Buttercup

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


In the old west, a mysterious kitten may be the link to saving a family's farm from an evil villain who has ideas of his own. Will Buttercup and Tessa find what they need before it's too late?

Submitted: July 30, 2018

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Submitted: July 30, 2018

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The old woman, a white witch from what the townsfolk called her, squinted out from the doorway of her ramshackle cabin. Pulling her threadbare shawl a bit more tightly around her, she surveyed her weed-choked yard once again. The special kitten was gone.

“Should have never let her get out,” she spoke out loud.

The mama cat peered up at her mistress, green eyes alight. She seemed to let the witch know that it was okay. My little one will be fine. I can feel it. Besides, she is needed somewhere.

“I hope so,” the woman said.

#

 

Buttercup crouched in the weed-choked meadow, her hindquarters wiggling in anticipation of the furry brown mouse oblivious to being stalked.  Her sensitive cat ears were at high alert: the rustle of the dry grass as the wind swept through, the chirp of a nearby cricket.

Her human companion, six-year-old Tessa Hastings sat nearby on a white linen blanket, a hastily thrown together picnic lunch untouched.

Tessa’s mom, Sara, had permitted the two of them the luxury of being alone together today. The new baby, Tessa’s brother Ethan, had colic and it took everything in Sara to hush the child, trying to comfort him all hours of the day and night. So frazzled had Miss Sara appeared to Buttercup, that the cat approached the woman demanding to be let outdoors to the warm spring day. Buttercup couldn’t bear to hear that crying child any longer, but worst of all, was the way Miss Sara looked when she couldn’t get the baby to hush.

So Buttercup had taken it upon herself, rubbing in and out of Tessa’s long, muslin skirt, mewing her most annoying cry so that the child would understand that the two of them needed time to be alone.

There had always been a special magic between Tessa and Buttercup. They’d understood one another from the beginning when Buttercup had stumbled onto their farm, a starving runt, barely alive. Tessa’s father, Seth had told his little girl that another mouth to feed would be impossible, and that the kitten would have to go. But Tessa and Buttercup cuddled together in the sweet smelling hay of the family’s barn that night, a small plate of fresh cream gratefully accepted by the tiny kitten. When they awoke the next morning, nose to nose, something wonderful had happened. Whether it was through magic or the answered prayers of a little girl, the two of them had been able to understand each other’s thoughts. Tessa had looked in wonderment at the bedraggled kitten before her, as Buttercup lay purring beside her, sending her thoughts of love and gratitude. And Buttercup herself, felt Tessa’s response: you’re welcome, and I love you too. Later in the day the little girl had begged her daddy to please keep the kitten. She’d told him there was something strange and wonderful about her. Tessa would work extra hard around the farm and cabin, and Papa wouldn’t even know that the cat was there.

 Now Buttercup watched her best friend sitting cross-legged on the blanket, engrossed in a patch of wild clover.

“Buttercup, I’m looking for a four-leaf. I just know it’ll mean a good omen if I can find it.” The little girl’s hands dug into the wild grass; her eyes alert and focused.

Buttercup turned away in boredom. She cooed a small kitty trilling sound which meant I’m uninterested in that. Can’t you see there’s a mouse over here? But Tessa didn’t look up, so insistent she was about finding the lucky clover.

Buttercup felt a wave of sadness from her human. She read the little girl’s emotions as if they were a part of her, too. It wasn’t just the exhaustion Mama felt about the new baby. Papa had been warned recently that if his crops weren’t doing better by the end of the growing season, Jake Jergins, the town’s sheriff and richest man was going to foreclose on their farm and take their small cabin away from them.

Papa had been working extra hard day and night, his fingers and hands raw from tilling the ground. Mama had been unable to help much because of the fussy baby. Tessa took up a little of the slack, waking early to gather eggs from under the hen’s warm bodies in their nests.  She’d even learned to milk Betsy, their portly old cow. Buttercup liked that duty best of all. She’d sit patiently off to the side, waiting as Tessa would squirt fresh milk in her direction before continuing the milking. The cat would lap it up, running a slender paw over and over her face and whiskers, not willing to lose a precious drop.

The mouse now forgotten, Buttercup approached Tessa on the picnic blanket. She knew that one small piece of fresh fish lay at the bottom of the wicker basket wrapped in paper just for her from Seth’s fishing trip the day before.

Meow. Tessa didn’t look up. Purr, coo. What was so special about clovers? Then Buttercup heard the little girl’s thoughts.

If I find a four leaf clover,

All our problems will be over.

Papa’s sadness will be gone,

Mama’s gladness will be won.

Hurry now and find it please,

Lord, I beg you on my knees.

Let me find the special leaf,

This is my prayer, my belief.

It all seemed such nonsense to the cat that Tessa would believe in such a silly rhyme. Why would their problems be gone if she found a stupid plant?

With the sun headed a little more westerly, Buttercup told the little girl it was time to go home. With a heavy heart, Tessa began gathering the remnants of their small picnic, even forgetting to give her companion the piece of fresh fish.

#

Buttercup awoke to raised voices. She crept from under the down quilt covering her and Tessa, careful not to wake her little girl.

The sound of Miss Sara’s crying broke Buttercup’s heart. She slid into the narrow opening of the tiny bedroom Miss Sara and Mr. Seth shared. It was early and still dark out. Buttercup saw Seth slide out of bed to light the bedside oil lamp. He walked over to his wife, holding her tenderly as the tears continued.

“Hush now, you’ll wake the baby. We have until sundown on the twenty-fifth of this month to come up with the money.”

So, it was more than crops, was it? Buttercup, in her magical way understood every word that was being spoken. That slimy creep Jergens wanted money from these people. Not content to see if they would pull themselves out of last year’s misfortune with the drought, the wealthy businessman wanted paid, and soon.

Buttercup hissed silently at the thought. She’d met that man before and seen behind the winning politician’s smile; the sheriff’s badge he wore shined up like some sort of prize. She’d seen the way his eyes traveled over Miss Sara, and Buttercup knew what Mr. Seth didn’t. Jergens wanted to harm his wife. His thoughts had been wicked.

“I, I can start up my sewing again,” Buttercup heard Miss Sara say. “A few of the ladies in town liked my work. It can bring us a little more.”

Mr. Seth blew out his breath as he held onto his wife. Her tears had stopped for a moment, and Buttercup left them alone.

#

August twentieth arrived with one of the worst heat snaps that the town had ever seen. The sun rose high in the sky promising a scorcher of a day.

Seth Hastings walked through the field of corn. Buttercup followed him up and down the rows of sweet-smelling plants. She could sense his happiness in the yield of crops this year, but she also felt the underlying sadness he hid from his family.

 There had been just enough rain recently, followed by days of brilliant sunshine; a farmers dream come true. Buttercup meowed at Seth’s feet, and he bent over to scoop her into his arms.

“I wish you could understand me,” he said, scratching under her chin and behind her ears. “I wish I had someone to talk to about all that’s been going on.”

In her magical mind, Buttercup knew.

“I know these crops won’t be nearly enough for that Jergens,” Seth said. “It’s just a ruse of sorts, a way to buy time. He needs five thousand dollars or he’s going to foreclose on my property.” Seth put Buttercup down. She watched him take off his straw hat, scratch his head and squint into the sun.

“I can’t do it, kitty. I’m a failure. We stand to lose it all.” Seth put his hat back on, hands on his hips, surveying his plants once again.

 “I thought I would be one of the richest men in town,” he said. “I promised my daddy that I’d work hard, and someday I’d head out a little farther west and find fortune. Now I won’t even be able to keep a roof over our heads.”

Buttercup sat looking up at the man. She stared into his face wishing he could understand what she felt. It will be alright, she seemed to say. It’s not over yet.

With one last look at Seth, Buttercup left to find Tessa.

#

“Buttercup, let’s go exploring today,” Tessa said from the wooden rocking chair on their little porch. Her cotton bonnet sat off to the side, Buttercup noticed. Sweat trickled down the little girl’s face, and she had bunched her long skirt up near her knees.

 “My chores are done, and well, maybe we can find another special patch of clover by our cool stream. Come on.”

Tessa went into the cabin and came back out with a small package wrapped in twine. “Our lunch for later,” she said.

Cat and girl took off about ten in the morning.

They walked for about an hour, following the trickle of the small stony brook in the woods bordering their property. Tessa removed her shoes, and tucked her long skirt up, just enough where she could walk into the creek bed over the moss-covered flat rocks. Cold stream water lapped over her feet, and Buttercup sat on the small bank enjoying Tessa’s reaction.

“You scared?” Tessa asked. “Why don’t you come in with me?”

Buttercup told Tessa that cats do not like water. To them, water is for drinking, and only a very silly cat would ever find themselves in a creek.

Tessa laughed and splashed water from the creek toward her cat. But Buttercup was quick, and she ran for cover under an old deadfall of trees.

While Buttercup hid among the dried leaves and fallen branches, she noticed something strange. A leather satchel sat stuck half in and half out of the muddy ground. She poked her cream-colored paw toward the twine flap, and the bag opened. Buttercup stuck her head in. She sniffed. Nothing good to eat. Just some old hunks of rock were piled into there. She tried pulling herself back out, and found she was caught. A moment of panic, then Tessa was at her side, gently guiding her out.

“Silly cat,” Tessa said. Then Buttercup sensed the little girl’s curiosity. “What on earth have you found, Buttercup?”  Tessa pulled the bag out of the earth and sat it off to the side while she pulled her woolen stockings and shoes back on.

“Maybe it’s buried treasure,” she mused. “Like those pirate stories teacher tells us about in our schoolroom.”

Tessa opened the satchel and peered inside. “Huh. It’s only stupid rocks,” she said. “I wonder why anybody would pile so many of them into a bag and hide them away here.” She flung the sack back near the deadfall. “Come on, we need to continue our adventure,” she said.

They walked out of the woods into a grassy meadow filled with wildflowers and clover. Buttercup rubbed against Tessa, inquiring about their lunch. Tessa opened the small bundle Mama prepared for them, and tossed the small piece of fish to Buttercup, and bit into the crusty hunk of bread for herself. She sat down amidst the soft grass, opening her long skirt around her. The two companions ate their lunch in a comfortable silence.

When Tessa was finished, she flipped onto her stomach, her face close to the ground as she searched once again for a lucky clover. Buttercup pretended interest this time, pouncing near the little girl’s moving hands, and then running her sandpaper tongue over Tessa’s face.

“Stop it, silly,” Tessa said, wiping at her cheek. Then her eyes widened. “I’ve found one! Look, Buttercup!” In the palm of Tessa’s hand, lay a small, emerald green four leaf clover. “See, I just knew my dream would come true. Let’s show Papa.”

#

Buttercup had been counting the days and now it was the morning of August twenty-fifth, the day that could change their lives. Mr. Seth hitched up the mare, Sam early in the morning and went to meet Jergens in town.

 Miss Sara hung clothes on a rope line near the side of the cabin, while the baby slept in a pile of freshly dried clothing in a wicker basket nearby.

The clop clop clop of a horse pulled Buttercup from her thoughts, and she looked up from her favorite spot underneath the porch to see Jergens riding up on his fine, black stallion.

“Well hello there, Sara,” he called out white teeth gleaming in the light of day, as he brought his horse to a stop. Buttercup watched as he removed his cowboy hat in what was supposed to be a gallant gesture.

“Mornin Jake,” Miss Sara called out. “Seth left a little over two hours ago to meet with you in town. Did he make a mistake on the day?”

“Thought I’d save him the time,” Jergens said. “Well, if you don’t mind, I’d sure like something cold to drink, Maam.” Buttercup watched the man dismount and tether his horse’s reins to the wooden fence near the porch.

Miss Sara picked up the basket with the sleeping baby, and brought it onto the shade of the porch. Buttercup heard her call for Tessa.

The little girl had been in the barn, raking hay for the animals. Buttercup watched her run toward the cabin. “What is it, Mama?”

“Keep an eye on Ethan, would you? I’m going to fetch a drink for Mr. Jergens.”

Buttercup watched Jergens mount the stairs to the porch. She crept out from her spot to keep an eye on him. Jergens sat on the top step near Tessa as she stood shyly off to the side.

“My, aren’t you a pretty girl?” the man said. And Buttercup didn’t like it one bit. She could read the man’s thoughts as surely as if he spoke out loud. He saw himself touching Tessa, holding her and stroking her long blonde hair. But just as soon as the thought came, it went as Miss Sara walked back out with a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade.

“Here you go, Jake,” she said.

The man took a long drink. “I guess I’ll just have to wait here until Seth gets back. I truly didn’t want to miss our special visit today.” Buttercup saw Jergens pull a flat, shiny tin container out of a pocket in his leather jacket. He dumped a healthy amount of foul-smelling liquid into the lemonade.

“Once my deputy tells Seth I’ve come out here, I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s back.” 

“I-I’ve got to finish up with the laundry,” Sara said. She brushed past Jergens and walked down the steps back into the yard.

“Your mama and papa don’t like me very much,” Buttercup heard Jergens say to Tessa. “I want nothing more than to be their friend.”

Tessa remained quiet. Buttercup could feel something coming off the little girl. This man made her uncomfortable. Buttercup positioned herself between Jergens and Tessa. She hissed at him.

“Whoa, tiger, now that’s not nice.” Jergens laughed and took a huge swallow of the drink in his hand.

“Listen,” Jergens said to Tessa. “Would you mind fetching me the papers sticking out of my saddlebag? Be a good girl and do as I say.”

Buttercup padded down the porch steps with Tessa as she approached the tethered stallion. She reached for the papers and the horse drew back emitting a loud whinny. Miss Sara, her laundry forgotten, ran over to see what the commotion was.

“Tessa, you know better than to go near that devil horse.”

“But Mama, Mr. Jergens asked me to.”

Jergens stood. “Whoa, Silverstar,” he said, walking near the horse, his hands extended. The stallion settled. When Jergens stood near Sara, he put his hand on her arm.

“Sara, would you mind terribly if we had a little bite of some of those breakfast biscuits you’re so famous for? My stomach’s not up to par this morning.”

Buttercup’s ears perked up. Her long body tensed. She pushed a thought at Tessa.

Don’t you believe him, she said. He wants to hurt your mama!

Jergens pulled the papers from his saddlebag, and walked behind Sara into the cabin.

Tessa’s eyes overflowed with tears. “What am I to do?” she asked the cat. Then looking down the road, “Oh, Papa, where are you?”

Just then, Buttercup heard a scream. She told Tessa to run and not stop until she got to the next farm. They needed help, and fast.

Buttercup climbed the porch steps and scratched at the front door of the cabin. She heard whimpering, followed by the sound of Miss Sara pleading.

Over and over Buttercup scratched at the door in vain. Then she remembered the open kitchen window. Up onto the sill she jumped right through into the kitchen.

Jergens held Miss Sara around the waist. He’d pushed her up against the wall and was trying to kiss her roughly. Miss Sara kicked and hollered something fierce, but the man overpowered her. He tore the front of her cotton dress, his hands moving over her as she struggled.

Buttercup sprung onto the man’s back, her sharp claws extended and raked at his neck. Jergens reached around to tear the snarling animal from him. As he did, Miss Sara took the opportunity to run.

Jergens flung Buttercup to the floor. She lay there panting, looking up at him, the knowledge of all the true reasons he’d come today becoming clear to her. Buttercup got to her feet. A low growl came from somewhere deep inside her.

There was more to it than this scoundrel wanting their cabin and farm; even more to it than his desire for Miss Sara. Jergens had heard about old Miner Dobson’s gold which was rumored to be buried somewhere on this property. A fortune in gold nuggets from the deceased Dobson lay hidden. If Jergens foreclosed on their farm, and took the property for his own, he’d have all the rights to the treasure and the wealth and prosperity that would come with it.

Buttercup sent a message to Tessa. In her feline mind, she saw Tessa at the barn of the neighboring ranch. She told her little girl to bring help quickly, but she also informed Tessa of the miner’s gold.

Buttercup heard baby Ethan begin to wail on the porch. Jergens took off and caught Sara as she picked the child up.

“Shut that brat up,” he ordered.

Sara cradled the baby to her chest, her own tears mingled with the child’s.

“Please, Jake, just let us be. We’ve never done a thing against you.”

Jergens caught Sara’s arm. “If you value that baby and that little girl of yours, then you’ll do as I say.” He pushed her into the cabin and slammed the door.

Buttercup had followed Jergens back out, and now she stood on the porch looking off in the direction of the dirt road. Her cat senses and exceptional ears alert, she didn’t hear anyone else coming yet.

Buttercup ran in the direction of the woods to the place she and Tessa had found what they’d thought was a useless bag of rocks. Tessa, meet me at our special place at the creek.

#

Nathan Brody dismounted his horse, taking Tessa gently from the saddle. Buttercup watched from the woods as the huge farmer pulled a shotgun from his satchel and mounted the steps of Tessa’s cabin. Tessa looked torn. Buttercup observed her dilemma.

Come, Tessa. Let Mister Brody handle Jergens. Your Mama’s alright. Trust me. Buttercup pushed this thought to her little mistress and waited. After a few minutes, Tessa was there.

Though the little girl was visibly shaken, Buttercup sent soothing emotions to her. It will be fine. We have something Jergens wants. Remember that old bag of rocks? Guess what: it’s actually buried gold! Our family is rich, Tessa!

Then the little girl understood. The sound of Papa’s creaking wagon wheel came to them, and they ran from the woods to greet him.

#

 

Farmer Brody brought Sheriff Jergens out from the cabin as Seth jumped from his wagon. He brushed past them and ran into the house where Sara and the baby sat unharmed in their small sitting room. Tessa flung herself at her mama, while Buttercup jumped on Miss Sara’s lap.

“Are you alright?” Seth asked his wife. “Did he hurt you?” Buttercup felt the rage toward Jergens, mixed with feelings of love for his wife.

“We’re okay,” Sara said. “I tried reasoning with that vile man, trying to buy just a little time. We’re going to be fine.”

Tessa piped up just then. “Papa, you’ll never believe what I have to tell you. It’s a magical story that I almost don’t believe myself.” The little girl picked up Buttercup and cradled her gently in her arms.

“You see, Buttercup is really the one that saved the day. Not only the day, but everything, Papa. We’re rich. We found the gold that Sheriff Jergens was after. It wasn’t about our farm and crops, none of it. Buttercup told me. She found the treasure.”

Seth stared at his little girl as if she’d gone mad. “I-I don’t understand.”

Farmer Brody stood in the doorway. “Your little girl’s right,” he said. “I just got a full confession from Jergens. He’s tied up out yonder, and I’m taking him into to town for assaulting Missus Hastings and for all the lies and harassment he’s been causing your family.”

“You mean the tale of Miner Dobson is true?” Seth asked. “Show me.”

Tessa and Buttercup brought Seth to the deadfall and satchel filled with nuggets. What the little girl and cat had thought of as mere rocks, was a fortune in gold.

Seth walked out of the woods, the satchel slung over his shoulder. Jergens sat trussed on the porch like a prize turkey, a kerchief stuffed into his mouth. His eyes widened when he saw.

“I guess you’ll be going away for a long time, Sheriff,” Seth said. “No longer will this town have to fear your bullying and lies. Take him away, Nate.” Seth drew his fist back and punched Jergens square in the side of his face.

#

Over a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner that fall, in the dining room of the new, huge cabin Seth had begun building, the Hastings family sat at their long, oak table giving thanks to God for the miracle that happened.

Buttercup lay at Tessa’s feet as several delicious morsels of turkey dropped to the ground for her. She saw Tessa fingering the lucky clover she’d found, and felt nothing but happiness and contentment from her little girl.

Though the family didn’t completely understand how their cat was so special, and how all the events leading up to Seth becoming the new Sheriff had really happened, they basked in the warmth and gratitude of their new life, content in their love for one another.

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Karen L Malena. All rights reserved.

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