Mister Po as a baby:
I remember yearly trips to “the caves” in upstate New York. I don’t mean Howe’s -although I’ve been there numerous times with the kids and spouse (before his illness of course). I’m talking about a cave system accessed by an elevator located at the far end of a “gift” shop which incidentally held rocks, geodes and handiwork I much admired.
One particular gentleman made this annual summer trip all the more memorable. Three (or perhaps it was four?) years in a row, there he was; sprawled out in the parking lot on a patch of weedy shade near the entrance, his long grey hair the same as I remembered, curled at the tips; his one good eye acknowledging me as if he remembered me from before. Always I’d stop to pet him and when I did I was certain as he marked my legs with scent that this was indeed the three legged, one eyed gentleman I met yearly.
I didn’t know his backstory. Didn’t ask anyone his name either. And then one year he wasn’t there anymore.
When I was little I would accompany my father to ‘the’ bowling alley. He belonged to a league. For years I was his sidekick; busying myself in cracked leather furniture with straw peeking out the busted seams; a book of mazes and a pencil in my hands. The boring and quite fuzzy black and white floor model TV that faced the old furniture was only ever tuned to sports. But my father could keep an eye on me from his assigned alley. Lots of times I was allowed goodies from the soda machine and vending area near the rest rooms. How I loved to line up the cup and watch the machine shoot soda into it.
And of course there were the animals who were friends to everyone, not just me.
The dog. The big fat cat; who sashayed herself in and out among the duckpin and tenpin balls, (I gathered they were hers and she marked every one.)
The animals lived at the alleys, literally. They roamed everywhere. Napped. Said hellos and endured pats from old and young. Friendly to all, good natured, they had beds set up in the TV area, a few blanketed boxes near the front window next to the dusty plastic plants and of course in the “spare” room near the cubbies of various sizes of bowling shoes.
(Spare: that’s a bowling pun) The little room was a place where the owners stacked boxes of stuff and allowed me to “hang out.” I was delighted to read the cartoony cardboard posters that covered the walls: Can you spare a strike? (That’s one example I remember. Those puns really bowled me over.)
The animals would at times plop near my feet, sometimes even follow slowly in pace with me when I went to the snack machine for a Skybar fix. Once the cat (Hazel? Harriet?) passed a few minutes right in my lap!
I welcomed the dog’s pups into the world; in that little spare room behind the desk.
Even in my teens when my father had long since stopped bowling in a league, I found myself at the black pay phone in the bowling alley (our phone bill was unpaid and shut off often) and always after making my call I’d seek out the animals for a hello, and admire the scoreboard before I departed.
The animals (no people) passed away of smoke inhalation many years later; when a terrible night fire consumed the bowling alley. My father had his “name in lights” on the high score record board. I only wish I’d thought to take a picture of his name then.
I know someone who scattered her Papa’s ashes on the site because he too had loved the alleys. They built a Subway on the site of the bowling alley fire and so his ashes are now; resting below Subway. Just the type of humor he would’ve appreciated.
I’ve been guardian to more cats than I can remember and as a rule I don’t much trust people who aren’t fond of them. Am I a cat person or dog person? Why, that’s silly. I’m both!
If you meet me in the great beyond one day, I will be the pied piper “angel,” the one with the trail of pets surrounding me.
Eo ipso may I always be a cat guardian.
Tiny crocheted kittens!