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Amie often wondered what was in the box. They would pass it everyday as they drove to preschool at Mrs. Peggy’s. It was stranded in the middle of a small, shallow, cattail-lined pond, surrounded by industrial buildings and semi-trucks. It seemed so lonely just sitting there day after day in the midst of all that confusion. She felt sorry for it. It seemed dejected, like no one cared about it. “But, I care!” She wanted to call out to it to make it feel better.
Amie, her dad, and her two little sisters would speculate as to what they thought the box contained. It was a simple box - made out of boards nailed together. Their favorite idea was a kitten. That poor little thing stuck in the box with no way to get out! What would happen to it? Could it be saved?
“Please, Daddy! Can we go save it and take it home?” she and her sisters would beg desperately.
“What if it’s somebody else’s kitten and they just have it there for safe keeping? If they came back, they would be very sad that it was gone,” was the wise response.
Of course, they would think, of course. That wouldn’t be good. Daddy is so smart, but I really want that kitty… And so it would begin again.
“Please! Please! Please!”
“Maybe some other time.”
They would think of reasons why someone would leave such a helpless creature out there all alone.
“Maybe they’re allergic to kitties like Mommy and so they couldn’t keep her in the house,” Amie surmised.
“Maybe they had a big, scary dog that would eat it!” her little sister, Sophie, would chime in with a deeply concerned expression.
“Or maybe she lives in there and has kittens, and, sometimes, when they’re bored they go swimming!” Marguerite, the youngest of the three sisters, added enthusiastically.
Being the creative one, Sophie would tell dramatic stories about the poor kitten as we sped down the highway past the little pond. Her face like an opera actress, and gesturing like an Italian man, she began one of her sagas, “The little kitten came out of her box in the middle of the night. She was a fuzzy kitten and she liked to eat bugs. One day, she was sitting on top of her box and a fairy came over to her.
‘Hello, Kitten,’ the fairy said.
‘Hello, Oomiachi,’ said the kitten. The fairy’s name was Oomiachi,” Sophie clarified before sighing and continuing.
“’What are you doing this morning?’ Oomiachi asked.
‘Mr. Froggie was going to come over later and we were going to have tea. You can come too if you want to,’ the kitten said. The kitten’s name was… June- no, Sally the kitten.
‘I would love to come!’ Oomiachi said.
‘Well he’s coming right now. Do you see him? He’s hopping across the water!’
‘Oh, yes! I see him!’ Oomiachi cried.
‘Very well, we shall start our tea then,’ said Sally the kitten. She pulled out a big napkin and put it over the box to put the food on. Then she pulled out her teacups and they all had tea. Oomiachi, Mr. Froggie, and Sally the kitten.” Sophie finished matter-of-factly, folding her hands and setting them in her lap to emphasize that it was the end.
The three girls and their father had great fun thinking of infinite ways to save the kitten from her watery prison, or thinking of other mysterious, or funny things that could be trapped inside the box.
It was a Saturday, in the middle of January, and the whole family was sitting around the fireplace in the living room of their condo. The faint glow from the setting sun washed over them, casting long shadows. They sat in a wavering semicircle around the warmth of the fire. It was silent as the flames danced in the hearth. Marguerite sat on her dad’s lap- she had been booted from her mom’s lap as a result of her mom’s increasingly large belly-, she sucked sleepily on her thumb, her eyes slowly drooping shut.
Sophie sat watching the dancing shadows from the fire flit on the wall. Under her breath, she began a story. Amie couldn’t hear it, but she knew it was an exciting one because she could see Sophie’s face light up like there was an extravagant scene before Sophie’s eyes that no one else could see. Amie could almost imagine that she saw it, too, in the deep brown shadows of Sophie’s eyes. Amie could almost see a vast hill that stretched for miles in every direction, with a single tower at the very top, isolated from anyone who might have the fancy to climb it, by a wide moat around the base. One single blue bird sat singing on the spire at the peak of the roof that pierced the sky. Amie was brought back to reality as, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sophie’s hand move. Sophie had sprawled out on her stomach, her first two fingers marching like a soldier across the floor. Sophie seemed to be in a trance, oblivious of the world around her. Her little soldier marched bravely, steadily toward the fire.
“Mommy? Daddy? Look at what Sophe’s doing!” Amie said in consternation, never taking her eyes off that wayward soldier.
“Sophie!” Her father reached over, and like lightening, swatted away the little soldier just before he would have plunged to a fiery death in the glowing, hot embers. Sophie started, as if awoken from a dream, sitting up and looking about. She rubbed her eyes and crawled over to her mother, laying her head in her lap and falling asleep. The mother and father breathed a sigh of relief.
A couple months later, in late April, the whole family was walking to the farmers’ market in the busy middle of the city. Everywhere Amie looked she could see cars. Cars speeding through the streets, cars parked in looming lines along the sidewalk. They were everywhere. Big ones, little ones, bright-colored ones, black or white ones, of every shape and size. As they walked along, Amie’s legs began to fatigue as the sidewalk kept going in a never-ending solid stream of concrete. As the family approached an intersection, Amie saw a streetlight that was just turning a glorious shade of red, like Rudolph’s nose on Christmas Eve, or the brilliant star that led the wise men to Baby Jesus.
While they had been walking, Sophie danced along closely in front. She twirled and waved her arms, her head tilted back in gleeful laughter, her small Mary-Jane shoes tip-tapping on the pavement.
The streetlight turned red, and a varying, but none-the-less intimidating, wall of massive vehicles rushed forward.
“Guys, look at me! I’m a fairy princess!” Sophie cried out in joy.
In what seemed like slow motion, Sophie’s skipping foot neared the curb that would thrust her out into the oncoming mass of cars. Her mother screamed, reaching out with her swollen hands, as one of Sophie’s little feet soared over the curb, dangerously close to the rushing danger. Without a word the father rushed forward and grabbed the back of her shirt, violently yanking her back to safety, and then pulling her into his protective arms. He buried his face in her hair and thanked God that she was safe.
“Sophe! You have to watch where you’re going!” her mother wept desperately.
Because of the mother’s distress the father thought it would be best if the family just headed home and had some quiet time. They could go back to the Farmer’s Market another day.
Later that night, the two concerned parents lay in bed discussing the day’s events. “John,” the mother said, addressing her husband, “we really have to do something. I don’t know what, but something. Her imagination is just getting out of control.”
He furrowed his brow, “I think all we can do is keep an eye on her. It’s not abnormal for her to have an imagination.”
The mother sighed, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Nothing could beat Grandma’s house. She lived far out in the country, so far out that fields of wild flowers and tall grass surrounded her traditional-farm-house home, complete with a white picket fence enclosing two docile mares. Lining one side of her property stretched a crumbling stone wall on the edge of a field behind the grandmother’s house.
The three girls loved to race through the field, and sit on that stone wall. This particular day in early June, they did just that. Racing as fast as they could through the sweet smelling flowers and prairie grass, their goal being the little collapsing wall. Once they reached it, they sprawled on their backs, limbs outstretched as if trying to soak up as much sun as they possibly could. The girls just lay there and daydreamed, letting their thoughts run wild under the brilliant blue sky.
After a while, Sophie sat up. She rubbed her eyes sleepily, and yawned. Standing, she began to spin in circles with her arms outstretched. She stood still, then, letting the soft breeze caress her cheeks, before she went and plopped her self down on the bumpy wall. She sat there for a few minutes, just soaking up the sun’s warmth. Meanwhile, Amie and Marguerite continued to nap under the dazzling morning sun.
Amie glanced over at Sophie, as the littler girl began to dance atop the wall. She walked on tiptoe across the jagged stone surface, wobbling here and there as a piece of rock gave way and crumbled to the earth below. As Amie groggily watched her jump from high-point to high-point along the stone wall, Sophie suddenly began to lose her balance. Before Amie could register what was happening, Sophie’s foot gave out from under her, and she fell to the ground. The sound of the crumbling stone, and thump of Sophie hitting the ground awoke Marguerite and for a moment the three stricken girls just sat and gaped. Coming out of her awestruck trance, Amie rushed over to Sophie.
“Sophe! Sophe! Are you okay?” she asked worriedly.
Sophie just groaned. Amie noticed a small trickle of blood running down Sophie’s forehead and began to panic.
“Margie! Go and get Grandma! Run!” she ordered. She didn’t know what to do; she was only seven after all. Margie ran as fast as her tiny legs cold carry her, her puffy red tutu bumping up and down with each uneven step she took.
“Gamma! Gamma!” she cried. “Gamma!”
A plump woman, with graying hair, hurried out of the house. As she did so, she wiped her floury hands on a dusty white apron tied around her round waist. As Amie watched anxiously from across the field, the older woman bent down to Marguerite. Marguerite pointed frantically in Sophie’s direction, jumping up and down in agitation. The grandmother, with Marguerite on her hip, ran as fast as she could over to where Amie huddled by Sophie.
“Oh dear! What happened, sweetheart?” she wheezed, her face still flushed from running.
Sophie started to open her mouth, but didn’t speak as fast as Amie would have liked her to, so Amie told the grandmother everything that had happened. While Amie was telling her, she took a kerchief from her pocket and dabbed the blood away from the small bump that had formed just above Sophie’s right eye.
Sophie whimpered, as the grandmother placed a kiss on Sophie’s forehead and picked her up to carry her back to the house.
“What were you doing on that wall anyway, Sophie, dear? That is very dangerous! But I suppose now you have learned,” the grandmother scolded Sophie gently. “That goes for you two girls too,” she said, addressing Amie and Marguerite.
The girls nodded solemnly as they all stood by the kitchen table as the grandmother applied a bandage to Sophie’s wound.
Years later, the three little girls had grown up to young women of 13, 15, 17, and a new little brother, Antoine, had been added to the clan. Amie sat and reminisced about how Sophie’s imagination had caused so many calamities, and hysterics from her mother, and how Sophie had gotten so caught up in her daydreams that it was like she was in a different world altogether. Sophie had, of course, grown out of all that, but the family still talked about it, calling it, “Sophie’s stitches time.”