Cast your mind back to September (if you can. If not, here's a reminder: http://jasper-thedogsblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/tuesday-14-september-2010.html). Do you recall the appearance of some little semi-feral orphans in our work-yard? Well, hold that thought. Another FIVE little kittens, fortunately WITH mum this time, have been delivered up into the world from the premises. I'm not sure if we are appearing in some kind of cats' "Good Maternity Clinic Guide"... It's all most odd. Witness for yourself:
|Uh-oh... Spotted by mother. Better leg it...|
Ewan, as may be expected, was more than happy to step into his former role of surrogate kitten-father. He repeatedly crept around the side of the building to check on the babies and to offer them cheese. His well-meaning efforts were NOT welcomed by the kittens' mother - especially as his visits often coincided with mealtimes, when the kittens were suckling their milk from their mum. Quite how has managed to avoid being scratched thus far remains a mystery.
Right then. The next instalment of my 'Evolution' Series - the aftermath of the peak of my destructive antics. My belovèd Angie was kind enough to send me a private communication, in which she thoughtfully acknowledged how hard it must be for my partner and I to revisit these difficult early times. She is right. I LOVED to recount my days at the home with my dear friends Rex, Pebble, Ghost, Rats, and - of course - the late, great, lamented Kipper - they were happy days. But my behaviour on coming to live with my partner was nothing short of despicable and the merest memory of it sickens me to my stomach. When I asked my partner to proof-read the last entry for spelling mistakes, I noted that she had tears in her eyes, and she gave me a big cuddle after the entry had been posted. But, we agreed, it was important that such dreadful times are recounted, as they help us to appreciate the love and friendship that exists between us today. My partner says that it is a measure of my strength that we can describe the (entirely true; every word) atrocious creature that I was back then and compare it to the fine, upstanding, loyal and sturdy companion that I am today. This is more praise than I feel I deserve. Nevertheless - on we go:
This time, not even the young lady's affable father had a good word to say to me. He did not express anger at me but, rather, disappointment - which was so much worse. I was silently given my supper, which I consumed, despite feeling some difficulty in swallowing. I had transgressed too far - and I knew it.
I didn't attempt to sit on the furniture that evening, but lay alone at the back of the room, feeling as one covered by a veritable blanket of shame. I suppose I must have dozed-off as, when I ambled into the main body of the withdrawing-room only the father was present, watching the ten o' clock news. I watched with him for a while, but could make neither head nor tail of it, so decided to retire upstairs to my chamber.
Wandering along the upper landing, I heard the young lady talking to her mother within the parents' bed-chamber, from which light was issuing onto the dark landing. I stopped outside the door to listen.. They seemed to be discussing a man. No doubt the young lady's latest "boyfriend" - a series of suitors who, quite frankly, seemed to me to be beneath her. But that's women for you, I suppose. I bent my ear so as to better hear the conversation.
"I just can't stand it anymore." cried the young lady. "I mean, work isn't always that easy - but now, I never know what I'm going to come home to! I can't bear it."
"I know." replied the girl's mother. "I'm so sorry. I feel like it's partly my fault. I pressured you into having him."
"No," came the reply, "I took the decision to take him. It's not your fault. Oh, G*d. What will Auntie Dot say?!"
Eh? Miss Smart? What had she, of all people, to do with this? I was intrigued.
"She will understand." said the young lady's mother, kindly.
"But how can I send him away? He's had SUCH a horrid life! How could I live with myself?!" The young lady dissolved into heartbreaking sobs.
"But, sweetheart, he's making you SO miserable." sympathised the kindly mother's voice.
"Oh," sobbed the young woman, "I hate him! I HATE him! I can't even bring myself to look at him anymore. I've tried so ha-[sniff]-ha-ard to help him, but he doesn't want me. I HATE him! I don't even want him - I despise him! I don't even like him."
There was a lengthy silence, during which I began to feel increasingly uneasy. I had a growing sense of dread that I knew to whom they were referring - and 'twas not a human male.
"Well, you HAVE given him a fair chance." concurred the mother. Then, with a softened voice, she asked "Are you sure it's not because he is a little boy? The others were girls - you're not prejudiced against him just because he is a boy, are you?"
The young lady began to cry even more bitterly. As for me - I began to feel sick.
"Well - it might be to do with that..." conceded the girl, "But I honestly don't think so. I've tried everything, mum, and STILL he behaves the way he does. I don't know what to do! I HATE him. I hate him so much." She cried harder, beginning even to wail. "I know its wrong of me - I know it. But I can't cope with this anymore. The mess, the destruction and the sheer wickedness. I can't... I just can't..." Her tears overcame her ability to speak.
I was both surprised and stunned to find that tears were running down my OWN cheeks. Why? Wasn't this the very result I had desired from the outset?
After another silence, I heard the young lady's mother speaking briskly.
"Right." she said, firmly. "Do you want me to ring Auntie Dot in the morning? I know she will understand. Your father can take him back to Stokenchurch tomorrow, if it's OK with the Aunties."
Oh no. They WERE talking about ME.
What had I done?! What had I done?
I felt like - no. I KNEW I was the most wretched of beasts. I had been given everything I ever desired - and what had I done? Thrown it away. THAT is what I had done.
NOW I realised. I cannot understand quite why, but it was NOW that it hit me. Since coming to live with these new humans, not ONCE had I been beaten. Not ONCE had I been used as an impromptu football and kicked around the garden, my agonised screams piercing the night. And not ONCE had I been throttled or hung on a peg by my collar - to be revived at the last moment with the sound of mocking, taunting laughter ringing in my ears as I stumbled around, gasping and choking, regaining consciousness. In fact, I had met with nothing but acceptance, kindness, patience and affection. And I had responded with cruel scorn and destruction of anything dear to the humans that I could get my fangs on.
I felt ashamed. Completely and UTTERLY ashamed. All the more so when a fleeting image of the late Kipper passed before me. Noble Kipper. Pack leader. Hero - and friend. Kipper who SO longed for a family and who was, eventually, selected - only to die from an appalling heart-attack just three days before he was to achieve all he had ever really desired. Here was I with that chance - the chance that fate had savagely snatched away from Kipper. I felt more wretched by the second. How could I have let myself - and Kipper - down so badly? But now it was all, all, too late. I would be sent back to the shelter in disgrace - never again to know the soft touch of a loving embrace from a human - and I could blame no-one but myself.
I heard the young lady sniff again, trying to stem the flow of her heartbroken tears.
"Well," she sighed, hesitantly. "It's Thursday now, and I've got tomorrow off work. Let's give it until Monday. I don't want to disturb Auntie Dot's weekend."
The mother, her voice quivering with tears, then said "I'm just SO sorry, that's all."
"Why should you be sorry?!" asked the young lady.
"Well, dad and I wanted to do something nice for you, after all you've been through." came the response. Oh, G*d, it gets worse.
"We're just sorry that he turned out like he did. Auntie Dot recommended him SO highly."
"Oh, please don't blame Auntie Dot!" implored the young lady, "And please don't blame yourself. You couldn't have known that he would turn out like this."
"Are you SURE you don't want to get rid of him tomorrow? It's no trouble - honestly."
"No," replied the young lady with a sigh, "I'll give him until Monday. Then we'll see."
"Until Monday then."
I felt a sudden pain in my chest, which I couldn't identify. Was it self-pity? No. Guilt? Probably not. No. I knew what it was. It was genuine remorse.
I was sincerely, deeply sorry for what I had done.
But now it was too late. It was all too, too late.