Note about content: This story takes place approximately 60 or 70 years ago when a "whipping" for a child's misdeed seemed appropriate in most family circles. Also, animals (cats) were not valued as pets as they are today, and there is reference to their mistreatment.
Andy watched diligently as old lady Hawkins walked near the pond. His hiding place on the woodland floor allowed him to view her well, but of course, she wouldn't be looking for him. Her skinny arms tightly held the rush basket with two hands. Grunting as she approached the pond, Andy continued his hidden watch. The mewing was louder now and Andy bit his lip, tense. He wondered if he should make his move now or wait. More mewing ensued, sad pitiful sounds, and Andy reacted poking out his bottom lip in distress. He was glad Patricia was not here to listen. He wanted to cover his ears, but he wouldn't move and let the woman see his hiding place. He had to be quiet. He was a scrawny little rascal his Pa had said. This assured him he must be well hidden. His red hair might give him away if he rose up to far from the ground. He stayed put, eyes watching Granny's every move.
Old lady Hawkins reached the pond and took a large plastic bag from her pocket. Opening the basket, one by one she took the tiny balls of gray fur out and roughly deposited them in the bag. Andy continued to watch carefully, his legs twitching. When should he make his move? The bag was filled with her victims and the woman twisted and tied it shut after adding a variety of stones that lay around the pond. She wasn't gonna allow an escape. Andy cringed. Again, he was glad Patricia wasn't here with him. He was gonna be the knight in shining armor. He would rescue those innocent babies from that mean old woman. He needed no help. He could do it.
Andy took a rock from his pocket and flung it into the woods near the old woman's backside. Turning, she dropped the bag to look at what the commotion near her was. Jumping up from his crouch, Andy flew as quick as his five year old legs could carry him to the bag, grabbed it and fled. Tearing through the woods while tightly clutching the bag, Andy finally stopped, heart beating wildly to peer into the bag after hastily untying it. The gray balls of fur began their mewing and he sighed with relief. They were still living. Patricia would be glad. He had done it. He blew out his breath and walked on occasionally looking behind him. Granny Hawkins couldn't catch him. He knew she would tell his Pa, but that was gonna happen later. Now, he had a mission. Patricia was waiting.
Old Man Clement's shack stood on the edge of the woods clearing and Andy walked up to the wobbly wooden door and opened it. There she was, Patrica waiting huddled hear the small window. The mewing began now in earnest and Andy was glad. The kittens were safe, Patricia knew he had saved them.
“Oh Andy, you've done it!” Patricia declared, her blue eyes wide. Clasping her hands together she came to meet Andy and took the bag from him. Her blonde braids swung from side to side as she opened the bag and reached in to remove the four, small gray kittens. “Oh baby, baby,” she cooed as she sat right where she was on the dirt floor, allowing the squirming babies to crawl all over her. “Oh Andy, oh Andy!”
Andy's buck tooth grin was wide as he watched his best friend joyfully try to hold all squirming gray bodies at once. “I done it for you, Patricia.”
Patricia patted the ground next to her. “Sit with me Andy. Let's come up with a name for these babies.” Andy noticed she had tears in her eyes as she muttered softly, ”I was so scared, Andy. So scared. Thank you for saving Molly's kittens. Granny scares me so, I couldn't do it. You aren't afraid of Granny though, are ya Andy?”
Andy chest puffed out with pride as he declared, “Ah no, Patricia. I ain't afraid of your old Granny.”
“Even if she tells your Pa?” Patricia asked softly, as she stroked a small gray head.
“Nah, not even if she tells my Pa.”
Patricia looked with admiration at her friend Andy. He had never let her down like some of the others she thought were her friends. He was so brave. She sighed and thought a minute before saying, “Guess I better go and find Molly from the house and bring her here to nurse these babies. When they are grown some, old granny won't be able to catch them again. Guess they will fend for themselves around here. Sure are tons of mice and such. Will you stay here Andy, while I go fetch Molly? Granny probably shut her up somewhere and shes cryin her eyes out for her little ones.” Patricia rose and went for the door. “I'll be back with Molly, soon as I can, Andy.”
When Patricia returned with Molly, a small gray tiger like her babies, Andy rubbed his eyes. He had taken a short nap and now that Patricia was back, he best be getting home. Standing and brushing off his Levi's, Andy stretched. “Why your Granny want to drown these kittens anyway?”
Patricia's blue eyes got wide as she thought of this horror. “She says we have enough mousers, we don't need any more cats.”
Andy had plenty of time to mull over his actions while Patricia had gone to fetch Molly. He was worried now. Pa would hear about this for sure. He'd be going home to a whipping probably. Andy felt his stomach twist with apprehension. He was glad he had done it though. He'd do anything for Patricia. Even get a whipping. He glanced at her petting Molly who was now nursing the kittens. “Gotta go home. See ya here tomorrow Patricia?
Patricia stood and touched Andy's cheek with her soft, small hand. “Your my hero, Andy. I'll never forget how you saved Molly's babies.
Andy turned as red as his hair, mumbled something and left the shed for home. Dragging his feet to walk the half mile to his own homestead, Andy thought about what lay ahead. He'd take his punishment and not say a word. It would be no fun but geez, anything for his friend, Patricia. She had looked so pretty and so happy when he'd left the shed. Pa's truck was parked near the barn. Guess he'd find him and just get it over with. Old Lady Hawkins had surely tattled on him by now.
Opening the barn door, the sweet smell of fresh hay greeted his nose. Andy took a deep breath, bracing himself for what lay ahead. Sadie the cow greeted him with a low grunt. “Pa?” Andy felt his insides turn. Nervous he thought. Get it over with. Be brave Andy.
Pa stepped from the stall near the cow. He was clad in worn overalls, looking like a large Andy with his red hair peeking out from beneath his cap. No one would doubt they were father and son. Removing his hat and wiping his brow he nodded at his son. “Where you been, Andy?”
Andy stood still, shifting his feet facing his Pa. He rubbed his mouth nervously before answering, “Around”.
“Around where?” Pa asked, studying his son's tense face.
“Oh, just around.”
“Any chance you was at Granny Hawkins pond, son?”
Andy closed his eyes and took a deep breath before answering. “I might have been, Pa.”
Pa put his chin in his right hand and rubbed it. “Miz Hawkins gave your ma a talking to earlier about her rascal of a son. Any chance you know anything about that, Andy?”
Andy stuck out his chin and answered as bravely as he could. “I did it Pa. I saved those kittens today for Patricia, Pa. I ain't sorry neither. Shes a mean old lady Pa and treats Patrica mean too. Why Patricia loves her Molly and and . . .” Tears formed and Andy's voice choked. He couldn't finish.
Pa motioned for Andy to come close and as he did, he took the boy gently into his large embrace. “Come here, boy.”
Andy felt more tears come and he tried to choke them back. Was Pa gonna punish him? He didn't care, did he? The strong arms held him gently and Andy finally relaxed into the embrace sniffling.
“I'm proud of you, son.” Pa murmured into the red headed boy's hair. “Proud you told the truth. You sure like that little bond haired gal, don't you.”
Andy tried to nod his head still buried in his pa's shoulder. He sighed heavily, “I was scared you was gonna punish me.”
“I think your fear is punishment enough, son. But, you do have to go apologize to Miz Hawkins. Just tell her sorry for scaring her is all. I know you can't truthfully say sorry for rescuing those kittens.”
Andy nodded. He loved his Pa for understanding.
It hadn't been so hard the next morning going over and apologizing to Patricia's granny. When she'd asked him what he'd done with those darn cats, he just shrugged and watched as she walked away muttering to herself about that dang red haired kid. Andy didn't mind being called that. He had a mission. Now, he'd go and scrounge up some extra scraps for Molly and those kittens and meet Patricia. Andy kicked a rock and whistled a tune. He was headed to see his friend and proud of himself.