As I believe every day is a short story, surely Mother’s Day contains a few million more. So I’ll just tell one of them… Take the time in tribute to the day, to finish and caption a couple of dozen photographs photographs.

The story of the tiny kitten.

Splinter Cottage has a moderate kitchen window that overlooks the garden in the barn. After two years of Lyme, including the crash off the ladder in which I used my head to cushion the fall, both the garden, barn, and I, are assuming familial resemblance.

Of course the purpose of the window is to look at morning. No matter how rugged things get, it’s an unlikely habit to disassociate. No reason. Snow, wind, hale, the floods, hurricanes … Reality presents itself through the kitchen window. So to, the visitors, many of whom, arrived through the barn. If my cats are well, morning coffee becomes rather grand.

“Spiked with a Twist” was still inside, as is today …. Marguerita Beatrice (pronounced as Dante would have on the Florentine bridge), and my feral cat: “StrawBarry-Stew” … A Morris impersonator bad tough enough, to keep the raccoon’s at bay, some of the coy dogs thinking there are better places to plunder, and prevent other deplorable from making mayhem. Willie was gone, as was flapjack, and my best friend and all the world: “Over-EZ” who saved my life twice and very rarely was out of reach.

Gone yet still seen out of the corner of an eye. The outside cats were nice to Over-EZ as she was to them, and indeed, we all got here by walking up the Lane. That’s the art of Splinter Cottage … It’s too much trouble for anybody with some where else to go.

Beatrice was staring at me from on top of the works Mini (fixed to a irrelevance by two separate mechanics paying off computers that replaced their minds), Strawbarry-Stew was running toward the house for breakfast, nothing was unusual but for the tiny kitten running, hesitantly, behind him. A calico, which in Cat Parlance means “she” with about the same likelihood that the difficulties will present at the White House. (The one in DC, the White House up the road here has nice people in it.)

With the feral male cat and a calico, “she” means: kittens. StrawBarry has never been fixed. He’d been impossible to catch until he passed the age that the vets would use anesthetic. But there she was, skinny and hungry … So I said to Spike: ” will add some water to the soup.” Was still winter. Some days bitterly cold. I put extra boxes out with rags in them and put out extra food. I learn to feed StrawBarry at a distance from the ladies, or he would simply Hoover up everyone’s dinner. The term: “asshole” was frequently tossed in his direction. And well-earned. But Tiny Kitten was more than pleased to give him her food. She truly loved him, in my expectation so too the rest of the pride. He kept them safe.

So we went on … Me, spending at least an hour day talking to the feral cats to be certain that if they needed help, they wouldn’t run off into oblivion. The main result was they came closer to the cottage being served their meals near the door, where I could sit on the steps, drink coffee, and talk to them. Good morning one and all. Tiny Kitten often came and stayed within 15 feet, watching me intently, but staying completely out of reach. Clearly, she was very smart. She kept watching. Becoming less… Out of reach.

And so we went on, the exhaustion from the Lyme miserable … Creating nothing but “less”. Slow progress on painting and repairing the cottage trim and siding. Earlier the ladder I was painting from crashed and Breaking the fall with my head.

Of course it was impossible to get a doctor, For hours I had trouble standing, let alone driving. the urgent care in Hellertown refused my Blue Cross and rather than sign away more of my life to medical debt, I simply went home and doing my best to remain awake.

My nose stopped bleeding in a few hours. The urgent care in Hellertown had a good receptionist. She kept me from bleeding on the floor, making sure they didn’t lose any time with the dying on their premises. The doctor watched from behind. I assume the Mercedes beside, avec the Dr. vanity plate was his.

Each decent morning I would get up, make the espresso, and walk a circle around the cottage, picking out a smaller section that I could complete. Missed Over EZ’s help, as a matter of fact it was she who pushed on me until I became conscious after the ladder crash.

Been fighting to gather my thoughts on the taxes and as a still life, remained on the table. Spike seemed to Knocking the files to the floor. That was the morning Mother’s Day began. While Morning was still young, I found Tiny Kitten, all 5 or 6 pounds of her, under the overhang of the kitchen window, behind the daffodils, in the company of some very tiny kittens. 6 of them. Was hoping she was just putting on weight.

She looked at me …too weak to run away, panting from dehydration, and I assumed exhausted from delivery. Our old friend StrawBarry-Stew was off eating someone else’s food. Looking at her, I Mentioned I can give you help … and you need it. A bit of a mess. But you’ve done well.

Inside, Put together a broth of cat food and water, spiked it with CARO and gently set it beside. She was too thirsty and tired to run. So she ate. I stayed away so she wouldn’t run. They were too little for me to care for. We did that a few times and she recovered her hustle. She would go off for a bit, so I placed her new kittens in the box exactly where she had them for safety. Five were very strong; the last very weak.

Tiny Kitten was waiting outside the kitchen door to be fed, which I did. Another half a can with water … Remembering how thirsty Dana got when nursing Chris. Ate all of it Returning directly to her kittens. Of course finding that box was difficulty. Then again her kittens were it. Which made it all right, or at least workable. Began to nurse them immediately, back to panting within minutes. Long labored inhales between her teeth. So tiny. Made her more. On like that till the Lyme got me,into the cottage to crash on the chair..

There was a really miserable storm … lost electricity & the cellar flooded. After hours pumping it out and cleaning, the door was left open with fans. The lyme had me so exhausted, I nearly slept on the grass.

Now this is a ground cellar and the entrance is from outside – down 8′ of stairs of and old stone and cement entry way. Front part of it is concrete – the rear addition over dirt. My big fear, alone here in the woods was something going wrong for me, down in that miserable 250-year-old semi ground cellar. Sort of did. When I came back I found that was where she had sheltered with her kittens. Five were gone, the sixth remained as it had passed.

I saw her heading for the cellar entrance, brand-new kitten in her mouth, only to be attacked by Benjamin. The neighborhood son of a bitch cat, , often on the receiving end of a long cool bucket of water. He ran to the woods, as she ran into the cellar… leaving me with an even tinier kitten, than she. Eyes closed.

Got the box. Knowing he could go but a few hours without eating, I had to find some kind of food he could eat … that wouldn’t kill him. We drove over to the Bucks SPCA, where I was told they had no means to care for such a small cat. They offered to euthanize him in all kindness .. To which I responded “life will take care of that if I don’t find a solution pretty quickly.”

I knew Dana had some Formula milk for the kittens I found behind the leaf bags next to her garage(12° that day and I had flu so it wasn’t forgettable). My neighbors Wendy and Larry cared for some 60 cats, all fixed with shots …. I decided to try to make it home where there was help I could count on. My Tiny, tiny friend began raising hell from his cardboard box as he was hungry. Had good spirit, might get a ride in this world anyhow. Had friends in the neighborhood. Tired & Lyme weary, but not given to quitting.

Perplexed as to how to get food into him. Perhaps an eyedropper … but upon reflection, it seemed the best mechanism to get some milk into him was his mother. Still raising hell … So if he would keep it up, she might hear. Set the box outside. When ever the screaming stopped, I tapped the box. Put food out for his mom, tapping a can … hoping that she might hear that too. Was literally leaving with the keys in my hand to see about milk half an hour away at Dana’s, when mom showed up. About 30 feet down the walkway. Listening and watching. Watching through the kitchen door, mom approached the box. Looking in all directions, then into the box, she hopped in, then left with her kitten in your mouth … Around the house down the cellar stairs and under the cottage, God help me.

So for the next couple of days, tiny mom was never late for dinner. Fed her every couple of hours, pushed StrawBarry aside. Unless there was something under the cottage I didn’t know about, she found safe harbor for the kittens. A day or two passed not seeing her at all. Then close to a week. The nationwide adjuster help me try to find her downstairs, but then who knows? At night I would close the angled wooden door and leave the bottom door open with a space at top so she could crawl out, and nothing else from these woods could come in after them. Suppose I did what I could. Hopefully I would not wind up with a crazy living under the cottage.

Easily a week later, I came down my dirt road, up the dirt drive & slowed the truck as Tiny Kitten was carrying an even tinier kitten, just a little larger than her head, out of the cellar entrance, having climbed an 8 foot wall, then squeezing between the space left for her. One kitten was on the stone walk. Another on the same vector in the yard near the bushes and a third at the base of the cellar steps, inside, after …. I opened the cellar door. Once again Tiny Kitten was evidently exhausted. It seemed she was headed for under the forsythia bushes … Obviously, her kittens, in total, now weighed more than she did.

We would have to work this out together. By this time, I was completely on her side. I collected her kittens, -careful not to give them a name- put them in a box for safety and drove over to my friend Natalie at the Bucks County SPCA.

Natalie said they would certainly survive if cared for, gave me special food for both mother and kittens, as well as lending me a dog crate, in which the kittens could remain safely. We both decided between the crate and my closed front porch … We could keep them in the woods without them becoming “bait”. Sure like Natalie. Bless her, kindly.

And that was the plan, I put the kittens in the crate, left it open on the front porch, the bad ass kittens yelled for mom and mom came. In the months she’d been there, I still hadn’t touched her. We talked a lot. Every morning. She didn’t like going into the crate. But she had to feed her kids.

That night the three kittens were locked in the crate ,in the outside porch. Tiny Mom could use the hole in the door should she choose … But no critters could get at her kids. The miracle arrived the next morning. Beside the crate, inside the porch, were her two remaining kittens. And beside them, one vole and one chipmunk …. Hunted and caught. Since they were too little to eat vole … mom was saying “THANK YOU.” As best she knew. Myself .. you are quite welcome. I took care of my kid too. We are friends.

Obviously she had carried them out of the ground cellar climbing up the Masonry, into the Door on the porch. Twice. Tiny Mom watched me from the door. Well out of reach. Come by little mom … if a friend can help … you are smart and know he will. Don’t let our species get in the way.

So the gig clarified itself. One of the plastic tubs would hold the kittens inside, for a while, and mom could jump in to nurse. Obviously if she had left her kittens to hunt for them, solid food was now in the mix. Now mom was going to have her food served outside of the porch next to her kittens. It didn’t take her long to figure out how to get in, nurse the munchkins, and get out, eat again and rest. I could cover for her with the wet food made even wetter. The pleasure was mine. I was mistaken about her. Now I knew she was special, like over EZ and worth any trouble necessary. My admiration: total.

We played it that way for quite some time. I get up an hour early to clean out the crate while she nursed the kids. I found she often would hide behind something on the porch. Stand guard. More often than not she was waiting at the porch window beside the stairway. It was time to feed her kittens. Liked her better all the time. She was so small physically yet smart enough to trust the right folks. We communicated the understanding of sharing. You will not go hungry if I have food.
Spoke every day with the kittens, petted them, and saw that they each got enough of the food that I gave them so mom could begin putting on some weight. The dread of taking the kittens over to the nice folks at bucks SPCA was troubling. The cottage was at capacity, and all the medical stuff was beyond my circumstance. While the little ones had no names, they were truly socialized would certainly be able to make their case to families wanting them to join their home. The crate was large enough for small litter boxes, they had begun to use them. Started taking the smallest to SPCA so we could gauge when the best time would be. I think they were born on Easter so calculation wasn’t hard.

When finally the day came, I gathered the crew feeling just rotten. Better after learning one had some eye difficulty needing antibiotics and it was very much time for all their shots. When they were tested nothing found was contagious. More peace of mind. The losses that year remained, unforgotten.

Drove back to the cottage to face the music. Tiny Kitten looked at me and told me her kittens were missing. I had been telling her that I would have to take them all the SPCA. Well she doesn’t particularly speak English, she does speak honesty. She insisted on coming in the house and searching every room from attic to kitchen. By herself. Heartbreaking.

Happened a couple of times. She’d never been in the house before. Not only smart , but very brave. Each morning we had breakfast together and I began telling her that she would have to come with me for shots. She could not get sick.

Problem with smart cats is that they ‘re smart. The first day with trap, I caught StrawBarry. I asked if he could be fixed … He was too old. StrawBarry-Stew perfected the “where is this shit at?” Look. Made up for it with double rations. For six weeks, every day the SPCA could take Tiny Kitten … I was out there at 6 AM … Not wanting her to have the trauma of a long tour locked in the trap. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not going in that thing. ” . Finally one nite before I just grabbed her holding her by the scruff taking her to the loo for safe keeping, until taking her morning after. She didn’t seem too pissed off …look at the photographs. Dunno .. Tested ok, all the shots, fixed and a snip off her ear she hasn’t noticed. Nice folks at SPCA Upper Bucks. Now and again I find her looking. She is fine with all us Barn Cats. Sure love ya.

This was nearly a year ago. Her name is Madamoiselle La Petite Idee or Un petit verre de Pernod. And of course Tiny Kitten. To friends. Madame Margarita Beatrice Cioppino has decided to live inside. (after Master & Margarita … Bulkagov … since we are becoming Russian).

She likes to sleep on the Spider Plants and has put on weight. Spiked with A Twist remains in charge having grown to be the largest cat that ever lived with me … Vet says they’re may be a bit of Lynx. And of Course StrawBarry-Stew … who might be 20 … the tip of his ear has come off and his right leg gives him grief so he hops on 3 at good speed… well he made it thru another winter. And can still defend himself. Bloodied ne with a good whack. Use the triple antibiotic pleased he can defend himself. He prefers outside.

Heckla & Jeckle the barn vultures still return to the barn … vultures mate for life and both take care of their fledglings … don’t fight with cats … so they are ok too. Have the hell scared out of them too , have to shoo them down the walk – away from the cat food. Bout an 8′ wing span. Sometimes we just talk. Would hate to see just one show up. Alas, Tiny Kitten chases them. Bad ass. I’m a bad ass too. And a barn cat.

And Tiny Kitten sleeps in my bed each nite. As I go up she will run in front of me. The others used to. Maybe I’ll move over to the large bed and we can all fit there. I’d like that. S.

addendum 2

StrawBarry Stew has passed, feral for 22 years. Rough count. I cared for him and he protected the crew from raccoons and others. I could never catch him until he was too old to “fix”. Once upon a time Veterinarians could think … and I could get extra meds for the existing crew, and see that he was also well. And they would stay well ….”You have to bring him in so we can see him.” . rather then being told I had to buy different scripts for each … … 3 $28 treiderms for ear mites … I know thats a billing thing … I’m afraid they don’t. For 30 years I brought in and paid for the cats medical. I’m neither stupid nor irresponsible. What is stupid is vets that lecture to folks with whom they have dealt with for decades and what has worked, to move to something that doesn’t. (And Vets who despite 3 messages don’t have the grace to call back – Quakertown Animal Hospital). StrawBarry passed gracefully after leaving his box on our porch … he was old … and trying to reenter his “home”. I found a whole slew of poly propeline blankets and coats at the thrifts to keep him warm and comfortable thru the winter. He was getting thin. He was very happy with his blankets and his box … I fed him 2 times a day … we managed. StrwBarry Stew just lay in his “home” and really smiled. He is here in our woods … under a tree that fell down. The little girl …comes in as I ring the bell mum did for dad at dinner time. And sleeps in the pillow beside me. We had a good run ..Huh StrawBarry? Since you walked out of the woods. We do ok. Love is something else. S. _______________________________________________________________________________________

© h. scott heist 19 /

This work is the property and creation of H. Scott Heist and rights are reserved. Splinter Cottage, The View From Splinter Cottage, the NOIR CHRONICLES, TastefullyCheeky, ObliviAn, and Every Day is a Short Story are trademarks in use for many years. Rights are similarly reserved and use is only by written permission.