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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #122

[Emily Blair rescues a “kitten” in a box from a boy at the park who intends to torment it, by buying it from him for $1.25. Emily names it William Shakespeare, but knows that she and her small nieces and  nephews probably won’t be allowed to keep their new pet. Sophie, a Belgian girl, is the family’s new live-in hired help.] “We’re home, kitten,” Ann said. Mrs. Blair met them in the hall. The children shouted with one voice, “We bought a kitten!” They talked all at once, telling her the story of the rescue. Mother set her jaw. “Now, children –” she began. “Wait, Aunt Elizabeth. Don’t you want to see him?” they interrupted. Emily opened the box. William Shakespeare was no kitten. He was a cat, a scruffy, boney, striped cat, who crouched in the bottom of the box and glared up at them. “He’s not a kitten,” Jean said. The cat stood up and stretched. “His back’s thin and so’s his tail, but his stomach isn’t,” Ann observed. “He’s not a ‘he’ at all,” Mother snorted. “And she looks as though she’s going to have kittens before long. I’ll call the Humane Society right now.” “Mother, look how her bones stick out!” Emily cried, playing for time. “Can’t we feed her first?” “Well ... she does look in need of a meal.” Elizabeth Blair weakened. “But the moment she’s through eating ...” Emily nodded. The cat allowed herself to be picked up. Everyone, Mrs. Blair included, went to the kitchen. And there, Sophie and Willie met. The moment the Belgian girl saw the scrawny cat huddled in Emily’s arms she burst into a torrent of delighted French. Mother struggled to translate. “I think ... maybe ... she had a cat like this at home,” she told the wide-eyed children. “Oh, dear, she thinks we’re going to keep her. Emily, don’t ...” Emily paid no attention to her mother. She took a step forward and placed William Shakespeare into Sophie’s outstretched arms. “We cannot have a cat on top of everything else,” Mrs. Blair tried to make them listen. “Let alone kittens. Oh, look!” The children were looking. And they knew – whatever Elizabeth Blair might be saying – Sophie and the cat had won the day. The girl’s face was radiant. She sank down on the floor and sat cross-legged, making a nest of her lap. The battered, angular cat curled close to her. Suddenly, incredibly, the cat began to purr. Her purr rumbled hoarsely as if she were not used to using it. But it was a decidedly happy sound.  Sophie raised her head, her blue eyes alight. “What is the name?” she asked Mrs. Blair. [....] “Sophie’s happy now, Mother,” Emily could not help saying. Her mother gave her a squelching look. “Thank you so much, Emily. I can see that. What is the creature’s name?” “William ... I mean ... Wilhelmina Shakespeare,” Emily laughed. Mother’s lips twitched. She relayed the information to Sophie. Sophie shrugged her French shrug and went on stroking the cat tenderly. “Willie, ma petite,” she murmured. Willie belonged. Jean Little, Look Through My Window (1970), pp. 83-85

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