By Margie Bailey Rose
Stephanie, who was eight and lived on the next block, knocked on our door one day and asked if we could help her. A car killed had their mother cat and even though they tried to feed the 2-week old kittens milk with a doll bottle, all but one died. Stephanie's mom heard #5 and #6 bragging about our new kittens and sent Stephanie to ask if our mother cat might feed the orphan kitten along with her own. I agreed to try but had very little hope that Beebe (the beast) would go for it. She had already moved her two-day old babies because we dared to open the drawer where she had them. I risked the beast's wrath by taking out #6's bloody clothes (Beebe's comfy delivery bed) and replacing them with a clean towel. To show her disdain she moved her kits to a different drawer full of nice clean clothes.
Stephanie brought her kitten over wrapped in a doll blanket, and even though it was thin it was three times bigger than our babies. How would I ever trick the beast into feeding it? From the dark recesses of my childhood I remembered my mother putting Vicks Vaporub on the nose of some mother animal to get it to feed a baby that was not her own. The memory would not come clear, and I didn't know if it was a dog, cat, rabbit, or pig. I rubbed the smelly stuff on Beebe's nose, and most of her head, while she clawed and bit me to shreds. (Did I mention she was half Siamese? She had the pointed face, piercing yowl, and evil personality of a Siamese– hidden inside a black coat to throw you off.) I put the new baby in with the others, while Beebe was trying to rub the Vicks off on my best chair, and left the drawer half open. We hid and waited to see if we would need to dive in to rescue the kitten when Beebe entered the drawer-nest. She climbed in and moved babies and clothes to suit her, then lay down and let all of them eat. We danced and sang in the kitchen to celebrate our success.
The orphan was named Stephan, in honor of his first owner, and he ate first and longest at every feeding. He soon looked like a black and white spotted pig and since #5 loved pigs he became the love of her life. Stephan was too lazy to spend much time outdoors, so he managed not to be eaten by coyotes– the fate of most of our cats. Beebe was too mean for a measly coyote. She may still be alive and wandering the woods of Timberlane, where she chose to live when she gave up on humans. Stephan, however, loved humans and especially his human. He liked to lie in the sun and nap like most lazy cats, but his favorite place to sleep was around #5's neck. She could pick him up off the floor and drape him over her shoulders without him opening an eye. When she watched TV he walked along the back of the couch, ignoring all hands that reached to pet him, and settled around her neck, nudging her with his nose until she was sitting just right for him to be comfortable. When she played with her dolls and other toys, he was in the middle of it. She dressed him in doll clothes and fed him imaginary tea.
All went well until we moved to a different house and Stephan was confused by the new surroundings. We kept him inside for the first few months but one day he got out. We called and searched around the neighborhood but there was no sign of the lazy cat with markings like a Holstein cow. Number five was distraught. On the third day son #3 found Stephan's lifeless body at the edge of the busy highway, down the street from our house. We buried him in the corner of the yard–the first pet in the new cemetery–and did all we could to cheer #5 out of her sadness.
We had several cats after that but none were quite like Stephan. Number five knits herself scarves to wear in the winter now, but none are as warm and soft as her purring neck-warmer of years gone by.