All Kat could think, staring at the storm cellar doors in absolute mortification, was, Oh my dear God, my l'il sistuh just went in the ever-lovin' Radley house.
She wasn't quite sure what she oughta do now. What could she do, after all? She wasn't really much of a person. She was black, she was only twenty-four years old, and she wasn't that big to begin with. How was she going to get Joetta out of that ghost house?
A panicked state gripped her, reigning over her mind without mercy of any sort. She felt like she couldn't move. Every part of her body tensed up with fear, and her breathing quickened. All she could think of was what would happen to Joetta in that house - and what would happen to her once Emma found out. She swallowed, and placed her hands at her sides, hoping she might think of something if she relaxed.
Her hand brushed against something in her jeans pocket. Pulling it out, she found a torn-up, yellow pad of paper and a stub of a pencil. Had Mr. Raymond put them in there for her? At any rate, she decided that since she was able to read and write (more than could be said for most Negroes), she could pen a note to Boo Radley. She was glad her father had stuck around in her life long enough to teach her basic reading and writing skills.
Kat turned to a fairly neat page in the pad and held it against the fence. With the pencil stub, she wrote in shaky penmanship, doing her best.
Dear Boo Radly,
My sister done fell in there. Please don't hurt her. Could you please lift 'er up so I c'n get 'er 'n' then we'll go away?
- Kat Raymond
She felt her heart racing fast and her palms sweating as she looked across the yard. The storm cellar doors were still wide open. She would have to go over there to drop the message down to the basement for Boo. A sudden instance of being a chicken overcame her. She really didn't want to go over there. When she thought about Joetta being frightened and crying, she knew she just had to suck it up. Her sister was in danger, and she had to do something to get her out of that house.
Kat gulped as she tore the page out of the pad. She took a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself a bit. It wouldn't do to show fear in front of a basement where a possible madman lived.
Gathering herself, she took one last breath. She used long, careful strides to stroll over to the cellar doors. She avoided stepping on the patches of collard as she went. She leaned over the door for barely a second, then tossed the note down them. She watched it flutter like an insect into a Venus flytrap, before bolting like lightning back to the fence.
She stood there for several minutes, attempting to distract herself while (hopefully) Boo was reading and answering her message. She glanced about the rest of the area. She could see Miss Stephanie bustling about inside her living room, and wondered if perhaps she were setting up for a party. It sure seemed like the acceptable Stephanie-Crawford thing to do. When she looked past that, on the other side of the street, far down from Miss Stephanie's, was the town lawyer's house. Well, the nice one anyway - the other one, something-or-other Gilmer, was mean. The nicer one... Atticus Finch, wasn't that his name? She knew he had kids but she didn't know their names. Jensen and Scarlet, maybe? It didn't sound right but she wasn't sure what their names were.
She coulda sworn she heard voices coming from the basement as she waited, but she chalked it up to imagination and fear.
When Kat glanced back at the storm cellar, a paper sat innocently by the doors. She ran over and snatched it up. It was her paper, the same one, but now the back was written on.
Dear Miss Raymond,
I dare say your sister was right scared when she fell down here... and so was I! But she's not hurt - she landed on a mattress. But I'm 'fraid I ain't strong enough t' hoist her up. Nathan won't let y'in though... so you're gonna hafta climb down here'n get her.
- Arthur Radley (Boo)
The writing was just as shaky as hers, but when he sighed his name, she did feel slightly ashamed. First off, she'd called him Boo - his real name was Arthur, obviously. And second, she'd spelled his last name wrong; there shoulda been an "e" before the "y". Plus, he'd written more than she had.
Kat shoved the note in her pocket and gave a sigh. If she was getting Joetta back, she was going in the damn basement of the Radleys'. And she was getting Joetta back.
She bent down next to the doors. "Mr. Arthur, you there?" she called down.
It was a few seconds before she received any answer from the basement. But finally a weak cry of, "Yes, right here," came up to her. It was male, and she felt her heart sink at how feeble he sounded.
"I'm comin' down now! There somethin' fo' me t' land on?"
"Yes'm, the bed right under you."
"A'ight then, here I come!" Kat sat down on the ground, then dangled her legs down. Still a bit afraid, she took some breaths. "Geronimo!" she shrieked as she pushed herself down.
She let out a shrill screech as she went. She felt herself bounce down, facefirst of course, on a mattress. She quickly sat up and shook her head to clear it. "Oh God..."
Once she got herself collected enough to look around, she surveyed the room. She blinked, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. It was so dim down here, it was hard to see.
In the far corner was a nightstand with a beat-up looking radio on it. That was all that was in this room except for the bed and a bookshelf that held... well, a lot of books. Sitting on the floor was a man with blonde hair and dark gray eyes. He had Joetta in his lap, and they were both smiling. He had her hands in his, and they were playing some game where he lifted her hands up and then they both laughed.
Kat rubbed her head and got to her feet, groaning. "Uh... Boo?" she said for verification as she took a few wobbly steps toward the pair.
The man turned around, blushed a little, and looked down. "Miss Raymond...?"
"Katty!" Joetta hopped up from the man's lap and ran over. She threw her arms around Kat and hugged her tightly. "Katty, 'm sorry I fell in! I lost m' balan' and all the sudden I was fallin'!" She let go and pointed over at the man, who had stood up by now. "But this 's Boo Radley, and he took right good care o' me!" She giggled. "I think he was more 'fraid of me than I was o' him! He just 'bout yelled bloody murduh when I fell down 'ere."
Kat hugged Joetta back. "Did he now, Joey? I'da thought you were scared o' him, not the other way 'round." She looked up at Boo. "So you're..."
He nodded. "Are... y'okay, Miss Raymond? You took a mighty spill there. Were you hurt when y' fell?"
"Naw... naw, I'm fine." She was a little bit startled. She hadn't ever had anyone refer to her as "Miss" anything before. Well, except for Emma calling her "Miss Attitude" in the mornings. She laughed as Joetta tackled her in a stronger hug now. "Sure hope she didn' run y' ragged, Boo."
"Naw..." He looked down sheepishly, clasping his hands behind his back like he was being scolded. "Miss Joetta wa'n't no trouble 't all, Miss Raymond." When Joetta ran back over and hugged him, he smiled and returned the gesture. "An' even if she'd been she'da been worth it."
Joetta giggled and took Boo's hand. "Boo's real nice, Katty. See, I toldja he wouldn't hurt me none. I ain't ever gonna b'lieve anythin' none them people say 'bout you 'gain, Boo," she added for the reassurance of her newfound friend, squeezing his hand. "Y'don't eat no cats er squirrels, right?"
"Why, nome," he assured her, mocking offense. "Naw... I like bananas, they's good."
"Mmm-hmmm," Joetta agreed soundly, rubbing her tummy.
"A'ight, well." Kat stepped into their conversation now, taking Joetta by her other hand. "Joey, I think we best be goin' now. Y'wanna head t' Miss Maudie's 'n' get s'me pound cake?"
Joetta pouted, inching closer to Boo. "Miss Maudie alway put too much suga in huh cake, Katty. We cain't stay, jus' fo' a l'il bit long'r?"
"Naw, Joey, we cain't," Kat told her, in the best firm-but-fair voice she could muster.
"But we don't got nothin' else t' do!" Joetta protested. "Ain't nowhere else we gotta be!"
"Joey, even bein' in here is breakin' Mr. Raymond's rules. We wasn't s'posed t' try an' get in here - but by God we here! We gotta go, Joey."
Joetta's grip on Boo's hand just got tighter as she glared at Kat. "I. Ain't. Goin'." She said every word slowly and carefully to make sure that Kat understood her.
"Miss Joetta." Boo's hand came down on top of Joetta's thick braids, and his eyelids drooped a little, making his expression soften. "Yer sister, she's right. If folks find out you was here... wouldn't be good fer you or for Mr. Raymond. I ain't the most reputable comp'ny to be keepin', am I?" He slipped his hand from hers, and fingered her hair. "Go on, go with your sister, Miss Joetta."
Joetta glared at Boo this time, but it was more a defiant pout than an actual wrathful glare. "But I ain't wanna go, Boo!" Tears came to her eyes, and several spilled over. Was she hoping to appeal to his emotions? Kat knew he still wouldn't let her stay. He didn't seem like the kind of man to be moved by crocodile tears. By real tears, maybe, but not fake tears. "We don't gotta be no place else! We can stay fo' a spell but Kat don't wanna!"
Obviously feeling rather bad for her, Boo knelt down to her level. He took her hands in his and looked straight in her eyes. "D'you know that big ol' oak tree, out by the front of the house here?"
Joetta nodded, wiping the false tears from her eyes. "Yessuh, I seen it."
Boo smiled, putting a hand on each of her shoulders. "You come on back to that yonder tree after lunchtime t'morrow, there'll be somethin' in the hole for you."
Her hazel eyes lit up like the reflection of coffee in a mug. "Somethin' from you?"
"Why yes'm. A little somethin' from me t' you."
With that, Joetta flung her arms around Boo and pressed her lips to his neck, grinning from ear to ear. "Okay, Boo! I'll come back!" She whirled around to face Kat and gave her the most menacing look she'd ever seen the little girl give anybody. "We comin' back t'morrow, right, Katty?"
Kat raised an eyebrow. "Well... we come back to th' tree, but... we cain't come back in the house."
"Think 'bout it, Joey. Two days in a row? Mr. Nathan might hear us."
"He don't always hear a lot if we down here," Boo interjected. "But I don't come down here much. This just the gues'room for if fam'ly ever come to town, but they never do. My room in the upstairs - ground level, jus' like Nathan's. Easier for him to hear us... but you come back in two week, at pr'cisely... 'fore noon. Nathan ain't here then... he come at noon for lunch. And Ma's usu'lly sleepin'... an' she a heavy sleeper, she don't wake up for much. You come back in two week 'fore noon, you come t' the back door an' knock real soft, I'll come an' we can be together fer a while and play some game, Miss Joetta."
"Mmm!" Joetta embraced Boo around the waist. "Thank y', Boo! We come back! Right, Katty? We come back, right?"
"... I guess in two week it oughta be okay." Kat grabbed Joetta's hand. "Now c'mon, I gotta lift y' up t' get y'out."
Joetta looked back at Boo, giving him one last longing glance. "... Bye-bye, Boo."
He gave her a smile and a wave toward the cellar doors. "Bye-bye, Miss Joetta. I see you in two week. Now y' best be gettin' along and do as your sister tell you."
Joetta pouted, as if hoping that might convince him to let her stay, but then sighed. "Okay, Boo. I see you in two week then. Bye-bye."
"Bye-bye, Miss Joetta." He waved at her.
"Here we go then." Kat took Joetta around the waist and lifted her up in the air. Joetta grabbed onto the ground and pulled herself up.
"I'm up, Katty! Can you get up by yo'self?"
"Yeah, Boo'll help me." Kat turned to Boo, and noticed how he was dressed. A slightly torn white shirt and black pants. Not exactly how she would have pictured him, but not exactly dressed up either. She could see short, sparse stubble on his chin and cheeks, a little bit, and the beginnings of a mustache above his lip. One of the odd things she noticed was that he didn't wear any shoes. "Uh, Boo..."
"Yes, Miss Raymond?"
"Well, um... I... ah..." She rubbed the back of her head, wondering why she'd suddenly gone tongue-tied. "D'ya like t' be called Boo or Arthur?"
He shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me. But Miss Joetta calls me Boo, so I reckon you oughta, so as not t' confuse her."
"A'ight then..." She walked closer to him, and held out her hand. When he hesitantly took it, she smiled and moved her arm. "Thanks fo' keeping her safe an' all."
"Sure as anythin' I wouldn't hurt her. Little kids ain't do nothin' wrong to d'serve bein' hurt."
"Was y'afraid of me?"
Kat blinked. "Well... t' be hones', I was a l'il. Y'know how rumors spread in Maycom', don't ya?"
"Like chicken pox, right?"
"Somethin' like 'at, I reckon. Well anyway, Boo... thanks fo' lookin' after Joey. We'll be back in two week then, I s'pose."
"I'll be lookin' forward to it."
Kat climbed up on the bed, reached upward, and looked down when she realized she wasn't tall enough. "Can y' help me up jus' a l'il, Boo? I reckon I ain't tall 'nough t' get all the way up by m'self."
"I'll do what I can, Miss Raymond... but I ain't got much strength. I don't reckon I can lift y' too far." He placed his hands at her hips, then slid them up a bit. "This ain't bein' too... I mean... I ain't makin' you uncomf'table, am I, Miss Raymond?"
"Naw, I'm perf'ly comf'table, Boo. You ain't doin' nothin' wrong." She stretched for the ground above, but it was just out of her reach. "Okay, can y' git me up jus' a bit?"
"Yes'm, right quick." She felt him lift her, and she barely went up. "Ah, sorry, Miss Raymond... I toldja, I ain't got much strength."
"'S okay, Boo. I reckon I can jump up 'n' make it from here."
"That good, then."
She looked down. "Um... Boo?"
"You can let go now. I'ma jump up."
"Oh... oh!" She felt his hands slip from her waist. "I'm mighty sorry 'bout that, Miss Raymond. I didn't re'lize I was still..."
"'S a'ight, Boo, I was jus' tellin' ya."
"I know... but it still ain't right t' be havin' yer hands on a lady that way..."
"Aw, I know y'ain't mean nothin' by it, Boo." She reached up and took as big a jump as she could. She managed to grab onto the ground and try to pull herself up. Joetta helped her, taking her hands.
Once Kat had gotten herself up, she sat on her knees. "Ain't we goin', Katty? Huh?" Joetta asked, tapping Kat on the shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah, hold on jus' one sec, okay, Joey?" She ducked her head down into the cellar. "Hey Boo?"
He glanced up at her, surprised. "Yes'm?"
"Y'can call me Kat, an' Joetta Joey, that's what ev'ryone else does."
"Oh... well alright. See y' in two week... Miss Kat, Miss Joey."