The last time I saw him, I had been out playing in the tent he had bought for my birthday and set up at his farm. I ran across the yard, dog barking and the barn cats scattering, and followed my grandfather as he went into the hay-smell. Inside the red building, past an unframed wall leading to a storage area, on a large shelf over a stack of chicken feed was a nest of blankets. Grandpa whistled me over.
He dropped a sleeping kitten into my hands. It was still warm. He reached in, grabbed two others by the back of their necks, and pulled them out.
“They have big litters,” he said.
The baby cats were dead, but I didn’t get that until I was outside, blinking in the sun, looking at the one I had been given. I thought we were going to bury them, followed my grandfather over to the deep drop between the barn and the dog’s pen, high above the pond below. When no one else was around I liked to stand close to the steep edge. You could see stumps, scrap wood, and even an old rusted tractor stuck halfway down the hill.
He threw his two out toward the blue sky, one at a time. After the second hit and bounced, he took the kitten I had.
I kept holding my hands out, as if waiting to catch it, if it came back.