Dr Bellen looked up from the papers he was studying at his desk.
There seemed to be a bit of a commotion outside his closed door. That was
unusual, because most of the fuss at the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium
occurred in the wards. With a knitted brow, he stood and walked to his door.
“What in the world is going on?” he questioned.
Three cats stood in the outer office. They looked as if they had
been arguing amongst themselves and with the doctor’s secretary, who had not
had time to call her boss on the intercom. The three cats froze when Dr Bellen
appeared. Sheets of paper seesawed through the air to the floor, having been
grasped none too certainly in little thumbless paws. The doctor picked one up.
“What is this?” he asked, frowning at the paper in his hand.
He glanced up. He was surprised at who the three cats before him
were. Two were residents of the sanitarium: Neville, a long-haired grey fellow,
middle-aged, who preferred to spend his days sleeping in his room, and Hector,
a new youngster, all black, but for the inevitable white patch on his chest.
The third cat was Dr Bellen’s principal assistant in the wards, Renn.
“Well?” The sanitarium’s director raised his eyebrows.
“It’s a spitoon…” answered Hector.
“A petition,” corrected Neville, eyeing Hector sidelong.
“A petition! Concerning what?”
“Awl the noo rodents,” Hector said, his head high.
“Residents,” said Neville, with a sigh.
“Aren’t you a new resident, Hector?” Dr Bellen inquired.
“Nooer rodents, I mean…” mumbled Hector, lowering his head.
“We are here as representatives of the signatories of that
petition, Doctor,” said Neville, after clearing his throat of an incipient
hairball. “We are worried about the number and quality of the new cats being
taken in by the sanitarium.”
“I see.” Dr Bellen looked at the papers in his hand but then
turned to regard Renn. “Are you a signatory of this petition, too, Renn? I’d
regret seeing an employee of the sanitarium attaching his pawprint to a
document that would be biased toward some of the residents under his care.”
“Oh, no, not me, Doctor, no, not me,” Renn assured the human. “But
there are some who a cat might have a complaint against…” He eyed Hector.
“Abuse of staff, and all…”
Before Hector could say anything in response - his mouth was
opening - Neville spoke again.
“There are some among the recent residents whom we feel might let
the reputation of the sanitarium down, Doctor.”
“Yes. Auric, for wun,” said Hector in shrill indignation.
“What’s wrong with Auric?” Dr Bellen wanted to know.
“Heez too yung,” Hector asserted.
“You’re only a few months older than he,” reminded the human.
“There is the very old lady, Doctor,” said Neville, with gravity.
“While we must be kind to seniors, her condition has led to certain unsanitary
“Auric iz a child…” stated Hector quietly.
“Neville, I’m surprised at you. How many times have you had to
have your fur combed and cleared of mats, some very near your—“
“Well, yes, Doctor,” Neville blurted hastily, “but never such as
this Madame Minuet has left behind. She makes one think of a barn-cat.”
“Auric iz a baybee…” Hector added, mutteringly.
“Madame Minuet is suffering from a great deal of stress. The
change of address has been very hard on her. It often is much harder on old
cats than on the young. It would be kind of you to comprehend that.”
“Auric iz a embrio...”
“All right, now,” said the doctor sternly. “I understand your
anxieties. What is tough for one resident can sometimes affect everyone. What
you forget is that the Cosy Apartment Sanitarium is the last refuge for many
cats who have nowhere else to go. Neville, you came here because your diabetes
could not be managed, and no one was volunteering to manage it. Do you
Neville nodded slowly.
“I should tell you that you were not universally welcomed when you
“What? Me?” Neville was startled.
“And you, Hector,” the doctor stood in front of the little black
cat, arms akimbo; “do you recall how long you were homeless, because there was
nowhere for you to go? Have you seen the weather outside? How cosy do you think
it would be to be out in that?”
“Nawt cozee...” Hector hung his head.
“This sanitarium doesn’t accept cats because they are easy to live
with or clean up after,” Dr Bellen stated, adding under his breath, “though
goodness knows we’d like to…” Louder, he continued: “We take in those whom we
can best help, when we can; those no one else wants to help. The Cosy
Apartment isn’t the only place like this. There are thousands, all over the
world, filled with millions of cats, just like you two, and you, as well, Renn.
That’s what rescue is.”
Dr Bellen paused, and then said, in a gentler tone, “So when Auric
chases you Hector, understand that he is still learning inside manners. He
will; it just takes time. You had to learn some, too.”
“Some he’s still learning,” remarked Neville, again staring at
“And Neville, you have plenty of time for snoozing on your
cat-trees, even if you are chased now and then. Your life isn’t very
hard, is it?”
“No, Doctor,” confessed the grey cat.
“All right, then. Let’s go back to your rooms. It’s almost time to
wake everyone for their afternoon nap. Renn, you’ll see to that?”
“Yes, Doctor!” Renn replied, cheerfully.
“Auric is calming down more every day. You and he may yet be
friends, Hector… Did you just roll your eyes?… And Neville, Madame Minuet is
cleaning herself quite well, considering her age, and we’ll assist her when she
can’t. All right?”
“Yes, Doctor,” said Neville.
“Yes, dawktir,” said Hector.
As the two complainants turned to leave, Dr Bellen smiled, and
glanced at the petition he still held. He frowned again.
“Wait a minute. All of these pawprints look like the same two sets
repeated about a hundred times…” He looked up but saw only his secretary,
filing some bills. He smiled once more. “Put this with the records, would you,