Posted 09-09-2003 at 18:49:15
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Jake came into the house one evening last week, a very determined set to his shoulders.
"Mom, I'm gonna use your .410 to shoot a cat."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"There's a cat out there, and he's been eatin' the chickens."
"How do you know it was him?" I knew it was him, but I wanted to know how he knew. See if he was just making assumptions.
"I just saw him take off into the palmettos with a leghorn. I caught him in the act." Nope, no assumptions there.
By now our conversation had penetrated the television fog that Jenny was in, and she rose like the dead from the couch, a stricken expression on her face.
Jake and Jenny spare very few words to each other. They are at that age where it goes against their religion to pretend that they even like each other, so rather than answer her, he just stared at me. Her reaction to this was to dance a circle around him, trying to make eye contact.
"What cat? What cat, Jake? Moooom!"
"Jake, answer your sister."
"I don't know his NAME or anything.." he paused for dramatic effect.."but he's a big white stray with blue eyes."
"Noooooo! You can't shoot him! I've been feeding him! He's my friend! Mom, tell him he can't shoot the cat." She pinned hopeful eyes on me, sure that I was going to come to the rescue. Oh crap. I guess she could tell by my expression that no such rescue was forthcoming, as her sweet face drooped like icing sliding off a hot cake.
Those two words was all it took. She turned and stomped off, out the front door.
I already knew this cat was killing chickens. I had found scattered feathers and carcasses and his was the only new face around. I hoped that if I let Jenny feed him that he would be satisfied with 'Happy Kitty Tender Morsels' and leave the chickens alone, but apparently he likes his vittles moist and juicy.
I leaned over and looked out the window to see Jenny squatted down by the palmettos.
"C'mon kitty, here kitty kitty!"
I guess she figured if she could get her hands on him she could pen him up, or talk to him about his bad behavior, or maybe prove somehow that he wasn't the culprit, but I knew in my heart that he was busy, off somewhere finishing off his meal, and was not going to respond.
"Well?" Jake was ready to go, all business like, matter of fact, chicken champion of Hardee County.
"We're gonna wait a bit."
"For what? He's the one that's doing it, mom."
"I know that son, but first you're going to get your father's permission, and then you're going to pick a time when your sister is out of earshot, and you're going to dispose of the cat immediately. No need to rub it in."
The next evening he came into the house after feeding.
"Where's Jenny?" He asked. I knew what was behind that question.
"What did you father say?" I answered with a question of my own.
"He said do it." I knew he would.
"She's in the shower. Do it now, use a slug, be accurate, get rid of it right away."
"What are you going to tell her?" Could it be that he actually cared...just a little?
"I have no idea."
A half hour later I heard Jenny scooping feed out of the cat food bag.
"Whatcha fixin' to do?"
"I'm gonna go feed that cat."
I almost chickened out and let her go. I almost let her go out there and call and call and find out the hard way that he wasn't going to come. I was incredibly tempted to take the coward's way out. I couldn't though. I knew she would be able to tell the truth with a glance into her brother's eyes or just a look at the grim set of his mouth. I had to do it the right way.
"There's no need for that, honey." I said gently.
She surprised me. I expected tears and wailing. I expected her to cry for hours and blame me and Jake and Fred and anyone else she could think of except for that mangy cat. What I got was anything other than what I expected. She was mad as a hatter. Her brow furrowed and she ranted and she raved and she yelled and she hollered and I cowered by the kitchen sink behind my dish towel out of sheer reflex. The rage that came out of this child was miraculous to behold. Back the food went into the bag, whoosh, slam went the empty bowl onto the table, huff huff puff.
"What...what are you so mad at?"
By then there was just a hint of a tear in her eye.
"That..that stupid CAT! Here I am feeding him and he has to do something so stupid! Why'd he have to kill chickens?"
"Because he was wild, kiddo, and that's what he's always done to get along, and if we could spare them I wouldn't hold it against him, but we can't afford to feed him chickens and that's just all there is to it. You know that, don't you?"
"YES! But I'm still mad."
She went off by herself then for awhile to reconcile herself to what had happened. She's not the type to want to be petted and coddled and pampered. She's got a heart the size of the atlantic but she's also a sensible girl. I knew that in time she would get over it and maybe even not hold any grudge against her brother for his part in the whole deal. Well. Maybe that's asking for a bit much.