I had moved into a bland apartment with my first serious boyfriend. We were in college, which seemed easy, so we spent most of our attention on each other. We were fast to be serious with each other — six months in and talking about what we’d name our kids.
While doing the final sweep of his old apartment, a black cat wandered inside. She seemed to be investigating the layout, but when we beckoned “kitty, kitty” she confidently glided to us, slinked around our legs, and looked up with bright green eyes. With no hesitation, we named her Dinosaur and took her with us.
The vet told us that of course she’s pregnant, she’s a friendly cat; Friendly cats are always pregnant. He felt around in her abdoman and suggested at least two kittens would materialize in about 2 months. He gave us flea medicine and sent us home.
Two months later, we found her laying in our closet, the little miracles ready to emerge. Except they weren’t emerging completely. Just a few paws were poking out into the air. My brother happened to be around, and he instinctually knew to grab a cloth and gently help pull. Kitten number one arrived feet first, marble colored orange and black. Kitten number two came out on her own, head first, looking very similar to her sister. Kitten number three was black and white and male, also feet first. A few hours later, Dinosaur had cleaned everyone up, and fallen asleep while they had breakfast at her tummy.
The kittens stayed in the closet for their first week or two, stumbling and struggling to hold up their heavy heads. I came home one of those early days to find only two of the three kittens present in the closet, peeping emanating from somewhere in the house. After a few minutes of searching, I found the little one in the cabinet under the sink in the bathroom. Apparently Dinosaur had carried her there, opened the cabinet, put her in, and closed it. I had no other explanation. I plopped her back in the nest, and my 18-year-old self scolded Dinosaur for being a terrible mother. Later, it would turn out that this kitten had seizures and a strangely dead gaze. Dinosaur refused to lick her clean after that, so it was part of our evening chores.
Slowly, the kittens became mobile, adventuring out into the bedroom. The first kitten tended to maneuver sideways, like a crab. She was a goofball, spinning around with her mother’s confidence. We named her Banana. The strange one swatted at the air at what I don’t remember. I was finishing up a degree in music at the time, and named her Toscanina. Nina for short. The boy we named Tyrone, Ronie for short. We kept them all, and my brother took Dinosaur, bonded by the experience of assisting her in her struggle.
Ronie meows at me at I type these words, his purr bubbling the sound. He yawns widely, showing his old broken canine, and the pink tongue that has eat thousands of dry food pellets. He comfortably squints before leaping to my desk to stare out the window. His sisters, now overweight, sleep in puddles of their own skin against the walls of my office, quietly snoring on the in breaths.