Susan and I kidnapped Nana’s unsuspecting black cat and hid him in the back seat footwell of my dad’s old dull-green Studebaker. Our grandmother never let on that she missed Tom, he was one less cat to feed and let out when he insisted. My mother had no idea she was driving the get away car, even to this day she claims that she never knew what her girls were up to.
We kidnapped Ol’ Tom because we could not think of any other way to get a cat into our house. Susan and I swore that we had found the cat and mom had accepted our story. Tom was a big long black cat with white whiskers, boots and bib. He wasn’t an especially friendly cat; Tom wasn’t a lap-cat and would only suffer the humiliation of being dressed in doll clothes if we closed the playroom door to prevent his escape.
Tom liked to visit his old haunts at night and nap during the day and he learned to make himself scarce when it rained as this was prime dress up and pretend time. Soon Tom would return from his nightly tours with deep scratches and missing fur and broken teeth. The last people he wanted to see when he returned was Susan and me – he would slink behind the sofa to avoid our stares and attempts at patting his sore back. Uncle John said that Tom was a lover and a fighter, we weren’t sure what that meant, and that Tom was on the lookout for a girlfriend. There weren’t any cats in the neighborhood that we were aware of so we thought that Uncle John was just making up a story. One morning Tom didn’t come home until after ‘I Love Lucy’ and he looked worse than ever and was sent down cellar because our mother didn’t want him bleeding on the living-room rug.
The next morning Tom didn’t return at all. Susan and I waited for days, we walked up and down the road calling Tom’s name, we searched in the tall grass and in the woods behind the garden. We set out food and water bowls in case Tom forgot to come to the kitchen and ask to come in to nap. Uncle John told Susan and me that old Tom was doing okay, that he’d only gone off to Joe Pete’s farm where he would be taken real good care of. Uncle John told us that there were many animals and pets at Joe Pete’s place – they just couldn’t resist Joe Pete’s, it was almost like catnip to a cat and they couldn’t stay away.
I put in a lot of hours thinking about Joe Pete’s farm; I lost 3 cats and a parakeet to the farm and I was beginning to think something was fishy with Uncle John’s stories. Uncle John claimed that the painted turtles, goldfish and assorted “summer recess” gerbils all took the long hike to the farm – I must have been nine when I figured out that Joe Pete’s farm was pet heaven. Mom found one of our missing painted turtles petrified under her bed and the other stone cold dead under the car – how it got out of the house was a mystery! Uncle John declared that it had missed Joe Pete’s bus and had died waiting! When Susan found out (I may or may not have told her) she cryed for a week, at least it felt that long.
I must have been the brains of the cat kidnapping operation – it had to have been my brain child because I was a regular idea girl back then. Susan would do almost anything that I told her without balking or asking for a reason. I taught Susan everything she needed to survive childhood – faking sleep (this was hard for two reasons: (1) Susan’s eyelids refused to relax, and (2) her breathing was too fast) and stealing cookies by stealth of hand. Plus, I reckoned Susan’s biggest problem that needed fixing was her high moral center which prevented dishonesty and made her feel guilty for stealing cookies and pinching found change around the house. My moral center was with the gypsies and thieves – or so Uncle John said – and I had no problem whatsoever with telling white lies and fiblets – storytelling was my trade and Susan my innocent disciple.
I was a very naughty girl and logged in a humongous amount of hours sitting in the corner for my misdeeds. I took these opportunities to think deep thoughts and plan out our sisterly escapades, and due to my invisibility, Susan played alone waiting for my penalty time to expire. What were we going to do next, she probably wondered, and hoped with all her might that it didn’t involve snakes.
Misdeeds indeed Kat. May all those pets rest in peace at Joe’s Farm. The picture of you, Susan and the cat is adorable. Sorry you had to spend ” humongous amounts of hours sitting in the corner for your misdeeds.”
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My mother did not have such a policy that I can remember. She was pretty loose when it came to discipline. However my second grade teacher Mrs. Horseford disliked me very much and took the sit-in-the corner idea to heart. I was sent there every day until mid Nov. from aprox. 9:30 AM to the lunch/recess block, then resumed my sitting after recess until bus time. I served my time because I failed to learn how to write with my right hand and thus used my left instead. There were exactly 32 tiles from the chair I was told to park myself in, to the classroom door, and another 44 to the window. I know because I had plenty of time to count them. Mrs. Horseford was dead set on dealing with me herself about the hand writing problem.
One day close to Thanksgiving I made the decision to sneak one of my pet mice to school in my sweater pocket. My reasoning was sound. I wanted companionship while in time-out. True to form on that day I was sent to the chair and told to face the back wall around 9:15. A tad early but no worry. I would keep myself occupied with my mouse. I played with her in my pocket for at least a good hour despite the fact she peed quite a bit on my fingers. I took my hand out to take a closer whiff. I became obsessed with this because I was certain someone would notice the smell so began checking it with increased frequency. Mrs. Horseford noticed this odd behavior and came over to investigate. ” For Lord’s sake what are you doing that for?” I shrugged my shoulders and said ” I don’t know.” ” Are you playing with something in your pockets, or have candy there?” “No.” I answered. “Then put your hands aside and I will see if for myself if you are telling the truth” ” Your mother needs to bathe you more.” she added sharply as she thrust her hand into my left pocket. As soon as her hand touched fur and movement she screamed, jumped back, and ran to the intercom to request that the principal come quickly. After this she shooshed me out of the classroom to wait in the hall. The principal did come, got an earful, and lead me back to his office.
In the office I blabbered my heart out and covered everything including why I snuck a mouse to school in the first place. He showed me a wooden paddle hanging on a wall. I’d never been spanked or paddled before and didn’t want an initiation. When in a tight spot it is important to think your way out at any age and if at all possible have something up your sleeve. I didn’t have anything up my sleeve that I knew of, but he was certain I did. This piece of info. only years later did I realize was worth gold, and it brought about a great turn of events. Instead of paddling me the principal slid over a candy dish and started small talk. I could not fathom where this was going. He asked: ” Was I looking forward to Thanksgiving? Did I have a good Halloween?” ” How was my mother?” I was aware that the principal was sweating and patting his brow with his pocket cloth. A bulb in my head finally registered. Sometimes I went to parties with my mother and her gay male hairdresser friends. Near Halloween I had gone to a costume party up near the Canadian border. At this party I had seen my principal dressed as a pirate. There seemed nothing odd about that. Adults like parties too. But wait now, this wasn’t a party with lots of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, this was a party with mostly men who liked other men. I still didn’t make the connection, but said ” I liked the Halloween party when I saw you.” To make a long story short an understanding was reached. He steered me straight. I must have been mistaken and seen someone else that looked like him there. After this discussion the principal walked me back to class and had me return to my seat. Next he asked the teacher to join him out in the hall. What they discussed fully I was not privy to. The result though was that I was allowed from that day forward to use my left hand for writing when at my desk, and use my right when at the board. I could live with that. To this day I cannot undo that learning which my students find funny. I still write with my left hand when seated and my right when using a chalk board. As for the mouse she stayed in a box at the office until bus time. As for my relationship with Mrs. Horseford it was icy at best but I made sure at the end of each day before leaving to give her a huge hug. It was a false hug of course that made her dreadfully uncomfortable. I did it with a smile though, because victory is sweet.