Saturday, July 22, 2006

Can’t remember what I forgot

Venice let the warm soy oil support him. The gentle waves and sage smudge clouded his vision. His voice, no longer strong like when he stood on the corner of Haight and Ashbury warning crowds about global warming and genetically modified food, was barely audible, “3.14159, 2.71828, 1.41428… Numbers, I remember numbers, but not my own dreams.”

Venice squinted at his NotePad, checking that he heard correctly, “Nothing to worry about. Short-term memory failures are common for people like you.”

Venice tensed, sinking and splashing the golden liquid. He wipes the rainbow splashes from his glasses, “No need to be so sensitive. I was talking about people in their second century, not whatever oppressed minority you might identify with today.”

Venice relaxed and floated back to the surface, “Not just my dreams. I can’t remember my first … love.”

A flatbed truck, with New York plates, loaded with Rome apples, picked me up in western Mass. The smell of ripe apples reminded me of my mother’s apple pie, apple sauce, apple cider, apfelstrudel. The apple cider I shared with my cousin when we were eleven and both so curious about everything.

The truck driver was a teenager wearing jeans, a jacket, and no shirt, he used broom sticks to control the pedals. Two grey googly-eyes glued to a walnut shell covered with grey fur looked at me. “I’m going as far as New York, come aboard.”

New York was only another fifteen miles, but I didn’t care. He dropped me off …

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sheltr Kitties Essay

“Should I just drown them in the rain barrel?”

A man in dirty overalls extended a cardboard box away from his belly as if it contained ripe compost. From the back of the greenhouse, I stared through the rows of Brandywine tomatoes and Anasazi beans. Each day after school, I helped mom. I loved the smells of moist soil and fresh vegetables, especially around Easter, still waiting for the first crocus to poke its bud through the frozen countryside.

My mom put her hands in the two big pockets of the white apron she always wore and looked at the carton. I thought about the big rain barrel as I walked slowly down a row yellow tomato flowers carrying the heavy watering can and giving each plant a drink. I was only in first grade and wondered what was in the box.

The traffic and the winter wind stopped. The only sound was trickling water.

THUD! I jumped.

The man dropped the box. The box squeaked and mewed. Suddenly, my little six-year old brain understood their grisly discussion. He was talking about drowning kittens, drowning kittens!

My tummy was sick; I couldn’t breath. I wanted to scream, “No! No!” I thought I was going to cry, and even today I don’t know where I got my strength for what happened next.

Tears rolled down my creeks as I walked towards the two grownups. My little hands were so tense I couldn’t let go of the water can. By the time I got to the front, my pretty dress was soaked, but my eyes were dry. I stood between the cardboard prison and the man, but I only looked at my mom, “I’ll take care of them.”

My mother wiped her face with the apron, let out a long sigh and smiled at me, “And I’m sure you’ll do a great job too.”

The next day my dad took me to Home Depot. We bought wood and wire to build cages in an empty space next to the squash boxes. We got dishes, toys and food at the PetSmart. Mom gave me a brush and I painted big letters, below Julie’s Organic Vegetable, “+ Jennys Kat Sheltr.”

I had so much to learn.

That first box contained twin black kittens with white bellies and white tips on their tails, plus a tabby with a black mask and a purr you could hear across the greenhouse, and a grey cat that would stick to any toy. I still remember catching her like a fish on a string using a toy mouse for bait.

It was the week before Easter and lots of people wanted to adopt my kittens, but mommy explained they needed to be bigger, and have their shots and operations first. Dr. Rodriguez did the operations for free and mom loaned me the money for the shots.

The twins were adopted by couple with a new baby visiting from the city. I was so scared, but I shook their hands, “Promise me you’ll give these kitties a good home and not to let them outside.”

“Of course we will,” the lady smiled at me,

They paid for the shots and made a donation to the Sheltr.

The white one was adopted by my kindergarten teacher, but I wouldn’t let anyone have the grey one. I named her Velcro and we stuck together.

Velcro lived in the greenhouse. It was her private jungle. Among the tomatoes and beans, parsley and chives, each day she stalked bugs and an occasional mouse. When I came home from school, she might be sleeping a sunny spot, crouching between plants or getting a drink from my watering can – her favorite place to drink; I filled it every day, twice during the hot summers.

By the time I was in high school the Sheltr (we kept that spelling) had grown; my dad built us a new home behind the greenhouse, but Velcro still lived in the greenhouse.

This winter when I came home from college, I noticed Velcro wasn’t eating much and she had lost weight. As I drove to Dr. Rodriguez, she stuck to me just like when she was a kitten. On the first visit, Dr. Rodriguez ran tests. On the next visit she told me Velcro had renal failure.

Velcro kept drinking more water and losing weight, even though Dr. Rodriguez changed her diet and we bought her a special kitty water fountain. Though she got weak, Velcro still stuck to me. She liked to hear my voice, so we talked: about the Sheltr, the kitties we had helped, hunting in her jungle, catching moths and mice, and the future.

I promised Velcro I would do something to help more kitties, especially those with kidney failure, so that is why I applying to your vet school and why I want to be a vet.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Chess Move

Georgy’s hands rested at the side of the chessboard. The dimples on his knuckles made his fingers appear even shorter than they were. Like two white clouds, they circulated over the board, now shadowing over a bishop, later visiting a knight. While his hands explored the battlefield of black and white warriors, his eyes stared straight ahead.

The atmosphere of the chess world totally consumed Georgy. The nine desks, the cabinets of puzzles, paints, papers, pictures and play things, the other eight students, and five teachers faded beyond his awareness. Two students typed on computers. Another strung beads. A boy, who could have been Georgy’s twin, shook a pair of maracas. Two students just walked in circles.

Without any segue, two round hands descended on a pawn and transported it across the board and placed it in his teacher’s lap.

“Good move.”

Petty Thief

Sayraa ran along the beach pushing each step deep into the sand trying to force the tension in her shoulders down to her legs and through them into the earth. She wanted to feel the sweat draw the poisons from her core to cleanse her soul and remove the fears from last night’s ordeal.

The harder she ran, the more vivid the memories of her fight. Harry had been so inconsiderate to talk of her parents, especially her mother. Why chastise her for things she couldn’t control?

“Sayraa, you’re just like your mother, so ignorant. Just be quiet if you don’t know what going on.”

She knew as well as he did that stealing was wrong, but she was quiet as they walked out of the hotel with the alarm clock and iron in their suitcases.

“Harry, we don’t even need these things.”