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Sometimes Things Just Work Out

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The summer before I turned 16, I found myself living in a new house all the way across the state from the place I had grown up in, and living without a cat for the first time in my entire life. Our cat Benny, the last survivor of the three felines I had grown up with, had gone to join his fellow kitties Nyssa and Tegan in whatever animal afterlife there may be back in January of that year. When we moved, my family’s only pets were our old collie, Ginger, and the imaginatively named rabbit, Hopper.


My Kitten


But that was all to change soon. To sweeten the cross-state move for my sister and me, our parents were going to let us get a pair of kittens. We would have our pick of two kittens from the litter of five a friendly but feral cat had had in the garage of a friend. Our parents said that we could pick two female kittens because, they said, male kitties got “fat and crabby.”

Although I was less than happy about the move, I was thrilled about being able to get a kitten, especially a kitten of my own. The house felt strange without a cat in it, and I missed having a purring kitty to talk to at the end of the day. Sure, the kittens were going to spend their kitten-hood confined to the garage, and they were going to be outside-only cats after they grew up, but I was still completely psyched. It seemed that life really did work out sometimes.

The day to go pick out the kittens fell right at the tail end of painting my new room. I had, predictably, put things off until the last minute, so I had to frantically finish painting before I could go. I was in such a hurry that I barely had enough time to wash off my hands and arms and change out of my painting clothes before my mom, my sister, and I piled into the car with our battered old cat carrier. My face and hair were still splattered with paint as we sped off.

For the first minute or so, the three of us were delighted to be on our way. When we passed a house just a little way down the road from ours, our mood turned somber as we carefully drove around the flattened body of a kitten in the road. We were all-too-vividly reminded that life outside the protection of a house could be deadly.

The house we were going to was, like ours, about as far out in the boondocks as was possible, with plenty of quiet, peaceful, and eminently boring space. Boring, that is, except for the litter of five kittens we found playing in the garden when we pulled into the driveway. Our moods instantly improved when we saw the frolicking little fuzzballs wrestling in the grass. The lady of the house came outside to welcome us and suggested that we gather up the kittens and get them into the garage so we could get a better look at them.

Four of the kittens were easy enough to get into the garage, but the second orange kitten hid underneath an enormous clump of daylilies. Mom and I got down on hands and knees and groped blindly around in the plant, fingers seeking kitten fur.

I quickly felt something fuzzy against my fingers and gently grabbed hold of a kitten and triumphantly pulled it from the foliage. Much to my surprise, however, an unexpected sixth kitten squeaked with indignation at me from the safety of my hands. This kitten was a gold-flecked black tabby, with fur that was quite striking and very pretty.

Mom managed to extricate the orange kitten from the depths of the daylilies and we brought the two squirming kitties back into the garage. As Mom had experience with cats, she was given the enviable task of determining the sex of each kitten. I held my breath as she examined the kitten I had pulled from the plant. I already knew that I wanted it, but it would have to be a female for me to be able to take it home.

It seemed that fate was not listening, however, as Mom announced that the kitten was a male. Giving it one last, sad cuddle, I released the kitten and let him gambol over to two black kittens, both of which had also proved to be male.

I tried to make nice with the three females, but I felt no connection with them. None of them wanted anything to do with me. I abandoned my attempts to be friendly and went to find the kitten I had pulled out of the plant. I knew I couldn’t have him, but I sadly played with him anyway. Picking out a kitten was something that had initially seemed so promising and such a rare delight, but now felt like a cruel joke.

Now not very interested in picking a kitten, I contemplated my options. It didn’t seem fair to randomly choose from whatever two females my sister didn’t pick. Mom was obviously enjoying herself, and she had a major soft spot for tortoiseshell cats. I was about to give her the pick of the second kitten when she looked up and saw me staring at the black tabby.

She made a noise to get my attention and then gave me a knowing look.

“You can choose one boy-”

The words were barely out of her mouth before I informed her that I had made my decision and hugged the little sixth kitten close.

“All right, then, you can have him. It looks like you still have to pick one of the females, Sarah. Two boys would just fight.”

Sarah, who still looked stunned by my vehement kitten-claiming, just nodded, and went back to playing with the two orange sisters. Suddenly, the day seemed a lot more promising.

My sister eventually settled on one of the orange kittens. As soon as that kitten and her brother finished getting a drink from their mom, we loaded them into the cat carrier. They cried almost all the way home, but settled into the large crate in the garage like they had lived there their whole lives. Dad quickly came around when he saw them and gave his permission for them to be indoor-only kitties, keeping them safe from the dangers of the outdoors. I knew everything was going to be perfect a few days later when my kitty fell asleep in my arms with his paws around my neck. Sometimes life just works out like that.

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About Ellen P. Petri