Use the following links to view text below

Like All the Rest of Us

H. Gordon Green

This is to that little girl of ten or so, whose family came out from the city a few years ago to build that ranch-style bungalow just down the road. Her kitten fell down an old well last night. She searched for hours before she found it there. She had known right away, of course, that something was wrong. The kitten was beside her night and day. Never out of her sight for more than a minute or two. Slept on her pillow even in flea time, his motor running softly on and on into the hollow ticking of the night. Seemed to be that the girl who owned him was a bit of a kitten herself, shy and quiet and much too timid, I thought, for her parents to leave her alone so much of the time. I'm not really condemning her parents. They are just doing their frantic best to get ahead in the world, like all the rest of us.

I guess that's why they finally consented to this kitten a few months ago. A farmer on the edge of town had a litter he was going to drown, so they had been told. And because she had been coaxing, coaxing in her gentle way for so long, and because now with summer coming on and bowling and beach parties and the tavern down at the lake in full swing again, the house did get pretty dark before they got home sometimes, they took their daughter out to the farm to choose her very own kitten.

"Just make sure it isn't no she-male!" her father said.

The farmer helped them out with that part of the choosing, but it still took her a long time deciding which one of those wide-eyed balls of fluff she must condemn to death. The farmer went looking for a sack while he waited for her. And finally, when her parents got impatient too, she took up this white one and tucked it inside her jacket.

"And mind now, that you remember who has to feed it and clean up the messes!" her mother said.

Everybody was terribly upset when she finally found her kitten, and they all went tearing down to that old well, as if there was something that could be done about it. The kitten was dead, of course, and all that could be done about it now was to somehow get him up again. It must have been all of fifteen feet to where he was floating down there. Her father began to swear about almost everything when he saw what he had to do. He couldn't understand why any sensible person would have put a well in such a godforsaken place. Couldn't understand how any cat could be stupid enough to blunder into it. Couldn't understand why the hook he had made out of a coat hanger and which he dangled at the end of a rope, would insist on always turning the wrong way round. He even swore at the girl because she didn't hold the flashlight right for him to see what he was doing.

"And it would come on the one night I wanted to go bowling! Now look at my good pants!"

And the wife was angry too. Angry because he knew the well was there, and she had told him many and many a time to get it sealed up. And she had been telling him for years now they ought to have a ladder. You could get that cat up easy as pie if you had a ladder now, she told him.

The neighbours were upset too, those of us who came to see what all the commotion was about. We thought there ought to be a bylaw of some kind to make sure that death traps like this were taken care of. Awful lucky it was just a kitten. Could just as easily have been a pig or a calf.

"And that," her father exclaimed when he finally got the kitten out, is the last damn cat I ever hope to see around here!"

The girl had the kitten's blanket all ready. Her eyes were red, but she was very brave about it when she took him up and walked away with him.

"Well", her mother said, "I'm glad it's nobody's fault but her own!"

I wondered afterward where she could have disappeared. I guess the others wondered too. But this morning as I look through my back window I can see that she has picked a spot for him under a hawthorn tree which stands by itself in the middle of my pasture. She is all alone out there, planting a flower, I think. And for awhile I thought that maybe I should go out and help her with the funeral. But then I'm afraid I'm not in the right mood to go to a funeral! I'd only want to throw stones and kick things. Not because fate in its infinite whimsy has been so contemptuous of the love of a little girl, but because too many of us are too old now and too hard, to remember what love was like, and we're too busy to even ponder the tragedy of that loss.

Reprinted with kind permission. H. Gordon Green is a well known Canadian author, broadcaster and syndicated columnist.