When I set up Just Copyeditors, I mistakenly overlooked the editing talent right under my nose. Meet the Furry Sub-Editor.
Sometimes, editing means such long and arduous days that we editors barely get chance to do much else. Things such as eating, cleaning the house and--having a haircut--go right out of the window. We'll wager you never before saw quite so hairy a sub-editor?
“Book scripts are okay. But I'd rather edit chicken wings. Or maybe a bird game for my iPad--do they need editors? And what about those crazy water fountains...I could edit those. I'd dip my floofy feet right in!” -- Grubby Cat, The Furry Sub-Editor
Meet the Furry Sub-Editor. She is fifteen and lives with me, editor Annie, in a rambling Edwardian house in the Peak National Park, in the United Kingdom.
I first encountered the Furry Sub-Ed when she was nothing but a tiny bulge in the stomach of a huge, fat chinchilla Persian cat called Alice. I used to rescue Persian felines and, on that particular day, an RSPCA inspector called Nadia stopped by to hand over this humungous, white fluffy cat with the most stunning and vibrant green eyes, but also a vicious, unpredictable temper.
The mom was a wild cat--a domesticated breed, sure, but she was still a cat from a home of seventy more chinchilla Persians, none of which had ever been handled. They had all been rescued one by one, but many proved unable to be tamed or even approached. The owner of the house had lost the plot. The pets were now all feral, aggressive and eager to rip someone's eye out with a single swipe of a fluffy paw.
I settled the monster cat into a spare room, commenting on the cat's odd look and difficult breathing. "She looks as if she can't breathe," I said to the RSPCA inspector. "And she's heavily pregnant, isn't she?" "Oh, no," Nadia said. "She's just been in the van on a really long trip. I had to pick up several other animals on the way here; she's been on the road for ages."
"But look at her breathing. She's dying..." I said.
The cat's chest sucked in air, deep and laboured, as if not getting enough oxygen. Her eyes looked glazed, a look I often saw in Persian cats in the end stages of some vile, untreated disease. "She's fine, she's over-stressed. Just leave her on her own a while, she'll calm down." Well, she didn't calm down and she wasn't fine.
An hour later, I tentatively revisited the room. It was silent. The prostrate body of the mom cat was still lying on the rug, but barely warm now. She had no heartbeat; her death had come quickly and easily, evidently free of pain. That much, at least, was a blessing.
I knew there was no time to waste: I scrubbed up, laid out the mom cat on the kitchen table downstairs and meticulously cut her open with a surgical scalpel, retrieving four premature chinchilla kittens.
They were all white with flecks of silver, all looking like little grubs with shapeless white bodies and black dot-eyes barely discernible through their closed eyelids. There was no point in seeking the help of a veterinary surgeon; I was the Persian kitten specialist to whom all the vets brought their premature kittens and beyond-help adult cats. The breed needed so much assistance, many vets just couldn't manage to give it. However, when a trusted vet called Jon did pay a visit later that evening, I was startled to see him welling up with tears at the four tiny, premature blobs. "Poor little chickens," he said. Little chicken was always his chosen phrase whenever he loved what he was seeing. "Thank heavens you knew how to take them out and what to do." But I and Jon both knew the kittens would probably die; they were never meant to live, being at least four days early.
The white blobs were all calm and not suffering. They simply slept, relaxed on a red heat pad. Coloured dots on their tiny heads identified each one.
Jon said that letting them pass naturally would be more humane than a trip to the vet to euthanise them. They looked so peaceful. Over the next days, I didn't give up or go to bed; I still nursed the quads constantly, administering kitten milk every two hours, cleaning them and washing them. Yet three still died, slipping away as gently and painlessly as Jon had said, over the next nights; they had simply arrived too soon and left just as quietly as they'd come.
The fourth was still clinging onto life; she was the smallest, still looking like a little grub. And so, that became her name: Grubby. Grubby had always appeared to be the smallest and weakest and yet, night after night, I would put Grubby to bed in her little shoe box nest and would wake to find her still alive. When I got up in the mornings, the top of the shoe box would be open and Grubby's head would poke out, her bright eyes searching out the human who had saved her.
After a few days and nights like this, I awoke to the loudest, plaintive shrieks. The baby Grubblet had climbed right out of her heated shoe box in the night and was making her stumbling way to the study door, in a bid to find her human mom. The piercing screams were her noisy protest against the shoe box that was just no substitute for a beating heart. Besides, she also wanted her warmed milk. From then on, I and Grubby were inseparable. Grubby accompanied me to bed, tucked into my t-shirt so I'd know if the kitten moved. As the little thing was still seriously under-developed, I was afraid she'd fall off the bed and injure herself. Grubby was placed securely into my clothing throughout the day, so I could work and do chores without wondering if the kitten was all right. Tiny Grubb even went along to globally-important client meetings when I delivered strategic research findings to some of the world's biggest household brands; business clients would be taken aback to see the two little emerald eyes and pointy white ears peeking from the neck of my jacket, Grubby nestling there in my cleavage. "No kitten, no debrief," was the message they had to accept. It's been fifteen years since then, and never have Grubby and I been apart--well, not since the time I'd left her for a few hours, the experiment culminating in a disaster.
Grubby again had ventured close to death when she bit off her own tail in a protest at being unable to reach me. I'd closed a dividing door because Grubby kitten always insisted on climbing onto the laptop keyboard each time I worked, and swiped at the telephone when I made calls. So, I'd shut the office door just once.
Grubby's habit of trying to stop her human from doing anything remotely productive continues to this day. So, when I decided to advertise for more editing work from book authors, there was only one thing for it.
Mollie and I appointed Grubby as the Furry Sub-Editor, in fact taking over the role from Mungo, my earlier Sub-Ed who was even less useful but equally fluffy and stubborn. He'd been a cream Persian cat that grew into a global superstar for his cute antics, but he'd died in late 2015.
Grubby loves her new role but admits she adores the title more than the work. If you send me a script to edit, however, it's likely to be looked over by Grubby; she'll flop down on the keyboard and hit random keys with her furry, fat paws. Should you receive back an edited script with a few swear words in the middle, it wasn't me. No, really, it wasn't.
Treats and letters to Grubby are welcomed, but Grubby wants it to be known that she accepts no bribes; if she thinks your work is terrible, she'll tell you.
Long live the Furry Sub-Editor! I hope you'll support her efforts by sending us your book scripts!