Her name is Holly.

Just because her name rhymes with jolly, does not mean that she was sunny and joyful on this fateful Sunday.

Most of the day, though, she was jolly.

It was  Christmas Eve and Holly was at her best in that season, but she still managed to have a terrible day.

Her plans were innocent enough. She went to church on Sunday morning as was her custom, then picked up her kitten whom she had named Missy and went to the retirement home to visit her mother. The two went down to the cafeteria for lunch, leaving the kitten to play in her mother’s room.

It began to snow heavily. Holly smiled, as she was in full holiday spirit and the fresh snow made everyone smile. “We will have a white Christmas after all,” they laughed. Missy batted at the sock hanging on the Christmas tree and they spent a pleasant hour talking and watching the antics of the kitten.

Her mother gave Holly a Christmas present wrapped in red foil paper and she picked up the kitten to head for home. She could see her breath in the cold air. She placed the kitten in the old VW Beetle that she had restored, wiped the windows and carefully began the drive home.

Aha, you say … The roads were slick and she had an accident.

No, that is not the way it was.

She needed to fill up with gas, so she pulled into the convenience store and went inside to get a soft drink and potato chips. By the time she came back to the car, the snow had covered the windows again, so she took the brush and cleared away the snow. She stepped around the gas hose to clear the back window, then walked around the Beetle as she merrily brushed away.

Aha, you say. She slipped on the ice, fell and broke her hip. That is what caused her bad day.

No, that is not the way it was either.

She stamped her feet and got back in the car and pulled slowly away from the gas pump. She had not gone more than a few feet before she heard a metallic clunk from the rear of the car. “My God,” she thought, “I forgot to take the hose out of the tank and hang it on the pump.”

Aha, you say.  The gas spilled out all over the ground and caught fire from a static spark she produced when she got out of the car. The entire pump threatened to explode.

No, that is not the way it was either. It was even worse.

The station was equipped with quick release safeties where the hose meets the pump. All that had happened was that the hose had come loose and dragged beside the car. There was not a dent in the Beetle not any damage to the hose. Not a drop of gas was released.

Holly arrived safely at home, placed the car in the garage and went into the house. She remembered that her mother had given her a present, but she had not taken it out of the car. She went to the garage to retrieve it, not aware that she was being followed.

Aha, you say. There was an intruder and he attacked her in the garage. She is about to become one of the twenty-five percent of the women that are molested sometime in their lifetime.

No, that is not what happened either. It was worse than that.

What can be worse than that, you ask?

She quickly got the present, shivered and shut the car door to hurry inside. The car door would not close. She opened it up to see what was keeping it open, but nothing was visible. She shut the door again and glanced down at the floor of the garage.

The kitten lay twisted in the floor, laying in her back, twitching a bit, but still purring.

Ouch, you say. I was not ready for that.

Neither was Holly. She ran to the house to get a towel, wrapped the kitten to keep it warm, called the emergency number at the pet hospital and rushed off to get help for the kitten.

The kitten did not make it to the hospital. It died purring on the seat beside her.

That is terrible, you say.

Yes, it is.

How do you think Holly felt? Self incriminated, a murderer of kittens.

Of course, she was sad.  Of course, she wrung her hands and sighed.

Was it her negligence or the kitten’s curiosity?  She had to think that it was a bit of both.

Is there a bright side to any of this?

There is a legend in a faraway country that every time a kitten dies a brand new human babe is born into the world. If this legend does not exist, it probably should. At times like this we need a little help from our imaginations. We dare not totally extinguish the spark of hope.

The kitten had short, but happy time while yet it lived.

This is a positive.

The kitten will not have to bear the pain of littering nor the shock of neutering. It will not have to spend countless hours on the window sill staring out the window and wishing to chase those birds on the grass.

This is a positive.

Let us leave it at that.



©2014 Kenneth Harper Finton

(from the book “FROM WHENCE COMETH THE SONG”, coming in 2015)

“Ma,” he said, “I’m coming to a wall,”

and our eyes fell open in surprise

for the cracking voice had now been still a year.

My Grandpa’d been an active man in life,

but age had grasped his arm

and tied him down and dragged him

into bed without a mind while speech

had been denied him this long while.

His crumpled, trembling form had lain so still

sheathed between two rusty yellow sheets.

His body gasped for breath and when he’d move

he’d twist from side to side and back again

like car wheels spinning helplessly in snow.

His eyes were bloody veins with specks of dust

through slits in fleshy lids; his mouth would part

and whimper while his mottled body twitched

and shook like horse’s flanks in summer’s heat.

A thin and almost concrete upper lip

concealed the stain of his tobacco teeth.

His mouth seemed almost bound with baling wire

that muffled and suppressed his final speech.

Grandma sat beside him on a chair,

her bony hands were nestling in her lap.

Her head cocked like a scrutinizing wren

listening for a word that he might speak.

She’d no fear of death, for she had visions

befitting one born smothered in a veil;

Her thin lips pressed together when she heard

his cracking voice call out to her for help.

“Ma,” he said, “I’m here and there’s a wall

that’s made of stone so high I cannot see,

and on my side there1s nothing but a woods

that’s dark and thick with thorns and knotted trees.

The land beside the wall is very good.

I’d get a crop if only I could plow.”

Grandma’s eyes now blacked and filled with tears:

“Henry, listen close to what I say;

you follow ’long that wall now (do you hear?)

and pretty soon you’ll come upon a gate

that’s rusty as it’s not been used in years.”

“I’m afraid.”

    “Now, hush, don’t be that way.

The gate won’t harm you and you’ll just pass through.”

“Ma, will you please stop that talk,” said Pa.

“It won’t do any good to scare him now.”

“I’m comfort to him, son. He knows his time.

A man needs comfort at a time life this.”

“Well, what is all this bull about a wall?

And why’s he talking now after a year

Of whimpering just things that make no sense?”

“And who are we to know the ways of God?”

“Ma,” he cried, “it’s there. I see the gate.”

His body twitched and rolled from side to side.

I’m pulling, Ma. It’s opening, I think.

It’s made of steel and heavy as a barn.”

“Here, hold my hand,” she said, “don’t be afraid.”

Pa rushed up to the foot of Grandpa’s bed;

My heartbeat clapped like thunder in my head …

and them we heard the sounds, the squealing scrape

of rusty hinges opening on a gate.

My father looked at me and at him.

and Grandma sat there smiling toward the bed.

The gate squeaked open while a wash of air

cold as the winter’s breath swept through the room.

And then the gate banged shut, the cold breeze left,

and Grandpa stopped his twitching and was dead.