It was five days gone when Klaus first opened his eyes, and the big beige blur of the coat closet resolved itself into an array of smelly leather shoes and a cobwebbed sack of golf clubs. Oh, thought Klaus, so this is what I’ve been missing while I’ve been rolling around in my own head. How delightful.

Klaus, like most cats, developed sarcasm first among his nine senses. Unable to walk, or stand, he had to let the course of his rough bath resolve itself at the tip of his mother’s tongue, his fragile head jarred to and fro under her abstergent ministrations. “Mother,” he tried to mewl, “I am less than a week old, how filthy can I be!”

“Silence, foul womb destroyer!” came his mother’s hissing voice. (It did no good to feign deafness; that voice could crack a thunderhead.) Such was her venom, Klaus failed to rally a proper feline retort, and instead succumbed to the squeaky guilt such matronly barbs are meant to reduce mouthy kittens to. After several weeks of this, Klaus’ instinctual flair for snappy barbs of his own would be fortified, thus preparing him for the life of the cat he would become.

“Are you grumbling, blind nipple shanker?” his mother roared.

By the time Klaus mustered the energy to protest, he was fast asleep, for the sixth time in the brief hour he could see. As it was his only frame of reference, he dreamed of the closet, smelly leather shoes, and whatever golf clubs might be.

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