Second and final part to “Kitty Lost in the City”, my second attempt at children’s stories. This one is sprinkled with the nutmeg of a Christmas nature.
It was then that Eli realized there was one place left he had not looked. Across the street was what everyone called the Senior Living Center. Eli knew his great grandmother lived in a place just like it far away. But Eli was not allowed to cross the street.
He bit his lip as he waited for the walk sign to tell him it was safe to cross the street. Then he ran across and into the Senior Living Center. Eli did not even have to ask the bored looking lady at the counter chewing gum like a cow if she saw Kitty. There in front of him sat an old man and old woman.
“They are old enough to be my great grandmother’s grandparents,” Eli thought to himself.
The old woman was cuddling Kitty. So many wrinkles on her face, Eli was not sure if the woman was smiling or her cheeks were being pulled toward the ceiling fan by invisible strings. The old man cuddled the old woman holding Kitty. Eli started toward Kitty, so happy he finally found his cute Kitty who, until now, was lost in the city. Then he stopped.
Those to either side of the old couple holding Kitty looked sad. Some stared at the wall. Eli thought they might be in trouble. Others watched an old T.V. that flickered in and out. Others just sat there. They did not move. They did not say hello to Eli, or anyone else.
“Can I help you, little guy,” asked a sweet woman’s voice. Turning, Eli saw it was the woman from behind the desk, still chewing her gum loudly.
“Hey, are you lost,” she asked again. Eli did not know what to say. Instead he just pointed to the old couple holding Kitty.
“Oh,” she said, looking surprised that he pointed at the smiling old couple, “You’re here to see Mr. and Mrs. J?” He did not know what else to say, so he nodded. Then a phone rang. The young woman skipped off back to her desk to answer it.
Eli stood there thinking awhile. He looked around the room again, then back at the old couple playing with Kitty. Mr. and Mrs. J were the only people in the whole room who looked happy. Without realizing what he was doing, Eli made his way to Kitty. Like a lost puppy, Eli just looked. He wanted to pet Kitty, pick her up, and take her home with him. Then the old woman looked up at Eli.
“Isn’t she the cutest thing ya ever saw,” the old woman asked Eli. Her eyes were red. It looked like she had been crying. But there were no tears on her wrinkly cheeks.
“Yes,” was all that fell out of Eli’s mouth.
“Go on,” the old man chimed in, “You can pet her.”
The old woman returned her attention to cuddling Kitty.
“She just came in through the front door this morning,” she said. “Hopped up in my lap. Hasn’t moved since. Look at her Frank, she looks so peaceful.”
“Sure is,” said Mr. J.
Then she looked at Eli again, “What do ya think we should name her?”
Eli felt like he was going to cry. Kitty was his. But Mrs. J was so happy. And Kitty looked happy too.
“Well, little man,” she asked again, “what should her name be?”
“K-K-Kitty,” Eli stuttered. He cleared his throat and tried again, “Kitty. With a ‘K’.”
Kitty’s powdery white ears perked up at the sound of her name.
“Oh! Did you see that, Frank? Her name really must be Kitty. Well, then. Kitty it is.”
Mrs. J brought Kitty up to her face and nuzzled nose to nose.
“Oh, Frank. Can we keep her? Do you think these people here will mind?”
“Well, we don’t have any food for Kitty,” Mr. J sighed disappointingly. “Nor do we have a litter box for her.”
Eli watched Mrs. J deflate before his eyes. His heart sank.
“Um, I think I might be able to help.”
Mrs. J’s eyes brightened, “Really?”
Without explaining himself, what he was doing, or where he was going, Eli ran out the door into the cold. The sun was nearly set. Mother was going to be angry.
Eli ran across the street at the crosswalk, up his apartment building steps, through the door, and up the next two flights of stairs to their apartment.
“And where have you been young man,” his mother asked not sounding as angry as he feared. She popped her head around the corner from the kitchen.
“Dinner’s just about ready. Go get cleaned up,” and her head disappeared again into the kitchen. It smelled spicy. He hoped it was spaghetti. He loved spaghetti.
“Mom,” Eli begged as he peaked into the kitchen. It was spaghetti.
“Can I have just a few more minutes?”
“Sweetie,” his mother said as she set a knife and a tomato down on the counter, “You can look for Kitty again tomorrow. It’s getting dark and dinner’s just about ready. Now go wash up.”
“Just ten minutes,” he begged.
“Eli Michael Whitney, go get washed up for dinner.”
Eli knew his mother meant business when she used his full name. But Kitty, Mr. J and Mrs. J were counting on him. Eli thought a long while wondering what to do. If he listened to his mother, Kitty would have nothing to eat and the chewing gum lady might take Kitty somewhere else. if he disobeyed him mom, something he rarely did, he would get into big trouble.
His mother put her hands on her hips.
“Decision time,” he thought to himself.
“Don’t make me count, Mister.”
Eli ran toward his room.
From his room loud banging and shuffling could be heard. A closet door slammed. Then again. A few huffs and puffs.
“I don’t hear water running,” sang Eli’s mom from the kitchen.
Then, running passed the kitchen hugging Kitty’s litter box and his bulging backpack with a toy mouse dangling out the half zipped zipper, Eli stumbled to the front door, opened it.
“Eli Michael, where do you think you’re going? Get back here!”
“Sorry, mom. I have to.”
Eli really was sorry, but felt he had to go. He slammed the door as quietly as he could, which was not very quietly at all.
Down the two flights of stairs the litter box shook and rattled with litter still inside. His backpack jingled and jangled as it bobbed up and down on his back. Out the door and across the street Eli bobbed with all his stuff bouncing around him.
“Eli Michael. Get back here this instant!”
Coming up to the entrance to the Senior Living Center, Eli skidded to a walk. The weight of his backpack almost tipped him over and into the litter box. Winded, he walked through the double door entrance. Mr. and Mrs. J still sat where Eli left them, still holding Kitty, still smiling so hard their eyes were almost completely closed. They looked like two pale prunes. But somehow they appeared happy, almost young.
“Here you go, sir.”
Eli handed Mr. J the litter box. Then he flung his backpack onto the floor between them and started to unzip it.
“Son,” Mr. J spoke slowly, with a confused stutter, “Where on earth did you get…”
“Eli Michael,” his mom barked from behind.
“I, um, just had these.”
A hand grabbed Eli by the arm and spun him around.
“What possessed you? How dare you bother these poor folks.”
Then his mother looked to Mr. and Mrs. J, “I’m so sorry if Eli bothered you at all.”
“Oh, he’s no trouble,” whispered Mrs. J.
“Mom, I just wanted Mr. and Mrs. J to have some of our stuff.”
“Oh, Sweetie. You’ll find…” Eli’s mother stopped speaking when she saw Kitty purring and napping in Mrs. J’s lap.
“Oh, dear. Oh, dear, dear, dear.”
Eli knew what his mother meant. She was just as confused as Eli was when he first saw Kitty. Confused about what to do. Confused about how to feel. But Eli was not confused anymore, and he hoped his mother would not be confused for long either.
“Mom,” Eli said as he tapped her hand still squeezing tightly on his arm, “Since we don’t need this stuff anymore, can I give it to Mr. and Mrs. J?”
“Sweetie,” his mom finally looked back at him, “Are you certain you want to do this?”
Eli tried to answer but something lodged in his throat kept him from speaking, so he nodded. his mother let go of his arm. Without a second thought, Eli emptied his backpack piece by piece. A bag of cat food, a mouse with a bell on the end of a stick, some treats, and a few cans of gourmet cat food were placed gingerly at the old couple’s feet.
Eli knelt down reaching into his backpack for the last item, he could not help letting a tear drop. Before he stood up he wiped away another tear getting ready to fall and cleared his throat. Out of his bag he pulled a small wrapped box with more tape than any professional gift wrapper would have used. The corners were bunched and there was a tear along one side. He wrapped it himself.
“Merry Christmas,” Eli said as best he could without cracking his voice. “It’s for Kitty.”
Mr. J took the gift with his shaky skeleton-like hand. He shook it like Eli shook his gifts already under the tree.
“But you can’t open it ‘till tomorrow.”
Eli’s mother laughed then sniffled.
“Sweetie, come on. Let’s leave these folks alone.”
Eli and his mother turned and, holding hands, walked back toward the double door entrance. He wondered if he would ever see Kitty again. “At least Kitty’s not lost in the city,” he thought to himself.
“Son,” Mr. J bellowed. Eli turned, worried something was wrong, that he did something wrong. “Would you come by tomorrow morning and held us open it for Kitty?”
Eli nodded so hard his head might have popped off his shoulders. He skipped his way home hungry for dinner. He loved spaghetti.