This WIP, A Pocket Full of Posies, features twelve different women navigating life’s obstacles.
This segment continues with Rosemary, a single woman struggling to keep a small, independent animal shelter functioning, despite obstacles from county regulations and never having enough funds to meet all the needs. Three orphan kittens have just joined her growing furry community.
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Three little gray tabby faces stared up. Two of the kittens were longer haired and looked like bobbsey twins, so identical you couldn’t tell them apart. These two huddled back into a corner, fearful but too weak to struggle. The third little shorthaired one yelled out in protest to the interruption, the voice more of a raspy sound than a meow.
“That’s the noisy one.” Mrs. Suburbia held her hands over her ears. “It’s meowed almost the whole time we’ve had them. It’s so hoarse it doesn’t even sound like a kitten’s meow anymore.”
Rosemary stroked the soft little heads. “How long has it been since the mother was hit?”
“Let’s see, its seven o’clock now … I think it was around ten this morning … nine hours I’d guess.”
“Nine hours? The little things are lucky to be alive still.” Dealing with Clyde Owens and his demands was now the furthest thing from Rosemary’s mind. The County and its unreasonable demands took a back seat to these three orphans.
“It’s been too long since they’ve eaten. I don’t want to risk taking them back with me before I feed them. Can I use some warm water and feed them here before I go? I brought some formula and a bottle with me, just in case.”
“Not at all. I’ll take the box in the kitchen. You can sit and do what you need to do. It will be more comfortable.” She headed inside with the box while Rosemary retrieved her emergency cat supplies and a carrier from the minivan.
She settled in at the table with a warm bottle of formula. The loud mouth got served first, then the two quieter timid ones. They all gulped down the milk as if they hadn’t nursed for days. A door slammed in the background and racket of chattering voices followed the pounding footsteps to the kitchen. The sneakered feet screeched to a stop and two freckled faces stood watching Rosemary with the third kitten. The stood open mouthed, a look of awe on their faces, both the little boy that Rosemary guessed was about seven and the girl, a heads length shorter, who looked about five. Well, there’s two of the 2.5 kids, Rosemary thought.
“I’ve never seen them both so quiet at the same time,” their mother mused. “Unless they’re asleep, of course,” she added with a laugh.
Rosemary sat the almost empty bottle down. “Do you have a warm washcloth I can use?”
The mother ran a washcloth under warm water in the sink, then squeezed it out and handed it over to Rosemary.
The little boy leaned in closer. “Are you going to wash their faces?”
“Yes. We need to get the formula washed off before it dries and cakes in their fur. Then, we’ll use the washcloth to rub their little bellies and help them go potty.”
“Ewwwww.” The little girl wrinkled up her nose in disgust. “That’s gross.”
“Yuck,” her brother added. “Not gross, that’s hideous.”
“It’s not hideous,” Rosemary replied. “It’s very natural. They’re too young to go to the bathroom by themselves yet. That won’t happen until they’re about four weeks old. When they’re with their mother, she licks them clean and her tongue licking their tummies helps them go potty. Since she’s not here, we’ll use the washcloth and we’ll have to be their mommy for them.”
She bundled up the three kittens in a warm, fluffy towel in the carrier and headed outside. The two little ones followed her out singing, “ … three little kittens that lost their mittens …”
“Thanks for saving them. And for calling me about them.” Giving a wave out the window, she pulled away, already mentally making a checklist for the night. Usually with kittens so young she could make the feedings every three or four hours, depending on the litter and their strength. But with these three going so long without a meal, and looking so weak and fragile, she didn’t want to risk going that long without feeding and checking on them. She decided to set the alarm for every two hours during the night, to keep a closer eye on them. There goes my free time this weekend, I’ll be either feeding or sleepwalking through the day.
After a night of waking every two hours, Rosemary had a new respect for Nora and her other foster parents. She was so busy trying to keep the shelter going, that she didn’t fully realize how much time and care the foster’s spent on the little ones in their care.
By the end of the night, the feisty loudmouth, although he still had a croak instead of a meow, had already learned to recognize that Rosemary’s face over the edge of the box with the heat lamp meant ‘food’. And this little chowhound liked his food. At least she thought the ornery one was a male, and the two furry look-a-likes were girls. They’d all weighed in between ten and eleven ounces the night before, still too small for Rosemary to be comfortable leaving them alone much. She decided to take them to the office out back with her and care for them there while she worked on some overdue paperwork.
Naturally Clyde had already called and left a message once she’d gotten the kittens settled into a corner near her desk. He’d have to wait. I don’t have the energy to deal with that bureaucrat today, Rosemary thought, a frown of frustration settling on her face.