Once upon a time long, long ago—in the 1960’s—a little girl named Suzi was sitting quietly on the back stairs of her house and reading a favorite book about a brave girl who had great adventures, met many odd people and creatures in strange places, and even fought a dragon once.
“I want to be like Alice when I grow up,” Little Suzi told her imaginary friend Albert who was sitting beside the little girl (hoping that she would read to him out loud, which she very often did).
I want to be like Alice, too! Albert exclaimed to his friend.
“But, she’s a girl,” Little Suzi was careful to explain. “You’re a boy.”
Oh, replied Albert with disappointment. Well, read to me anyway.
Little Suzi had just started a new chapter when Denny, her play pal from up the street, came walking through the alley that ran behind and between their houses atop Highland Avenue. As usual, Denny was proudly wearing his Roy Rogers cowboy hat and shirt and his cowboy boots. The pant legs of his blue jeans were tucked inside the boot tops, the way a real cowboy would do.
Denny often came over to Suzi’s house on Saturdays to play ‘Cowboys and Indians’. Little Suzi would be Pocahontas (she had real Cherokee moccasins of her own) and Albert would be her papoose—whenever she could talk him into it.
But this particular morning, Denny carefully cradled an old shoe box in his arms, and from Suzi’s perch on the back stairs, she could see something furry and small moving about inside it, which interested her very much.
“Want a kitten?” Denny asked cheerfully as he reached the bottom of the stairs. “Mommy says I can’t keep it.”Suzi quickly put down her book on the stair beside her and jumped up, excited to look inside the box. The small white ball of fur peered up at her with crystal blue eyes and a pink nose. And then it mewed at her in a sweet kitten voice that melted her heart at once.
“What’s its name?” Suzi asked as she picked up the tiny kitty and held it close to her cheek to feel the soft fur.
“This one is ‘Snowball’,” Denny told her. “I named him that ‘cause Mommy says it’s a good name for a furry white kitten. We had three more, but Mommy gave them away before I could name them.”
“Why did she give them away?” Suzi asked, amazed that anyone wouldn’t want to keep all the kittens they could get.
“She says we can only keep Sheba, Snowball’s mommy.”
Suzi had forgotten that Denny told her weeks ago that his housecat ‘Sheba’ was going to have kittens. Suzi’s mommy had said “maybe” when Suzi asked if she could have one of them whenever they got born and “we’ll see” for five more days after that, until Suzi forgot to ask again.
Just then, Suzi heard the soft squeak of the screen door behind her and, then, her mother Wilma’s voice overhead.
“Well, Denny, I guess Sheba had her litter, then?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Denny answered politely. “Mommy says Suzi can have one…if it’s ok.”
Suzi’s mommy pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows as she looked down at the furry kitten.
Suzi looked up at her mommy with a great big hopeful Please! written all over her face.
“What’s its name?” Suzi’s mommy asked.
“Snowball!” Suzi and Denny answered together.
“Do you promise to be responsible and watch out for it?” Suzi’s mommy asked her daughter.
What’s ‘sponsible’? Albert asked Suzi, but the little girl was far too excited about the kitten to answer the question.
“And feed it and keep it safe inside until it gets big enough to go out by itself?” Suzi’s mommy added.
‘Okey dokey, dominokey,’ Albert added for good measure.
For the next several weeks, Little Suzi played with her new kitten, fed him, cuddled him, and nuzzled him. She loved her new kitten, and he loved her right back.
But then, one Saturday morning when Suzi and her mommy drove into the city to shop for new school shoes at Loveman’s department store, the little girl forgot to lock the back porch screen door, and, sure enough, Snowball got curious as a cat and pushed his way outside and into the back yard to explore.
After Suzi and her mommy returned home with the little girl’s new Buster Brown school shoes, it wasn’t long until she realized that Snowball was not in the house. Upstairs and down, Little Suzi searched ever more frantically until she began to cry.
Well, crying won’t help, Albert scolded. Let’s go get Denny and start looking for Snowball!
Soon, Denny and all the kids in the neighborhood who were out playing that Saturday morning were helping Suzi search for her missing kitten. They were calling out “Snowball… Snowball… Snowball” all up and down the alley between houses and out on the sidewalk and down the street. And it wasn’t long until even Suzi’s and Denny’s mommies and several other grown-ups joined the search. It seemed as if nearly everybody in the neighborhood was out searching for Snowball.
At the very end of the alley, across from Denny’s house, Suzi’s mommy noticed the sweet older lady who lived there—the one all the children in the neighborhood called ‘Granny Dear’—waving a hand high in the air.
“What’s Granny Dear saying?” she asked of no one in particular. “She’s too far away to hear. Maybe she’s seen the kitten.”
And, so, Suzi’s mommy gathered up her daughter on her way to Granny Dear’s house to find out.
As they got closer, they heard a dog barking at the spot where Granny was pointing at the trunk of a tall maple tree at the end of Denny’s yard.
“I’m guessing it’s either a squirrel or a cat that old dog has barked up the tree,” Granny told them when Suzi and her mommy got close enough to hear.
The stray dog, for his part, paid no attention to the people approaching nearby and just kept right on barking, with his front paws up on the trunk of the tree and his nose pointed toward its upper branches.
As they approached the tree, Suzi’s mommy picked up a fallen branch from the tree and prepared to shoo the barking dog so that she could get a good look at whatever critter might be hiding up there.
“You kids stay back, now, until I chase the dog away,” she told the children following behind.
Yeah, he might have rabies! Albert declared excitedly.
“What kind of bees?” asked Little Suzi.
Not bees, silly, Albert explained to his confused friend. Rabies. They’re big fleas and can bite you.
But, really, Little Suzi wasn’t at all convinced that Albert knew much about rabies.
Suddenly, even before Suzi’s mommy could shoo the dog away, everyone saw a flash of cat coming out from Denny’s house and speeding toward the maple tree. It all happened so fast that everyone there froze in place.
“Sheba!” Denny’s mommy hollered from her yard.
“Sheba!” Denny yelled at almost the same time.
Snowball’s mommy flew by and jumped onto the stray dog’s head, boxing his ears with her front paws and scratching his neck with her hind ones. She flailed away like a windmill in a hurricane and scared that old dog so badly that he ran for his life all the way down the alleyway and beyond the lamppost out on the corner.
Denny’s mommy and Little Suzi’s mommy—and even Granny Dear—put their hands on their hips and laughed out loud at the yelping dog who was now running so fast that his hind legs nearly outran his fore ones as he tried to get away from Snowball’s mommy!
“Don’t reckon that ol’ dog will be back here anytime soon,” Granny Dear said as she took off her wire-rimmed glasses and wiped laughing tears from her eyes.
Snowball, of course, now spotted his mother on the ground below him from his perch high up in the tree limbs and took up a loud mewing to remind everyone of his predicament.
“Why won’t Snowball just come down out of the tree?” Little Suzi asked her mother.
“Cats won’t come down if they’re scared,” Suzi’s mommy explained.
“Won’t come down ‘til the moon comes out,” Granny added.
“Won’t come down ‘til it thunders, some say,” Denny’s mommy remarked.
“Well, we can’t wait here that long!” Suzi’s mommy laughed as she looked up at the clear blue sky and the sun high above.
What a cat-tastrophe! Albert announced to Little Suzi as he shook his head slowly back and forth.
“I know what to do!” Little Suzi spoke up loudly after a moment of quiet thought. “Call the fire department!”
“Yeah!” Denny yelled, jumping up and down. “Call the fire department!”
At first, the two mommies looked quizzically at their children, then at each other, and finally at Granny Dear (who only raised her eyebrows and shrugged). Then, they headed off to Denny’s house to call the fire department.
Denny was so excited to see the big red fire truck arrive with its red lights flashing that he began to dance around the trunk of the tree where Snowball was still hanging onto a limb above.
“Denny, what are you doing!” his mommy hollered from the back porch of their house. “Come away from there. You’re in the way and might get hurt.”
As she walked toward her little boy to fetch him, Little Suzi began to laugh because Denny stopped dancing about and started squeezing his knees hard together and holding onto the back of his jeans with one hand.
“What’s wrong with Denny?” Suzi asked her mommy.
“I think he got so excited that he has to go potty!” she explained. “And now the poor thing’s going to miss Snowball’s rescue.”
As Denny’s mommy led him away to their house, a fireman quickly ran up the ladder and brought down the kitten all safe and sound…but maybe still a little scared.
Kittens, as you know, are furry and sweet,
And they almost always land on their feet.
But little girls must be responsible
And do everything possible
To avoid a cat-tastrophe on their street!