TCAAC Logo

THE BEST AND THE WORST YEAR
by Lauren Brenner

It was spring in Ohio, almost summer. Our story starts in a small town in Ohio on road Rt. 40. The famous National Trail. Down on Rt. 40, near the road sat a white, black-roofed house. It had a cement porch, and a small garage with a large woodpile sitting beside it. To the left and righ of the house were woods, and behind was a large open field. Here lived a little girl named Veronica, she was 13 years old and in the 6th grade.

Today, Veronica looked out the window of the house, full of excitement. It was almost summer! She was eagerly waiting her summer vacation, school was okay, butshe preferred not to go. Not only was she excited about the coming summer, but there was another surprise on the way.

She ran out onto the porch, stopping to pick up an orange and white tomcat. “Hey Tumble!” she said to the cat. She petted it as it struggled to wiggle out of her arms. Finally, it squeezed out of the hug and jumped down to escape. Veronica sighed. Tumble wasn’t enthusiastic about pets and hugs. He was more of a look, don’t touch kind of cat.

Veronica Ran past him, turning to go down the side of the house by the woods. She looked around, searching for her second cat, Amber. Amber was a pretty gray and white female cat. However, ever since Amber had disappeared for the winter, Veronica hadn’t seen her since. Now Veronica walked down the side yard looking for her.

As she passed the woodpile, she heard a soft meow. Maybe it was amber, she thought. Veronica ran to climb the woodpile, when a whole chorus of meows greeted her. Nestled into the wood was a nest and four kittens.

They were furry little kittens, two of them were black and white. The other two were gray and white like Amber. The kittens looked up at her, their eyes were already opened. They’ve been here a while, Veronica thought, long enough that their eyes are open.

There was a louder, more rough meow, and Amber climbed up the woodpile to sit beside Veronica. Her amber eyes glowed with motherly pride as she looked down at the kittens. “Are these yours?” Veronica said, stroking the cat’s head. “They’re the cutest kittens I’ve ever seen.” At the sound of her voice, the kittens hunkered down in fright. One of the gray and white ones hissed at her. However, the other gray and white kitten was more brave.

Cautiously, the kitten climbed up the wood, all the way up to where Veronica sat. He peered at her with curiosity and suspicion. Slowly, he pulled himself up and crawled onto her lap. Veronica reached out to pet him, careful not to scare him.

The kitten purred and curled up on her legs. “Aw, this one’s really sweet.” Veronica told Amber. “I should name them, kittens always need a name.”

She lifted up the kitten on her lap. It was a boy. “I’ll name you Abner,” she said. She didn’t know why she picked the name, it just came to her. Next, she put down Abner and reached down for another kitten.

She chose one of the black and white kittens, the small kitten was mostly white, with black spots. The kittle kitten was a girl. “Eureka.” Veronica decided. She said, as she stroked the small kitten’s back, “that means to discover!” Eureka looked around with wide eyes, she seemed to be the runt of the litter.

The other black and white kitten climbed out. Veronica picked it up, this one was a boy. “You seem kinda brave, I’ll name you Brave Heart.” She named him, thinking of the movie she had seen. That guy in the movie had been really brave.

The last kitten was the other gray and white that had hissed at Veronica. As she reached down, it hissed again. “Whoa!” Veronica said. “You’re not as nice as your brothers and sister!” The kitten hissed again, baring her tiny white teeth.

The kitten was almost identical to Amber, the same pattern of white and gray. The only difference was a small spot of white on the kitten’s forehead. “You’re not very nice.” Veronica Said. “I guess I’ll name you Aaron after my brother. He’s not very nice either.” She lifted Aaron very carefully, Aaron was a girl. “Whoops, I guess your name should be spelled Erin, with and E.” she said. “That’s the girls spelling for the name Aaron.”

Erin hissed and ran back to the woodpile.

Veronica looked around her, with her little kittens and their mother Amber. This was going to be the best summer ever!

____________________

Several weeks passed, and Amber’s kittens grew quickly. As they stayed in the woodpile to play, Amber would go out and hunt for them. She brought them bird, mice, and once she brought a big woodpecker. The kittens played with each other in games of chase, or play fights. They also played with the tomcat Tumble, however he would get up and walk away. He had chosen to ignore them.

Veronica spent almost the whole day playing with the kittens. Abner and Eureka had become her favorites, Braveheart and Erin were not as friendly. However, Abner was Veronica’s absolute favorite, her best friend. The kittens grew to know and love her, they were used to her and were perfectly comfortable around her.

Abner was specia, he would always climb on Veronica’s lap and would always purr. He looked up at her with his bright green eyes, looking up at her like she was his own mother. Veronica kissed him softly on his small pink nose, in return he would lick her face with soft kitten kisses

Veronica has spent most of her summer with them, just playing and petting them. She never wanted it to end, it was perfect.

However, it wasn’t to last forever, the summer drew near its end.

____________________

Summer went by and the kittens were weaned and growing fast. Soon they were almost full grown, and excellent hunters. Abner would run through the yard chasing bugs and butterflies. However, this hunting was all play.

Erin had grown into a fine cat, though she was still mean. She was also more distant, going off each day to explore the woods and the field. Braveheart was not so brave, but he wasn’t a coward. He wold hide under the cars in the driveway, watching the birds at the birdfeeder. Sometimes he would run out, and even catch a bird!

However, despite the kittens’ success, not all was well.

It started with little Eureka.

She had become thin, and weak. She seemed sickly, and wouldn’t play with her siblings. Veronica had noticed the kitten’s state, but didn’t know what to do. She felt helpless as she watched Eureka become worse day by day.

Suddenly, one morning Eureka wasn’t on the porch. Veronica checked her usual spots, but she wasn’t to be found. Then Veronica found her.

Eureka lay by the woods near a small woodpile. She was alive, but very sick. Her breaths came out in small gasps, she seemed to have difficulty breathing. Veronica kneeled besid her small body and reached out to touch her.

The kitten shuddered but meowed weakly, her eyes seemed to be glazed over and less alert. Her small yellow eyes spoke for her, she was in pain. Veronica felt the tears come, rolling down her face.

Veronica felt sick, like her stomach had dropped. Her heart felt sick, like Eureka felt. She went to the house to find her grandmother. Her grandmother told her to wrap Eureka in a blanket and place her in a box. They were taking her to the animal shelter.

Veronica found the blanket and box. She followed her grandmother’s instructions and soon Eureka was in the box wrapped in the blanket. Veronica climbed in their van, and her grandmother started the car. They left the driveway and started down the road to go to the animal shelter.

The car ride was a long one, Veronica sat in the back seat, with Eureka’s box beside her. She looked down at Eureka. Eureka was lying down, looking up at her with the same frightened eye. It didn’t seem possible, but she seemed weaker. Her breaths were softer now, small wheezing squeaks.

Veronica reached down and stroked the kitten, trying to comfort her. Trying to let her know that she was loved. Eureka continued to wheeze, but her eyes seemed to light up. Just for a second. Then, the car stopped.

They had arrived at the animal shelter.

Veronica carried Eureka’s box in, still looking down at the small kitten. The employees finally took the box with Eureka inside, and walked through a door into the back.

Veronica left the building, she had gone in with Eureka, but had come out alone. On their way home, she thought how she would never hold Eureka, or pet her again. The thought brought more tears.

____________________

When they got home, Abner was there to greet her. Veronica held him close as she cried. She still had the others, she told herself, she still had Abner and Braveheart. Erin didn’t really matter, but she still had Erin also.

The next week went by without incident, Eureka’s death passed unnoticed by her siblings. Though, Abner would walk around the porch from time to time, as if searching for her. Something else had happened, Amber was pregnant again. She had already been pregnant, but not to Veronica’s knowing. Now her belly was very wide. Once kind and gentle with all her kittens, Amber now hissed and chased away her previous kittens. They were almost full grown now, they didn’t need her. She hung around the house, waiting for her next litter.

Tumble still laid around, he still ignored the kittens. However, now that they were grown, he couldn’t ignore them as well as before. Sometimes Abner and Braveheart would gang up on him, sending him running up a tree or into the garage.

Even Braveheart had come around, now he seemed braver. Fitting his name. Veronica remembered a specific memory in which she had raked up a pile of leaves. Braveheart had jumped into the pile happily, playing with the leaves. Veronica had drawn his picture, when it was done it was wonderful.

In the picture, Braveheart was lying in the leaves. His eyes shined as he looked up at her. She walked to the leaf pile, and he didn’t run. Instead he walked to her and even let her pet him. Finally, Braveheart had become Veronica’s friend.

Everything returned to peace and normality. The kittens were fine, Amber was grumpy, and Tumble was his own solitary self. Veronica hoped and prayed that nothing else would happen. However, despite her hope, something did. It was something she had dreaded ever since the kittens had started exploring the yard.

____________________

It was in the early fall, the air was starting to grow chilly. It was a weekend, Veronica usually slept in. However, this day she was awakened by her grandmother. A cat had been hit on the road, the busy Rt. 40, and Veronica was asked to come out and identify the body.

Veronica felt sick again, she had always feared that the kittens would wander up onto the road. She wrapped herself in a blanket and was led down to the side yard by the woodpile. Lying on top of a shovel, was Braveheart’s stiff body. His face was frozen in a look of terror, his eyes were shut tight and his teeth were clenched in his mouth. The expression seemed to be that of his death, his last face as the car hit him.

Veronica shed a tear, and another as her grandfather buried Braveheart’s body. Just as they’d started to become good friends, he had been taken from her. She reached down to hold Abner, at least she still had him. Erin looked on from a distance, she was still hanging around, but was distant as ever.

____________________

However, this time joy followed the despair. Just a week after Braveheart’s death, Amber had her new kittens. Three of them. Veronica named them Nicky, Cliff and MJ. They were very small, smaller than Abner and his siblings had been. Nicky was a small black and white kitten, MJ looked like a tiny version of Erin, and Cliff was spotted with white and light grey. They were very cute, and very sweet. Not surprisingly, little MJ had an attitude, just like her big sister Erin. She was the first kitten to hiss and growl.

Veronica had feared Abner and Tumble’s reactions to the newcomers. However, Tumble simply ignored them like he had before, and Abner was kind to them. He seemed to know they were his new siblings.

As she did before, Veronica took care of the kittens. Abner alongside her, watching curiously. The kittens were born in a cat house Veronica had constructed. She had stacked the wood in a house shape, and made a roof and front door with sheets of wood. Here the kittens were warm and safe.

Amber seemed different. She fed the kittens, cleaned them, but she didn’t hunt for them. Nor did she dote on them like she had with the previous litter. Veronica took over as the kitten’s main caretaker, feeding them and playing. As always, Abner joined her each day.

The weeks passed, and it was time to say goodbye to Nicky, Cliff, and MJ. Not wanting their fates to be like Eureka’s and Braveheart’s, Veronica decided to adopt them out.

She took them to the mall, it was December now and the weather was very cold. As soon as they hit the pet store, Nicky was adopted by a young couple. In only two more days, MJ and Cliff were adopted as well.

Veronica was happy, and sad. Happy they had gotten homes so quickly, yet sad to see them go. She would miss them. She often wondered about them, wondering if they were still alive and had good families. When she returned home, Abner was there as usual.

Amber had become more distant now, she was preparing to move on. So had Erin, Veronica rarely saw her now. However, Tumble and Abner were always there for her. Another week passed, and Veronica hoped for snow. Snow meant no school, and she knew Abner would enjoy the snow. He was very curious about new things.

____________________

It was December 13th, a Wednesday. Veronica had a perfectly normal school day, boring but okay. She climbed into her grandmother’s car. It was quiet, and in her heart she knew something was wrong. “Veronica, It’s Abner.” her grandmother said. “He was hit by a car today, we found him lying in the neighbor’s yard. He’s still alive but he has a fracture in his pelvis and his spine.” Veronica felt her body go numb, the sick feeling returning, now even nauseating. Not Abner. He was special, he was always there.

She ran from the car and into the basement where he was being kept. They had laid him out in a large cage on a blanket. When she saw him, she opened the cage and kissed his forehead. He looked up at her, his light blue eyes were confused and happy at the same time. He meowed, but it came out a mere squeak.

She stroked his soft fur. He looked okay, but his injuries were internal. He did not stand, for he could not. His back legs laid limp and useless on the blanket. However, with determination, he crawled with his front legs and pulled himself onto her lap. He reached her knee and laid his head and paws on top, purring softly.

Veronica choked on the tears that came. She held onto hope that he would be okay, but somewhere in her heart, she knew he wouldn’t.

For the next few days, she fed him and gave him his water and medicine. However, he barely ate anything, and soon he grew thin. He drank water, but halfheartedly. During this time, Veronica had hung a cross on the cage, hoping that God would take care of her Abner when he was gone. Veronica brought down her art supplies, and drew his picture as he slept. Like she had done with Braveheart, only this time she knew this was the end. The picture was finished, it showed Abner lying on his blue blanked fast asleep, the cross hanging beside him. In the back she drew four candles, three purple and one pink candle. This symbolized the fact that it was almost Christmas. Finally, his last day came. Her grandmother informed her she was taking him to the vet, even her grandmother cried at this. She had been strong for the other kittens, but even to her Abner had been special.

He was taken to the vet first thing Monday morning. All day at school, Veronica felt a heavy burden on her, like a cloud was hanging over her all day. When she returned, Abner’s cage was empty, and for once he didn’t meet her on the porch.

He never would again.

Tumble was the only one there. Still grumpy as usual. Amber had left, and so had Erin. Now Veronica remained alone, with Tumble.

The first day after his death, Veronica lay in her bed with tears. His death had finally hit her. He would never greet her at the door, or jump in the leaf piles, or lick her ever again. He never even got to see snow, she thought, looking out at the cold brown yard.

When Veronica walked out on the porch. She was alone, the only one there was Tumble, his usual grumpy self. She grabbed him and held him to her in a hug, ignoring his struggle to break free. “Well,” she said to him. “ This year was the best, and the worst.”