One morning I found a sack in the grass by the letterbox. Something in the sack was wriggling. I looked inside the sack and found a tiny, grey kitten with blue eyes. It was so small that it fitted into the palm of my hand.
I ran to show Mum. "Can I keep the kitten?" I begged Mum. "When the kitten grows up it can be my friend."
"The kitten might not live, Suzie," said Mum. "It is too little to be away from its mother." Mum warmed some milk and put it in a saucer. The kitten wouldn’t drink. It meowed sadly. It put its foot in the saucer and tipped it over.
Mum rang the radio station. "Could you please put out a call for a mother cat for an orphan kitten," she said to the radio people. The radio people said they would.
"What’s an orphan kitten?" I asked Mum.
"An orphan kitten is a kitten without a mother," Mum explained.
I shivered. How terrible it would be not to have a mother. I felt I hated the people who had dumped the kitten.
Mum rang the S.P.C.A. but they didn’t have a mother for an orphan kitten.
The kitten cried louder and louder. Mum looked desperate. She put the kitten in a box in the car and we all went to the vet.
The vet lady shook her head. "This is a very young orphan kitten," she said. The vet lady gave us some powdered milk made up especially for orphan kittens. She gave us a tiny baby’s bottle and a little teat. "You will have to feed this orphan kitten every two hours, day and night," she warned.
When we arrived home we put some milk into the bottle and tried to feed the kitten. It didn’t like the baby’s bottle. It struggled and meowed even louder. Mum looked ready to cry. "We will have to take the kitten back to the vet and get her to put the kitten to sleep," said Mum at last. "If we can’t feed the kitten it would be cruel to let it starve to death."
Tears came to my eyes. I couldn’t bear the thought of killing the orphan kitten. I had an idea. I ran into the bathroom and pulled a chair up to the medicine cabinet. Inside the cabinet was an eye dropper which Mum had once used to put drops in my eyes.
I rinsed the dropper under the tap and filled it with milk. When the kitten yelled I dropped a big spot of milk onto its tongue. The kitten gulped. It grabbed the end of the dropper and sucked like mad.
"Hurray," cried Mum. "You clever girl, Suzie. I never thought of using the dropper."
I gave the kitten four big droppers of milk It drank until its tummy looked big and round. Then I put it in a box and it went to sleep.
I loved feeding the kitten. Mum and I took it in turns to get up in the night to feed her. After feeding I always wiped the kitten’s mouth with a paper towel. I stroked her and tickled her and tried to be her mother. The kitten purred.
On Monday morning I told Mum I would have to stay home from school. "You go to work Mum," I said importantly. "I can look after the kitten." Secretly I was glad not to be going to my new school. I was sure our teacher didn’t like me. The kids didn’t want to play with me. I felt I didn’t have a friend in the world.
Mum went away and I heard her talking on the phone. When she came back she said. "You can take the kitten to school, Suzie. Your teacher, Miss Jackson says that you can feed her at playtimes and lunchtimes."
I felt miserable. I was sure the big boys would hurt my kitten. I was sure the girls would laugh at me. At school Miss Jackson put the kitten’s box on her desk. She explained about the kitten to the other children. "At playtime Suzie will feed the kitten," she said. "Anyone who wants to watch can stay."
Everyone looked at me curiously. I felt I would die with shyness. I hoped that no one would stay to watch me feed the kitten.
When playtime came Miss Jackson warmed the milk in the microwave in the staff room. To my horror every kid in our room stayed to watch.
My hand was trembling as I started to feed the kitten. "Just look at it drink," marveled Jean, a pretty girl with blonde hair. "Is it a boy or a girl?"
The kitten sneezed and I wiped its mouth with a tissue. "A girl the vet said."
"It’s so little," said a dark girl called Betty. "How horrible of someone to dump it."
"Can I have a go at feeding the kitten?" said a big boy called Stan.
Before I could say NO Miss Jackson spoke. "I’m sure Suzie wouldn’t mind if you had a turn at feeding the kitten, Stan." Miss Jackson smiled at me. I smiled back. Miss Jackson was quite nice I thought suddenly although I wasn’t happy about big Stan holding the kitten. I was sure he would kill it.
I needn’t have worried. Stan’s big hands held the kitten gently. "Ohhh," he laughed, Ohhhh. It’s sucking my finger. Ohhhh, it tickles."
For the rest of the day I was allowed to pick one child to help me feed the kitten at each sitting.
The week was wonderful. Every day the kitten grew a little bigger. By the end of the second week it was lapping from a saucer. When I went home that Friday Mum said I wouldn’t need to take the kitten to school next week.
I didn’t think the kids would bother with me if I didn’t have the kitten. I would go back to being lonely and friendless. But I needn’t have worried. "There are some children here to see you Suzie," Mum called. "They want to see the kitten too."
I dashed out to meet the kids. They oohed and aahed over the kitten. I thought everyone might go home after seeing the kitten but they stayed and played with me in the backyard. "What are you going to call the kitten, Suzie?" asked Stan. He was pushing me backwards and forwards on the swing.
"Lucky," I said and grinned at Stan. That kitten was LUCKY and so was I. We'd both found some friends.
© Beverley Dunlop
Read our interview with Beverley Dunlop.