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I. Mother of 11

Saralee and her brood of 11.


I’ve called this beautiful neighborhood home my entire life — more than two years now, although a proper lady never tells her age. And the truth is, no one knows for sure.

My mom left for parts unknown when I was very young. I went to live with a new friend who outfitted me with a fetching red collar and gave me free rein to come and go in and out of the window just as I pleased.

It was fun while it lasted. But a moment of ardor with an attentive tabby left me with eight kittens to tend — and me just a kitten myself.

No sooner had the kids left the nest than I was out the window again. A small partay with a cool gray long-haired tomcat and I soon found myself with nine little ones this time.

They all found good homes, most of them in the neighborhood. The friend who took me in promised again to take me to the vet to be spayed. But it never happened, and one night a black and white calico appeared as if out of nowhere. He seemed sweet, but he left without so much as a name — and me in the family way yet again.

Just about then, the friend I was living with moved in with his sister, who’s allergic to cats. Or so she claims.

There I was, hugely pregnant and about to be surrendered to the people at Animal Care and Control. And word on the street is that they’re not always that nice.

Just as I was shipping out, a neighborhood couple invited me to come live with them. Funny thing is, when I got to their house, who should be there looking all grown up so fast but two of my kids from the first litter. But they act like they don’t even know me at all and hiss at me when I just try to sip a little water out of the bowl they’re ignoring anyway. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.

On July 11 — 7/11, which seemed to have a lucky ring — my moment arrived and this time I delivered up 11 kittens, none of them small things, if you catch my drift. Nine of them lived, which is still a basketful.

My new friends talk about me when my head’s buried in the food bowl, as it frequently is now, and they think I can’t hear: “Eleven kittens! It has to be some kind of record. According to the Internet, cats usually have only four or five.”

They seem to dish out an endless supply of chow here, and they’ll scratch my neck almost as long as I want. But they’re stricter sorts. I’m absolutely not allowed outside, even to chase the stray fly. Not that I have much spare time, anyway. With a brood of nine little ones, it’s a constant cycle: eat-nurse-sleep, eat-nurse-sleep, eat-nurse-sleep.

My new friends have made it clear this is going to be my last litter. But I have to say, this might be my most beautiful brood yet: five gray and white, four black and white. One of them has a little pencil-thin mustache and looks exactly like Walter Cronkite, who left us just about the time they arrived. They’re two weeks old, and it’s hard to tell just yet who’s a boy and who’s a girl. But that one’s got to be named Walter, no matter what.

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Little Walter Cronkite