Today I am sharing another true story, this time from (ahem!) just a few years back. Catrina of A Work in Progress is the hostess of Fiction Friday this week, so be sure to pay her a visit.
by Sharlyn Guthrie
Soon after school began the fall of my junior year, my chemistry teacher phoned me at home. “I know you like cats,” she began, “so I wondered if you would be up to a special challenge. My cat had kittens and she has a runt that needs more care than I can give. Are you interested?”
Of course I was interested! However, since my mother would need to help out with the care during the day, and would eventually take full responsibility for the cat when I went off to college, I had to consult her. Much to my surprise, she agreed.
The tiny limp bundle looked hopeless. She lay curled in the corner of a shoebox bed, unable to even lift her tiny head. We placed a crook-necked lamp above her to keep her warm and began hourly feedings with an eyedropper.
After several days our frail feline emitted a soft sound whenever we approached. Since her cry sounded a bit like bagpipes, we named her Musette. Soon she was standing, and a larger box was needed to contain her. We added a litter box, which she took to immediately.
After a couple of weeks I started carrying Musette on my shoulder. She was still tiny and maintained her parrot-like balance perfectly as I went about my everyday tasks. As time went on she learned to climb up my clothing in order to reach my shoulder. Fortunately, she remained a perpetual kitten size-wise, but her affinity for climbing knew no limits. She also climbed the couch, the curtains, and the hall tree. We found her in the basement rafters, on top of the refrigerator, and curled inside a hat on the closet shelf.
Christmas time came and Mother decorated the house as usual. In fact, even more than usual, since she planned to do some entertaining before the entire family came home for the holidays. In the center of the dining room table she placed a handmade centerpiece of wrapped hard candies, strictly forbidding my father and I to eat even one piece of candy until the centerpiece had served its decorative purpose.
A tall, narrow Christmas tree was erected in the living room, strung with colored lights and silver tinsel. The tree was purposely chosen for its full, close branches, and a quilt was wrapped around its base to prevent a certain kitten from climbing its trunk. Musette batted at the low strands of tinsel and catnapped on the quilt, but surprisingly left the tree alone.
It was my father who astounded me. Despite Mother’s stern warnings, pieces of candy began disappearing one-by-one from the centerpiece. When Mother chided us as she filled in the holes, my father feigned innocence. I hadn’t touched a single piece, so he was obviously the guilty one!
One late December day I returned home from school to a houseful of women -the members of my mother’s Bible study group. While I unloaded my books in my upstairs bedroom, Musette scampered up my pants leg and onto my shoulder where she remained until I descended the stairs a few minutes later.
I was halfway down the stairs when Musette took a flying leap toward the Christmas tree. Her scrawny legs scrambled and clawed, eventually snagging the lights, which wrapped around and held her dangling upside down between the tree and the wall. Her bagpipe cry wasn’t soft, but piercing just then. Worried that Musette was being electrocuted, my mother quickly unplugged the lights, which sent the kitten swinging. A desperate attempt to escape brought the tree crashing onto the floor, and the kitten dashing for safety.
My poor mother was mortified as her friends began scrambling after the scattered ornaments.
“What’s this?” one woman asked as she knelt at the base of the tree. “Do you normally hide candy under here?” Mother and I rushed to her side and there, under the quilt, was a pile of hard candies, still in wrappers. The mystery of the disappearing candy began unraveling as the identity of the candy thief became apparent, and across the room I glimpsed the twitching of a thin gray tail sticking out from underneath the drapes.