Summary: Ben Cartwright has strict rules about no animals in the house and except for guests, there is only one person who can break that rule.
Word Count: 1699
Anyone seeing the way Hoss was walking could tell he wasn’t a happy man at all. No surprise at all then that when he saw Adam ride in, he began his lament without delay.
“I’m working as hard as I can and fall on my behind in mud, but Pa thinks that’s a good time for me to ride to town to see if his order arrived because he had to go see the manager at the mine. I told him my pants were wet, but he said riding ought to help dry out them out. Dadburnit, that might be true, but it chafes too. When I got to the store, it seemed every woman I know in Virginia City was in there, and every one of them had to comment on my backside. That dadblamed tittering like a flock of chickens was almost as irritating as those pants were on my behind. Yes, tittering. I don’t know what else to call it. Then, Chubb throws a shoe on the way back. Oh, I know it wasn’t his fault, but I hate walking. When I get home, I get him all fixed up, and I could only hope that there was still some dinner left.”
“So, was there dinner left?”
“Yup, but that’s not the good part of the story.”
“I’m glad there’s a good part. By the way, did you leave any dinner for me?”
“For you? Uh, sorry, Adam, but I plumb forgot you’d be getting in this late.”
“All right, so what’s the good part?”
“After shoeing that dadblamed horse and putting him in his stall, I started walking to the house, and you gotta know I wasn’t in no good mood, let me tell ya. I kicked a pail over on my way to the door, and I heard the most pitiful wail you ever did hear. I knowed right off then and there that there was a kitten that had been in the pail. I felt so bad, but when I picked her up and held her, she buried her head under the collar of my shirt like I saved instead of being the one who nearly killed her. I could feel she was trembling, but she wasn’t hurt. I petted her real soft like, and she started on purring. It took away all the bad feelings I had inside me. I had to smile.”
“So why are you frowning now?”
“Pa always says we can’t keep an animal in the house. You know how he says cats are wild like and belong in the barn. Gosh darn it, Adam, she’s a little thing and cain’t hardly take care of herself, and she’s out there all alone now. None of them barn cats is claiming her. I think her mama was the one that got run over by the lumber wagon a couple of days ago. I think she’s been wandering around since then. She’s cold and hungry. I want to take her in the house to feed her and keep her warm. But then there’s Pa’s rule.”
“Yes, Pa’s always had that rule about animals in the house. He’s broken it a few times for guests but never for his sons.”
Hoss got the kitten out of her little nest in a box in the corner to show Adam who held her gently. Both were worried that the kitten might try to snuggle into the straw in one of the stalls which would likely be a deadly situation for her.
“Hoss, you’ve created the best little spot for her that you could. We have to hope she’s as smart as she is cute.”
Quiet then as Adam finished taking care of his horse, Hoss sat on a stool waiting for his brother and walked to the house with him. After they got inside, Adam looked over at his father’s desk and sighed.
“Well, I better grab what I can to eat, and then I have to get to work. I told Pa I’d go over those contracts and do the calculations before he got home.”
An hour later, Adam was still working at the desk when he heard some commotion outside and looked out the window. He signaled to Hoss to come look, and they watched their father outside as he carefully carried the kitten and talked to it as if it was a child.
“Here, come here now, little kitten. I’ll clean you up. You got mud all over your feet and you know how Hop Sing doesn’t like that especially if you track it all over the porch, and then we might track that into the house. I understand how you got so muddy. Joe was supposed to fix that leak in the horse trough a week ago. One of the hands slipped and fell on his behind right in that muddy puddle just yesterday. I reminded Joe once more that that job had been assigned to him. That boy sometimes has the memory of a gnat, or maybe he thinks one of us will fix it if he delays long enough.”
Using his handkerchief, Ben wiped the muddy paws clean and wiped the little belly too until the fur was nearly clean.
“Well now, little kitten, I got you all cleaned up. Now let’s go see what treat Hop Sing is willing to part with to feed a hungry little kitten.”
Cuddling him close, Ben turned to walk to the kitchen door as Hoss whispered to Adam inside the house.
“Dadburnit, Adam, that is the cutest darn thing I done saw in a month. No matter what he said, Pa sure does like that kitten.”
“Might be a good time to see if he would reconsider keeping that kitten inside until she’s more able to fend for herself.”
“Let’s go ask him right now!”
“No, Hoss, wait a bit. Let him argue with Hop Sing that it’s all right for the kitten to be in his kitchen. Then we’ll ask if it’s all right for the kitten to spend a little time in the house.”
With a grin, Hoss sauntered slowly to the kitchen where they could already hear the commotion.
“Don’t talk so loud. You’re scaring the kitten!”
“I talk loud. You all time yell Hop Sing. Now bring animal into Hop Sing’s kitchen.”
“She’s only a tiny little kitten. How much of a problem could she be?”
Hoss looked at Adam who nodded. With renewed confidence, Hoss strode forward to go into the kitchen to make a request, but Adam grabbed his arm. Holding up five fingers and glancing toward the kitchen, he let Hoss know he had a plan. With a grin, Hoss held up both arms in surrender letting his older brother take the lead. Walking into the kitchen as if he didn’t know his father was there, Adam made a request of Hop Sing.
“Hop Sing, I could use another cup of …, oh, hello, Pa, I didn’t realize you were back. What have you got there? Where did you find him?”
“It’s a her, Adam, and she was wandering out in the yard and got in the mud puddle by the water trough. Hop Sing doesn’t want to give me anything to feed her. He’s throwing my own words back at me.”
Looking over at Hop Sing, Adam winked as Ben bent his head down to check on the kitten one more time. Realizing the game was afoot, Hop Sing chose a side. He knew the two brothers had found that kitten and put it in the barn but said nothing about that. Instead, he listened to Adam.
“Pa, maybe if you asked Hop Sing politely, he would help out. After all, you are asking him to break the rules that you yourself set?”
With some obvious reluctance, Ben did as asked. “Hop Sing, this time, could you please give me some food for this kitten even though she is in your kitchen and shouldn’t be?”
“Yes, Mister Cartwright. I give some milk and some nice bread for kitten. You want it warmed up so kitten no get sour stomach?”
“Ah, that would be nice, yes.”
Adam had one more card to play. “Pa, maybe we shouldn’t wait until Hop Sing can warm that up because we’ll have to hurry and get that kitten into a nice little nest in the barn. If Hoss sees her in here, you’re going to have a devil of a time convincing him she ought to be out in the barn for the night.”
Hoss walked in to hear the last part and immediately saw the kitten. “Aw, Pa, like Adam just said, you’re gonna have a devil of a time telling me this tiny little thing can be put out in the barn all by herself. Why, she’s the cutest little thing. Where’d you get her, Pa?”
Ben had a feeling deep in his gut that he had been ambushed but didn’t know why he felt that way. However, he wasn’t going to let that little kitten be put out in the barn all alone. He asked Adam to go fix up a box for her to sleep in and had Hoss feed her while he ate his dinner. The kitten got quite a bit of attention from all three of them until she was clearly ready to sleep. Then it was a matter of which bedroom would be shared with her. Adam quickly conceded that he would let his father and brother decide.
“Pa, she’s gonna need to be fed tonight. No kitten can make it through the night without being fed.”
So it was that Hoss got his way and had a kitten in the house and in his room for weeks until she was strong enough and healthy enough to join their other barn cats. The one they called Kitten always had a special place in Hoss’ heart though. And, truth be told, Kitten was always Ben’s favorite too.