The straw was new, it was uncomfortable and too scratchy. Knowing that he might have a long wait ahead of him, and already feeling the cold night air, the young boy, crept back into the house, and by the light of his torch, took Jimmy's old army greatcoat from its peg behind the scullery door. He was being very careful not to make a sound.
In the silence, with the heavy coat across his shoulder, disturbed only by the rasp of Jimmy's snoring and the wind in the eaves, he carefully poured some milk into an enamel mug, and left the house as quietly as he had entered.
Mummy Cat, was in the barn, up on the straw bales. There were now three kittens. She was licking the latest born, clean, but stopped briefly when the boy arrived, looking at him in alarm for a second, before resuming her task, purring with loud contentment.
He was woken abruptly by Scampy the little sheep dog, licking his face, and whimpering excitedly. The boy saw that there were now six little black and white kittens. They were clean and dry, wriggling and suckling strongly. Mummy Cat lapped at the proffered milk this time. He thought that she had finished giving birth now.
The boy scooped the newborns up. Holding them firmly but gently against his chest, he climbed down from the straw bales. The kittens squirmed and protested loudly. Mummy Cat meowed frantically. She followed the boy as he ran from the barn, struggling to hold on to the wriggling kittens.
On the croft next door was a derelict tumbledown shed, the boy had a secret den there. In it he had arranged a bed for Mummy Cat and her babies. He placed the kittens into it, and they were quickly followed by their distressed mother.
After watching for a while to see them all settled safely, the boy returned to the house, crept upstairs and went to bed. He smiled as he snuggled down, cuddling Scampy. Names, he would have to think of names for them. The kittens were safe. Jimmy would never find them there.
The clanking of the water pump, and the rattling of a bucket, woke him. It was light. A bright morning. The boy jumped from his bed, opened the skylight window and looked out. Jimmy was filling a bucket with water. Swallows were swooping. Across on next doors land a flock of rooks were greeting the day raucously. His Mum already had washing on the line. Why was Jimmy filling that bucket with water? NO...! NO...!
By the time the boy had made it downstairs, the kittens were already in the hessian bag, and in the water. There was movement. They were alive! The distraught boy pulled the bag from the bucket. As he struggled to untie the string, Jimmy grabbed him, threw the kittens back into the bucket, and carried him from the barn, kicking and screaming. The boys mother appeared. She tried to placate him, but his anguish was too deep.
In his fury the boy picked up rocks, hurling them at Jimmy, who took refuge in the house. The rocks shattered the house windows. His mother screamed. Jimmy shouted. The boy sobbed loudly, uncontrollably. The violent spasms racked his body.
The kittens were dead.