Sunday, September 4, 2011

Isn’t That Your Cat?

    (Another one from Stories of Freedom)    
          “Your cat! Isn’t that your cat?”

          The school bus dropped us off in the center of the village. I didn’t have far to walk and wasn’t in any hurry. Most of the boys had run ahead as if getting off the bus was like being shot from a cannon. There wasn’t much in our village. On the right hand side the store, then some empty space overgrown with grass and tall weeds. It used to be the lumber yard for Banton Brothers Mill, now a long gray wooden building in the process of returning to the earth. On the left there was an old store front known as the Boy Scout building, the little white post office and a few houses including mine, directly across from the old mill. Two of the boys, Everett Larrabee and Kippy Cunningham, had turned around and were running back to me.
          “Your cat got hit!”
          I went with them into the web of weeds next to the decaying mill. The cat was trembling, shaking really. Rapidly and non-stop. We figured it got hit by a car and managed to get just that far.
          “That’s your cat, isn’t it?”

          I started crying. By then a few more kids had gathered. We all seemed to agree it would be best to put the cat out of its misery. Everett ran to his house so his father could come with a gun to shoot it. He and his father, a tall, tall man with shining black eyes, came back quickly but his father carried a hammer. He said he wasn’t going to fire a hunting rifle right in the village – not to kill a half dead cat anyway. He hit the animal squarely on the head and its troubles were over.

          I went into my house and told my father. He hadn’t noticed or hadn’t paid any attention to the commotion outside.
          My cat was Tareyton, named for the white ring around its neck like the popular cigarettes with the same feature. He would jump up on one certain window sill whenever he wanted to come in. I was sad, but reminded myself it was just my cat. My mother had died a few years before and I hadn’t gotten over that yet.

          The next morning I missed Tareyton more than I thought I would. I was sad all day at school, but didn’t want to tell anybody why. At our regional school, I didn’t have any classes with the boys from the village. I didn’t have to talk about it if I didn’t want to. Nobody asked what, if anything, was wrong and I didn’t offer any information. I understood the cat got hit; the cat died.

          When I got home, I figured my father would tell me to get over it. I expected him to tell me to put the potatoes on for supper, to do something useful for a change. He was usually pretty quiet, but when I got home that day he seemed almost excited. He might even have seemed happy to see me.

          “I almost called the school,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. The damn thing scared the hell out of me.”

          Then, with a great big grin, he told me he'd been in the living room reading the paper and heard a noise at the window.

          “There was your cat scratching on the glass to come in.”

         I looked in the kitchen and saw Tareyton eating from his bowl on the floor next to the black cast iron stove. Sometimes I think I know and understand everything. Sometimes I don’t.


Dody Jane said...

Love it. I lost my share of cats as a kid, but mine never manifested a miracle! I loved how the boys got off the bus as if shot from a cannon - beautiful, perfect image!

Ellie O'Leary said...

Thanks, Dody. I appreciate your feedback. The cat did eventually disappear, but not that day.

Harriet the Spy said...

I love this story...especially since my husband once sadly buried one of our cats (he thought) that had been hit by a car, and reluctantly told the kids and me about it when we got home, showing us the grave so we could properly mourn...only to have our cat appear, as usual, at suppertime. We never did find out whose cat he had buried, but at least it had a proper funeral.

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