WHEN I think of strays, I think of quiet back alleys, trash cans, dumpsters, lurking rats and scary cats. So when I found a stray kitten the other day at the neighborhood playground, I thought, “How strange!”
I was strolling home from a quick errand to 7-Eleven before dinner, picking up a bottle of milk and a box of Magnum, an occasional treat I always stash at the back of the freezer so my mother would never discover it.
As I was approaching the playground next to the block where I live, I thought I saw a gray blob just under the bottom of the slide. The closer I got, I realized the grey blob was a moving thing. I walked right up to the slide, squatting low and poking my head to check it out. True enough, as I had guessed, it was a little gray kitten.
It looked at me with eyes that spoke of fear and self-pity. My heart grew soft as it tends to whenever I behold anything cute. Cute dog, cute bear, cute rabbit, cute panda, cute pig. Right now, it was none of the above, just a real kitten, a cute, soft-furred kitty.
“Hello, Kitty!” I cooed.
“Hello, Kitty Cat!” I said again, this time, almost breaking out in song.
For a moment, I thought Kitty’s eyes grew rounder and larger as if to tell me, “Hey, I think you’re nice!” I did feel nice. In fact, that was the only thing I felt just looking at Kitty. I stretched my hand out, softly murmuring: “Hey, Kitty! Come on out, Kitty!”
Slowly and cautiously, Kitty emerged from under the slide and poked her tiny damp nose at my fingers. My heart almost broke at the thought of this sweet, vulnerable thing with her mother nowhere in sight. Kitty just felt like a girl cat more than a boy cat.
I tickled her cheek a little, then under her chin, and cupped my palm over her soft, furry head, while devising a plan. I wanted to have her, but I knew I couldn’t. My father wouldn’t have it, not least my mother. I scooped Kitty up with my right hand, careful that she didn’t come in contact with the shopping bag of cold milk and ice-cold Magnum in my other hand.
I rehearsed my lines in the lift on the way up to the 19th floor—the ones I was going to break to my mother and father. It was a wonderful plan to save Kitty. Just send her off to Auntie Lucy, my mother’s elder sister. Surely, Auntie Lucy could take in one more kitten. What’s one more to her feline family of five?
I couldn’t imagine her saying no. My mother loved the idea, and my father nodded in agreement. But on one condition: Kitty was not going to sleep with me for the night, she was going to be tucked away safely in a cold, brown, ugly carton. I winced at the thought, and offered to make Kitty a nice, snug bed out of my beach towel.
Just before bedtime, I took one last peek into Kitty’s new home by the coffee table. She looked up at me with the same round eyes, her head cocked a little to the right. I felt so warm in the heart I just broke into a smile.
“Good night, Kitty!”
“Off to bed now!” said my father. “By the way, that Magnum was really good, the chocolate almond one.”
Chia Xin Yu, Primary Five
For more essays by Xin Yu, visit Xin Yu Writes.
This essay was written in response to three pictures: (1) an empty carton, (2) a playground, (3) a gray kitten.