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 For my children
For Fabio, Massimo, Silvana, Marcello & Fabrizio
First Friend
My first friend used to come and keep me company as I lay in my pram in the garden by the front door. My mother only became aware of this one day when there had been a light snowfall and he had left his paw marks on the pram. After that she had the maid supervise me more closely. I don't know if I ever saw my friend again and have no recollection of his appearance, though I am told he was black and had big green eyes and a long bushy tail. I fancy we must have had many a fine conversation together and feel sure that he instilled in me the philosophy of feline freedom and all the secrets of solitary survival. (JUST Response, 25 October 2005)
Grandma's Roses
The overnight snow had stopped now, and the garden was a desert of white. The little boy sat poised at the window, gazing out with a look of disappointed expectation on his chubby face. His little friend the robin redbreast, who had rapped daily at the window for food, had not been seen for nearly a week.
   The breadcrumbs were in their usual place, and the bread was fresh too. So why didn’t he come and eat them? Oh please come and see me … I’m still your friend. And he wondered why his friend would not come back.
   The old lady agreed to walk round the garden with him, but he would have to get well wrapped up first. Their hands clasped together, the two stooping figures wound their way along the path, the little boy keeping up with her with his shorter steps. All at once he cried out:
   –– Oh grandma! Look, look! All your beautiful roses – they’re all gone now. We won’t see them any more.
   –– They’ve all died away for the winter. But don’t worry – they’ll grow again next year.
   The little boy thought for a moment.
   –– Will grandpa grow again next year too?
   The old lady stood still and did not answer.
   Suddenly something made the little boy turn round. Perhaps it was his little friend trying to tell him something … He looked and looked, but the robin redbreast was nowhere to be seen. All was still. Only a slight wind shook the frail branches of the cherry-blossom tree. (1980, repr. in JUST Response, October 2005)