Kitten Hunting
An excerpt from a senior comp: A Real Hanko Peach

Hannah DeShon
Some days we didn’t pick peaches at all. Sometimes we just played.
    We pulled into the gravel drive one crisp fall morning. The trees were just beginning to change color and the world was all bronze and gold with hints of red and green, with a clear, blue sky stretching out forever above it. Summer was over, as was picking peaches and running the stand. The farm was preparing for winter. Plastic tables and chairs were going inside along with the old wagon cart that housed the produce all summer.
    Mom yelled at us to make sure to get all the trash from our McDonald’s breakfast stop earlier that morning out of the car and into a trashcan before we did anything, and also hug our Grandparents. Sarah and I bolted out of the car and up the steps to Grandma’s house, happy to get away from Sam, who our mom was unbuckling from his car seat. He was pure evil, and was so cute that he got away with everything. His little eyebrows would knit when he began plotting his next move, then his chubby little arms would reach out and grab a fistful of hair from each of his sister’s heads. Then he would pull and we would scream.
    As we came bustling into the house with our trash, Grandma came hurrying into the kitchen, arms outstretched.
    “Oh my little ones! look at you,” she would holler at us, as she wrapped us in her smoky arms.
    I grabbed onto my Grandma and breathed her scent in, deeply. Cigarette smoke mixed with soap and mint and coffee. Cigarette smoke will always be a comforting smell to me after years going to my Grandparents, where they both smoked. Grandpa came into the kitchen after Grandma and gave us both a quick hug before heading out to the car to help my parents unload.
    “Now where is that precious little Sammy,” Grandma cooed looking past us to the front of the house. Typical, I thought. Everyone just loved Sam and he was just so cute. Blah, blah, blah. I used to be the cute one. “Well, what are you two doing, standing here in the kitchen on a beautiful day. Get outside! You already have your coats on. Annie should be over any minute.”
    Sarah and I headed back out into the cool morning. As we were running past the Volvo, our mom stopped us to help put stuff in the house.  We each grabbed our pillow and our duffle bag, and I grabbed my Fischer Price Walkman, and we ran back inside. Through the kitchen, the dining room and up the steep stairs into one of the little bedrooms at the top of the house. When we got back outside Annie and her family had arrived. Mom called us over to greet our Aunt Bee and Uncle Jim. We quickly hugged the adults and then turned to Annie. We quickly debated what to do with our free time.
    “Hey guys,” Annie greeted us. “What do we want to do today?”
    “I want to go get the cars and McDonald’s stand and play restaurant,” I responded hopefully, knowing I would get shot down; I was the youngest after all.
    “I am so sick of that game, it takes longer to set up then it does for us to get bored and have to find something else to do,” Annie countered.
    “Yeah, and we will have to get one of our parents to get everything out of the barn before...” Sarah trailed off; a look of excitement came over her face. “The barn! Let’s go hunting!”
    The red barn towered over the other buildings on the property and seemed as if it were pulsing with the life of the animals that teemed in and around it. At one point, the barn was full. Grandma and Grandpa had goats and chickens and a donkey. Now, it had less in it, but the life was still there, as was the mystery of it all. The lives of the workers who used to come and stay in the barns and pick peaches before my Grandparents even knew the farm existed. Before my mom and dad even existed. But, the life was still there, pouring from every corner, every crack and every rafter. We were hunters, going into that barn, looking for the one living thing that remained in its natural habitat. Croc Hunter style, we crept towards the barn, with one target in our minds: Kittens. Grandma had been a cat lover since before I could even remember, and as a result, the barn burst with at least thirty kittens and cats of all sizes and colors.
    For years, we had been kitten hunters. We spent hours wandering around the barn, trying to find a kitten to play with for the day. The main goal was to be one of the first two to get a kitten (there being only three of us until Sammy, and Noah, our other little cousin joined us, this should not have been very hard). The need to be one of the first two came from the fact that there were only two strollers, and we liked to use the kittens as our own personal baby dolls and push them around. I was terrified of the kittens and cringed when my sister suggested the idea. But, I knew I would do it anyways. I would do anything to fit in with Sarah and Annie.
    As we entered the barn, my senses were assaulted. The strong smell of hay and manure assaulted my nose, while the dark after the light was hard to adjust to. Annie walked to the far side of the barn and opened up the other door. As more light rushed into the barn, objects began to take shape. Amongst the dust that rose in the air as we shuffled around the barn were many things. A tractor covered in a tarp sat in the center. All along the walls and on a table to the left of the tractor there were tables and workbenches, filled with stuff. All sorts of stuff: tools, dried flowers, shovels, buckets, bags of soil, bird seed, fertilizer, gloves, garden hoes, old toys. Our little red corvette that we used to drive around the farm. sat in a corner, collecting dust and waiting for us to want to play. A large barn cat, brown, orange, and gray, sat in the driver’s seat, so I was going nowhere near it.
    Sarah and Annie got started right away. I began to creep along by myself on the other side of the barn, looking under tables and into the old stables where the goats used to be, before they ate fertilizer and died. Eventually I came upon a sleeping kitten curled up beneath a table full of quart and pint sized baskets that we used to pick peaches. It was gray and white, but looked browner because of the dirt that covered every inch of its coat. I looked at the kitten and planned my attack. If I tried to pet her first, then she would just wake up and take off. I had to just grab her quickly and pull her into my arms. She would struggle for a second, but would calm down if I stroked her and talked softly to her. As I worked on summoning the courage to just reach out and grab a kitten that would have every right to lash out at me with her claws and hiss and bite me, Sarah and Annie yelled over to me, the kitten woke up, and ran off, back to a farther corner of the barn.
    “Hannah we got ‘em!” Annie yelled.
    “Yeah, hurry up and find one yourself and we will meet you outside,” Sarah called out.
    I heard them shuffle out of the barn giggling and fawning over their cats. I knew that I wouldn’t get a stroller now to put mine in and would be forced to hold mine the whole time that they wanted to walk around pushing their “babies” in the strollers. The only way the game was bearable was if I got a stroller and didn’t have to hold it the whole time. But, I didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t catch a kitten. As my frustration began to grow, I found another kitten, this one orange and white. It was sleeping curled up on a table surrounded by flowerpots, some empty, and some still with dirt in them. In my desperation to get out of the dark and musty barn, I reached out and grabbed the kitten. For one second I felt its fur, soft for the most part, but crusty and dried with dirt in others. It screeched and howled as soon as it realized it was being raised from its resting place. It began swatting at me with its paws and lunging at my hands and arms with its mouth, hissing, its eyes wild, its fur matted with large chunks of dirt clinging to its long hairs. As the kitten’s paw finally made contact with my skin and I felt the sharp sting of its claw tearing into my skin, I dropped it in my fear and it ran off. Desperate and upset with myself, I began to search for another, vowing to not be afraid the next time. I finally found a calmer kitten, all brown, and managed to wrestle it out from under the tractor.
    I triumphantly walked outside of the barn to see two kittens slinking back towards the safety of the barn while Annie and Sarah walked back to the house where Aunt Bee stood at the door.
    “Come on Hannah, we are going to eat lunch and then go to Aunt Bee’s for the afternoon,” Sarah called. “It is supposed to rain so we are going to go play Mario Kart and then maybe go see a movie this afternoon.”
    “But I just caught my kitten!” I whined.
    “Well you took too long, we are bored and hungry, so it’s time to go,” Sarah responded, trying to sound like an adult.
    I released my kitten and followed after them, up the stairs and into the kitchen. My Aunt Bee looked down on me with pity in her eyes. Aunt Bee was the oldest of the Hanko girls. She always dressed to the nines, even when she was working the farm—she had the nicest work clothes of anyone I had ever met. She saw my struggle to keep up with my cousins all the time. In fact, when at Cedar Point, Aunt Bee took pity on me as well. While my cousins ditched me and rode all of the roller coasters (which I was too afraid to ride) Aunt Bee would spent all day spinning in circles with me on rides like the Cyclopes and Matterhorn.
    I knew going to Aunt Bee’s would be fun. When we were inside, Sarah and Annie were stuck with me and it was easier for me to actually hang out with them. We all had a huge lunch, in typical Hanko fashion. Grandma had prepared fried chicken, potato salad, and apple pie for dessert. After our meal, we piled into the car to head around the corner to Aunt Bee’s.