That was twelve-year-old Julian Horowitz’s first thought when he spotted the kitten in the white-blanketed woods when he was walking home from school.
The kitten was vividly orange and bright white colored, reminding Julian of a Creamsicle ice cream bar. It (Julian didn’t know whether the kitten was male or female) was partially covered by a sheet of snow, and the kitten wasn’t moving, making Julian almost positive the kitten was dead.
Julian slowly reached out his hand to the kitten’s fur. What he felt allayed him. The kitten was still breathing, although taking very shallow breaths.
He peered closely at the kitten as he rhythmically petted its fur. He noticed that the kitten was female. She was definitely unconscious.
“Don’t worry, kitty, you’ll be fine,” murmured Julian. He paused, trying to think of a name for the woebegone creature. “Yeah, don’t worry, Creamsicle, I’ll take care of you.”
Julian scooped Creamsicle up and into his coat. Suddenly, Creamsicle shuddered, seeming to regain consciousness for a moment and causing Julian to nearly drop her in surprise. Fortunately, he didn’t, and he tucked Creamsicle tighter into his coat. He shivered himself. It was freezing outside. Even though he was layered in a T-shirt, a long-sleeved turtleneck, two thick sweaters, and a big, heavy winter coat, Julian could still feel the cold. He wondered how Creamsicle felt, with only a velvety covering of fur protecting her from the winter chill.
Julian and Creamsicle walked this way for about half an hour, or rather, Julian walked with Creamsicle inside his coat, until they reached Julian’s doorstep. Mrs. Horowitz, who had seen her son hunched over something while ambling slowly up the path to the house, threw open the door immediately. When she saw what Julian was holding, her face transformed to the color of milk.
“Julian Horowitz, you drop that . . . that thing this instant!” she shrieked. “That thing is sick with something awful, just look at it closely!”
It was true. Creamsicle was now shivering and throwing herself about violently. All of a sudden, the shivering stopped, and Creamsicle fell limply into Julian’s arms. Relief flowed over him as he, once again, noticed that the kitten was still breathing. He thought she regained consciousness for a second. Julian’s mother had obviously detected hints of emotion from her son, for she again began to speak.
“Julian, don’t you dare get attached to that kitten,” she said, leaning over to have a look at Creamsicle before continuing. “She’s going to die soon, don’t pretend that you don’t know it, and the last thing I need is you weeping and moping because some stupid kitten that you befriended is dead.”
“You’re wrong,” Julian whispered hoarsely. “She’s not going to die, She’s Not Going To Die, SHE’S NOT GOING TO DIE!” He, too, was shrieking, and he added, “Take her to the veterinarian, you’ll see that you’re wrong.”
“Oh lord, Julian, how could you? You couldn’t have known this cat for more than an hour, and you are already purely in love with her!” Mrs. Horowitz began to mutter something about pet lovers in the family. “You know what, since you will not believe me, I will take this kitten, now, to the vet for you. If I can’t, maybe the vet can convince you that this animal will die.”
Turning deaf ears to his mom, Julian carried Creamsicle into the family’s eight-year-old Toyota. Mrs. Horowitz followed him.
Julian had never before been to the local veterinarian’s office because his family had never owned a pet. His mom seemed to hate all animals, his dad, though an animal lover like Julian, had never suggested the family get a pet, and Julian’s seventeen-year-old brother Justin didn’t care one way or the other. So it was a shock for Julian to see his mother zoom across town as if she knew the way to the local veterinarian’s office perfectly, as though she had been to the vet hundreds of times. He wondered when his mom had been to the vet, and why.
Now that he wasn’t talking to his mom, Julian began to speak softly to the unconscious Creamsicle.
Creamsicle looked terrible. She had taken on a glazed expression and looked almost frozen. Her breath was coming out in shallow gasps. Her body was not functioning properly. Julian, after looking at her, bit his lip and closed his eyes.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Horowitz pulled to a stop next to the vet’s office. She, for some reason, looked worse than Julian felt. She was pale and looked like she was going to begin to cry.
The receptionist led Julian, Mrs. Horowitz, and Creamsicle into the vet’s office ahead of the other people waiting.
“Hello, Mrs. Horowitz,” said the veterinarian, whose name was Dr. Jakes. “I haven’t seen you in about fifteen years. How are Tiger and Buster?” Who the heck are Tiger and Buster? thought Julian questioningly, and how does this guy know who my mom is?
“So, what brings you here today?” asked Dr. Jakes. “I found this kitten; she’s sick,” answered Julian shyly.
Dr. Jakes picked up Creamsicle gingerly and looked at her carefully. After only a few minutes of poking and prodding, Dr. Jakes announced, “This kitten has hypothermia.”
Julian didn’t hear a reaction from his mother, so he didn’t know if hypothermia was some terrible disease or not. So he asked, “What kind of disease is hypothermia?”
“Well,” Dr. Jakes began to explain, “hypothermia isn’t really a disease. It’s what can happen to a warm-blooded animal if he or she is left out in freezing temperatures for too long without protection.” As he was saying this, Dr. Jakes placed Creamsicle in a blanket he had gotten from a cabinet, and put the kitten and the blanket down next to a radiator in the corner of the room, then spoke again.
“Hypothermia can make your body stop functioning the way it should, which is why this kitty looks frozen.”
“My mom says Creamsicle won’t live. Will she? Can I take her home today?”
“No, she won’t die, but you cannot take her home today. She should not be moved. She has to stay in a warm spot until she has recovered completely. Oh, and no charge for this appointment. I don’t like to charge people kind enough to foster strays.”
Once Dr. Jakes had finished his sentence, Mrs. Horowitz pulled her son out of the office and into the car. Once in the car, she began to cry.
Before Julian could ask, “Mom, what’s wrong?” Mrs. Horowitz spoke between sobs.
“Julian, we are not keeping that kitten.” With that sentence, Julian realized that, for some reason, keeping Creamside was an immediate “no” to his mom.
“Mom,” asked Julian, trying to keep his anger out of his voice, “Why don’t you want Creamsicle?”
“Because . . . because . . .” suddenly her sentence broke off, and she didn’t speak again for a few minutes. When she did, her voice was filled with agony. “Julian, did you know I once had pets? Lots of them?” As Julian shook his head, she continued. “I’ve had Buster, Tiger, Tabby, Shadow, Prancer, Andrew, Samantha, and White Paw. Buster, Shadow, Andrew and Samantha were dogs, and the others, cats. I loved them all tremendously, and none of them lived past seven. I haven’t been attached to an animal for thirteen years, since Buster died. Bu- . . .”
“But Mom,” protested Julian, interrupting, “it won’t be that way with Creamsicle.”
“Let me finish, Julian. But my experience with each animal was wonderful. And . . . and I don’t want you to be deprived of that.” Mrs. Horowitz heaved a sigh and sniffled. “Sooo, I’m going to let you keep that kitten.” She smiled wistfully. “I hope she lives for a really long time.”