Turning Our Heads
In Recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month
When I was a youngster I spent a weekend night at a friend’s house on a small farm, somewhere out in the countryside near Bristol.
My friend’s cat, which his family kept in their barn as a “mouser”, gave birth to kittens sometime during the night. The next morning, my friend and I both watched as the otherwise (outwardly) very amiable and ever-friendly father of the home promptly gathered up the kittens and walked toward the outhouse.
“What’s he gonna do with those kittens?” I asked my friend.
Billy turned his head slightly away and mumbled, “Uh, you don’t wanna know.” Then he yelled, “Hey, let’s go play in the woods!”
But I could hardly move. I was frozen by overwhelming curiosity and fear.
In a moment, the father returned from the outhouse - without the kittens. He waved bye to us as he got in his car and drove away.
Despite my friend’s pleas to the contrary, I walked slowly toward the outhouse. The queasiness in my stomach only increased with every step. I began to hear faint cries and wails. When I opened the door and walked inside, my worst fears came to full life. The father had lifted the seat in the outhouse and thrown the kittens down into the sewage pit, dooming them to a slow and cruel death.
My friend stood behind me at the door. “Daddy says just to turn your head,” he shamefully mumbled. “He tells me to do that when he hits Momma, too. So that’s what I always do.” At his last word, Billy turned his head away from the suffocating horror of the scene.
It suddenly became obvious to me that it was customary for this father to deal with living things physically weaker than him with brutality and savagery. I stood helplessly listening to the kittens cry. I found myself unable to speak or even move due to the sheer horror of it all.
Suddenly Billy turned back toward me. “Benny, we gotta do somethin’! I don’t know what, but we gotta help them kittens.”
Billy immediately leaped inside the outhouse with me. It seemed as though he had only needed the slightest self-nudge on his conscience to do what he had really wanted to do all along. He was suddenly filled with new energy, the type of energy that gives birth to great ideas.
(It should here be noted here that Billy was two grades ahead of me in school.) “I’m too big to fit down in there and get them kittens,” observed Billy, “but you can do it, Benny. And I’m strong enough to hold you by your ankles upside down. I will do it. I won’t let go. I promise.”
You can already imagine what happened next. Well, maybe you can’t imagine the smell, but you can imagine what we did. My friend faithfully held me by my ankles while I hung upside down to retrieve the kittens. Due to the dim light, I couldn’t see well, so I had to grope around to find them.
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