They have two cats (I know what you’re
thinking, but they don’t cause the eczema
they didn’t come up on the scratch test
although you’d think they would, being
cats). Two parents, two kids, two cats
you can’t get much more nuclear than
that. The cats are dysfunctional. They
had a bad start to life and were rescued
when kittens by a woman who believes
in the goodness of cats, rehabilitates
cats. She never gives up on them.
They call her Ma. But realistically
if you want an easy life with a cat
choose one from a good home. Sticky
is a nervy cat, won’t settle, dribbles.
Dusty is sneaky and into the butter
in a trice. No matter how the mother tries
she just can’t love them. But the children
do. The children carry them tenderly
in from the rain. They’re breaking the
cycle. Dusty and Sticky had kittens –
eight but one died (like her parents).
They gave them away to
good homes. She has conversations
in the supermarket with the new owners.
One kitten had a hole in the heart.
They could pay $300 for an operation or
watch it die. They’re watching it die.
Another was a tom who had kittens
after his first night on the town. Aue!
Anne Kennedy has published a novella and two novels. A book of poetry, Sing-song is due from Auckland University Press in May. Her short fictions have featured widely in New Zealand journals and anthologies. She has been awarded the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, the ICI Award and a Literary Fellowship at the University of Auckland. Anne Kennedy works as a scriptwriter – most recently adapting Monkey’s Mask for cinema – and as a reviewer. She lives in Auckland with her partner, Robert Sullivan, and their two children.
Kennedy comments: ‘Cat Tales is from a book-length sequence, Sing-song. The sequence tells the story of the onslaught of severe eczema in a child, triggered by a homeopathic treatment. I started out to write the story as an essay or article, which I hoped to sell to a magazine, as a warning to the general public about the pitfalls of alternative medicine. I felt I had a duty to do this. I soon realised I had more to say on the subject of children and families and illness and love than they would stomach in The Woman’s Weekly, or North and South magazine. I wanted to say these things in a way that transcended or became more than the real events – i.e., became a kind of poetry. But I never lost the feeling of my mission to let people know.’