A brilliant summer’s morning and David, an introspective, but ever curious, thirteen-year-old child, is walking alone as he often does in the countryside near his home. His preference for his own company sometimes worries his parents as does his remarkable capacity to accept and tolerate pain. Though small for his age he is at school seldom picked on due to his ferocious persistence in a fight despite injury. He is, however, a clever if distant child, and, overall, his parents are content enough with their sole offspring.
David often concludes his excursions in a nearby farmyard, sometimes being given a bite to eat, a scone or a small slice of newly baked cake, by the farmer’s wife who has had her nurturing instincts energised by this strange, solitary, uncommunicative little boy.
Today David is immediately transfixed by the scene. The farmer, perched precariously on a small stool, is drowning kittens in a bucket of water. David quickly, eagerly, begins to anticipate the steps in the procedure: the farmer’s hand searching in a sack, a kitten withdrawn, its head protruding from the farmer’s brown fist, in and out of the bucket the kitten goes, now alive, a pause, now dead; and all the time the mother cat is circling around sometimes pawing frantically at the sack before being brushed away.
The last kitten is out of the sack and is held up with its yellow and white face pointing towards David. The farmer smiles, ‘Do you want it?’
Nice kitten, David thinks, but in the moment of his decision he is engulfed by an exhilarating tidal pulse flooding his body. Life or death. Death, he is immediately certain, will provide the far greater joy.He shakes his head, then mouth slightly open and holding his breath he watches the kitten vanish into the bucket, to emerge moments later, transformed, as it feels to him by his will, into a small limp, sodden patch of fur. As David turns to leave, he sees the mother cat hovering, sniffing at her unwanted contributions to life now lying side by side on the wet cobblestones.
The pulse begins to fade, but David knows he has experienced something new and vividly exciting in his life; and as he heads for home, he repeatedly re-lives and cherishes the instant of his choice.
Tims is a huge, neutered, overfed tom cat much loved by his owner, the next-door neighbour Alice, a frail, single lady well advanced in years. Seeing David back in the adjacent garden, Tims jumps from its vantage point on the garden hut and, tail held high, ambles towards him expecting the fondling and chin tickling that it likes so much. David gently strokes the Tims’ broad head and the cat’s purring quickly deepens to a loud, contented rumble.
Alice, seated by the living room window, looks across the low garden fence at the scene and smiles. “Such a nice boy,” she murmurs. David, who seldom smiles, is also smiling as he briefly tightens his grip at the back of Tims’ head.
“This will take planning,” he thinks.
This story previously appeared in “Dreaming in Fiction” (2020).
A sequel to this story, “Nice David”, follows tomorrow, October 4 at 10:00 US central time (4:00 p.m. in Scotland).
Author is an old chap living in St Andrews, Scotland. Like to explore themes of ‘limits and longings’.
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