Black Cat Saturday — Halloween for Henry, Day 10
Friday night had been exciting but also scary.
Henry had been on the high school football field at halftime to receive the elementary Player of the Week award, and it had been thrilling to hear the cheer of the crowd.
But it was a Friday night in October, and the moon was full, which meant that Henry kept looking off into the darkness of the visitors’ end zone, expecting some werewolf or other creature to spring from the shadows and drag him into Halloween madness.
Nothing bad had happened — thank goodness — and Henry had slept well. He even dreamed that he went out for, and made, the middle school football team next year. He always figured that his football days were done, but his big catch the previous Tuesday, and the award he won, gave him new hope.
When he woke up on Saturday and went downstairs for breakfast, Henry’s good mood began to fade as soon as he saw his sister, already dressed and nearly done with breakfast
“What are you so eager about?” Henry asked Fay.”
“We’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm!” Fay exclaimed.
Henry’s tummy fluttered.
“Again?” he turned toward his mother, who was serving his breakfast of bacon and eggs on a big cobalt plate. “Mo-oom! We were just there last weekend,” Henry complained.
“No, Henry!” Fay called. “YOU were there, but I wasn’t. I want some time to play at the farm, too!”
“Mo-oom,” Henry repeated. “Do I have to go today?”
Harriet looked perplexed and a little hurt. “Now, Henry, I thought you loved to go the farm. What’s the problem? Are you outgrowing your family?”
She was teasing, but Henry was upset.
“No, mom, I just … uh … I just thought I could hang out at home and work on my science project.” Henry was fudging, as his science project was not due for three weeks.
“Well, this is the first I’ve heard of a science project Henry,” his mother said. Then she added, “You’ll just have to take it with you because your father is working today, and your sister and I are headed to the farm. You can’t stay here alone.”
“Oh, alRIGHT,” Henry pouted, emphasizing the last syllable of the word.
“I know why Henry really doesn’t want to go, Mommy,” Fay teased.
“Be quiet,” Henry tried to interrupt.
“Oh, really?” his mother looked interested.
Henry gave his sister a stern look. “Fay, don’t …”
“He thinks the front field is HAUNTED!” Fay burst out laughing. “Can you believe that, Mommy? I’m a little girl and even I’m not afraid of a dumb old story.”
“Henry!” Harriet was surprised. “Is that really why you don’t want to go? Does your Grandpa have you spooked?” She was smiling wryly at him now.
Henry looked uncomfortable but maintained his innocence. “What? No, no, of course not! I, um, just want to stay home, watch the playoffs on TV and, um, finish my science project.”
“Nope! He’s afraid!!” his sister continued to provoke.
“Shut up, Fay!!” Henry shouted.
“DORIAN HENRY GARBER!!!!”
His mother was angry. He knew this because she used his full name and because her face was redder than his own.
“We do NOT speak to each other like that in this family.” Harriet looked at him sternly.
“I’m sorry, Fay.”
His mother nodded and let off a sort of snort.
“Now, ghost or no ghost, you’re going to your grandparents’ farm with us today.” She looked at his nearly empty plate and continued. “You finish up then go upstairs and get dressed. I’m going outside to feed the cat.”
With that, Harriet turned and walked through the kitchen screen door into the back yard. Henry watched as she strode to the little shed near their garden, opened the door, and went inside to get a scoop of cat food. By the time she returned to their back stoop, Beards, their orange tabby was meowing and purring, ready for HIS breakfast.
Harriet poured out the dry kernels, watched Beards for a moment, then turned and headed back to the shed to return the empty scoop.
To Henry’s horror, when his mother was halfway to the small outbuilding, a big black cat sauntered silently behind her, between the house and the shed.
Henry was sure — positive — that the cat, whom he had never seen before, stopped and winked at him before continuing into the neighbors yard.
Henry was really starting to dread October Saturdays.