by Henny Penny
My mother's childhood cat.
Happy sat at the top of the stairs, yawning. He had awakened from his afternoon nap at the usual time, just before Peggy came home from school. The white spots on his brindle coat were a tattle-tale gray from nights spent in a neighbor's coal bin, but he was to sleepy and hungry to mind. He listened for the front door to open, he hoped by making a pest of himself he could get Peggy to feed him before supper. . He had drank milk for dinner and nothing else. It was cold so he had not drunk but a few laps of it. There had been no choice bits of meat in the garbage pail when he had investigated it. Maybe he would even have to hunt tonight if he did not get any scraps for supper.
He wondered if Peggy's mom had the mouse trap set again. It had been some time since she caught one for him and it was time she was getting busy again. After all she should remember a cat with a crippled paw can't be expected to hunt on his own. Happy had acquired his bruised paw one night a few weeks ago when he missed his footing and dislodged a large piece of coal in his neighbor's bin. Although it was better now, he still limped a little, mostly out of habit and limping brought sympathy once in awhile. There were times when he seemed to forget he even had a sore paw.
Happy grew tired of waiting for Peggy, so he curled up on the rug and went back to sleep. He couldn't have known that Peggy's mom had asked her to stop by the grocery store on her way home from school. As he drifted into dreamland he saw all kinds of fat mice scampering in and out an open door. Just as he was about to pounce on the fattest, juiciest one the door blew shut with a bang and he was awakened. He suddenly realized it was not the dream door that had shut, for he heard footsteps downstairs. Wide awake and alert he headed down the steps.
When he was half way down his nose caught a familiar and delightful odor, fresh sausage. He finished the last few steps in a bound, ran into the dining room where Peggy, a chubby, dark-haired girl of nine was struggling with books and bundles and began to attack. Round and round he ran meowing loudly. He swung at her dress tail, darting between her feet and tried climbing to the packages. Finally his forefoot planted above her knee, he did some delicate back stepping as she made her way to the ice box. "Happy why all the show?" "I'll step on your sore paw if you're not careful." "Are you that hungry?" she said.
As she began to try to sit the bundles down he jumped up and got hold of a paper sack in her arms and began to sniff between meows and Peggy remembered the fresh sausage, for she was just as fond of it as Happy was. "Get down this minute or I'll put you outside, you're scratching me! she said. "I don't have time to get you any right now, you'll have to wait till supper." "I have to do my chores and get supper started."
"I might even warm you some milk, poor kitty."
While Peggy was talking Happy had gotten down and ran over to his bowl of milk. Two small laps of cold milk was just not as tasty as a chance of fresh meat. He trotted back to the kitchen and into the breakfast room where Peggy was busy taking things from the bags and putting them on top of the ice box so she could put them away. She was putting things away in the cabinets when over her shoulder she saw Happy on the kitchen table turning in all directions and sniffing and sniffing.
That was nearly too much for her patience. She grabbed for him, but he jumped down and ran for the stairway, Peggy following. She gave up her chase when she remembered she had to finish her chores, but forgetting she had not put the other food in the ice box. She ran outside to carry in the wood to the back porch. Happy had not forgotten. Pretty soon he came slipping down the steps. He ran straight for the kitchen, this time not meowing. Climbing upon the table his nose quickly told him the location of the sausage.
The next problem was how to get to it, being it was on top of the ice box. This proved to be easily solved. When a cat is sausage hunting, most any difficulty becomes easy. He jumped from the table to Peggy's books on a little shelf in the wide doorway. From there he jumped on the ice box and landed next to his prey. This was much better than chasing a mouse. For sausage didn't try to get away. He singled it out from all the other bundles. It was on a tray well wrapped in heavy paper and tied. With a gleam in his eyes and his mouth watering he began to chew through the paper. In a short time he reached the sausage and with his first bite, which was a big one, he swallowed bits of chewed paper. At first he ate swiftly and in gulps, standing, but as his hunger began to be satisfied he settled down to a comfortable sitting position, eating steadily, but more slowly. All the while keeping one ear open listening for Peggy to come in.
This continued for several minutes and Peggy's chance of having sausage for supper was getting slimmer. Had he been given a little more time there would probably have been none of the pound left, but as he had just stopped to rest a little and delight in sniffing the remainder, Peggy came in from the porch through the hallway to the living room. He heard her and she heard him,he jumped to the shelf, this time landing with such force that the books, papers and pencils were strewn broadly over the kitchen floor.
Peggy hurried in and saw the wreckage, but saw no visible reason for it. She began to look around and found the reason under the stove, contently licking his face. "What were you doing that you had to knock my things down?" she scolded. Not yet remembering that the meat had not been put away. She reached for his leg, but he moved back a few inches. Down on her stomach she flopped and made a grab for him. This time he backed from under the stove and stood up. Then Peggy saw and remembered and knew what had happened, for she saw bits of sausage in his whiskers. Happy was no longer the slim kitty she had chased upstairs earlier, he was a fat roly poly who seemed to be disinterested in her or anything she might do to him.
At first Peggy was so disappointed with cats in general and her cat in particular and so disappointed she would have no sausage for supper that she simply laid her head down on the floor and cried. She cried and cried for she was going to have to miss having sausage as much as Happy had enjoyed having it. She was afraid she would be scolded for being so careless, it made her cry more. That was how her mother found her with tears
of self-pity and anger on her face. "Whatever are you doing down there?" her mother asked her small daughter in surprise and alarm. Peggy had always been a sweet tempered child who seldom cried at trifles. "Are you hurt, tell mother and get up off the floor." Peggy was yet so disturbed she couldn't raise her head or hardly talk.
Finally her mother did get the words, "If he hadn't got his foot hurt I'd give him to Jack Brown, I think and he wouldn't
be back anymore." "It's that old mean cat." "What, you're not talking about Happy? " "I thought you loved him." said her mother in a half teasing way. She had heard Peggy say many times to Happy that he was a sweet old thing and she loved him very much. "Well, I did love him, but I don't think I even like him now." Peggy said. "Just look at him mother, just look at him." "Can't you see what he has done?" Mrs. Johns looked at Happy but could not have known the terrible thing he had done. She laughed and said, "Get up and wash your face and tell me the trouble, for I can't see anything to make you feel that bad." "What's he done I mean?" "I haven't seen it either mother, but I know what it was." "He's eaten our sausage, look on the ice box.
" One glance told the story even though she had not seen the damages.
For there was torn paper, and almost empty tray. Mrs. Johns didn't scold Peggy for she knew she had punishment enough by not getting sausage for supper. She merely said, "I think I'll fix a chocolate pudding with nuts for supper." If there was one thing Peggy liked better than sausage it was chocolate pudding.
After supper Peggy helped with the dishes and then studied a while. She seem to have forgotten the events a few hours ago and was in a good mood. Having said her prayers with mother she went upstairs to her room, turned on the light and got ready for bed. She turned down the covers and there was Happy, all stretched out with his bruised paw on her pillow. 'Happy, "she whispered, he opened his eyes and in them was a look that seem
to tell Peggy he wanted to be forgiven.
She picked him up and cuddling him in her arms took him downstairs to put out for the night. :Happy it wasn't your fault, it was mine for not putting the meat "I'm sorry I was so mad at you and called you a mean old cat." "I wouldn't give you away ever
and you can have the rest of the sausage for breakfast." As she opened the screen door and stooped to put him on the porch, he gave her a couple of hasty hard licks with his rough tongue. She said goodnight and shut the door and went to bed. Happy sat on the porch for a moment.
He yawned sleepily at the April moon, then started across the grass to Mr. Brown's coal bin. There would be no need for hunting tonight.