One-Eyed Cat

Free One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox

Book: One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paula Fox
nearly as fast as a waterbug. Or the way he’d felt one evening when he’d been sitting on the porch after supper, reading, and Papa had surprised him with a china dish full of peach ice cream he’d churned up himself with fresh peaches and thick cream. Papa had sat on the step while Ned ate, and Ned looked at his profile, sharp and clear like a profile on a coin you brought to a shine by rubbing it on a carpet. The twilight had been so soft after the heat of the day, and the air had been full of the scent of peaches.
    Then Ned shuddered.
    â€œYou can hurt an animal by accident, can’t you?”
    â€œIndeed, you can, Ned. I’ve run over a nation of possums, I’m afraid. They’re blinded by the headlamps of the car, and I always see them too late.”
    â€œThat’s a relief,” Ned said. Papa laughed. He knew Ned was imitating him. He often said, that’s a relief, when the roof didn’t leak during a rainfall, or when the well filled up with especially fine-tasting water or when he felt he’d preached a good sermon.
    When Ned left the kitchen to go upstairs and do his homework, he didn’t feel so lighthearted. A thought had slid into his mind: what if you half-knew you were hurting something that was alive? And how could you only half-know something?
    Mrs. Scallop passed him on the stairs, whispering, “Lamb chops tonight.”
    The rain began, and fell steady and hard for hours and then, from up the river, came a sound like a distant cannon. By that time, Ned was in bed, reading about Robin Hood outwitting the Sheriff of Nottingham. The cannon drew closer, the claps of thunder louder. Lightning struck. It sounded so near that Ned knew it would soon be time to go down to the central hall. Ever since he could remember, Papa had come to get him during the storms that raged in the valley. No matter what time it was, when Ned heard the immense, rending sound of lightning striking the earth, he knew Papa would soon be at his door, saying, “Quick, Ned. Come downstairs. Hurry! Pull a sweater over your pajamas.”
    Ned understood that they had to be downstairs near the front door in case the house was struck and caught on fire. Papa didn’t quite trust the new lightning rods. No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than his father’s voice called out, “Ned!”
    He ran out into the hall. As he passed his study, he heard the violent tapping of the maple branches against the window. Papa was carrying his mother toward the head of the stairs. The blanket he had wrapped her in trailed on the floor and Ned grabbed up its edge so his father wouldn’t trip over it. For an instant, as a flash of blue-white light came through the window at the landing, he saw himself and Papa and Mama in the pier glass. Her hair hung down across his father’s arm; her long twisted fingers clung to Papa’s old alpaca jacket. Papa’s eyes were dark, mysterious patches. His own face was a glimmer of white, his bare foot a splash of white floating just above the floor. Then the dark came back and they all vanished.
    He heard Mrs. Scallop clumping down the back stairs. Mama’s wheelchair was already near the front door. Papa had lit the kerosene lamp and placed it on a table that stood below the large painting of the Hudson Valley that showed how it had looked before all the villages and towns had grown up along the river, even before West Point had been established. The painting was filled with sunlight and with silence.
    Mrs. Scallop appeared at the kitchen door dragging a chair. “I don’t want to be in anyone’s way,” she announced, and Papa said, “Sit anywhere you like,” as he arranged the blanket over Mama’s knees.
    The wind blew, the thunder rumbled, lightning lit up the sky. Ned felt as if the house were heaving and the porch lifting up like a prow, as though the house had turned into a great ship tossed by waves. Yet

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