… starts with one step. In my case, it started with one crawl into the sewer, three months ago, on a rainy day like today.
It was supposed to be a quick hop to buy a pack of instant noodle for my dinner, really. It’s less than a mile. The road there is uphill, but it shouldn’t last more than half an hour the longest, even though I walk very slowly because the view down town is enchanting at twilight like that (when it’s not raining). It’s just that midway there, I heard a muffled meow of kitten, as if it comes from somewhere inside the earth.
But there is nothing below my feet. It’s concrete, and below that, a sewer line that opens up to a gutter a few steps behind me. In Indonesia, and especially in Bandung, sewer lines, small rivers, big rivers, and the ocean, equals landfill. People throw everything down there, from making certain pipe skipping septic tank to baby diaper, and all sort of their ex household tools (actually I just try to make the word “trash” more classy)
I stood there, stoned. The rain starts to pour and it hindered my ear, but I can still hear it, muffled, fainter, but unwavering.
Taking a deep breath, the thought of finding a kitten inside that sewer start creeping near. It’s not impossible. It’s all very common to have stray kitty babies inside drain pipes and flushed away with the rain to meet their unseen fate somewhere in the current down to the sea.
Honestly, I hate going in the sewer, much less crawling to a place no one suppose to visit (unless really necessary); but that voice is still there, calling, calling calling.
And the next time I look down, I am already inside the open gutter. It’s deep right through my chest. I am 5’7″, just for a vivid imagination.
I stepped on a filled baby diaper. It won’t be different the next step because it’s dirt, with wild grass grown on top of it. Soon, when the rain pour fully, it’s going to be muddy, and my feet will stick in there if I am not hurry. So I scrambled into my pocket and start crawling inside, with a small flash light I always keep inside my pocket (after having to rescue Seven) tightly secured in my mouth.
There is no need to cringe. I know Lassie looks better that way, Air Bud even better. Not sure about Babe though.
Thank God it didn’t take long to spot the caller (should I say meower?); a tiny calico tabby lying on her back in a raising puddle and it doesn’t look happier to meet me in the eye.
I extend one of my hand to reach out to her, but she backed away, on her back. Now, why would a kitten lying and crawling on her back instead of on foot? I don’t know, and I don’t care, for that moment. I am not happy looking like a bozo in the sewer and I am sure that kitten didn’t either. No one will see the awkwardness, so I shouldn’t be worry, but I am still sure my ancestors are primates, not worms.
So I grab her. She can’t crawl fast enough using her back, but perhaps she thinks herself as a snake, because she bit me very hard, and didn’t let go until I put her on top of the roadside, as I struggled to climb back up. There’s no ladder there and I am not a Kung Fu master.
Forget about instant noodle. In fact, forget about dinner. I went home directly, all the mud and dirt covered up by the pouring rain, so no one’s suspecting that I just visit wonderland.
I found out as I bathe her, that all four of her legs were severely cut, one of them has her bone exposed. From the way the cuts were formed, I can guess that she slip into some car’s bottom and got some complications while in there, and either thrown out or throw herself out and landed in the gutter. Unfortunate choice, with a fortunate result.
Both of us made some vet busy stitching the next day, I spend half day waiting right beside her thinking about what would I do next. She won’t be able to walk for a while, and I have plenty of sick kitties. It’s bad enough for her to get into the Syndicate at the time like this because Chlamydia is contagious, but I can’t put her back into that sewer and hope for a miracle. Volunteers? Fosters? Only in my Indonesian dream.
She ended up staying inside my room. It’s not the fanciest place, but it’s a lot better than a gutter, and less chance to get infected by a deadly bacteria. I change my clothing and wash my hand whenever I tend to her wounds and hope that I do it good enough to prevent her from being sick until the other kittens are better.
Thankfully I did well, at first. The second week she slips out of the door every time I opened it and mingle with the other. Perhaps the four “boots” give her confidence, because she acted like nothing happened, except for tumbling all over every few minutes. A fact that she didn’t seem to care, looking at her face.
The next week, she is better. She has a healthy appetite and she swallow her medicine, though with a very ugly face. I wish someone was there with me to take her look when all those bitter potions went through her throat. Regardless, she brushed it off and jumped back and try to walk and play with the other kitten.
Here I am worrying about how her life would be and how cruel the world has been to her, and she just look forward, and go on with life.
Perhaps because she is just a kitten, and kids don’t think very much, but I am happy that she stay positive none the less. It made my job easier.
At the fourteenth day we go back to the vet and made her busy again, undoing all those tiny stitches. Again my new friend just give the heck of what happened and poke everything she saw on the table. I paid back for her by helping the vet cleaning the floor when she swipe on a bottle of antibiotic that crashed into pieces.
At least the vet just grin and said that a busy kitten like mine has bright future. Yeah? what about mine?
Her facial expression changed when she tried walking without her boots. I am sure it still hurt when she walk because all of her hair raise up and she crouched when she walk, but she asked for it.
See those powerful eyes?
She walks that way for the next four weeks. I noticed that with time, her hair is less punk-ish. She walked better. The front right leg and the back right legs were in worse condition than the other. She walks trying to shift her weight from one side to the other and leaned onto the wall or other things when the pain seems to sting her brain. Plus, she was grumpy at anyone who passed over her, and especially those who bumped her along the way. She is notorious among the Syndicate for her coarse yelling, and other kittens learned to stay as far away as they can whenever the bumping accident happened.
I sense her magnificent progress by the decreasing difficulties that I face every time I tend her. She hasn’t trust me fully yet, but I can lift her up with less incident (such as biting) and she stays put when I give ointment onto her wounds. She has healthy appetite and heals relatively fast.
On the course of the next month, she learns to walk steadily, then she start to skip, and hop, and after that, run. A lot of kittens in the same age helped keep her mind away from her condition and keep her focused to her re-expanding world. Slowly but sure, she took that journey back into becoming a healthy kitten, her youth helped her leaving no mark of stitches, or handicap after her unlucky days on the street.
This little new comer won’t let anything dominate her. She knows that her ancestor is Goddess Bastet, so she knows what she is doing. She bite others if they poke on her, she hissed if the other kitties bumped her as they play, and she tried to stay as far away as possible from the healthier, more active kittens though it doesn’t help because the other still rammed onto her though playfully. As she heal she is more accepting to the playful attacks, and even broke into chase play if one kitten start the game.
Then she decided to go on a conquest to the top of the world, starting by climbing onto my lap when I clean the floor, then up hill through my back onto the top of my head. After that, the kitchen top, then onto the higher sink. When she’s bored with the sink she climb the table next to it, and continue to beat the peak of mountain refrigerator.
One day I saw her steadily climb the window in the living room to the top row, well beyond a meter off the floor.
That spot is her favourite place to hang out and live her dream as Miss Universe of The Whiskers’ Syndicate.
A few weeks later she is steady enough to start jumping on the window sill. She still yells, and be bossy, especially when I am late rationing food, she is the most unfriendly kitten I know, but when no one is looking, she shows her feminine side and rub on me all over (for extra treat, actually, but she thinks I don’t know that).
I know it by then that she meant to stay and I want to watch her grow to her utmost extent. She went through a lot already for a cat her age, but she reminded me of an old Chinese proverb that a man is not made by where he is, a man was made by his journey getting there. Mi bella Princesa, the way I address her every time she is being bossy, had fallen pretty deep, but she pick her little self up, dust all over and go back walking. I don’t see a lot of the more “superior” (as they claim it) human can do that.
So, Bella is her name, until I posted on “Royal Engagement” and my friend Kim came up with a story about a wonderful cat named “Sparky Terror” who share the same sparkling personality, and has been a great company for Kim through thick and thin. Kim would like to name one of Estebel’s kitten in his honour. So I tried calling her Sparky, and she jumps right over.
The name fit. Just like her undying spark of life that never died. It’s only a spark. It’s not hot, but burning, it’s slow, but constantly heating, and though take a long time, that spark highlights a life lesson that we both will never forget.
Three month later, last night, however, I no longer have that kitten.
I ended up with a koala.
A little note:
Please forgive me for the blurry pictures all over. I was using a very old camera since my pad’s camera were worse before it finally died with the phone XP.