Cussedness Corner

"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane

My Mother Part V

No one is all bad.

If Mickey had treated me as well as she did animals, I think I would have been a much happier child on those occasions that she moved back in with Mama.

When I want 13, a stray cat had a litter of kittens under our house in Norwalk. Shortly afterward, the mother cat was hit by a car and killed. Mickey climbed under the house and brought out the kittens. She did not know how or what to do for them. They barely had their eyes open.

She tried pressing their faces in a dish of milk and she tried feeding them with an eye dropper. There were five kittens, but only two of them survived. Mickey was gentle and determined to save those kittens. We named the  orange one Matilda and the black one Samantha or Sam for short.

Papa had aviaries and he was not at all sanguine about the arrival of the kittens. I was not allowed to keep them in the house once they were big enough to wander. I had lots of fish tanks then. Around seven of them throughout the house. Papa was raising quail. The birds were hatched in an incubator and then placed in a cardboard box in the little room off the rear hall with a light to keep them warm.

I wanted desperately to have the kittens in the house. One day I brought the kittens in. But I put the box of baby quail on the highest shelf in the rear hall. Mama came home from work and saw the box. She took it down and put it back where it belonged, not knowing that the kittens were inside.

The kittens romped through the house and havoc ensued. Sam went fishing and Matilda discovered the box of baby quail. I went looking for the kittens and discovered Sam eating my fish and Matilda — horror of horrors — with a dead baby quail in her mouth. When I checked the box, the kitten had eaten all of the baby quail.

I felt like a murderer for having let the kittens inside. The image of Matilda with the baby quail in her mouth built to the point of a nightmare that lingered with a sense of guilt for years afterward. I kept thinking how helpless and terrified the poor little quail must have been, running around in their box while Matilda grabbed them one at a time and ate them. Eventually I wrote a scene in one of the Dark Brothers of the Light books that mirrored the incident of Matilda and the quail.

Mickey grabbed the kittens, fearful that Papa would kill them when he learned that they had eaten his quail, and we took them to the pound. where hopefully someone adopted them.


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This entry was posted on December 12, 2007 by in childhood in the 1960s, Janrae Frank, memoir and tagged , .

Janrae Frank

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