Sassy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 6, 2012
Chink. Clank. Chink.

That sound always reminds me of my most vivid childhood memories: the day my first cat, Sassy, died. I was eight years old at the time, and it was a cold, dreary day at the end of February. The dregs of a recent snowstorm were still on the ground, brown and slushy, and the sun was playing hide-and-seek among the dark clouds, its light bright and cold.

The school bus dropped me off at the corner, and I remember walking home, my cheeks red from the biting wind, and my thin legs straining to jump over the puddles and avoid the cracks in the sidewalk. I had my Care Bear lunchbox in one hand, and in the other I clutched some crayon pictures of my family I had proudly drawn that day in school. As I approached my house, I broke into a joyful skip, and frolicked up the front stairs and through the door. In the hall I shed my thick purple coat and matching boots, and, leaving them carelessly on the floor in a wet bundle, I ran through the foyer and into the kitchen. There, the sunshine was filtering down through the many windows on the far wall, and the square patterns of light played tag upon the wooden table at which my mother sat. Oddly enough, she was in shadow: the sunbeams danced around her but not near her, as if something kept them away. My mother's hands were wrapped tightly around a half-empty coffee mug. I recall those hands with strange clarity: the skin stretched thin and drawn into a straight line. Her eyes, usually bright and merry, looked glassy and swollen, and I saw the tracks of many dried tears on her smooth cheeks.

Sensing that something was wrong, I forgot about the drawings I clutched in my sweaty palm and stood in the doorway, looking at my mother with apprehension. She attempted a smile, failed, and then pushed back her chair and rose. She crossed the room and squatted down in front of me, and, looking straight into my eyes, began speaking in a low, gentle voice.

Thinking back on it now, the words she spoke escape me.

All I recall is thinking "No ... this isn't true – Sassy CAN'T be dead!" I ran from the room, ran from my mother and the words she had spoken, ran from the death I saw dancing with the sunbeams in the bright kitchen. I raced up the front staircase and down the hall to my bedroom where I grabbed my favorite Slinky. Filled with sudden urgency, I raced down the hall, almost tripping over Sassy's favorite toy mouse, and stopped, breathless when I reached the top of the stairs. There I sat, pulled my knees to my chest, and wrapped my thin arms around myself, a small voice inside my head repeating, "She's alive. She's alive. She's alive." I sat up straight and reached for my Slinky, the familiar feel of the cool wire coils calming me, for I knew Sassy would come. I set the Slinky up against the top of the step and gently pushed it, my hand quivering, and watched as it began its downward descent.

Chink. Clank. Chink.

I kept my eyes riveted to the silvery metal blur, waiting for Sassy to come scampering to catch it as she had done unfailingly thousands of times over the years. No matter where she was, Sassy always heard that distinctive sound and came running, determined to catch the toy before it reached the bottom.

Chink. Clank. Chink. I looked over my shoulder and down the hall. Empty. "She'll come," I whispered.

Chink. Clank. Chink. I peered down the stairs to the front foyer. Empty. She'll come, I thought.

Chink. Clank. Chi ...

The Slinky stopped, its silvery music interrupted by the bottom of the staircase. It sat still. For a moment nothing stirred, and then, in the too loud silence which followed, I began to weep, for Sassy had not come.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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