In perhaps the saddest memory ever (seriously—this guy just needs a hug), our narrator is recalling that no one came to his seventh birthday party. They still go through all the motions, though, which makes it even more pathetic.
His only friends are the kitten his dad gives him when his aunt dies, and his books. Books are great and all (duh), but still—yikes.
Oh, great. His kitten gets hit and killed by a taxi, which was dropping off his family's newest boarder, a strange South African opal miner. That guy gives him a terrifying old tomcat to replace his sweet kitten. Gee thanks, dude. No, you're right—they're totally the same.