far as I got and the door made a heck of a noise when he pushed the button that closed it.

Now no one had mentioned food but I was assuming that was part of the reason I got to come in. That being the case I felt my prospects dim when I was put down on the floor.

"You can stay here until I decide what to do next," and with that he closed the door in my face. I guess being "a piece of work" didn't get one beyond the garage.

From the other side of the door I heard water running and then some clicking noises and finally some buzzing. Then I heard some activity in the kitchen but even better I smelled some activity in the kitchen. The door finally opened and Finn came back with a plate.

"OK shrimptoast, here's your dinner," and he put down a plate that smelled like what I'm surer heaven smelled like. Apparently he had consulted some guy named Google and determined I could have a little tuna, a lot of tuna oil mixed with some milk that had been watered down. Google knew his stuff. If I had a hand I would have wanted to shake his.

I consumed everything on the plate, all the time fighting not to faint from rapture. I had never had food presented in such a manner and it took me some time to realize I wasn't getting jostled by my siblings as we competed for the next bite. I was happily oblivious to everything going on that was not within the confine of that plate.

Which accounts for the fact that while I ate he had put some loose dirt in a box and set it down 10 feet to the right of me and place a folded old towel about 10 feet away to the left. When I was through licking that plate clean he picked me up and placed me in on the dirt.

"If you know what's good for you you'll use this," he said before scooping me up and placing me on the towel. "And you sleep here."

And with that he turned off the lights and went back into the house. No final comforting words and still no invitation into the house. So much for hospitality.

For the record I did know what the box was for. 

I wanted to look around the garage, which smelled a lot like the shed, but the only light I was getting was coming under the door to the kitchen and it wasn't much. And besides my legs were getting wobbly from the meal, demanding I lay down, so I swandered over to the towel and basically  face-planted on to it.

As I laid there drifting off into milky tuna coma I thought about the day. I started as a member of a family and now I was on my own in the world. At least the world inside this garage.

I kept thinking I should be scared but I wasn't.  I was, however, wondering where mothercat was. Why had she left me in that bucket? Why was I the one plucked off that jumble of kittens first? Did they miss me? Did they know where I was?

What I wish I'd known at the time was mothercat was asking the same sort of questions. She was spending the night in a large box with four of her five kids. That night after the house she was in got quiet she laid awake a long time and wondered how her middle child was doing. Every move she had made until then had been so right. But this one went wrong.

Like I said earlier, in time memories of her and my siblings would fade. But as I slid into a night's sleep and was still for the first time all day somewhere deep inside something began to hurt.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chapter Five -- Finn's Real Story

What you're about to read about Finn isn't pleasant but if you want to know the man, you need to knows his story. I would say it's not my places to tell it, but I'll tell it the way he told me.

We'd been living together for I don't know how long. It was cool and he was sitting on the screen porch smoking his pipe. He did this a lot but this night it was like he disappeared deep into himself.

I jumped up into his lap and he barely moved. Like he was so lost he couldn't feel right in front of him. After an eternity her started to talk -- not really to me, but I was the only set of ears in the room.

“Most sons learn things from their dads. Ya know? I did.

"Ya know what my dad taught me? How to read people.

“I guess I learned this some time before my third birthday, Five days a week when my dad’s car would pull in. If dad came in smiling it would maybe be a good night. If his face showed no expression there were storm clouds out on the horizon.

“But when his mouth was a tight straight line it was a matter of when not if everyone would be torn to pieces. I would see that mouth and turn off the TV, go into my room and look at picture books or hide under my covers hope when things broke loose I’d be spared."

He stopped talking for several minutes.

“No one was ever spared. No one was safe.

“He'd yell 'Get down here you little shit' and I’d go running as fast as my chubby little legs would allow. 'This house is a goddam mess and you can’t lift one goddam finger to help your mother. I swear to Christ I'd beat your worthless little butt if I thought it would teach you just one goddamn thing.'

“And it would go one like that for 10 minutes, more if I cried. Tears just seemed to anger my father to greater heights, so by the age of four I could face this barrage dry-eyed on the outside but all the time feeling like I’d swallowed 1000 white hot fish hooks.

"He'd rip me apart on a daily basis -- like just being alive pissed him off. I used to wonder what I did so young to be such a huge screw-up.

“But no matter how much pain I was in once we sat down to dinner I goddam well better not leave my plate anything but clean. Most nights no one talked at the dinner table They just ate while he watched the news and cussed everything and anything he didn’t like. I always wished the Holy Father was there to see this dad, but at church Mr. Finnerty was as straight as 6 o’clock.

“And mother just let it happen. I would read all these books about animal mommies protecting their young and wonder why his mother just let it happen When teachers would read stories about how nature used mommies to protect their young I cried so hard I couldn't stop.

“In time this just became the normal. We kids grew and adjusted. My brother Johnny got a job in a garage and disappeared under the hoods of cars after school and all weekend. Plus a lot of beer. He could drink at that old bastard like an army of Teamsters.

“My sister Molly did everything one could do in school. Cheerleading. Annual. Girls basketball. And smoking a lot of weed. She was the only one in the house with the balls to stand up for anyone. And she as fearless. He'd yell and she'd give it right back until he'd leave the room. Then she'd fall on the floor and cry.

"We all cried so goddam much.

“I disappeared into sports. The screaming of the coaches were nothing compared to what I’d heard at home. Some days I actually laughed during grass drills, watching  my teammates shudder at the thought of more. When they told me I wasn't worth a shit it was like nothing I didn't already know.

“Johnny graduated high school and opened his own garage. He married his high school sweetheart and started cranking out babies. Even though there was a college fund he didn’t want one goddam cent of the old man’s money.

"Johnny never raised his voice or his hand to his kids. He hugged and loved those kids.

"Once the old man yelled at one of his kids and Johnny looked like he was going to kill him. His wife pulled him off and they left. And he stayed away.

“Molly left home and went to live in Berkeley where she put herself through college and law school because she didn’t want a goddam cent of the old man’s money. And she knew her life, her leftist politics, her bra-less tits and the weed she smoked was one big middle finger to the old man. One of her many projects has a shelter for abused women where she sat up at nights with the new ones until they knew it wasn’t their fault. And that they mattered. Her nickname was Reverend Mother.

"And she stayed away.

“By the time I was a senior I was told I was goddam well going to college so I didn’t end up covered in grease and smelling like beer -- or living like some sort of Communist, shaming the family's good name. Even if I was a useless piece of shit.

“I applied to several schools and got into Michigan. Dad said I’d make something of myself if for once in my life I'd apply myself so he didn't have to know some brains into me.

“The day before we were supposed to drive to Ann Arbor I got up early and got a cab to the bus station. Me and 39 other dumb sonsabitches got on a bus for the Great Lakes Naval Station. We got there after dark and the first thing they did was make us call home to tell our families they’d hear from us in three months after basic training.

“Dad answered and asked me where I was and did I know I missed my last family dinner before leaving for college.

“I told him I did, that I was in the Navy and that Michigan and he could go straight to hell.

"It felt like I'd broke out of jail. For the first time I cried because I was happy."

After Finn told his story he just sat for hours. And cried.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chapter Four -- What the World Saw of Finn

I guess at this point I should share Finn's story. As you people like to say it's complicated. So for the sake of clarity I'll split it and soon enough you'll understand why.

Patrick Francis Rory Finnerty was born and raised in an Irish neighborhood on the south side of Detroit in Benson Heights. His father John O’Herlihy Finnerty rose at 5 every morning, ate three eggs with two slices of toast, filled his metal thermos with strong black coffee, walked to 6am mass then went to work at the Ford plant. Finn’s mother Mary Margaret (nee Rose) Finnerty stayed home and raised her two sons (Finn and his older brother Daniel McFarland Finnerty) and one daughter (Rose McGahee Finnerty, the middle child).

No one in Finn’s neighborhood had it materially better than anyone else. They all lived in house built for the men returning after the war. One house looked pretty much like the next house. One car carports, three beds, two bath brick homes with cellars. The streets were lined with sidewalks and hardwoods.

The children all attended the local public school together. Catholic school was an expense too dear for most. Nobody in the Heights had money for private school. It seemed like everybody’s dad worked cars, as it was said. Ford. Chevrolet. Plymouth. Saying the wrong thing about a Fairlane on the playground could get a good rhubarb going.

Wealth and car brands, however, really didn’t matter because the church was the center of the community. On any given day, in addition to mass, there was a reason to be at church. Ladies League. Men’s Club. Youth boxing, baseball and basketball. Pancake breakfasts and spaghetti suppers. Confession. Confirmation class. Catechism. Young Ladies Sewing. Who needed Catholic school?

But all the dads had jobs and all the families had plenty on the dinner table. No one ever said anything to another kid wearing hand-me-down clothes because everyone wore them. Finn’s closet was filled with shirts and pants that had been worn by Danny and other kids he knew. No one knew different. There was no need for a thrift store because by the time a garment was used up there was nothing left but the vague hint of what it used to be. Buttons and zippers were cut off for future use -- just in case.

All the churches were full Sunday morning, as well as other days of week depending on one’s faith. Though the area was predominantly Catholic there was a strong representation of Protestant faiths and a sprinkling of Jewish families.

There seemed to be one of everything. One hardware store. One shoe store, with a repair bench in the back. One barber shop. One deli. One dry cleaner. One drug store. One dentist. If the butcher had a special on pork chops word spread quickly and pretty much the whole neighborhood was eating chops for dinner that night.

Just about everyone had fish on Friday because the butcher knew the Catholics wanted it but if he ordered enough he could get a deal and in the Heights a penny pinched was a penny earned.

Kids from the Heights were not always angels but they understood consequences. You didn’t have to get caught by your own parents to get in trouble. Mouth off to the lady four blocks over and it may as well have happened at the dinner table. Crack wise with the teacher and that trip the principal’s office lead the 6 o’clock news. The rod was never spared.

No dad in the Heights played golf but their sons caddied. New cars were rare but any man worth his salt could bring a junker back to life. Mothers didn’t work but they were miracle workers at stretching a paycheck.

Life in the Heights was okay.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chapter Three -- I'm a Piece of Work and I Meet Finn

In the time it took to get his attention it occurred to me that getting his attention may not have been all beer and skittles. It occurred to me that any being that large, who I was sort of counting on to know how to acquire food, might make a diet of smaller things. Like me.

That said I just stared into his eyes and he looked right back. This may have gone on for quite some time. When you're thinking the thing you are consumed with curiosity about -- that you hope will feed you -- but might eat you, well, time kind of gets short shrift.

Then he spoke.

"And just who in the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph might you be? And why in the good Christ are you in my garden?"

I didn't recognize any of those names and had I been able to I would have pointed out I was not in a garden -- I was sitting on some damp dirt. But I also assumed he didn't expect much of an answer. Still, he asked so I did my best. I meowed as best I could on the chance that he could understand me as well as I understood him.

Again we lapsed into a prolonged staring contest. At first I thought he was mulling over my answer but the longer we stared at each other the more I realized he didn't comprehend.

Whatever the case he started sweeping me with a rather big paw in the direction I came. None too gently as a matter of fact.

"Run along now. I'm sure some momma is wondering where you ran off to and I can tell you I am not going to be any goddam cat's momma."

Now I was starting to get a little chapped. This thing may be big enough to swallow me whole but I wasn't going to get shunted aside like one more sonofabitch plant. I walked back to where I began and stared straight up, daring him to do it again. Pick me up. I dare you. And I did what was probably a pathetic snarl, but a snarl just the same.

He didn't. Ha! Sweep me aside. He may have been bigger but I was in no mood to be trifled with.

Instead he grabbed me by the fur on the back of my neck and lifted me to his eye level. Oops. This was feeling less and less like victory.

"I've been cussed from here to hell and back by men 100 times tougher than the devil himself but by God I'm don't have to take any crap from a cat. Especially one that wouldn't be enough to use as shark bait."

I had no idea what a shark was but I sure as I could be I had played all my cards with this -- whatever what was to come next was entirely up to him. He shook me lightly.

"You're not much more than fur and bones. But you're a mouthy little little piece of work, I'll give you that."

That sounded like a compliment but dangling several feet in the air it was difficult for me to gauge. And there was still the matter of food. I wasn't getting any less hungry. And being held by the back of my neck was starting to get annoying.

Being a mouthy little piece of work I meowed my best "let's get this show on the road and feed me" meow. Even something as thick as this thing appeared to be would get the hint. Or so I hoped.

And that's when he laughed. It sounded like it came from deep inside his chest and I could swear it made the ground shake.

"Well I'll be goddamed if you aren't one tough cookie. I expect you could use a meal and I'll danced with the devil before I leave you out for the coyotes."

With that he tucked me under his arm and off we went.

"One goddam tough little piece of work."

And that is how I made the acquaintance of Timothy Patrick Finnerty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Chapter Two -- I Look for Food But Only Find Finn

All those big sniffs made me a bit lightheaded so I sat and tried to figure out where I would find the food. Of course I had seen mothercat hunt and catch but I’d never had to do it alone. I had a vaguer sense of what I was supposed to do -- too vague to really know what to do.

It was about then that I started to feel scared. I didn’t know where I was. I was alone. I didn’t know where the food was. I wouyldn’t know how to catch it if I did. And I was getting really hungry. Too hungry to think.

I didn’t know what to do but I knew that doing nothing was going to keep me where I was and where I was did not have the food. So I ventured outside the bucket and lifted my nose once again. That’s when I got the new smell.

It didn’t smell like anything I had ever smelled -- not food, not cat, not shed. I suppose some might think it brave to strike out into the unknown but sitting in one place with hungry was not making me feel better. I knew sitting in an empty bucket was not going to fill my belly.

I started walking toward the smell and with every step that smell got more. I came around the big shed thing I later learned was called house and I saw something that was not cat but was on all fours like cat. It didn’t have fur like cat or a tail. And it was making bird sounds but it didn’t have any feathers.

But it also looked like it was fed and better yet might be big enough to find food. I suppose I should have been afraid but it’s hard to be afraid and hungry. You might have said I was brave but let’s just chalk it up to hunger.

The large thing that was not a cat was pulling green things out of the ground while he made the bird noise. He was pulling out sonofabitch plants -- at least that was what he called the bigger ones. He had a big pile of them and nothing but dark damp earth in front of him.

He looked like he’d been doing this thing with the sonofabitch plants in the rain but there wasn’t anything coming from above. He smelled spicy and earthy at the same time. He looked like he was really giving those sonsofbitches what for but it seemed to make him happy.

While all of this was interesting I wasn’t getting any less hungry. I walked up behind him and tried meowing to get his attention but I had not gotten my loud yet and he didn’t hear me. I tried again and he just keep grabbing green things. Finally I thought this big thing might be deaf or stupid so I strolled between his legs and stood right under his nose. I let loose with the biggest noise I could make.

He saw me. And suddenly I wondered how far away that bucket was.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Chapter One -- From Shed to Bucket

On the day I met Finn I had lived most of my entire life -- about nine weeks give or take -- in the tool shed owned by a couple who had lots of  tools but rarely used them. That accounted for the fact mothercat was afford so much privacy.

It's where my siblings and I were been born, nursed and where we were starting to be tutored in the ways of being a cat. Me, three sisters, a brother and our mother.

Mother found the shed when her pregnancy was starting to pick up momentum. The father, as it was, had been a smooth-purring vagabond. Here today. Gone seconds after kickstarting a pregnancy. But I should walk this story back a few steps.

Mothercat was not exactly of noble lineage. She was a rather large cat, with black and white fur. She was born in a shelter in northern Virginia. where she was adopted by a young married couple who lived about an hour away in Baltimore.

As cat owners they were OK. There was fresh water and plenty of food. She got her shots on time. The litterbox was changed on a regular basis. She was allowed on the couch and spent many contented evenings snoozing while her owners watched TV and did crossword puzzles.

There wasn’t a lot of affection sent her way, but life was overall pretty good. But there was one thing that didn’t happen that was going to mean a lot to me.

About five years into this satisfactory setting the woman got pregnant and nine months later give birth to two girls. In the beginning mothercat had no problem with the additions to the house. Sure, they could make some smells and they often howled like banshees but there were plenty of places to avoid the mayhem. And since they did so well by the cat, these two new things should not have been a problem.

Indeed, at night she’d go to the bedroom, jump up on the dresser and watch them sleep. The seemed harmless and that was that. Until it wasn’t. The babies grew and within three years they were no longer harmless. They were loud and poorly supervised. They ran through the house. The yelled. They threw things. They tried to pull her tail while she was eating. One decided she could use the litterbox, too.

Mothercat easily found refuge from most of this and assumed at some point the parents would bring order to the home. They never did. They seemed bowled over by the reckless energy of their offspring. It was easier to contain the carnage than arrest it.

She learned to live life out of their reach, coming down only at night when everyone in the house was asleep. When she was no longer the focus of their energy she watched those spawns of Satan destroy their toys, houseplants, their dinner (which went everywhere but their mouths) -- pretty much anything they could reach with their never-disciplined fingers.

After considering her options for several days mothercat decided life away from this crapstorm had to be an improvement. So one day when the front door was left cracked open she was out and gone. It would not have surprised her to know that her absence was not noted for more than 24 hours.

She left in the fall and quickly learned that warmth had to be earned when living on the run.  Food was also a pretty big deal but warmth won by a nose on the priority list.

Nature helped a little as her coat got thicker. For several nights she found a pretty fair measure of comfort in nesting in pine straw until the night it rained and she learned that she was going to have to up her game. She didn’t know much about rain but she knew taking her chances day to day wasn’t a good option.

Food was not the problem. She was young and plenty quick enough for a daily diet of field mice and chipmunks. There were also a number of dog dishes that always seemed to have enough left for a filling snack. Water wasn't all that hard to find, either.

Now and again she thought of casting her lot with a new set of humans. She’d sit in the woods and observe other families. None of them appeared to be as awful as what she had left behind, but the twins didn’t look so bad at one time, either.

And she wasn't quite ready to trade what was becoming an increasingly good life. Yes, there were some lean days and long nights. But she was fueled by a very deep and abiding distrust of those who walked on two legs and she learned a valuable lesson -- when you are the smallest you are also the most vulnerable and trust needs to be earned over time.

It helped that she was intelligent as well as savvy. She enjoyed exploring her neighborhoods. She found great places to sleep where the sun bathed the earth and warmed her like a blanket. She found an old woman who had a habit of scraping her morning table scraps off her back porch -- never knowing the great lady hoped that black and white “gypsy cat” was eating them.

And speaking of gypsies she had that chance encounter with a male cat one night. Let us say they did as nature intended then he was on his way and she was glad to see him go.

However, as time went on she didn’t understand was why she was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Her body was making way for five new lives but she didn’t know that yet. Oh, she’d figure it out right on time but it’s not like there was a birthing class for cats.

As time went by she knew enough to figure out whatever was taking place inside her was going to require more than just pine straw for a home. She was going to have to find a real space that afforded privacy and protection so her days now were spent eating and looking for a new home.

It was hard work because she was no longer as nimble as she had been and she had a sense that she needed to be very careful. She also got tired more easily and it was hard to rouse herself from sleep. Her back ached and she was tired all the time. Had she been a loved family pet she wouldn’t have faced these obstacles, but she was wasn’t.

What saved her was the tool shed.

It was early winter when she saw some boards on the rear of a tool shed had warped enough for a preggers cat on the lam to squeeze into.

Inside it smelled funny because she was going to be sharing space with fertilizer, engine oil and other things that only came out during spring and summer. But it was dry and out of the wind.

She located in a stack of old sheets that were used as drop cloths. If someone had opened the door they never would have seen her behind the mower, which was behind the rakes and shovels, which were behind the large plastic wheelbarrow. And the shed was built on a slab so she didn’t have to sleep in the dirt.

She didn't know any of that. She knew she was safe and dry and no little children were ever going to tug on her tail or throw wooden blocks at her again. She was out of the wind and even on the coldest nights between her thick coat and the canvas cloths she had everything she needed.

Then one day it happened. She had gone for her morning breakfast behind the old lady’s porch and just as she finished she knew. Suddenly the mystery was solved. She calmly made her way back to the shed. Soon she was a mother of five.

I don’t know how long but after a time that she let us kittens start venturing out now and again, so us new ones could learn cat. It was a good life. She had never been a mother before but none us seemed to notice and it seemed every move she made was the right one.

Then came the day we returned to home and the front door of the shed came open. Some deep voice was asking where the “f-ing stringtrimmer” was.

Mother felt real fear and adrenaline for the first time. Fear in that her home had been intruded upon. Adrenaline in that she had to take some fast action to protect her kittens. She didn’t feel like staying put and hoping there would be some time before a move was made.

It was then she decided to get everyone out, reorganize and find a new home. She'd done it once, she'd do it again. But first we had to get out of the shed.

Us kittens heard none of this. The recent excursion outside had left us exhausted and we were tangled up in a ball of sleeping cats. It was luck of the draw that I was plucked off first by the scruff of my neck, taken out the warped opening and carried under a picket fence and a few yards over.

Mother spied a large bucket on its side and saw a way station while she went to get the other four. She dropped me inside and turned back to the shed. I probably roused briefly, then rolled over on my back and fell back into a good deep kitten sleep.

The sleep was so deep I never heard what happened back at the shed. The lady who lived with deep voice had seen mother slip out the back of the shed. When she emerged with the second kitten a bedsheet dropped over the two of them and they were put into a deep box.

Mother howled and paced. The other three were found and gently put with their Mother, all still asleep. That was how they ended up in the kind hands of a cat rescue group that give them all vaccines, oily fishy canned catfood, neutering procedures and good homes.

Mother ended up with an middle-aged couple who had just sent the last of four off to college. The house was too quiet so they went looking. They wanted a kitten but they saw mother lounging in her cage in the shelter and decided she looked like she’d fit right in.

Mother was named Roxy and moved into a house with plenty of protection, food and love. Any kids that came into this home were not allowed to torment the cat. Ever. No one knew if she ever thought of the shed or her only litter. And certainly no one knew if she remembered the little one she put in the bucket.
I was the middle child but that is not a big deal when you and your siblings are born within half an hour. I have a vague memory of being cleaned the first time by Mother but most of my memories revolved around waking from sleep and nudging my way toward an open nipple.

I had always known a full belly and warmth, thanks to Mother’s hunting skills and the fact she tucked herself close to her kittens when they all slept. And even when she was was not there we kittens looked like a large a furry tangle of twine. It would have been hard for the casual observer to tell what foot belonged to which cat. When one started to feel cold they’d just twist their body and the tangle would expand briefly, then contract again.

For whatever reason there was no runt in this litter. Indeed other than their random coloring there was precious little to separate one kitten from the next. There was no Shy One. Or Adventurous One. We were just kittens -- growing and exploring and wrestling.

Owing to the gene pool of their parents -- which had more breeds and cross breeds than could be accounted for -- the kittens looked different. One had a ruddy red coat. Two were calico. Another was striped. And then there was me.

Like mothercat I was primarily white with black splotches that made me look like the person applying the black had left for a lunch break and never returned.

The only real defining trait I had -- so I heard -- was the look in my eyes. They were blue, soon to turn green, but there was quality about them that conveyed a curiosity. When I looked at something  the first time it was as though my eyes were dissecting it and figuring out how it worked.

Once when the kittens were out of the shed we saw a butterfly. All five stared at it. One tried to chase it. Another jumped back when it fluttered its wings. I just sat and stared, oblivious to what my siblings were doing. I knew it wasn’t cat and I stared at it, as though the longer I looked the more obvious the answer as to what this thing was would be.

It would not be correct to say I understood what made a butterfly a butterfly but there was something about my eyes that conveyed I knew -- something. Whether I was wiser than other cats is unknown as I was not going to spent my life with other cats. But when people would encounter me they would almost always make a mental note of me appraising stare.

The plastic bucket my mother had left me in had been bathed in sunlight, which made a for a rather warm place to sleep. But kittens need more than sleep and soon my stomach started rumbling.

As always I woke up reluctantly, stretched and looked around. I didn’t see or smell Mothercat or the others. This was more confusing than alarming, though the fact I had never dealt with hunger on my own sowed a seed of anxiety in my growling stomach.

I walked to the edge of the bucket and lifted my nose, inhaling deeply. Nothing. Nothing familiar. I did smell something and started in that direction, keeping low to the ground. I wasn’t quite old enough to understand my old life had ended that day and my new life was beginning.

I would never get pregnant, so I would never know having my own kittens. As I would grow in the coming months and assimilate into a new life my family gradually and benignly faded from memory like fog that is dispersed by bright sunlight.

Eventually my life, as far as I was concerned, began in that plastic bucket.