Three Ladies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A little girl from southern Indiana in 1950 finds her first pet through a fairly scary adventure. I picked Horror as the genre since the choices were limited but it's not that horrifying; just scary for the little girl. This story is written for young readers.

Submitted: November 05, 2016

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Submitted: November 05, 2016

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Three Ladies

by Thomas Van Horn ©2002

 

 

There are those beings in creation that call this lady a monster.  Many of them she would eat.   To others it’s just because she’s so scary looking.  

She weaves for a living.  Her home is woven for her protection and it gets the monster her meals.   She stands waiting, motionless, on tippy toes in a tunnel, like a sprinter in the blocks, ready to pounce on dinner’s momentary surprise and confusion.

Down below her, bundles of squirming fur feed at their mama’s belly.  Not one of them fears the monster at all.

These lives live in a gray, beaten, wood plank shed that still has a roof and walls but they are rotted clear through in places.  Once there was a glass window on the sunny side but it’s just a hole now.  And the door?  It’s still there but hanging by one screw of one hinge at an angle that speaks of this old shed’s age. Forgotten is its usefulness of three decades ago.

The shed leans a bit like it’s trying to be streamlined to the wind.  It leans away from the flattened foundation of what used to be a barn now only remnants of cindered wood woven with the tall grass out in a field that’s been allowed to grow its own way for who knows how long.

The shed holds rusted implements of a farmer’s struggle before motors came to his aid.  Among these tools a feral mama cat has chosen to lay a litter of youngin’s and nurse them into seven more feral cats.  Those same tools are the beams and girders of the monster’s floor.

This old shed waits to teach in the tall grass about a quarter mile west from where this story begins at dawn one summer morning.

 

The sun still hung below the horizon, but the dark of night was turning to blue hazy gray towards the east. John Henry went ahead and hopped up on his favorite perch, the corner post of the neighbor's fence, stretched his neck, and crowed.  He wouldn't stop until the heat of the day came on, which it was bound to do what with it being mid-July, deep in southern Indiana.  

Jenny heard John Henry as always but didn't open her eyes just yet.  Instead she hugged her dolly, aptly named Baby, close to her chest and felt assured by her company and the rooster's announcements.  Another summer day awaited to be lived, but there was no hurry.  Summer days went on forever.

Before long Jenny heard her mother downstairs running water and  fetching silverware from the drawer.  Soon the fragrance of coffee wafted into her room.  She was only allowed sips but she loved the smell of it.  

She sat up in bed and yawned wide and comfy.  The cool moist morning breeze from the open window greeted her skin.  She yawned again stretching out her arms, rolling her little fists, letting the morning air do what it's made to do.  Feel good.  

"Listen to old John Henry," she told Baby looking into her face which stared back lovingly.

She swung her feet down to the wood slat floor and peered out the window near her bed.  Without thinking about it at all she bent her arm up and fingered the hole in the shoulder strap of her night gown which was really one of her Daddy's old well worn under shirts, one of those ribbed sleeveless ones. It's hers now. It hung to her knees and was wide enough for two or three of her. She'd worn it every night since the end of flannel jammies season.  She stood up and flicked the straps off her shoulders. It fell to the floor. Jenny stepped out of it and scurried over and picked her summer dress from the ladder back chair. It slid down over Jenny just like it knew right where it was going.

"Jenny, is that you up there squeaking the floor boards?"

"Yes, Mamma."

"Good morning..." Mamma sang all jazzy, like she was some singer on the radio.

"Morning," Jenny said heading down the stairs and smiling at her mother's goofiness.

Golden low early morning sunlight streamed in the many windows of the kitchen as Jenny entered.  Just then, Daddy kissed mamma’s cheek with one hand on her shoulder and the other holding a less than level coffee cup. Mamma’s hands stopped mid-chore in the soapy dish water. Jenny headed for the table.

"Morning, sweetie," said Daddy with his necktie draped loosely around his starched white collar.  

"Morning, Daddy," Jenny answered.

"Want some juice, honey?" said Mamma as she pulled open the refrigerator door.  

"Yeah."

"That's 'yes',"  said Daddy walking his coffee cup out of the kitchen.

"Yes."

Jenny’s hair wasn’t quite blond and wasn’t quite brown.  It parted in the middle and hung somewhere in between straight and wavy  as far as her shoulder blades.

Her slight, little girl frame stood just tall enough for her daddy to rest his hand on the top of her head, which he loved to do.

The souls of her feet were tough enough to play the summer long.  She only wore her shoes when her folks took her out of the neighborhood.  

After breakfast, Jenny went outside with Daddy and watched him climb proudly into his new 1950 Ford black two-door sedan.  Since she first saw it, when it showed up one Saturday afternoon, the chrome rings around each headlight gave her the impression that it was wearing glasses.  The car's face reminded her of some lady from church.  

Daddy waved as he backed out of the drive.  As she watched him drive on down the road, Jenny's eyes were attracted by a flock of starlings, must have been two dozen, black as chunks of coal, meandering around in the lawn grass, pecking at the ground, one after the other.  A couple of robins hopped not too far away.  John Henry paid no attention what-so-ever from his post.  

Jenny remembered last summer when she saw the same flock of birds and wondered what they were doing, poking their heads down in the grass so much.  So she walked over, making them all fly away together, and peered down into the grass blade forest, parting the grass with her fingers, seeing the dirt below and the space between the blades.  That's all she saw at first but then a tiny beetle crawled through the landscape, down a blade, up and over another.  Upside down or otherwise, didn't seem to make much difference.  She hadn't watched very long before she realized there were a bunch of bugs down in there.  At the time she just shrugged and went off to play.  It wasn't until some weeks later when again she noticed the starlings swinging their heads to the ground, over and over, that she suddenly spied one come up with kicking bug legs sticking out of its beak.  The bird looked straight up and gulped the legs down its throat.  Then it came together for Jenny.  They were eating bugs.  They were picking bugs right up out of their little bug lives and eating them.  Without a thought, apparently.

She went around being quite concerned about this for days afterwards.  What if that bug was someone's daddy?  She pictured the horror of her own daddy being pecked up by some huge uncaring monster a hundred times bigger than him.

One day she sat real still in the yard and watched the flock and tried to keep her eye on just one chosen bird and she counted how many times it pecked down.  Oh gosh, she lost track of it in the crowd but it was going on twenty pecks.  That could be twenty daddies...or kids.  She was truly troubled about the starling's habits and had trouble admiring how beautiful bluish black they were and how they stayed together, themselves like a family.  And that led to a whole era of her wondering if her peas and carrots were missed by their mommies.

Yep, that's how it is, she thought, now a year later.  Birds eat bugs.  Bye bugs.  She'd also seen robins tug worms up out of the ground, but she didn't mind that so much.

About nine o'clock that morning Jenny met up with her pals who were just crawling out of summer time bed and until noon they all sat on Mary Jo's porch pretending various stories, making it up as they went, and talking to dolls as if dolls gave a hoot what was going on.

Every so often Jenny looked out beyond the little group of girls at some crows flying along in a line or a cat pouncing on something over by the big maple with a trunk so big around it could hide four kids.  She knew the cat, Murphy, but they all called him Murph, usually grinning because he was such a good old cat.  He sat with them on the porch while they played their pretend lives. Sometimes he got to play the role of one of the family members but made it perfectly clear that no one was going to dress him up in doll clothes. 

Jenny was reasonably sure that it was a mouse Murph was pouncing on.  It always appalled her how things in nature were eaten alive.  Somehow it seemed a little cruel for a cute little whiskered mouse to be held helpless in a cat's mouth.  And how could her friend Murphy do such a thing?

For lunch they all had open faced peanut butter sandwiches and milk.  And then chocolate chip cookies, baked just that morning, and more milk.

Later, after lunch, after sitting still for the obligatory half hour they played in the yard, joined by Pete and Barry, a couple of younger guys from the neighborhood.  Their brother, William, not that much older, had graduated from hanging around with the girls at the end of last summer. 

They all ran around amongst themselves, squeals of children's voices, and any grown up would have deduced that they were playing tag but closer scrutiny would reveal that there was no pattern whatsoever.  No one really seemed to be “it.” 

The day sat still and hung there with a haze as the kids chased around but soon their pace slowed down to that of the day.  The cicadas started up early.

For the next hour or so of the afternoon, Jenny, Mary Jo, Pete and Barry, Christy and her sister Mickey, in matching shorts, and dark eyed Glenda with her blond flapper girl curls, had all gathered around the swing set, swinging and hanging from the crossbars as the sun droned on dissipated by the persistent haze and the leaves of the trees. 

Jenny turned from the most casual chatter and dropped to her knees to coax Murphy to come over.  He just sat there on the porch rail like cats will do when you call.  Suddenly Jenny paused, looking out across the yards to the west, as her attention was drawn by something not yet visible to her.

 

Little bundles of fur, now fully fed and napped have awakened. They all clumsily stagger into each other, making feeble attempts to swat at brothers’ and sisters’ downy ears.  Just a few days ago they scooted along on their bellies, blind.  But kitten spunk develops fast.

A silken white tapestry drapes and stretches overhead like a roof to the rusted implement home of cats.  The monster just finished repairing a rip in the net made by a grasshopper’s last struggle.  That grasshopper now waits with a patience, a stunned, drugged patience, waiting in a wrap of the tapestry itself, waiting with a belly wound.  His armor shell didn’t work well enough and now it will only serve as the bowl to the monster’s next meal.

 

Later that afternoon thunder started to rumble off to the west and the kids in the yard all stopped and perked up and looked at each other, at first mystified and then a little nervous as the rumbles turned to distant booms. As the background sky started to look ominous and flashes off over the trees began to accompany the thunder, Jenny saw her mom come out on their front porch looking down the street, and spotting Jenny, waving her home.

 Jenny sprinted in that direction as big drops of rain begin to splash all around amidst the groans of her friends as they, too, scattered for home.  She held out her arms with fingers spread wide to intercept as many drops as she could.  Before she had gone just one yard's distance an instantaneous flash, much closer, brightened everything and within a couple of seconds, a huge crash raced through the treetops and thumped the ground. Jenny ducked but kept running. 

As Jenny bounded up her porch steps the drops had doubled in intensity, then tripled and then a silver gray wall of water came rushing across the yard. 

She waited right by the screen door, ducking behind the jam and peeking out at the downpour, ducking further reflexively right after a flash of lightning, anticipating the crash of thunder. Suddenly roaring winds from the west stampeded through the trees shoving the tree branches until it seemed they would snap and rushing the rain horizontal. But it was as if a huge giant jogged heavily past because it was gone in just a couple of minutes.  Just to the east it still thumped the ground. All it left behind in Jenny’s yard was a gentle light shower. 

She went back out the very instant the storm passed because she loved how the atmosphere was a mystery, and the thunder was still very close but past, and safe.  On the other side.  Not coming, but going.  She ran out barefooted in the remaining sprinkles not minding that she got wet because she knew that it would be hot again before too long. She wiggled her toes in the sidewalk puddles.  Rising steam covered the asphalt road out beyond the fence.

None of her neighbor friends were venturing out yet.  Oh, Mommies talked to them about the chill air after a storm and kept their kids in when it rained so they got into their indoor games and the storm would have to be well past before they would look up upon hearing the great outdoors calling them to come out and play.  

Jenny stood on the wet walk while back inside, in the living room, she heard mama humming a tune as she dusted and every so often let go a line or two of la la la's and then slipped back into humming.

Jenny ventured out into the yard.

The grass wiped rain over her feet as she walked across the yard.  The water felt almost uncomfortably cold but the ground below was warm.  Bird song erupted from all around. Robins splashed in the new formed puddles.  It delighted Jenny to see them doing such a human thing as taking a bath. 

It all smelled so good.

She started to wander as the storm receded into the distance.  Down the oiled road, called Jefferson Road, west, away from the immediate neighborhood and her friends who might be coming out any minute.  She wandered to a familiar dirt road that cut across a vacant field all grown up in tall going to seed grasses and various woody shrubs.  She'd ventured down this path of parallel tire ruts before. This was the back way out of the farm of old Mister Martin.

The road of two ruts plowed straight through the field of grass whose young green seed heads were just under head high to Jenny.  They sagged with the weight of rain. 

Jenny knew what awaited if she went down there and she twiddled her fingers for a minute, but then she stepped in that direction and just kept on going. 

Grasshoppers jumped off into their clicking flights from all around her, some getting a little too close making Jenny flinch. They were everywhere. She knew the feeling of a bug’s little pincher fingers holding onto her hairs. 

She soon reached a point a couple of hundred yards or so along this road where a single lane path turned off to the right, heading west.

A concrete slab sat half sunk in the surface of the field. This slab marked the boundary to Jenny’s previous wanderings. From there one could see the old shed, down that path. Only the top half was visible because from the slab there was a lot of grass between and the lay of the land started to slope towards the ravine.  

Just off that slab sat the carcass of a decrepit old truck, empty, open, broken and rusted, with headlights that used to sit atop the sweeping fenders, but now dangled down to the side.  Tires were way beyond flat, turning to dust, and behind the cab on the side panel of its hauling compartment still peeking out of the rust was the word VAN. The old truck guarded the  path like a spooky sentinel with droopy eyes.

Jenny stood at the intersection and regarded the truck.  No wonder she’d never gone beyond this point.  Not only was the truck a fright to her but the path led to a ravine full of scruffy trees, the subject of terrifying stories told by the boys of the neighborhood. Stories designed to make the boys look bigger than they really were in the eyes of the girls.

Suddenly a rabbit hopped casually out onto the road from where the path turned off.  It hopped and stopped a few times before it noticed Jenny frozen there watching it.  It startled Jenny for an instant until she realized what it was and then the moment she tried to take the sneakiest step forward the rabbit sprang and disappeared into the grass in two long bounds.

At that very instant Jenny ducked reflexively throwing her hands up over her head as something swooped over from behind in a beeline for where the rabbit just was.  A hawk arced down to the grass tops but swung up empty handed and flapped slow and strong as it climbed back to flying altitude.

 

Stuffed with grasshopper with some saved for later, the monster, that dark brown hairy eight legger, retreats to her tunnel, turns around and watches her web just in case she gets lucky.  But it doesn’t matter much now.  She’s had enough to eat until tomorrow.

The babies below mew for milk, yet again, and tumble their way to mama, scrambling for the prize.  One perfectly white little one, the littlest one, can’t seem to find a teat.  

Mammal milk, something spiders don’t care too much about.

 

What was it that caused the urge in Jenny to  explore further than her  present point and see a little more?  Whatever it was, it presented itself there at the grassy intersection with a truck as guard and the mystery beyond.  The shed.  The horror in the ravine.  

She first just stood there looking towards the shed and the tree line, afraid to step.  But the curiosity asked for satisfaction and she took a tentative step down the path. The truck didn’t move. Then two or three more steps and looking back to what she thought was safety just an instant before, she realized that being right here wasn't too different than being right over there. It was a major accomplishment in her  eight years worth of life.  Slowly she stepped along the path with the tall grass on each side and she watched the shed  get closer, every step a further triumph.

She reached the shed. If you keep stepping, you get there.  She stopped at the back corner, on the east side.

The shed reminded her of her great grandfather, Harrison Floyd.  It looked like a crumbling rock.  It looked like a bad place to go.  Like danger--in the middle of a field.  That fear was the calling it had on Jenny.  The danger asked her to visit.

That’s why she found herself standing in her little girl from Indiana dress, standing barefooted in shallow fast storm mud, at the back corner of the shed.  The blank glassless window opening was confidently dark as if it knew it was reason for concern to the visitor from the houses with people.  Jenny inched forward.  She peeked around the corner. It had never occurred to her since she’d never come this far along the path, but there  was a door hiding on the far side.  It hung all askew and rounded on the edges.  With each hand holding the other she stepped forward, around the corner and peered into the shadowy shed.

 

The light on the web breaks.  The monster holds her position, so still.The figure of an animal new to the spider stands at the doorway to the outside world, suddenly becoming perfectly still herself.  

 

Jenny’s eyes adjusted and the contents of the shed entered her perceptions. A huge web stretched and hung suspended between some old rusty plow to, on the other side, an old dilapidated machine with gears and a bucket, all rusted, all the wood looking weak and ready to break.  The web was like a floor, white, a three foot circle that funneled into a tunnel.  And down inside that tunnel!  At the instant that Jenny saw it in a stance of readiness, its body hanging below its knees, looking out at her, a panic got her out of there in three steps away from the door before she realized anything else.  Down in the tunnel was an out and out monster. Jenny stopped and looked back inside the door.  That spider must have been as big a her hand.   A willy scurried up her back. 

Out in the middle of the white expanse the tapestry was interrupted by a lump all wrapped up in the web.  It didn’t move at all.

Jenny shuttered. A spider. A biter.  An eater.  A shark of the insect world.  The boss of this neighborhood.  And ugly beyond what Jenny liked to witness.

From what seemed a safe distance, Jenny stared in awe, when a movement under the web caught her eye.  Suddenly her focus looked to the floor under the web.  She squatted down to look under the spider’s lair. There below, tucked back in a crate on its side, up against the funny looking machine, she saw a row of tiny tails like furry spikes sticking up and then she noticed they were connected to little legs which every so often pushed on the shed’s floor.  

“Kittens!”  

 Her eyes traveled along the row of bodies. At one end she saw the head of a much bigger body, being perfectly quiet.  A mama cat stared out at Jenny with a calm warning.  The two of them stared at each other’s eyes for a moment, Jenny in surprised wonderment and the mama cat in cautious acceptance.

That shed certainly had been an unapproachable mystery for the last couple of summers since Jenny first realized its existence. She would have never guessed that it would show her such a heavenly thing.  The miracle of life moving on.  A litter of kittens with barking dogs all around.  A litter of kittens under a canopy of web.  In a clutter of junk. In a old shed.  In a field by the neighborhood.  Kittens!  A litter of kittens!

“Oh...hello mama cat.” she said.  The cat didn’t respond at all. It just kept staring at her, ready. Jenny knew not to make any sudden moves.  She didn’t want to disturb this precious scene.  And she didn’t want that cat coming after her.  

She sure didn’t want to get near that web. Keeping a wary eye on the spider, who seemed to be staying put, Jenny lowered down to her hands and knees.

She just stayed there on her knees and her elbows on the floor, resting her chin on her hands, looking at the litter of kittens.  She counted the babies.  Seven.  Suddenly the mama let out a little meow and then another, and she got up on her feet which started a flurry of tiny mewing as all the kittens were dropped off and they groped around like they were blind bumping into each other nose to nose and crawling over each other looking for the milk that disappeared right out of their mouths.  The mama walked over to Jenny, now being friendly, purring against her forearm.

Jenny really wanted to pet the little critters but she’d have to crawl under that web with the dark monster in it and that was pretty well out of the question.  She peered back up over the web floor and down into the tunnel.  There it was,  big and hairy and full of long fast legs. Yes, crawling under that thing was out of the question. 

She stood up and thought about it while the mama purred and rubbed against her ankles.  “Why’d you have to keep your babies under a monster’s house?” she asked the mama cat.  Then, looking back at the spider a solution came to her.  “I’ll have to tear down the web.” 

Laying on the floor in the dirt was a old hoe handle. That would work. She picked it up and brandishing it like a junior warrior she approached the castle of the evil dragon.  But with her opponent in view, terror seized her and she stood unable to do it for a moment. 

Finally Jenny worked up the nerve to reach out and touch the web with the stick. The spider immediately disappeared. She waited there for it to come back, but then glanced down for an instant at the kittens and the mama looking up at her.  When she looked back the spider was in its motionless place again.  Truly she did not see it go or come.  

It stood ready, facing her defiantly.  Two hairy fangs hung out of its  motionless face.  And eyes, several sets reflecting the sky light.  It was a horror that may very well be bigger than the rotting hoe handle in Jenny’s hand if it came down to brass tacks.  Jenny backed out the door until the light of day was on each side of her.  

The mama cat followed along staying right at Jenny’s feet.

“Mercy!”  She stared back in at the web with its tunnel and the dark spider down inside.  Below the web, the kittens milled around in their slow motion play.

She squatted down and ran her hand along the cat’s back.  “I don’t think I can tear down the web. I don’t think I’ll ever touch it again.”

Jenny stayed right there with the mama cat’s company and watched the kittens meander around amongst themselves.  Most of them were generally white with patches of tabby in various sizes, shapes and colors from brown to gray. 

Eventually, the mama cat went back to her kittens sniffing them and giving a lick to this one and that one while they all clamored around her legs.  She settled herself back in the crate, laying on her side and the kittens made their moves for their next meal.  It didn’t take long before they were all lined up with their faces buried against their mama’s belly.  But one, Jenny noticed, was still trying to find a place without success and she frowned wondering why the mama didn’t help. It went on and on and still the kitten didn’t find a place to feed.  The urge to help began to rise and Jenny leaned closer, inching towards the edge of the web. But with the kittens still out of reach she stopped.

She looked up to see she was near the edge of the web but it was over her and there was actually a good bit of room underneath it. And after a while she came to a realization.  That spider didn’t seem to move at all if it wasn’t bothered. 

“I wonder…”  She looked back over her shoulder as if there might be someone to help.  There wasn’t.  What could she do, what could she use to get to those kittens.  Nothing presented itself to her.  She knew she would have to brave crawling under the web. The little kitten still fumbled around trying to find her food among her sibling’s hogging.

Jenny’s urge to help it overcame the monster’s threat.  She slowly crawled forward being careful to stay low, looking up over her shoulder to make sure there would be no contact.  

Finally she was able to reach out and touch the little kitten of her concern.  She ran a finger along its back.  So soft.  So tiny. Leaning on her elbows Jenny picked the kitten up and looked into its face.

“You’re hungry, too, aren’t you?”

Its face with a pink nose and white whiskers blankly stared back. One of its ears was folded forward.

She turned it around looking at its back and its belly. “What kind of patches do you have?  Oh, you don’t have any patches!”  She turned the kitten every which way again just to make sure.  Not one spot of color in its fur.  And then a bigger surprise.  Its tail was just barely there.  “What happened to your tail?”  It rose off the kitten’s back end as just a fluffy stub instead of the long tapered spike like the other kittens had.

She looking into its face again.  It didn’t make a sound but Jenny felt its breathing and warmth.

Instinctively she knew the little one needed to eat and it wasn’t doing too well by itself.  She decided she would have to help so she scooted forward just enough to put a hand between two kittens and spread them apart.  They both detached to expose a couple of pink teats surrounded by wet fur.  The two disturbed kittens struggled to get back in place but Jenny held them back and placed her new favorite one at the mama cat’s belly.  It searched for an instant and then attached and Jenny saw by its motions that it was sucking.  She pulled the other two, who were aggressively trying to get their places back, further away and kept them at bay for a little while.  

She remembered that she was under a monster’s house and that quickened her realization that the little one was getting fed and Jenny’s job was done.

“There…” she said, satisfied with her accomplishment.

Jenny backed out from under the web, making sure she was all the way out, and then she stood up.

She could imagine lifting up into the web with her head getting all entangled in her hair and the angry spider rushing towards her face.  The thought gave her a horrible chill and she quickly backed up to safety.  

The spider was still in its tunnel. Down below her kitten continued to feed.  All was well and Jenny felt great relief that it was done and she was out of there.  So she headed towards the neighborhood, along the path that didn’t seem to be as spooky any more.

That evening at the dinner table, Jenny casually said, “I found some kittens today.”

“Oh?” said mamma, her fork stopped mid climb. “Where?”

“Out in the farm field,” she nonchalantly answered not realizing she’d just crossed a line.

“Jenny, I don’t want you wandering way over there all alone.”

”Were you alone out there, Jenny?” asked Daddy.

“Yeah..”

“That’s Yes!”

“Yes.”

“I’ve been out there before,” Jenny answered knowing that this day was further than ever before.

“You’d better just play in the yards with your friends.”

As if Jenny hadn’t heard her mother’s firm suggestion she said, “One of them couldn’t find its food.”

“What do you mean?”

“It couldn’t get past it’s brothers and sisters.”

“That’s just how things go, sweetie,” said Mommy.

“It was all white.”

“You just let that kitten be according to nature’s plan.” 

“But this one couldn’t get fed.  I had to help.”

Dad said, “I don’t know, Hun, the cats will work it out.  Mom’s right.  Nature’s plan.”  He paused and took a fork full and chewed looking at Jenny with adoration, and she loved that, and then he said, “The cats will survive.” 

“It had…..”  but she stopped right there.

“What, Jen?”

A further pause.  “A cute face…and its tail was short.”

“Well, of course it had a cute face,”  sang Mommy and Daddy in unison. “Jen, all kittens are cute…..”  Mommy continued.

"And it had a crooked ear."

“Well, you better leave it alone, honey….”

Later that evening after Jenny thumbed through some of her books while her parents listened to the radio, her mama said, “You go get ready for bed and we’ll come tuck you in. Okay sweetie?”

“Yes.”

Jenny’s mom and dad hesitated on the steps several times on their way up and Jenny heard a little kiss smacking and giggles. They strolled into her room leaning into each other, arm in arm.

They both sat on the edge of the bed looking down on their dear daughter knowing she had a touch of mischief, much like her mother.

“So…..you’ll not wander too far alone?  OK, honey?”

But Jenny’s answer was, “I saw a big spider, too.”

“Huh? You saw a big spider?”

“Yeah.”

“Yes.”

“Yes….he was really big.”  She made a circle with her thumbs and forefingers demonstrating how big around the spider looked.

“You mean you got near that spider?” 

 “I had to. The little kitty wasn’t getting any milk.”

Jenny expected to hear Daddy’s dissertation, the one heard every time spiders were mentioned about how most of the spiders you see are girls.  She’d overheard more than once how daddy would laugh and say that spider’s wives have a nasty habit.

But her daddy just looked at her with a tilt to his head and his arm around Mommy’s waist until his hand rested on her belly as they both stood up but still bent over the bed.

“Now, honey……….”

“Yeah,” said Jenny.

They both looked at each other with mock exasperation and shrugged.  And then they kissed each other and Jenny smiled because their love made her feel good.

“Good night, Jenny,” said her mommy softly with a kiss to her cheek.

“Nighty, night,” said Daddy as he poked his finger and wiggled it in her ribs under the covers.

Jenny giggled. They left closing the door gently.

Alone, staring up at the ceiling, a cool glow laid about her room. The day had been huge.

I wonder if that spider is a female like Daddy says, she thought. Doesn’t look like a girl to me. Down in the tunnel the face lacked any possibility of femininity.  This was a completely different style.  The kitten she could see as a little girl, just guessing though. It had a pretty face and even girlish; but not the spider. 

She saw the scene in her head; she on her hands and knees, reaching for a little girl kitty under the web of a huge spider, a girl spider, somebody’s mama, I guess. 

 Little white kitty with a stubby tail.  Sweet little eyes. Jenny stepped down into sleep.

The next day Jenny obeyed and played with her friends as usual but the tiny white kitten cuddled in her mind.

The day after that, though, after she escorted her dad to his go-to-work Ford, rather than waiting to mingle in the yards with the kids she turned the other way, west, following her father’s route, but well behind him so he wouldn’t see  and possibly come back and ruin her plan.  She planned to see that kitten again.

This time she marched all the way to the small path before she paused to rebuild her nerve.  Standing there at the turnoff she looked across the grass tops to the shed.  Something was amiss.  She couldn’t define it, but she kept looking west, down the path, but past the shed.  The old truck laid there still as death; like a skeleton.  Jenny shuttered and hugged herself for a moment as she pondered, but then realized that her senses were picking up an ever so slight, ever so distant, mewing. She couldn’t quite hear it. Even the breeze rustling the grass and the bugs were too much noise.

It came from straight down the path,  over towards the shed.  Or was it beyond in the tree line?  Over in the creek’s ravine.  She wasn’t sure.  So she timidly inched down the path towards the shed.  Anyway that’s the last place she saw any kittens around here.  That must be where the mewing’s coming from. 

She reached the shed with no further ado and peeked in the door. The web dominated the scene. There under it, the litter of cats in the feeding position.

It took just a moment to notice that each and every one of them had some kind of color, and her favorite, that littlest one was all white. Nor could she locate that stubby little tail. Wait a minute.  She counted.  Six!  Wait a minute!  

 

The spider up above this realization, as usual, stands perfectly still.  Her eyes see along the tunnel that leads to her deadly porch, but even better is her toes on the tapestry.  She knows the feel of a breeze and she knows the feel of a bug. 

What she doesn’t know is the feeling of dread of the little girl who just realized her favorite kitten isn’t there and that mewing isn’t coming from inside this shed.  It comes from further down the path.  Still far off as if it really is from down in the ravine.  

 

Jenny peered west along the path.  No mewing.  Bug’s symphony.  Rustles of the grasses. Some mankind machine way over towards town.  

Somehow it didn’t make sense.  Seven a couple of days ago and now six. The little white kitty.  Her favorite one is missing.  The one that looked right into her eyes just after she picked it up and stared into its face.  Something intuitive agreed, one can come up missing.  But why that one?

Then…. there it was again.  Such a mournful, anxious, frightened cry.  And yes, way over by the trees.

What could be scarier than facing this eight legged monster in the shed?  Well, approaching the creek’s ravine, that’s what.   In Jenny’s young life, so far, that ravine has been one of the several edges of the world.  The dread deepened.  That mewing had to be her missing kitten.  Alone and crying further west than the shed.

 

Eight legged monster indeed.  Her stance and her step can be a horror to the naked apes.  Her proximity makes their reflexes fire off.

This grand spider, a masterpiece of creation, doesn’t have an inkling about the life’s moments going on in the being who’s presence was just there, of who’s presence the spider was aware.  But now with it gone, that’s all it is…gone.  The spider doesn’t ponder it’s existence in any way.

 

Jenny turned and started along the path towards the trees.  As she approached the wooded ravine the path took a sharp left just before descending into the thick underbrush that filled in between the trees. A hardy thorn tree stood right in the way and the path obviously turned to go around, giving it a wide berth. Those thorns were easily three inches long.  The jagged branches were hung with those big green textured balls called hedge apples.  The scoop was, those things were poisonous enough to kill a horse.  The kitten’s mewing came from around the other side of that wicked looking tree.

Jenny stood still at the point on the path where it began to descend toward the creek down below, just barely visible where the path hit bottom.  From where she stood she couldn’t see the path head uphill on the other side.  If monsters, or trolls, or dragons existed then certainly one lived down there.  All huge ugly beasts for sure, but one white furry tiny kitty crying in what must have been desperation handed Jenny the opportunity and the reason to overcome her fear.

Jenny had already allowed a monstrous spider to be over her back and had already ventured to the edge of the world, first time. Twice in the last couple of days she had taken giant steps in her life and now stood facing another one.  The monsters down in the creek and the tree that looked like it could grab her up and hold her much like the web trapped those poor bugs awaited her next step.  Her very next step. She could imagine herself held off the ground at an odd angle with the thorns tearing at her if she moved while a multi-legged hairy beast crept up from the creek bottom with its eyes hungrily on her.

So with her fear standing in the way like a wall the mewing so close now, right over there, behind the dangerous tree, through the brush with its shoulder level bugs and who knows what else, the only other cat she’s ever related to in her entire life, besides Murph, is mewing as if it was a bug in a web.

Jenny turned and stepped forward, with an experimental pushing the brush branches apart and then with no further hesitation just proceeded towards the mewing, splitting the thick life and keeping an eye on the ground for anything that might have a tendency to scurry.

A thorn tree designed to repel by pain of puncture and poisonous apples, twiggy brush life thicker than green pond water, and grass so deep her feet disappeared as if it was mud, found Jenny wading through  the Midwestern, thin woods, brush and grass environment like it was a swamp full of alligators.

Now, the mewing trumpeted from just below Jenny, to the right, under thorny branches.

Jenny cautiously reached out and touched the shaft of a thorn, feeling along the tapering towards the point.  And then sliding her finger over the point it’s so sharp the thought of it caused a puncture wound.

Then suddenly her focus went beyond the thorn to a spot of white down in the deep grass, such a different texture among the blades.  Suddenly the mewing and the new visual hit were coming from the same point on earth.  There was the kitty.

Jenny bent down and crawled under the branch, realizing that she had stooped before for the sake of this kitten. 

“Little kitty,” she said as she picked it up and held it in front of her face.  “What are you doing out here?”

Little kitty stared back, dangling there in the little girls hands, right back with such a goofy cock eared look. With this the kitty held the little girl.  And then it let out the  tiniest mew, a mew that slipped beneath Jenny’s skin, eye to eye, so sweet that Jenny fell right into the moment and forgot all fear in the grass deeper than mud, thorns over her head, monsters slimming up from the creek’s ravine, and spiders. She grinned and told the little white kitten, “You’re funny.”

Now Jenny, brave with her company in hand, took the kitty back up the path away from the ravine with its doomsday thorn tree. Funny she thought, the shed wasn’t so horrible now that she had been to the ravine.

She cuddle carried the white kitty back to the mama cat in the shed, crawling under the monster’s web without hesitation this time, and abruptly cleared the way to a little pink teat and placed the kitty’s face right there. It glued itself to the milker.  Mama cat let the whole thing happen.  The monster above stayed patiently frozen.

Jenny peered back over her shoulder to see the spider’s lair from below.  A multitude of single strands stretched from the bottom of the web’s floor to various surfaces in that area of the shed.  Intuitively Jenny sensed the practicality of the haphazard design. They were all cables, going every which way, taught and strong looking, important to the structure.  

Made by a mama spider.  A girl.  She’s a monster. A twinge of realization crawled over Jenny as she realized she was under that thing.

She looked back to the kitten scene.  All she could see of her little white one was its fuzzy butt, stubby tail, and two legs, pushing.  Jenny smiled in satisfaction. 

“My  little kitty’s a girl, too.  I’ll bet.”

Jenny backed out from under the web and stood up.  The spider seemed to stare out at her from the tunnel.  Jenny couldn’t tell if it could see her.  It stared so unblinking. So inhumanly still. Yes, so far from human.  

At least the kitty is soft and warm. Jenny peeked under to see if it was all right.

And the kitty has a face, she thought.  Well, but, the spider has a face, too.  She looked back up,  the spider did have a face. The front of it was dotted with eyes.  Black spots went back over the top of…I guess that’s her head, she thought.  

The kitty walks on legs like I do, but then, so does the spider.  All three of us do that.  

She was amazed at that realization.  Faces and legs.  Things in common.  And then, I have two legs, the kitten has four, and the spider, Jenny counted the knees, four on a side, eight.  Suddenly it occurred to her, and she made sure by checking her arm and the spider and she already knew the kitty was furry.  We are all three furry in some way.  

We’re all three living.  We all eat and breathe, although she couldn’t see any evidence of the spider breathing.  She just knew it did.  

She peered in closer to the spider, even leaning over the outer areas of web.  The spider held her ground with this huge mammal leaning in closer.

She must see me, I’m right in front of her, thought Jenny.  

All those eyes did indeed seem to be pointed right at Jenny, especially the two bigger ones right at the top of its so called face.

But Jenny held her ground, too.  She stayed right there and stared back at the tiny yet huge multi-eyed hairy face with the two hooked appendages hanging down between the front legs.

Jenny couldn’t control the shiver that crawled up her back and made her shoulders shake.

“Goodness, you are scary,” she uttered with one more shudder.

But then she noticed that all the way down the beastie’s dark brown back ran two lighter brown stripes. In admiration of that Jenny tilted her head to the side.

The spider, good grief, it was big, had a beauty.  Look at her. Even her stillness was a talent beyond Jenny’s comprehension.  But to really look at her fur.  It was almost petable. But it was a spider.  A horror. Beautiful.

“Well, I must admit, that’s a pretty coat,” Jenny said as if she was talking to a doll.

 The legs, all covered with sharp brown hairs, stood poised and strong looking like the older boys with their biceps.

Jenny realized this thing wouldn’t tolerate a human’s hand.

 

A girl engineer with built in tools as complex as any technology and another girl, a gorgeous furry white face cocky ear and stubby tail, and a girl who’s human and perceives all three, sit there within a cubic yard in that shed on that mid-morning July day, Indiana, 1950.

 

Jenny felt all was well again and decided to head back to the yards to check out the kids who were sure to out by now.  The kitten’s image echoed in her head as she spent the rest of the day in the yards.  None of the kids knew of her adventure.  Neither did her mom.

Later that day, Jenny’s dad came driving up the road, coming home from his day’s work.  Jenny ran out to the edge of the yard leaping and waving.  He honked his horn.

“Jenny,” he said with his hug, “what did you do today?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“I worked all day and you did nothing?”  They walked up to the house, his hand on her young and delicate shoulder.

“Well, I played.”

“I’ll bet you worked at your play.”

“No, Daddy.  I just played.”  But just then Jenny realized that she indeed did work, she pushed, she gained and added something new to her life.  She’d stretched her horizons.  How about that, she thought.  But she didn’t let on to her Dad.

After dinner and a little radio variety show with Mommy and Daddy, it was to  bed for Jenny.  She agreed easily, she was happy.  She was in love.  White Kitty, the funny face with a folded ear, a stubby tail, lived in her mind.  Jenny felt good about helping the kitty and she fell asleep.

But outside in the field and in the dark,  where Jenny had spent some of the morning, where the shed sits, where the ravine lurks, nature played its song.  Out on the path.

 

It’s so dark out here in the field.  The stalks of grass sway to the slightest breeze with a rustle that’s only audible right here.  Only audible if you’re here on the path in the middle of the night.  Which the little white kitty is.  The little one that was funny just that morning to Jenny who now slept, warm and safe under a sheet in her daddy’s under shirt.  The little kitty mews out into the night because once again her mother lifted her by the neck and carried her dangling out of the presence of her brothers and her sisters and the monster above, out into the dark, out onto the plate of the predators.

The spider hides in a gap between two age worn boards down at the far end of her tunnel.

Mama left, white Kitty cries.  Brothers and sisters cuddle, white kitty dies.  As much as tiny white fluffy kitties are able, this kitty in the path screams her complaint into the night’s atmosphere.

 

Inside Jenny’s sleep, inside her undershirt and sheets, her dreams pulsed a rhythm.  A mewing rang in her perceptions but more distant than the dreams that repeated over and over like a warning alarm, alarm, alarm.  A link formed between a desperately dangerous kitty situation in the open dark air and a snug covers mommy daddy bed little girl with a dolly.

 Jenny had been having the impression over the last few months that the dolly named Baby didn’t really do anything.   But this day she had felt the kitty in her hands and she had the impression that this thing in her hands was alive.  Also without really knowing it, she liked that.  And now the subject of that impression pleaded to the entire universe, and it seemed that Jenny was the one who was there to hear.  And she did, and she awoke.  Her eyes searched around her room knowing something was less than the normal peace.  But nothing.  Some dream.  Her eyes slipped shut and slumber rushed in.  

A cry, far off.  A familiar wail. Stars hung over the whole scene.  And the moon, the sentry of the night who didn’t really care who got eaten alive, provided a meager light to the dream of the little girl.  Jenny’s eyes flipped open, for that meager light seemed bright.  Something was wrong in the neighborhood. At first, the only thing Jenny moved was her eyes.  Then her ears heard something way out there that reminded her of the morning of the night she was now in.  The field, the shed, the  ravine, the white furry kitten, the mystery of it being left alone, all came together. That same cry.  Yes.  

She flipped the sheet off and swung her feet over the edge of the bed.   No chill, the night was hot.  A dread hung in the air of her room.  She could hear it.  That same kitten was mewing desperately like it did that morning.  All the monsters of night hovered over the  image of the doomed baby.

Clock ticking filled her room.  She looked behind over her shoulder. The clock’s hands said 4 o’clock.  She’d knew well this night scene inside.  Not here; the problem was outside.  Over by the window, the night out there seemed lighter than her room.

She padded over to the open window, stooped down and looked out into the night. Crickets and tree frogs overcame the ticking clock’s dominance.

Out there, way out there, something yelled out.  She could just barely hear it.  It had to be that kitten.  

Now what am I going to do, thought Jenny.  The kitten must be away from its family again.  “I’m going to have to help it,” she said softly out the window.  “As soon as the sun comes up.”  But then she realized that her folks would be up and her daddy would be going off to work as usual.  As soon as they got up she wouldn’t be allowed to go.  But they won’t wake up right when the sun comes up.  Maybe I could go as soon as the light starts, get there and be back before they wake up.  That doesn’t leave much time to make the trip.  Maybe I should get downstairs and be ready to go as soon as there’s some light.  I’ll wait right by the door.  But I don’t know when they get up.  They’re always downstairs already when I come down.  Once I hear John Henry it’s too late.  Oh yeah, I need to get dressed too. So I’d have to do all that and get back upstairs before they wake up so I could come down like everything is normal.

Jenny knelt there at the window realizing that this just wasn’t going to work.  Just then that tiny far away cry reached her ears again.  Suddenly, she stood up and turned to face the door to her room.

 “Baby…you wait here…” she whispered with her finger pointing up to make the point that Baby had better obey.  

Just before she took a step, she didn’t yet know its name, but something within reminded her of the squeaky floor boards and of Mama's keen ear.

She tip toed across the floor to her door, slipped into the hall, and snuck along the hallway.

Passing her parent’s door, she listened to the sleep sounds so very familiar, her daddy’s soft snore and her mama’s lip smacking.  

At the top of the stairs she paused and looked back along the hall towards the bedrooms; same soft sounds, same darkness.  It’ll be light soon, she thought.  Turning back to the stairs, she placed one bare foot on the first step, going down. She kept her hand securely on the railing as she descended, reaching the step she knew near the bottom, also a squeaker, letting down her weight, and yes, there was the squeak but slow and low. She got past it and crossed the living room. Easing open the front door, she stepped out.  She stood there at the top of the porch steps and had to push herself to move forward.  Her hand slid along that railing and at the bottom she hesitated before letting go.  A slight breeze rustled her nighty of ribbed cotton.  It was so sweet in the night’s heat. 

"I thought it was about to get light," she whispered just as she let go the railing and her trailing hand was at first inches away from that symbol of security, then several feet, and half way to the street, and then turning west down the oiled road.  Not until then did she stop to consider what she was doing as if she came to her senses, realizing she was out in the middle of the street, although traffic wasn’t a problem, and the sun wasn’t coming up like she’d thought it would.

There must have been billions of stars over her head.  She stared up at all of them, scanning the sky until her eyes drifted over to the house. She realized her folks were sleeping in there and they would have a fit if they knew she was out here.

Jenny looked back to the west.

 

This kitten, with just two weeks of life’s experience doesn’t know much about self defense.  She’s all white on a black night but that’s not how the eaters would find her. No.  She smells good.  She smells like dinner.  Fresh meat and hot living blood.  That’s how these eaters like it.  

It also doesn’t matter that she’s making such a sad kitten racket.  That might be the first call to dinner, but they home in with their nose.

 

A moment ago the porch represented safety but Jenny had let that go and ventured to the road, out across the yard, out there in the dark.  Now that spooky road felt like the safe place as she strained to see where that double rutted trail turned into the field.

The bug racket made like an insane symphony, yet it had its own rhythm, its own style.  The racket made it hard for her to listen for the approach of whatever boogey man there might have been.  But within the racket, the desperate mewing of a kitten played its solo.

The cry came from across a good bit of land, out in the field, perhaps even out near the shed, or, perhaps, please no, not from the ravine.  “I could never go there in the dark,” she said to herself.  But even with these thoughts going on, Jenny could hear the mewing as if it was a staff in that music of the night. The bugs and the tree frogs. The occasional dog often answered by another.  And the kitten’s complaint.

Jenny stood in the road and listened.  And that was the song.  Bugs and frogs and dogs.  And a solo.  A crying out, a threatened life’s crying.  More serious than her fear. Jenny’s compassionate heart, up against the night sky, could not resist.  That compassionate heart prodded one bare foot after the other down the road.  Jenny left her home’s yard behind and proceeded towards the double rut road that crossed the field that leads to the path that leads to the shed where that kitten should be, or the same path that leads to the ravine. The thought of it stopped her in her tracks again.

Again, Jenny looked around.  She was out in the night.  The sky above her and to the horizon all around was black.  Very night.  And stars.  Familiar patterns are there.  But are they a comfort? Very little.  

“It’s dark out here,” said Jenny.  She shivered, stuck where she stood. 

The beginning of the field waited just ahead. The field, laying there, knowing she would come, knowing in its own way that it had a part in this moment of life. Just waiting for Jenny to arrive.  The kitten cried out.  The predators’ attentions had been turned, now, for a while. They were snaking their way in the kitty’s direction. The Indiana girl took more steps and reached the rutted road.The stars were light and the stars were weight.  Her fear overcome by curiosity and compassion.  The bugs and the frogs cared not.  The moon cared not.  The earth solid under her feet, the bigger home.  And all those stars.  Home?

For an instant Jenny wished she had her shoes, but even as she thought it she was on her way down the trail.  It extended before her as far as her vision in the dark would allow.

There in the night the tall grass on each side was like the Red Sea splitting to let her through.  Indeed, it took the fortitude of Moses for a little girl to be where Jenny was that night.  Traversing that trail with a hesitant urgency.  The turn off towards the shed was just ahead.

The kitten mewed out there in the grass, so tall, so able to hide the spooks.  The darkness of just before dawn hid things that would be visible if the sun was up. 

Each mew pulled another reluctantly brave step out of Jenny.  She held her eyes wide gathering in all the light they could.  And wonderment, too.  What a thing to behold.  The night.  Jenny hadn’t really seen it like this before.  It’s so big, she thought. It’s so complete and all around, just like the day does. I’m so little. The mew again.  But not as little as the kitty.  I’m smaller than the night but bigger than the kitty.  Jenny stepped forward.

All that glorious green of earlier in the day now held back and only revealed the grays.  The blue of the sky was as dark as blue can get.  Rather than the distance Jenny could see earlier, her vision packed in close, restricted by the night’s ways.  The kitten called.  Step by tentative step, pulled forth by the kitten, Jenny’s bubble of restricted sight went before her and followed as well. Her vision’s limits stayed just behind.  And ahead it revealed just enough for the next couple of steps.  Starlight helped but held it down to bare minimums. Jenny’s courage let her be there in that bubble of reduced perceptions.  Searching to save.

At the turn to the right, to the west, the single lane path revealed the way to go to the barefooted baby lady. 

And then, there, off the path in the grass, in the night, the old dilapidated truck caught her attention and it seemed to arise out of the deep grass.  The star and moon glow rested on its bad metal and reflected the droopy eyes.  It stared like an aged demon, hungry as a predator that considered kittens too small but little girls just right.

Jenny’s scalp pulled up tight.  All her hairs tingled, irritating her ability to be aware of her surroundings and to be careful.  She sucked up inside herself with fear and the dread of knowing there’s no way out of here now. She was too far from safety, standing out in the night in the middle of a field on the predator’s plate herself, unable to budge.  That moment of time stretched into what seemed forever and the deepness of night laid in.  But the truck stayed put.

And then she heard another mew, much closer now.  Right over there, just down the path a bit.

Once again, courage.

She turned that way.  Two steps.  Two steps towards the monstered shed and the ravine’s greater threat, especially in the night, two steps and the cry into the night seemed to be right there at her feet and she looked down in the darkness, darker still by being on the ground, to see a lighter spot. Fuzzy by nature and fuzzy by the lack of light, a white area mewed. There.  

Jenny, in disbelief,  stooped down to confirm what her eyes suggested. What fear? “Little kitty, how do you get so far from home?”

 

Back home mommy awakes with a strange feeling.  Something isn’t right.  

“Honey?”  She nudges her husband.

 

Jenny picked the kitten up and held it close to what would some day be a comfort to her children.  Jenny, the pre-woman, already a nurturer and a caregiver, held the white kitten, the reject of its own family, and gathered it up into another family, another mother.

All Jenny said was, “Come on.”  And the two of them turned and headed back through the grass, down the path, not towards the kitten’s home in the shed, but to the double rutted road, to the oiled Jefferson Road and to the neighborhood of yards and the home.

As usual, the walk away from the fearful moment is so much easier than the walk towards it.  Jenny protected her charge like mama with child.  I guess that never in her life had she felt that bold.  She had conquered. She'd conquered the problem and she'd conquered her fear.  

The dirt of the earth felt good to her feet. The night had lost its weight, now being so much more familiar. And even her company gave her courage. Jenny felt like she had grown a foot taller.  

But suddenly, the voice of the powers that be penetrated the night atmosphere. Her Mommy called from the yard, sounding pretty anxious.  Jenny knew she would have to pay and the future of the kitten now lost some of its brightness.  In a panic she tried to figure how she could hide the kitten, first under her nightshirt, nope, and then out here in the field, but that’s where she just saved it from.  She resigned herself to just walking back to face her own future and no doubt the kitten's future, too.

She called out, “I’m here.”

What she heard in return was, “Jenny?"  Her mommy nearly screamed it.  "You’re what? Your where?” 

At the same time, in unison with Mommy's tirade working up, Jenny heard her Daddy’s voice in a questioning call, “Jenny?”

“Just a minute.  I’m OK.  I’m coming."

Jenny arrived at Jefferson Road.  She felt a bit relieved to feel the security of the hard oiled road under her feet as she turned towards home, but out of the dark, her mommy came trouping with an obvious determination.  Daddy trailed her by a few steps and seemed to be struggling to keep up.  Both of them were in their pajamas.

Jenny started to cry tears not from shame or fear of punishment but because of the thought of having to leave the kitty out here in the dark.  They all met in the middle of the road.

Mommy pulled up huffing.  "Jenny?!  I can't believe it….you're out here….what's that?"  Her hand went immediately from slapping her forehead to pointing at the kitten.

"It's that Kitty, Mommy."

"Well, I can see that."

"Jenny…"  Daddy seemed to be speechless beyond that.

An American family stood in their pajamas in the road that goes by their yard under the early morning stars and with the horizon to the east going gray. With a kitten.  Mama and Daddy wanted to be mad, Jenny being out here alone in the night, and Mama pretty well was mad, but they stood in this circle, Mom and Dad arm in arm and each with their free hand on Jenny's shoulder as they looked at their daughter with the kitten, a little bright spot in the dark, held up under her chin.  I guess if that little girl wanted to visit the moon they’d eventually decide it would be ok. 

“Jenny….” Mamma sighed until her shoulders drooped.  “You went out in the middle of the night, in your undies, barefoot, all alone, to bring home this kitten?”

“It was calling me, mama.”  A flood of tears showed along the rims of Jenny’s eyes.  

“Now……… what?…it was calling you…what?  What do you mean it was calling you?”

“It woke me up.  It was out there all by itself.” Suddenly she cried in near hysterics, turning to her dad. “How does that happen? This is the second time I found it all alone.”

“What do you mean the second time?  It wasn’t lost the first time,” said Mommy and then with some stern skepticism, “Jenny?”

“It was lost this morning, too.”  Jenny lowered her head feeling the kitty fur smooth against her chin.  It purred.  Jenny sobbed out loud.  “I went out in the field this morning, too, I mean yesterday morning.”

“Now, Jenny, I thought we told you not to do that.”

“Wait a minute,” said Daddy.  He put a hand on his wife's arm which had been gesturing pretty heavily.

“We are going to have to do something……” Mommy broke in with firm discern.  “We’ve got to nip this in the bud.”  She stood with her head cocked in determination and her hands on her hips, towering over Jenny.  “Next she’ll be sneaking out in the middle of the night to go gambling at Bill Joe’s.”

“Really, Honey…”

Jenny stood humbled and silent, cuddled kitten, and let this conversation play out.  

“Look what she’s done,” Daddy said. “Honey, do you realize what it means that Jenny ventured out into to the night to save this kitten?

“All right, here we are again. Touch of tenacity….” mom said.

“Much like her mom.”

“It’s dangerous.”

“Being like her mom?”

"You…are taking sides aren’t you."

"Well, I thought maybe it’s time she has a pet."

"That's got nothing to do with the fact she went outside in the middle of the night…."

"I thought the sun was going to come up soon," pleaded Jenny thinking it might help her case.

"See?  Look."  She held the kitten up so they could see that face.  "It was out all by itself….crying.  I heard it from my room.  It was out on the path by itself."

"So, what are you thinking?"  Mommy asked, looking down from her height.

Jenny cuddled it back in.

 " Are you thinking we'll just keep it safe here at the house?"  And then she stopped and tipped her head back towards their home. "I mean, back there at the house?  Jenny, I just can't believe you got up in the night and strolled outside in your nighty, with no shoes," she shrugged in exasperation, "no light, no one to go with you….weren't you afraid?"

"Some."

"And now that this heroism is…."

"Dear….now listen….it amazes me that Jen did this."  He held his hand up to keep his wife paused, "Maybe this is the one.  Meant to be.  Maybe it's time."

"It will just be under foot."

Jenny held her funny cat close up under her chin feeling the soft fuzzy love.  A gentle rumble caressed her neck.  The purring.  Jenny knew this meant the kitty was happy.

“She disobeyed us!”

Jenny held it out again thinking the self evident dearness of the kitten justified the whole thing.

"That's one point," said Daddy, "but the other is our daughter standing here with this kitten she so bravely rescued.  Apparently it's an unwanted runt.  But Jenny had the stuff in her to go get it.  In the dark, for crying out loud."  He neared her ear and softly said, "There's something special here."  

"Making messes, scratching, getting fur all over…." Mommy stopped and rolled her eyes, "pooping…..you know?"

Jenny held it up a little higher, a little closer.

"Look how cute it is, honey," said Daddy as he reached out and gave a little rub between the kitty's ears.

"That’s it as a kitten, but it will become a cat." 

"Mommy?"

"Honey?”

”It will be come a cat.  For the next decade it will be a cat in the house."  

“So?” blurted Jenny.

“Now, Jenny." said Daddy.  But then he paused and gathered them together, which was his talent with his little family.  "Let's stop and think a minute."  He looked each of his ladies in the face.  "With this," he nodded to the kitten, "Jenny could learn some responsibility."

Mommy butted in, "No dear.  The kitten will be climbing the curtains all day while you're away at work."

"That's where Jenny comes in.  She takes care of the cat and teaches it to behave."

"You're being an idealist."

"We'll have to sacrifice….."

"My sacrifice."  Mommy said. "What about when she goes to school.  Couple of months from now," she paused for effect, "and the kitten is mine."

"It will be jumping all over my head, too, while we're trying to sleep," said Daddy.

"Oh, shut up."  She smiled and kissed her husband.

Four beings and all the bugs paused, awaiting the verdict. Obviously Mommy was the judge but she didn't know her answer yet, but then…

"OK,"  Mommy exclaimed, "but it is not OK for you to go out in the middle of the night!"

Jenny turned the kitty around and looked into its face and she felt in her mind that it said, I’m funny.

 

So one little kitten was kept from the seven.  A girl named Jenny of Indiana kept that one kitten that summer, named it Funny, and it romped around, chasing a ball, whacking it here and there all over the place and playing with a string as if that string was another kitten.

But Mommy was right.  Funny became a cat in about nine months. A full grown cat with a stubby tail and one ear bent over.  She was a good mouser, though, and that made Mommy happy and to be perfectly honest, Daddy took great joy in flipping the string around, laughing while Funny acrobatically pursued it, with the greatest of skill.

In the neighborhood, with the kids, Funny evolved into Murphy’s sidekick and those two put on great demonstrations of cat wrestling to the amazement of all.  And the two of them hunted together along the fence lines.

Jenny and Funny slept together every night until Funny died the April before Jenny went off to Purdue to study the science of life and discover that her young politics matched that of the hippies.  Never the less, much later, in her middle years, she was a professor of zoology at her ala mater.  She still told the story of the three ladies in the old shed down the spooky path of her youth.  And she always ended the story saying,  “I wonder where that eight legged lady ended up.”

 

Ms. Monster doesn’t perceive the snake zig zagged all over the shelf that her tapestry is hooked to.  All she knows is some bug or the other is flopping around and getting all tangled up out there on her sticky doorstep.  She, the expert at this, waits until the flapping looks tired and is sufficiently entangled, and then sprints out of her tunnel making an eight point landing on the poor doomed critter.  But just before the monster fangs her meal, she becomes a meal herself.  The snake pops her out of her life in an instant.

 

 

 

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© Copyright 2017 Thomas Van Horn. All rights reserved.

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