by Hilary Jocelyn
There is a derelict shed a few hundred yards away from our house which many moons ago used to be home to a horse. Although we still affectionately call it “the stable”, it now accommodates bits of old chimney parts, rusty unused tools, scraps of frayed rope and the other kind of mangled odds and ends that get accumulated over time and fill our empty spaces.
It is a chilly November morning, and the frost is layered opaquely on the windshield of our car, as it glints and sparkles in the watery sun. In my early morning tea-lessness I am impervious to the beauty of the breaking day, and instead hunt irritably for the scraper that usually lies under the car’s front seat. Of course, it has done a disappearing act, so I go into the stable to see if I can find another one among the debris and the treasures that are gathered there. As I open the door, something in my right field of vision moves and rustles, and I see a flash of pink, and then it is gone. Looking again, and seeing nothing, I decide it is probably a visual hallucination, triggered perhaps by my state of tea deprivation, and so I move on with my day and head off down our long and solitary laneway to catch the bus to my work in the city.
The next day, I pry open the stable door and peek in. There is a sound of panicked rummaging over in the corner, and then I see a pink furry shape leap in alarm and bury itself hastily among the clutter. It appears small and slight, and is not a racoon, or a groundhog, or another familiar member of the local wildlife brigade. I try to move in closer to investigate, but the shadow disappears out of a hole in the wall, and scurries on outside to the oncoming wild.
The following day brings me another thrilling sighting, and this time, brief feline features gasp in fear, and run and hide in the corner. But it is enough. I now know that we have a small pink kitten hiding scared in our stable.
My partner in crime eagerly carries cat food and warm milk out to offer her. I follow, hoping for another glimpse. At the sound of the opening door, we hear desperate scrambling , and then nothing. We begin to add this regular feeding routine to our morning chore list, and as the days stretch, and reach out into the colder weeks of December, there is always an empty plate to fill, but sadly, we get only a momentary view of the furry pink cat. On occasion when I go in, I do catch her by surprise, and she looks back at me, hissing with not unfounded fear.
We carry an old plastic broken chair into the shed, so we can sit and chat to her. Sometimes I take in my morning tea and sit in her company and sip. However, it is incredibly cold, and so our visits are time limited, as we ourselves quiver in the morning January shiver. After a time, the small cat begins to peer out at us from her spot in the corner, where she assesses us very cautiously. She utters a faint “Miaow” as if she is introducing herself to her well wishers, or maybe, instead, she is she saying “ thank you.”
Slowly, I begin to bond with this little cat in the stable. I sing a Scottish song to her when I bring her food, and she pricks up her ears. “ Ally Bally, Allly Bally Bee. Sittin’ on yer mama’s knee “, I lull , taking delight as she bends her soft ears and watches me from the safe haven of the far away box. Perhaps it is the appreciation of the food, or my company, or could it even be my choral skills, but one day, right out of the blue, just after Christmas, I hear her purr. I have a confession to make just around now. I am not really a “cat person.” I have, for sure, had a few of them as pets in my life, and, of course, they have been useful predators, as we manage the rodent population in our old farmhouse. But as far as my attachment to cats goes, I have my limitations, and I prefer, any day, to snuggle up tight on the couch with my dog.
But the purr melts my resistance and expands my animal loving heart. Inevitable questions emerge. How did she get there? Where did she come from? Why is she so scared? What is her story?
We ask around to see if we can find any answers. None of the neighbours have lost a kitten, and as we are several kilometers away from the nearest farm, we have no choice but to jump to our own conclusions, and to create our own most likely scenario. She is clearly very unused to people, so she is probably not a lost pet. It also would be odd if she had been deliberately dropped off, or unlovingly abandoned, as we live in the middle of nowhere, and at the end of a rough country lane that most people who value their cars wouldn’t chose to navigate. We decide that this wild and untamed young cat was probably born in a barn somewhere in the vicinity, and that she had somehow, displaced herself several kilometers in the cold chill of the early winter. In her nomadic wandering she had stumbled across the shelter of our “stable,” and decided sensibly to spend the winter there.
We name her “Pinky”. Not baby pink, but rather like a salmon wildly swimming in the stormy sea. Our concern for her survival in the overnight artic chill begins to grow. Then, just as the mercury dips to minus 28, and our worry for her wellbeing climbs even higher, there is a significant development.
She creeps out from her hidden corner to say hello.
I remain immobile, hardly daring to breathe, as on full alert, she approaches my seated form. Then, she spies my glove resting on my knee, and turns and flees. However, the same thing happens the next day, and although she doesn’t come too close, we are delighted that we are now perhaps heading in the right direction. Then, a day or two later, two months exactly since we first set eyes on each other, she comes right up to me and rubs herself against my leg in the way only cats can do, purring all the way.
It gets colder. I go in to see her and she comes to me sneezing. Her eye has a tear in it, that is running down her cheek. I bend down to pet her, and she feels cold all over. It is time to act. I return to the house and find a large old towel and a pair of goggles, as I don’t want to lose an eye in this act of compassion. I quietly sit down with the towel on my knee. When Pinky comes to greet me, I bend down to pick her up. Surprisingly she doesn’t complain, or maybe she is too scared to protest, and she sits meekly on my lap, unaware of her impending relocation. After a few moments, I wrap her up tightly into a fiery bundle and carry her firmly into the house.
After that it is plain sailing. We put her in the back room for a day or two, before exposing her to the terrors of our gentle dog and elderly territorial cat. She loves it there and purrs her way through her transition, from frigid shed to warm house. She makes immediate friends with her litter box and so slowly and carefully we give her the full reign of the house.
It’s been three weeks since she has been our high-spirited roommate, and she demonstrates her blend of wild and tame, as she bolts up and down the stairs, plays with anything that is static or that moves, and tries to chat up our other cat who responds with a series of half hearted hisses . The dog is timid at heart and so keeps his distance from this pink ball of fire who has burst spontaneously into his life. Once her energy is spent, Pinky likes to cuddle up with us, purring ,and no doubt pinching herself in disbelief, at her feline good fortune to have found a loving forever home.
A few days later I watch Pinky running across the floor, unravelling a roll of toilet paper that she has somehow uncovered from somewhere. As she tears it into a million pieces, that she leaves, messy and scattered all over the carpet, I notice something curious bulging underneath her tail. The light suddenly dawns, and I gasp at my total misinterpretation of feline anatomy.
I realize, that indeed, Pinky has balls!