(A heads-up for people who prefer their fiction in small bites–this story is about 5,000 words.)
As far back as I can remember, I enjoyed going to my grandparents’ house. It was little more than a large shack, even older than the house I lived in with my parents, sister, and brother. It was the outside, though, that called to us—the valley falling off to the left and the branch that rambled along its bottom; the steep hill rising on its other side, topped by a stand of woods that went on forever; the hayfields at the bottom of a slope to the back, their waving grasses reaching to a canebrake that bordered a wide creek; the ancient barn perched on the valley’s edge where Brother, Sister, and I played many a rainy day. And the corncrib next to it.
But we weren’t allowed to play there.
Before they came to stay with us, the barn cats lived in that corncrib. We heard but never saw them. The farm animals avoided the corncrib as well. Maybe it was the strange noises the cats made, more growl than hiss, that kept everyone and everything away from it. Except Grandma, and Grandpa before he died two years ago. All Brother, Sister, and I knew was the cats killed rats, mice, and snakes, so were tolerated but were to be avoided. Grandma said they were feral, were familiar with only her and grandpa, and they could hurt people they didn’t know.
Grandma died less than two years after Grandpa. Daddy found her sitting in her rocker on the front porch, stone-cold dead, when he went to visit her late one afternoon. I recall it being hot summertime, and as he did every day, Daddy had gone to take her a plate of food covered with tinfoil from the supper Mama had made.
I didn’t remember the event well, being as I was only six at the time. My main memory of Grandma’s death was a long, black car showing up and taking her body away while we kids looked on. I peeked from behind Mama’s dress tail; Brother and Sister were older than me, eleven and nine respectively, and didn’t shy away. Maybe because they had seen more of death than I had. Though I didn’t, both remembered when Grampa had also been carted off in a different black car up the rocky, dirt road that eventually led to town.
While we were watching the long car jostle and bounce over the rocks, Daddy said to Mama, “I’ll have to come back and get the barn cats. They’re our responsibility now.”
Mama sighed, “I know.” Continue reading “The Barn Cats”