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An Experiment in Love

2006-07-23 17:31

  The dog discovered them——four newborn kittens abandoned in tall grass beside the road. When I returned from my walk carrying the tiny creatures in the palm of my hand, my partner, Mike, said firmly, " No more animals." Mike had already been saddled1 with my dog and three cats, and he wasn't used to a houseful of pets.

  " I won't keep them," I promised." Just till they're old enough to be on their own." Mike looked dubious. " Word of honor," I assured him, never dreaming how much I'd come to regret the easily uttered words.

  I made a warm nest for the babies by ripping up2 an old blue blanket and lining a wicker3 basket with it. Then I set out for the general store in the village to get advice about feeding them. " You can't raise kittens that young," the storekeeper told me. But he sold me a set of toy nursing bottles and I went home to try. I warmed milk, and after we all got the hang of4 it, the infants drank avidly5.

  Two hours later they woke and set up an insistent6 chorus of soft little screams to be fed again. And every two hours after that. Four times in the night, I crawled out of bed to warm their milk, and in the morning I congratulated myself that they were looking just a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger.

  Mike, reporting on their progress to his co-workers, came home one evening with word that his secretary had offered to adopt Peaches, my favorite because of her lovely soft coloring. Now that she soon would be leaving, I found myself picking up Peaches less often. Idly I wondered if no longer being treated as special would affect her personality. Then the thought turned itself around. Suppose I were to give one of the other kittens extra amounts of mothering? Suppose I held and cuddled and talked to him more? Would he grow up to be any different than his siblings? I thought it might be an interesting experiment.

  I continued to love all the kittens, but I chose the most unpromising of the kittens as my subject. This was the little black one Mike had named Bat Cat because he was so homely, with his dull fur, squashed porcine7 face and little folded flaps of skin for ears. The runt8 of the litter, Bat Cat was always on the bottom of the kitten heap9, the last to be picked up, the last to be fed, and so the one who got the least attention. I gave the tiny creature a new name——Boston——and I repeated it over and over while I held him for his bottle. He would drink until, blissfully full, he fell asleep. Then I tucked him into my sweater so that he slept against my beating heart while I worked at my desk. When he woke, I snuffled10 his small body with my warm breath and talked to him before putting him back in the basket to play with his siblings.

  The effect on the kitten was immediate11. His newly opened eyes, vague and unfocused like his siblings, became alert, and he studied my face with interest. Quickly he learned his name and, when I spoke it, he clambered over the folds of the blue blanket as fast as his unsteady little legs could carry him to come to me. Now when he was in the sleeping heap of kittens, he no longer passively accepted the bottom spot; sweetly but determinedly he wriggled12 out from under and nested himself on top. Was it that, sensing himself valued, Boston began to value himself?

  He was the first of the kittens to discover he could purr, the first to make endearingly clumsy13 attempts to wash himself, the first to undertake the adventure of climbing out of the wicker basket. When the others, exhausted from their tumbling14 play, fell asleep, he would climb over the side of the basket and search for me.

  It is said that when a child is born into this world, the first years of his life are taken up15 with finding an swers to the most basic of questions: Is it a good and benign16 world? Can the people in it be trusted? Am I loved? If a little kitten can also be curious about such things, then the special love given Boston answered all those questions with a resounding " Yes!"

  Even Boston's looks changed. His fur, once rusty and rough, grew sleek17 and shiny. At first, the luster18 was just on his head, but gradually the glossiness19 moved down his entire body until little Boston gleamed from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. Though never beautiful, he became so alert and merry, so trusting and affectionate, that the mere sight of him was a delight.

  He was in his usual spot one evening when Mike walked in and heard us " talking" .

  " You're going to miss him when he goes," Mike said.

  I wheeled from the sink." Oh, Mike……"

  Mike looked steadily back. I saw from his expression that this was a test between us. Would I keep my word to him or did I value a little black kitten more than his wishes? During our relationship, Mike and I had had our troubles learning to trust. I couldn't jeopardize20 the confidence I had struggled to gain.

  " Yes," I said as evenly as I could. " Yes, I'm going to miss him."

  Soon all but Boston went to new homes. When Mike came home with word of a church fair that was requesting kittens be donated for sale at a pet table, it was obvious that these were to be my last days with Boston. Now when I cradled him in my arms, it was often tears on my cheeks that he patted." Oh, little Boss, it's going to be so empty without you," I would tell him and his eyes would narrow with the effort to understand my distress.

  I was in the kitchen getting dinner that night when Mike came home. Boston went to the door to greet him but I couldn't; I was fighting too hard not to cry. It was a long time before Mike joined me. When he did, he was carrying Boston, who had a big red ribbon tied around his neck. Silently Mike held out an envelope. Inside was a Christmas card and written on it was: " It's only November, but let's give ourselves a Christmas present."

  I reached out to hug Mike through my tears.

  " If you can be big21 enough to let him go," he said, " I can be big enough to let him stay."

  我的狗发现了它们——4只被遗弃在路边茂密草丛中的新生小猫。我捧着这几个小生灵散步回来时,我的丈夫迈克坚决地说:"不能再养动物了。"迈克已经容忍了我的狗和3只猫,而他是不习惯满屋子宠物的。

  "我不会久留它们的,"我发誓说。"就留它们到能自己生存为止。"迈克半信半疑。"我用名誉担保,"我向他保证,想也没想我将怎样后悔这轻易说出的话。

  我把一条旧的蓝色毯子撕碎衬在一个柳条筐里,给这些小猫崽做了一个温暖的窝。然后我起身到村里的商店询问怎样喂养它们。"你养不了这么小的猫崽儿," 店主对我说。但他还是卖了我一套玩具奶瓶,然后我回家去试着喂。我热了牛奶,等我们都掌握了使用奶瓶的窍门后,猫崽们就贪婪地喝了起来。

  两个小时以后它们醒了,开始不断地你一声我一声地轻轻叫着要吃奶。就这样每两个小时喂一次。那天夜里,我四次从床上爬起来给它们热奶。早晨起来我恭喜自己,因为它们看上去强壮了一点,长大了一点。

  迈克也把它们的成长情况告诉了他的同事。一天傍晚,他回到家告诉我说,他的秘书提出要领养"桃桃".桃桃的毛色柔和可爱,我最喜欢它。现在桃桃就要走了,我发觉我不像以往那样经常抱它了。我无端地空想,如果它不再受到特别的宠爱,它的个性会不会受到影响呢?接着我又反过来想:假设我给其余几只小猫中的一只更多的母爱,假设我更多地抚爱它,和它说话,它长大了会不会与它的兄弟姐妹有什么不同呢?我想这或许是个有趣的试验。

  我继续爱着所有的小猫,但是我选择了其中一只最不起眼的做我的试验对象。它是一只小黑猫,迈克叫它蝙蝠猫,因为它是那么其貌不扬,毛色暗淡,长着一张扁扁的小猪脸,耳朵皱皱巴巴地耷拉着。黑蝙蝠是这窝小猫中最瘦小的一个,老是被别的小猫挤在最下边,最后一个被抱起来,最后一个吃奶,因此也是最不起眼的一个。我给这个小家伙起了个新名:波士顿。给它喂奶的时候我一遍又一遍地喊它的名字。它会喝啊喝直到心满意足地吃饱了美美地睡去。然后我就把它塞进我的毛衣,这样我在桌前工作时它就能听见我的心跳。它醒来的时侯,我先用温暖的鼻息嗅嗅它那小小的身体,跟它说几句话,然后再把它放回到篮子里与它的兄弟姐妹们一起玩。

  试验很快产生了效果。它那刚刚睁开的眼睛,曾经和它兄弟姐妹们的一样混沌、茫然,现在变得机敏了,它还饶有兴趣地观察我的脸。很快它就学会了听自己的名字。我一叫它,它就以最快的速度摇摇晃晃地从毯子的褶皱里朝我爬过来。现在,当它和别的小猫一起睡觉的时候,它再也不消极接受最底下的铺位了。它会轻快地却又坚定地从底下扭动着爬到上边,给自己找个好窝。这说明了什么?是不是波士顿觉得它受到了重视,也开始认识到自己的价值?

  在这群小猫崽中,波士顿第一个学会呼噜呼噜地叫;第一个又笨又可爱地试图梳洗自己;第一个冒着危险从柳条筐里爬出来。当别的小猫一起打滚玩闹后筋疲力尽地睡着了,它却会沿着篮子边爬出来找我。

  据说小孩出生以后,在他生命最初的几年里他会探知一些最基本的问题:这是不是一个亲善的世界?这世界里的人能不能信任?人们爱不爱我?如果连一只小猫也会有同样疑问的话,那么波士顿所受到的宠爱足以给这些问题以肯定的回答。

  就连波士顿的外貌也出现了变化。它原来粗糙发锈的毛发变得滑顺而有光泽。起先,只有头顶上有光泽,逐渐地,光滑的毛遍布全身,直到小波士顿从鼻尖到尾巴尖都光彩照人。尽管它说不上漂亮,但它变得那么机灵、欢快,那么忠实、热情,只要你看它一眼,就能给你带来喜悦。

  一天晚上,波士顿正呆在它的"老地方"和我"谈话",迈克走了进来。

  "它走了你会想它的,"迈克说。

  我从水池边转过身,说:"噢,迈克……"

  迈克直视着我。我从他的表情上看得出这是我们之间的考验。我是对他守信用呢,还是把一只小黑猫看得比他的意愿还重?自从我们相识以来,迈克和我经历了一番挫折才学会互相信任。我不能再毁掉我已争取到的信任。

  "是的,"我尽量保持平静地说。"我会想念它的。"

  很快,除了波士顿,其他的小猫都被送到新家去了。一天,迈克回家来说教会组织的义卖要在宠物柜台开展一个小猫义卖活动,显然波士顿和我在一起的日子不多了。现在,当我把它抱在怀里,被它轻轻拍打的往往是我满是泪水的双颊。我会对它说:"噢,亲爱的波士,没有你会是多么寂寞。"它则会眯起眼睛努力读懂我的伤感。

  那天晚上迈克回家时,我正在厨房准备晚饭。波士顿到门口迎接他,但我做不到。我正强忍着不要哭出来。过了很长时间迈克才走进厨房。他过来时,抱着波士顿,波士顿脖子上系着条红色的丝带。迈克什么也没说,掏出一个信封。信封里是一张圣诞卡,上面写着:"尽管现在才11月,但让咱们给自己一份圣诞礼物吧。 "

  我泪眼朦胧地伸出双臂拥抱了迈克。

  他说:"既然你有让它走的宽大胸怀,我也可以宽容地让它留下来。"

  注释:

  1.saddle vt.使承担任务(或责任)

  2.rip up把…撕成碎片

  3.wicker adj.柳条编的

  4.get the hang of[口]掌握…的窍门

  5.avidly adv.渴望地,急切地

  6.insistent adj.急切的,紧急的

  7.porcine adj.像猪的,肥猪似的

  8.runt n.(比一般)矮小的动物,(一胎中)最小的仔畜

  9.heap n.(一)堆

  10.snuffle vt.出声地呼吸,嗅

  11.immediate adj.直接的

  12.wriggle vi.扭动,蠕动

  13.clumsy adj.笨拙的,手脚不灵活的

  14.tumbling n.翻跟头,翻滚

  15.takeup占去(注意力等)

  16.benign adj.善良的,宽厚的

  17.sleek adj.油光的,油亮的

  18.luster n.光泽

  19.glossiness n.光泽

  20.jeopardize vt.危及,损害

  21.big adj.[口]宽宏的,大度的

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