Arnold’s Kittens

Arnold’s kittens were his greatest treasure.

They weren’t kittens any longer – they were nearly ten years old – but Arnold still thought of them as his kittens. He saw them as tiny little bundles of joy, sweet babies to be cared for, coddled, given every possible delight in the world.

The cats were fat, ornery, and hateful of anything that came near them. Other than Arnold, who they tolerated for the food.

Despite his kittens numbering twenty-two, Arnold didn’t take in strays. Each had been hand-picked from a litter, gathered over the course of a three-month adoption binge. It was a fruitful year for cats, and Arnold wanted the best. At every breeder he visited, he picked up each kitten, weighed it in his hand, smelled it, squeezed it a little, gauged its reaction to himself and its other litter-mates. It was a long process, and in most litters he refused all. Only the best for my babies, he thought.

The vet bills were expensive at the best of times. When Janey had developed a hacking cough, he had taken her to the hospital quickly, but still too late. Igor and Beatrix came down with it soon after, and Milo, Peter, and Nancy soon after that. in all, twelve of his kittens became sick.

That he afforded their round-the-clock care at the best veterinary hospital in the city is a tribute to his salary, and his investment in pet health insurance.

Every day, Arnold came home to his little babies. He picked each up in turn, held it for a few minutes, set it down, picked up the next. They lined up for this, knowing once finished he would feed them, and they could then scatter throughout the house. Arnold would then turn to cooking his own food. He wished they would stay in the kitchen, or the dining room, or the living room, or any room he was in, but his babies needed freedom, and that included the freedom to avoid him at all costs when necessary.

Oh, Arnold thought to himself. How quickly they grow, my little kittens.

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