by Janice Daugharty
Copyright 2010 Janice Daugharty
“Even working in microcosm, Janice Daugharty is a writer who thinks big”—New York Times Book Review
He was standing at the corner of the house with the bumpy sack of baby kittens, mean-looking with the oak shadows blowing over him. It didn't seem like I'd walked out on that porch; it seemed like I was just there. Like my feet were drove in the floor with the nails that held the boards down, and I couldn't move. So all I could do was be and watch—story of my life up to then—watch William B. sacking up my cats to throw in the river.
Which for a fact wasn't the worst thing he ever did.
My little brother J.J. was just there too, right beside me, watching our step-daddy tussle with the sack of cats and smelling the whiskey fumes rolling off of him. I was crying, but I wasn't crying out loud and I wasn't begging. And I can't say I didn't take some pleasure in the mama cat clawing William B. when he tried to drop her down inside the sack with her babies. He was holding her by the skin of the neck and her legs were stuck out stiff till he let go. Then the whole sack came alive with yowls and meowls, poked out with heads and feet and living lumps, nothing but the mama cat's white paws sticking out the top, her claws like rattlesnake fangs hooked into the tops of William B’s long, bony hands.
His pale green eyes stretched wide, he turned red; he had a Pall Mall stuck between his smoking lips. With his right hand, moving slow, he grabbed the mama cat’s neck, then with both hands he started squeezing and wringing, and kept it up till her body inside the brown burlap went slack. The kittens were still bunching on the bottom and crawling up the sides of the sack, carrying on something awful. The mama cat’s claws were still pinned to his hands. He pulled the claws out, then let go of the cat, straight down in the sack, then gathered the top and twisted it and slung it over his shoulder and walked around the back of the house, headed for the woods and the river.