“Look!” Em squeaked.
Two tiny faces with huge eyes stared at us over the side of a box, before ducking away.
We rushed to them, and took one each. They looked like twins with tabby stripes and white socks. One could fit on my palm. It seemed to be made of air and fur. Its heart tap-tap-tapped under toothpick ribs.
“Awww, little babies!” gushed Em. It looked terrified when she brought her face close to it, and struggled to get out of her hands. She put it on the floor, and it ran for cover. Under her skirt.
“I don’t think they’ve had much to do with people before,” she said, laughing. “This one doesn’t get that my head and legs belong to the same person.”
I reckon we must have looked like giants crossed with skyscrapers to them.
Dad came home and we rushed to tell him how great it was he’d got us kittens, but he shook his head. He’d found ‘em, abandoned, and dropped them off home first ‘coz he had to rush to his next job. He was gonna take ‘em to a shelter. Sorry, but we weren’t going to keep them.
Pol was bigger than his sister and liked telling her who’s boss. Anything Artie had was his. We had to feed them separately.
I wish I had a photo of the times Pol and Artie were sitting together on the window sill, looking outside, and he’d put his paw around her shoulder. It looked real lovey-dovey, but I knew the truth. He wanted her sunny place all to himself, and knew he’d be in troub if he started a fight. So instead, he’d start by sitting real close to her. I could see Artie getting annoyed, by the way her tail flicked. But she put up with it. He’d ramp up the annoyance by putting his paw around her shoulders and start to lick her face. And when I say lick, I mean scrub, real rough. Scrub, scrub, scrub until Artie’d had enough and swiped him. But ‘coz of his paw being where it was, he had the advantage, and the fight was over before it begun. A few r’orws later, and Artie’d stalk off, looking disgusted.
Yeah, Pol was mean, and I’d tell him off, but I knew he didn’t believe me. Coz I was thinking how clever it was for him to come up with such a sneaky plan. He was smart and cute and he knew it. Smartest cat ever.
Pol was a year old when I came home to find him lying in the gutter, looking as though he was asleep. At first, I couldn’t tell which cat it was, but when I came close, I could tell it was him. I couldn’t bring myself to touch him. The guy down the road saw, came over and checked him. “Sorry, kid,” he said.
He offered to take him away, but I couldn’t let him. Instead, he brought a towel and we wrapped him and I took him to the backyard. I dug and dug and dug. It felt good. It was something I could do for him. The last thing I’d ever do for my cat.
Artie came and sniffed the bundle in the towel. I wished it was her instead, but then I felt sorry, coz it was her brother too, and hugged her. Even though he was mean to her, they still curled up together when it got cold and cleaned each other in a nice way.
By the time Em and Dad come home, I’d got the hole deep. We all cried and told each other silly stories about him. Then we put him in and covered him with dirt and that was that.
After a few months, Artie’s personality changed. She became more like him, confident like. She’d talk and play more, like she hadn’t been allowed to when Pol was around. She even figured out how to open doors (I’m sure Pol would’ve too, if he’d been around long enough). I still missed Pol, but got to know Artie better. Artie would always be Em’s cat, but I sometimes gave her a reflection to chase up the wall. She never jumped as high as Pol did, but I’d still have a laugh. Even though it hurt and always would.
(Jo-Ann doesn't have photos of Pol or Artie. The accompanying pics are of Eowyn and Galadriel, Phoenix's dear friends who've long since passed over the Rainbow Bridge)
If you'd like to tell your animal-related story, send it to phoenixsullivan @ yahoo.com.