How and why did life get so complicated . . . so difficult? Mental illness and booze have ravaged me since age 13. But I remember . . . god I remember. Younger days . . . maybe it was age 4 or 5. I’d go to see my cousin. She was the same age as me. She lived on a farm. I’d go stay a while. And there were always plenty of cats on that farm. Some were wild . . . they killed the rats. And a few were tame. The big mama cat would have her litter . . . and when I came to the farm, Faye, my cousin, would take me out to the smoke house where they’d be.
She’d gather up some kittens and tell me, “Fishspit! We’re gonna play house!” Then we’d take ‘em to the back porch where Faye had a lot of milk . . . and a bunch of the prettiest little dresses she’d made herself. The mama cat didn’t mind. Sometimes she stayed in the smokehouse and snoozed . . . other times she’d follow us to watch the little game of playing house.
Faye would get them little kittens all drunk and sleepy on milk. They then were putty in her hands. They’d get wobbly . . . they’d get sleepy. Then she’d pull out her little dresses and bonnets and other accouterments and start dressing them up.
And I was her husband of course. We’d have 7 kittens. They’d all be girls. She insisted. Even the little boy kittens were girls . . . them little boy kittens . . . sleepy on milk . . . dressed up in Faye’s little dresses.
Well! I had to provide for our children. So she’d send me out to my uncle’s garden and have me pick grapes, and beans, and peaches, and just about anything. I was a farmer you see. I was a good provider. We ate the peaches and Faye read English lessons to her children. Her mother was a school teacher . . . so she’d use her mother’s text books. But since Faye couldn’t read, she’d just open a text book and make things up. Things she’d heard. She’d tell the kittens about George Washington cutting down the cherry tree . . . “I cannot tell a lie!” she’d quote! Then she’d accuse one of the kittens of lying and that kitten had to go to bed. She’d made a little shoebox bed. The kitten sure didn’t mind. Sleep was sure welcome to a little kitten buzzed on a belly of milk.
Soon being a farmer wasn’t good enough for me! Faye wanted me to be a bigger earner. So she insisted that I get a job at an office . . . an insurance man or something. She’d tell me to go to work. I asked her where my office was. “Behind that tree!” she’d exclaim. And I’d tramp off to work. I’d get bored and lonely over there, listening to her talk to our children. So, I’d come home from work and she’d ask me where my paperwork was. “I didn’t get any,” I’d tell her. She told me that that just wouldn’t do. So she left me to take care of our daughters while she went inside. I played with the sleepy and precious kittens.
When she returned she’d brought some paper and a pen and a paper bag. The paper bag was my suitcase. She put my pen in there and my paper in there, and sent me off to work again. She said to be sure and write a lot of reports. I didn’t know how to write . . . so I went behind my tree and wrote fake cursive scribbles all over about 3 of the pages . . . cursive scribbles that looked to me like the writing the older kids like my sister did at school.
I’d come home from work (the tree you know) and Faye would inspect my work. She was pleased. So then I had to kiss each of our seven daughters. Then I’d be told how bad the little grey kitten had been (whom she had dressed up in the tiniest pink dresses) while I was at work. She insisted I give her (though it was a him) a good talking to. Apparently the little kitten hadn’t done her chores. What those chores were I wasn’t sure . . . Faye hadn’t clued me in.
And I’d take the little grey kitten aside and give her (him) a “corrective interview’, as my cousin liked to call it. I don’t know where she got the term . . . but now I wonder how many “corrective interviews” she’d gotten from her mama. Faye could be a rascal. I’d ask the little grey kitten why she’d been so naughty . . . and he’d (she’d) say, “Mew, Mew, Mew.” And I’d hear my little cousin who was listening in say, “That is NO excuse!”
Finally Faye would say that we needed a night at the movies. It was only about noon, but to her it was time for us to get a babysitter. We’d take the kittens back to their mama. She was the babysitter! Then Faye and I would go to the movies. This was an afternoon of Buck Rogers, Banana Splits, Batman, and whatever else was on the television.
Faye would make us sherbet cones and it was so wonderful. Oh how I miss such times. Faye’s grown up now and married to a fellow that sells farm insurance. I haven’t seen her in years. She has 3 children who have left home. Everything goes away in the end. I wouldn’t want to even see Faye now . . . I want to remember that little girl with so much innocent beauty in her little soul. I sure wouldn’t want her to see me. I didn’t turn out so good. Like John Prine sings, “Old man sleeps with his conscious at night . . . young man sleeps with his dreams . . . while the mentally ill sit perfectly still and live through life’s in-betweens.”
God bless all the precious kittens in the world. I hope little girls are still getting them sleepy drunk on milk and putting little pink dresses on them.