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He was looking for something. He seemed to be always looking for something and muttering and ranting about "you fucking kids never put any goddam thing away." Or he would say "If you can't do anything right don't do it at all." We never knew what he meant by that since we never had the choice. We had painted the fence that summer but he never paid us because there were splotches of paint on the grass and the brushes got hard. We split all the firewood with a wedge and a sledge that we could barely lift but he said that it should be smaller. "If you want anything done right you have to do it yourself," he would mutter and we just wanted to go play.

It was the same when we left pinfeathers on the doves and pheasants he shot or when we pulled some of the vegetables out with the weeds in the garden. At first Mom would side with us and repeat a saying from the back of Eddy Matches: "Children are more in need of models than critics." He would just grow silent and brood and post another list of "Things To Do." Eventually, she too grew silent.

We were always moving. As soon as we made new friends he would say "I told that bastard where to shove his stinking, lousy job" and we knew that we would have to start in a new school in a new town.

We had gone to see 'Jason and the Argonauts' on the day that we found out about it this time. He was home early, sitting at the dining room table with only one shoe on. He grinned sheepishly and looked so small that we were bewildered. We had walked to town and back and seen the movie, all alone, but now our mood of triumph was confused. We had seen good conquer evil and then forgotten even to present Mom with the bouquet of colourful sweet pea that we had collected on the journey home.

He told us in embarrassed tones of the argument he had had with his boss and how he had come home to find that the cat had caught the parakeet. We saw where he had kicked in the side of the television and heard him say, laughing uneasily, "That cat sure picked the wrong day to go hunting." We heard how he had grabbed the cat "by the scruff of the neck" and bashed it with our baseball bat. While it lay on the patio stunned and quivering he had gotten his pistol and "put it out of its misery."

As soon as we could we ran outside to see the cat laying amidst the other trash in the garbage can. Its fur was matted and dull, no longer sleek and golden. Its upper lip was curled back revealing clenched teeth. Big bluebottle flies buzzed in our ears as we prodded the curved back and stiff, curled paws and recalled, both of us without a word, how we had once trapped the cat in the garage and whipped it with willow branches. We both remembered flinging the garage door open and chasing the cat, a golden streak of crazy fear, over the fence we had painted, flaying wildly at the blur.

The cat had no name. It was our Mom's. "A cat's a woman's pet," he always said but had surprised her with a kitten on her birthday. When she wasn't with us in the truck he tried to run cats over as they darted, fear-stricken, into the glare of the headlights.

We forgot that Jason had slain the hydra on his foolish quest for the fleece and ran to tell our friends about the bird and the cat and to show them the garbage can.

We moved that year and many more times until he moved out alone and then we were grown and also moved out and moved again and again while his moving slowed and he told us that he had found what he was looking for all those years before. And I remembered how even then he had always thanked God "for what we are about to receive." But he never thanked Mom who had cooked it.





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