I have chosen to write my first stories from my childhood. Those years of carefree
days with friends. The adventures and trouble you find yourself getting into
with ease. I am titling these The Jump Rope Rhyme stories as I spent many happy days
at recess or home playing jump rope and hopscotch with my girlhood friends.
Three, six, nine
The goose drank wine
The monkey chewed tobacco
On the streetcar line.....
It was while walking home from school that my friends and I saw the sign. Free kittens. We always walked the same way home. We would go the the crosswalk in front of the school where the chosen sixth graders with their bright orange vests and flapping flags stood at attention as crossing guards. One would blow a whistle signaling us that we could safely walk across the street. First they would enter the street, standing straight and tall, then like soldiers tip their flags diagonal to the cars. From there we went straight onto Bruce Avenue where we would turn left down College Drive, turn left again onto W. Alisal Street where my friend Cheryl would go home on Fairfax Circle, cross the busy street and head down Fairfax Drive where we would continue our walk home with my remaining friends. We would say "Bye. See you tomorrow!" as we each walked up our front walks till I came to mine.
Free kittens. It was there the next day and the next day and each time I thought to myself "I want a kitten". Why not? We had two dogs, why not a kitten? I asked my mom and the reply was a stern "No". I learned not to ask twice as the answer would always be the same.
Free kittens. Why not bring one home? Surely once she saw it it would be alright! Who am I kidding. Why not bring one home and keep it hidden? I could take care of it and it would be all mine. I didn't think too hard as when you are nine you don't think everything through. You just do things and hopefully it turns out alright. You don't plan on getting into trouble on purpose. Who wants that to happen?
In our backyard I had a playhouse. It really was just a shed with some yard items inside but I had a corner of it where I kept my dress-up clothes and playhouse toys. The dress-ups were in an old cardboard box to keep them clean atop other boxes. The roof of the shed was partially covered with a green corrugated plastic cover. It made odd wailing sounds when it was windy as it wasn't nailed down as well as it could have been. It was closed in on all sides with thick heavy wood like a solid fence. The door opened with a black lift up latch so it was secure.
Free kittens. I am going to do it! I decided to walk to the house, pick out a kitten, come home, take the kitten to the shed and I would have a kitten! Oh, I was excited! I choose not to tell a soul. That weekend I walked to the house with the "Free Kittens" sign and knocked on the door. A nice lady answered. "Yes?"
"I saw your sign for free kittens. Do you still have them?"
"Why yes we do. Would you like to see them?" she asked.
We went inside and she took me through her house, down a hall that took us to her garage. A cardboard box with no top lined with a towel held several kittens. They were just what I wanted. All of them! I looked at them and she began to ask me questions. Questions I hadn't thought she would ask. "So you like kittens?"
"Yes! They all are so cute!"
"Did your parents say it was okay to have a kitten?" she looked at me with the look a grown up gives a child.
A pause from me. I realize I will have to lie. I want one of these kittens so much. This will be a good lie. It's not like I did something wrong, like breaking something. "My mom said it was alright. She said I could come over and pick one out and bring it home.".
"Which one do you like?" she asked.
It was the one that had three colors that I liked. I hadn't seen a cat that came in three colors before. "This one!"
"Oh yes, the little calico. It is pretty, isnt' it? Are you sure that is the one you want?"
"Yes! Can I take it right now?"
"Well I don't see why you can't since your mommy said it was alright."
I was jumping up and down inside! My heart was racing with the excitement of having my very own kitten. I picked the kitten up as gently as I could. My friend Susan had kittens once and I sort of knew about them. I knew they had little sharp claws. This one clung to me like a tack on a bulletin board. It held onto me as tight as it could.
"Do you want to know if it is a boy or a girl?" she smiled down at me.
I hadn't even thought about that or even cared but I sad yes.
"It's a girl. All calico cats are girls" she said in a satisfying way.
We walked to her front door. The kitten squirmed but seem okay attached to me in a way where her little claws had begun to pierce my skin through my t-shirt.
"Thank you for letting me have one!" I said as I jumped down the front steps.
I have a free kitten. Only I know about it. I smiled to myself. I began the walk home yet as I came closer to our house I wondered how I would get the kitten and myself into the backyard without being seen.
I went to the side gate which happened to be on the side where the playhouse was. I hurried to open the gate and to the safety of the closed door of the playhouse behind me. I pulled the kitten from my shirt which it tried hard to bring along in it's claws. It wanted to be held and curled it's small body in an odd stiff way with it's claws outstretched.
"Your okay little kitten." I tried to soothe it as it mewed at me. At that moment it passed through my mind that I had no place for it to sleep like the box the lady had for the kittens. I pulled down the dress-up box and made a cozy spot in the pile of my mom's cast off clothes that I played dress-up in. The kitten attached itself to the swirl of clothes it was laid into and began meowing more. I had no idea what to do now. I have a free kitten.
Food. I had forgotten that it would need food. I thought I would run to Susan's house and see if they had cat food. We only had canned dog food which I didn't think a kitten would eat.
Susan lived around the block from me so I could get there fast and back to the kitten. I didn't want my parents to know about my secret kitten. Susan gave me a wax paper bag filled with food they kept in their garage. She wanted to know more but I told her it was a secret and I really needed to get home. I would tell her all about it later.
I can't say that I was prepared for the whole concept of having a pet to take care of. I had not ever taken any responsibilities with our dogs and now I had a helpless meowing kitten in a dress-up box. I set some of the food in the middle with the kitten and stared at it. I thought I would go inside and think about the free kitten later.
The poor kitten. It made it through the night though I hadn't thought of all the things you should do for a pet. Like water or a way for it to get out of the box to relieve itself. The next morning when I had the chance I went out to see the kitten. It was so cute and soft. I held it and gave it more food. I found a plastic teacup and gave it water. Then it popped into my head that this was not going to work. I could never keep this a secret. I could not keep this kitten. My mom would find out and I would be in serious trouble. I had to take the kitten back.
It was actually easier than I thought. I made it back to the house with the "Free Kittens" sign and knocked on the door just as I had the day before. The lady opened the door looking down at me with the kitten clinging to me. "What's wrong dear?"
The words I said fell out so quickly. Another lie. "My mom changed her mind. I can't have a kitten. She said I had to bring it back."
"Oh I am sorry. Here let me get her off your shirt."
I said goodbye. I turned and skipped down the steps and on down the street back home. I had had a free kitten. Maybe Susan can play today I thought. I will see if she is home.
Line broke, the monkey he choked
And they all went to heaven
In a little row boat.
Slap, Clap, Slap, Clap.