March 3, 2008
By Sam Tomaszewski, Redding, CT

Tangy tapped her bright pink eraser against her lip. She had to write an essay about how she could make a difference.

Tangy was a young feline, only 12; in cat years she was actually quite a lot more, about 64. Her head is very round and looks like an orange has situated itself on her neck, except for the fact that she has two very pointed ears on that citrus of a head. They have a patch of red in the center. She was teased about her fruit shaped head but she created a great quote from this “Some say that cat’s don’t like citrus… that offends me!”

On her pate is green leaf, it starts from the mid-back of her head and ends in a point at her forehead. A final noticeable feature of Tangy is her face; she has two eyes with just black pupils and her mouth curves slightly whether she is happy or not. In contrast to her face, her body was like any other cats. She has two arms, two legs, and a very perky tail. Today she’s wearing her favorite shirt, a white and grayish-blue thick striped shirt.

Considering she is a cat, she definitely did not go to school. Why write this essay? Tangy groaned, her mother. Kaitlin was a yellow cat that always wore five over the top layers of crimson lipstick along with a green apron. She wasn’t home much, since Tangy’s little sister, Katie (a spitting image of what Kaitlin would have looked like as a small cat), always got lost exploring. Kaitlin would set out to look for her but she’d never find her. Eventually a kind person would bring her back. Being the polite family they were, Katie always wrote a thank you note along with sending a present. She really put her heart into that memo, even if there were a few spelling mistakes. Katie was only five for goodness sakes.

To keep Tangy sharp and educated while Kaitlin was out, she loaded Tangy with an essay, a map, an experiment, and a workbook every week. Some weeks it was enjoyable but others… well it’s wasn’t the number one thing on Tangy’s list, especially not today.
Tangy had all her work stacked up next to her on the cabana styled bureau, her makeshift desk. Except for the essay staring her down, everything was completed to perfection.

“How can you, Tangy Mackintosh, make a difference in our community of Malibu? Include as much details as possible and…”

Tangy didn’t bother to finish reading; it was the standard stuff, same as every week’s essay.

“Why can’t it be like last week’s assignment?” Tangy thought dreadfully. She normally loved to write, it’s what she wanted to be when she grew up but she wanted to be a fiction writer. Last week Tangy was required to write any fiction story of her choice. It was designed to be interpreted anyway Tangy wanted. She had written a riveting romance, modeling the characters in her story after her and her secret crush, Punchy, a goofy cat who barely noticed her. It let her mind soar and the creation turned out to be very good, with a twist of action packed conflicts at the end. Kaitlin was looking into the possibility of it getting published in the local newspaper.

But this week, this big, ugly, non-fiction essay was in front of her and she couldn’t change it. Her mother was extremely stubborn. No assignment would ever be changed no matter how hard Tangy begged. Sometimes it turned out better than Tangy and Kaitlin thought. Today, according to Tangy it was “the worst yet”. However, there was no getting around it, she had to do it.

Tangy broke out her favorite stalling method, cleaning her room.

“Maybe an idea will come to me while I straighten up a little…” Tangy dreaded cleaning her mess of a room, but it was a distraction from writing for now. The second hand on her bright pink clock ticked away loudly as time went by. Since Tangy was grooving along with her favorite Broadway tracks, the stretch of time seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. Soon the clock plastered on the face of the town hall gonged seven times. Tangy’s room was spotless.
As many say, a place for everything and everything in its place, this was certainly true with her room. After the first hour or so, Tangy had taken out a canister of multi-purpose cleaner and started spraying and wiping every possible surface in her sight. Everything on her dresser and nightstand was organized beyond belief plus they were shining with furniture polish. The rug was pristinely vacuumed and her closet was even color organized, starting with shades of red on the left and ending with dark blacks and navies on the right. The whole atmosphere was a breath of fresh air, physically and figuratively. Cleaning everything had given the place a whole new vibe and had vanished the old muggy smell that had lingered in her abode.

Soon the door downstairs slammed open and Kaitlin came barging in, clasping Katie’s wrists and dragging her across the floor.

“You are going to march upstairs missy and write Elle a thank you letter right now. Here’s some paper, a pencil, and a stool to send as a thank you present. You’re going to be paying for that with your allowance for the next three weeks.”

"Okay! I’m on it!”

Tangy chuckled; Katie was always full of pep even if she was in trouble. Either that or she was used to this routine. There was absolutely no question that she’d been lost enough times now that it had become a weekly event to the whole family.

Katie plodded up the stairs and trotted past Tangy’s room. She backtracked and stepped into Tangy’s doorway, mouth agape. She had wide eyes, like a child on Christmas day. While taking in the surroundings, Katie’s mouth slowly closed until it was but a small line on her face. Then she took a deep inhaling breath and smiled a dreamy smile.

Finally she exclaimed, “What a difference that made Tangy! I can breathe in here now!”

Tangy snapped her fingers; she had it. Stalling had worked this time, but in a different way. She went over, patted Katie on the head, telling her she’d help her with spell checking her letter later and then sat down at the bureau. Tangy picked up the pencil and started to write frantically. Steam seemed to come out of the pencil.

Ten sharpenings and seven erasers later, Tangy’s was proud to hold up her essay, still steaming with the friction from her pencil, in one hand and a stub of a pencil in the other. Although she could barely contain her excitement she modestly decided that her mother could appreciate her work of art better after she cooled down from Katie’s weekly catastrophe, no pun intended. Tangy smiled a secret smile to herself and headed down to help with dinner. Could this night get any better? Tonight they were having, smoked salmon, Tangy’s favorite. It was like her mother had foretold Tangy’s essay success and was throwing an undercover party for her with her much loved meal.

After a stomach stuffing Sunday supper, Tangy drifted asleep right after handing in her weekly work to her mom and doing the dishes. Being extremely discreet, Tangy slipped her essay at the bottom of the stack of sheets so the essay would be like the scrumptious dessert to her disgusting meal of boring, yet thorough sheets.

Kaitlin finished grading everything, all 100s as usual, except for a small spelling error on her science lab conclusion, nothing monumental, yet. She flipped back through the sheaves of paper, realizing that Tangy’s essay wasn’t on top as it should’ve been. Then she saw a pink sticky note flagging her to go and read the paper that it marked. Kaitlin started to read…

“How can I make a difference you ask? I can’t just hypothetically make a difference, I will and I did make a difference, a few differences to be frank.

My room is a pigsty, period. Not anymore. I made I difference by cleaning it. To be honest, I cleaned to avoid this essay. But the thing I did to avoid writing actually led me to the exact inspiration I needed. My mother always had to clean my room for me, now the small chunk of my day that I spent cleaning has surpassed what she ever had time to do. This will certainly make a mammoth difference on her daily ‘To Do’ list. Only one thing less thing for her to do may sound small but even she has said “You know Tangy, cleaning your room is one of the most time consuming things on my daily schedule. Even if you bothered to clean a little bit each day, maybe I’d have some time for myself…” I think what I did definitely personified my mother’s statement. It also affected my sister. She was very full of excitement when she saw my room wasn’t a death trap anymore plus she’s the one I owe this paragraph to. She exclaimed, “What a difference that made Tangy!” when she saw my immaculate room. By her standards, my room was bordering on being Holy.

My sister has also impacted my writing in another way. She’s the “icing on my cake”. She completes my day. I truthfully believe that if I didn’t see her little smiling face at night, I would not have many more of the “good things” in life to live for. My differential influence on her is how I help her. She’s fairly spacey and gets lost for spells sometimes when she goes around town, marveling at nature. When a kind person has the heart to lead her back here, my mother has her march straight up to her room and write an apology letter. How do I help? Well, when Katie is done, I go over the letter with her and suggest age-appropriate spelling and grammar changes. I try to keep it at her age level. This helps mom, my Katie, and me. For my mom, this crosses off yet another thing on her busy to do list, helping her have more “mom time” to just sit and have some tea at the end of the day. For my sister, her horizons expand every time she writes a new letter. The vocabulary and corrections I suggest become more advanced every time. I want her to grow to become great and someday be my editor. It teaches me how to grow as an instructor. If writing were to never pan out for me, I would love to go into the field of animal care or home schooling young animals. Tutoring my sister shows me my strong points and weak points and how to approach different corrections so the child’s self-esteem doesn’t plummet with each remark I make.

My final point also has to do with my mother. I’ve familiarized you with my mother’s busy to do list, so I’ll cut right to my finishing point. Dinner is yet another hassle of the day to her. So I always do my part and try to help by prepping the dinner, cooking to the best of ability, and doing the dishes. All these, I hope, give her a little more of that elusive “mom time”. Of the three things above mentioned, doing the dishes is a consistent thing I do. After a long day of doing everything under the sun, I always insist that my mom should just take a load off, watch TV, and have a cup of tea while I wash the dishes and clear the table.

I wish that this shows that I care about changing her day with small things. It means a lot to me and I hope it means a lot to her. With luck, one day, it’ll become a big difference. But for now, I concentrate on all the small effects that with chance, I can be the one to push the first domino over and start a chain of difference making.”

Kaitlin finished reading with a soft smile on her face. A solitary tear ran down her pale cheek. There wasn’t any part of her that could ever put a mark on this piece. She had never read anything so moving in her life. Tangy didn’t even know the half of it. Tangy was a very lucky girl and Kaitlin felt like the proudest mother in the world to have Tangy as such a caring, understanding daughter. Kaitlin longed for the day where she could tell Tangy everything and how she had pushed the first domino for the whole family. She uncapped her red felt-tip pen and wrote on the top of the paper “Gradeless.”

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