Where Lovers Dream gained recognition early in her career, first appearing in the magazine Metropolitan (1916). Yezierska published it in her short story collection, Hungry Hearts (1920). Yzierska’s stories were popular during the 1920’s, focusing on the ongoing struggles of immigrant women as they search for their identities (and love) in America.
For years I was saying to myself—Just so you will act when you meet him. Just so you will stand. So will you look on him. These words you will say to him.
I wanted to show him that what he had done to me could not down me; that his leaving me the way he left me, that his breaking my heart the way he broke it, didn’t crush me; that his grand life and my pinched-in life, his having learning and my not having learning—that the difference didn’t count so much like it seemed; that on the bottom I was the same like him.
But he came upon me so sudden, all my plannings for years smashed to the wall. The sight of him was like an earthquake shaking me to pieces.
I can’t yet see nothing in front of me and can’t get my head together to anything, so torn up I am from the shock.
It was at Yetta Solomon’s wedding I met him again. She was after me for weeks I should only come.
“How can I come to such a swell hall?” I told her. “You know I ain’t got nothing decent to wear.”
“Like you are without no dressing-up, I want you to come. You are the kind what people look in your eyes and not on what you got on. Ain’t you yourself the one what helped me with my love troubles? And now, when everything is turning out happy, you mean to tell me that you ain’t going to be there?”
She gave me a grab over and kissed me in a way that I couldn’t say “No” to her.
So I shined myself up in the best I had and went to the wedding.
I was in the middle from giving my congratulations to Yetta and her new husband, when—Gott! Gott im Himmel! The sky is falling to the earth! I see him—him, and his wife leaning on his arm, coming over.
I gave a fall back, like something sharp hit me. My head got dizzy, and my eyes got blind.
I wanted to run away from him, but, ach! everything in me rushed to him.
I was feeling like struck deaf, dumb, and blind all in one.
He must have said something to me, and I must have answered back something to him, but how? What? I only remember like in a dream my getting to the cloakroom. Such a tearing, grinding pain was dragging me down to the floor that I had to hold on to the wall not to fall.
All of a sudden I feel a pull on my arm. It was the janitor with the broom in his hand.
“Lady, are you sick? The wedding people is all gone, and I swept up already.”
But I couldn’t wake up from myself.
“Lady, the lights is going out,” he says, looking on me queer.
“I think I ain’t well,” I said. And I went out.
Ach, I see again the time when we was lovers! How beautiful the world was then!
“Maybe there never was such love like ours, and never will be,” we was always telling one another.
When we was together there was like a light shining around us, the light from his heart on mine, and from my heart on his. People began to look happy just looking on us.
When we was walking we didn’t feel we was touching the earth but flying high up through the air. We looked on the rest of the people with pity, because it was seeming to us that we was the only two persons awake, and all the rest was hurrying and pushing and slaving and crowding one on the other without the splendidness of feeling for what it was all for, like we was feeling it.
David was learning for a doctor. Daytimes he went to college, and nights he was in a drug-store. I was working in a factory on shirt-waists. We was poor. But we didn’t feel poor. The waists I was sewing flyed like white birds through my fingers, because his face was shining out of everything I touched.
David was always trying to learn me how to make myself over for an American. Sometimes he would spend out fifteen cents to buy me the “Ladies’ Home Journal” to read about American life, and my whole head was put away on how to look neat and be up-to-date like the American girls. Till long hours in the night I used to stay up brushing and pressing my plain blue suit with the white collar what David liked, and washing my waists, and fixing up my hat like the pattern magazines show you.
On holidays he took me out for a dinner by a restaurant, to learn me how the Americans eat, with napkins, and use up so many plates—the butter by itself, and the bread by itself, and the meat by itself, and the potatoes by itself.
Always when the six o’clock whistle blowed, he was waiting for me on the corner from the shop to take me home.
“Ut, there waits Sara’s doctor feller,” the girls were nudging one to the other, as we went out from the shop. “Ain’t she the lucky one!”
All the way as we walked along he was learning me how to throw off my greenhorn talk, and say out the words in the American.
He used to stop me in the middle of the pavement and laugh from me, shaking me: “No t’ink or t’ank or t’ought, now. You’re an American,” he would say to me. And then he would fix my tongue and teeth together and make me say after him: “th-think, th-thank, th-thought; this, that, there.” And if I said the words right, he kissed me in the hall when we got home. And if I said them wrong, he kissed me anyhow.
He moved next door to us, so we shouldn’t lose the sweetness from one little minute that we could be together. There was only the thin wall between our kitchen and his room, and the first thing in the morning, we would knock in one to the other to begin the day together.
“See what I got for you, Hertzele,” he said to me one day, holding up a grand printed card.
I gave a read. It was the ticket invitation for his graduation from college. I gave it a touch, with pride melting over in my heart.
“Only one week more, and you’ll be a doctor for the world!”
“And then, heart of mine,” he said, drawing me over to him and kissing me on the lips, “when I get my office fixed up, you will marry me?”
“Ach, such a happiness,” I answered, “to be together all the time, and wait on you and cook for you, and do everything for you, like if I was your mother!”
“Uncle Rosenberg is coming special from Boston for my graduation.”
“The one what helped out your chance for college?” I asked.
“Yes, and he’s going to start me up the doctor’s office, he says. Like his son he looks on me, because he only got daughters in his family.”
“Ach, the good heart! He’ll yet have joy and good luck from us! What is he saying about me?” I ask.
“I want him to see you first, darling. You can’t help going to his heart, when he’ll only give a look on you.”
“Think only, Mammele—David is graduating for a doctor in a week!” I gave a hurry in to my mother that night. “And his Uncle Rosenberg is coming special from Boston and says he’ll start him up in his doctor’s office.”
“Oi weh, the uncle is going to give a come, you say? Look how the house looks! And the children in rags and no shoes on their feet!”
The whole week before the uncle came, my mother and I was busy nights buying and fixing up, and painting the chairs, and nailing together solid the table, and hanging up calendar pictures to cover up the broken plaster on the wall, and fixing the springs from the sleeping lounge so it didn’t sink in, and scrubbing up everything, and even washing the windows, like before Passover.
I stopped away from the shop, on the day David was graduating. Everything in the house was like for a holiday. The children shined up like rich people’s children, with their faces washed clean and their hair brushed and new shoes on their feet. I made my father put away his black shirt and dress up in an American white shirt and starched collar. I fixed out my mother in a new white waist and a blue checked apron, and I blowed myself to dress up the baby in everything new, like a doll in a window. Her round, laughing face lighted up the house, so beautiful she was.
By the time we got finished the rush to fix ourselves out, the children’s cheeks was red with excitement and our eyes was bulging bright, like ready to start for a picnic.
When David came in with his uncle, my father and mother and all the children gave a stand up.
But the “Boruch Chabo” and the hot words of welcome, what was rushing from us to say, froze up on our lips by the stiff look the uncle throwed on us.
David’s uncle didn’t look like David. He had a thick neck and a red face and the breathing of a man what eats plenty.—But his eyes looked smart like David’s.
He wouldn’t take no seat and didn’t seem to want to let go from the door.
David laughed and talked fast, and moved around nervous, trying to cover up the ice. But he didn’t get no answers from nobody. And he didn’t look in my eyes, and I was feeling myself ashamed, like I did something wrong which I didn’t understand.
My father started up to say something to the uncle—“Our David—” But I quick pulled him by the sleeve to stop. And nobody after that could say nothing, nobody except David.
I couldn’t get up the heart to ask them to give a taste from the cake and the wine what we made ready special for them on the table.
The baby started crying for a cake, and I quick went over to take her up, because I wanted to hide myself with being busy with her. But only the crying and nothing else happening made my heart give a shiver, like bad luck was in the air.
And right away the uncle and him said good-bye and walked out.
When the door was shut the children gave a rush for the cakes, and then burst out in the street.
“Come, Schmuel,” said my mother, “I got to say something with you.” And she gave my father a pull in the other room and closed the door.
I felt they was trying not to look on me, and was shrinking away from the shame that was throwed on me.
“Och, what’s the matter with me! Nothing can come between David and me. His uncle ain’t everything,” I said, trying to pull up my head.
I sat myself down by the table to cool down my nervousness. “Brace yourself up,” I said to myself, jumping up from the chair and beginning to walk around again. “Nothing has happened. Stop off nagging yourself.”
Just then I hear loud voices through the wall. I go nearer. Ut, it’s his uncle!
The plaster from the wall was broken on our side by the door. “Lay your ear in this crack, and you can hear plain the words,” I say to myself.
“What’s getting over you? You ain’t that kind to do such a thing,” I say. But still I do it.
Oi weh, I hear the uncle plainly! “What’s all this mean, these neighbors? Who’s the pretty girl what made such eyes on you?”
“Ain’t she beautiful? Do you like her?” I hear David.
“What? What’s that matter to you?”
“I’ll marry myself to her,” says David.
“Marry! Marry yourself into that beggar house! Are you crazy?”
“A man could get to anywhere with such a beautiful girl.”
“Koosh! Pretty faces is cheap like dirt. What has she got to bring you in for your future? An empty pocketbook? A starving family to hang over your neck?”
“You don’t know nothing about her. You don’t know what you’re saying. She comes from fine people in Russia. You can see her father is a learned man.”
“Ach! You make me a disgust with your calf talk! Poverty winking from every corner of the house! Hunger hollering from all their starved faces! I got too much sense to waste my love on beggars. And all the time I was planning for you an American family, people which are somebodies in this world, which could help you work up a practice! For why did I waste my good dollars on you?”
“Gott! Ain’t David answering?” my heart cries out. “Why don’t he throw him out of the house?”
“Perhaps I can’t hear him,” I think, and with my finger-nails I pick thinner the broken plaster.
I push myself back to get away and not to do it. But it did itself with my hands. “Don’t let me hear nothing,” I pray, and yet I strain more to hear.
The uncle was still hollering. And David wasn’t saying nothing for me.
“Gazlen! You want to sink your life in a family of beggars?”
“But I love her. We’re so happy together. Don’t that count for something? I can’t live without her.”
“Koosh! Love her! Do you want to plan your future with your heart or with your head? Take for your wife an ignorant shopgirl without a cent! Can two dead people start up a dance together?”
“So you mean not to help me with the office?”
“Yah-yah-yah! I’ll run on all fours to do it! The impudence from such penniless nobodies wanting to pull in a young man with a future for a doctor! Nobody but such a yok like you would be such an easy mark.”
“Well, I got to live my own life, and I love her.”
“That’s all I got to say.—Where’s my hat? Throw yourself away on the pretty face, make yourself to shame and to laughter with a ragged Melamid for a father-in-law, and I wash my hands from you for the rest of your life.”
A change came over David from that day. For the first time we was no more one person together. We couldn’t no more laugh and talk like we used to. When I tried to look him in the eyes, he gave them a turn away from me.
I used to lie awake nights turning over in my head David’s looks, David’s words, and it made me frightened like something black rising over me and pushing me out from David’s heart. I could feel he was blaming me for something I couldn’t understand.
Once David asked me, “Don’t you love me no more?”
I tried to tell him that there wasn’t no change in my love, but I couldn’t no more talk out to him what was in my mind, like I used.
“I didn’t want to worry you before with my worries,” he said to me at last.
“Worry me, David! What am I here for?”
“My uncle is acting like a stingy grouch,” he answered me, “and I can’t stand no more his bossing me.”
“Why didn’t you speak yourself out to me what was on your mind, David?” I asked him.
“You don’t know how my plans is smashed to pieces,” he said, with a worried look on his face. “I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to open my doctor’s office. And how can we get married with your people hanging on for your wages?”
“Ah, David, don’t you no longer feel that love can find a way out?”
He looked on me, down and up, and up and down, till I drawed myself back, frightened.
But he grabbed me back to him. “I love you. I love you, heart of mine,” he said, kissing me on the neck, on my hair and my eyes. “And nothing else matters, does it, does it?” and he kissed me again and again, as if he wanted to swallow me up.
Next day I go out from the shop and down the steps to meet him, like on every day.
I give a look around.
“Gott! Where is he? He wasn’t never late before,” gave a knock my heart.
I waited out till all the girls was gone, and the streets was getting empty, but David didn’t come yet.
“Maybe an accident happened to him, and I standing round here like a dummy,” and I gave a quick hurry home.
But nobody had heard nothing.
“He’s coming! He must come!” I fighted back my fear. But by evening he hadn’t come yet.
I sent in my brother next door to see if he could find him.
“He moved to-day,” comes in my brother to tell me.
“My God! David left me? It ain’t possible!”
I walk around the house, waiting and listening. “Don’t let nobody see your nervousness. Don’t let yourself out. Don’t break down.”
It got late and everybody was gone to bed.
I couldn’t take my clothes off. Any minute he’ll come up the steps or knock on the wall. Any minute a telegram will come.
It’s twelve o’clock. It’s one. Two!
Every time I hear footsteps in the empty street, I am by the window—“Maybe it’s him.”
It’s beginning the day.
The sun is rising. Oi weh, how can the sun rise and he not here?
Mein Gott! He ain’t coming!
I sit myself down on the floor by the window with my head on the sill.
Everybody is sleeping. I can’t sleep. And I’m so tired.
Next day I go, like pushed on, to the shop, glad to be swallowed up by my work.
The noise of the knocking machines is like a sleeping-medicine to the cryings inside of me. All day I watched my hands push the waists up and down the machine. I wasn’t with my hands. It was like my breathing stopped and I was sitting inside of myself, waiting for David.
The six o’clock whistle blowed. I go out from the shop.
I can’t help it—I look for him.
“Oi, Gott! Do something for me once! Send him only!”
I hold on to the iron fence of the shop, because I feel my heart bleeding away.
I can’t go away. The girls all come out from the shops, and the streets get empty and still. But at the end of the block once in a while somebody crosses and goes out from sight.
I watch them. I begin counting, “One, two, three—”
Underneath my mind is saying, “Maybe it’s him. Maybe the next one!”
My eyes shut themselves. I feel the end from everything.
“Ah, David! David! Gott! Mein Gott!”
I fall on the steps and clinch the stones with the twistings of my body. A terrible cry breaks out from me—“David! David!” My soul is tearing itself out from my body. It is gone.
Next day I got news—David opened a doctor’s office uptown.
Nothing could hurt me no more. I didn’t hope for nothing. Even if he wanted me back, I couldn’t go to him no more. I was like something dying what wants to be left alone in darkness.
But still something inside of me wanted to see for itself how all is dead between us, and I write him:
“David Novak: You killed me. You killed my love. Why did you leave me yet living? Why must I yet drag on the deadness from me?”
I don’t know why I wrote him. I just wanted to give a look on him. I wanted to fill up my eyes with him before I turned them away forever.
I was sitting by the table in the kitchen, wanting to sew, but my hands was lying dead on the table, when the door back of me burst open.
“O God! What have I done? Your face is like ashes! You look like you are dying!” David gave a rush in.
His hair wasn’t combed, his face wasn’t shaved, his clothes was all wrinkled. My letter he was holding crushed in his hand.
“I killed you! I left you! But I didn’t rest a minute since I went away! Heart of mine, forgive me!”
He gave a take my hand, and fell down kneeling by me.
“Sarale, speak to me!”
“False dog! Coward!” cried my father, breaking in on us. “Get up! Get out! Don’t dare touch my child again! May your name and memory be blotted out!”
David covered up his head with his arm and fell back to the wall like my father had hit him.
“You yet listen to him?” cried my father, grabbing me by the arm and shaking me. “Didn’t I tell you he’s a Meshumid, a denier of God?”
“Have pity! Speak to me! Give me only a word!” David begged me.
I wanted to speak to him, to stretch out my hands to him and call him over, but I couldn’t move my body. No voice came from my lips no more than if I was locked in my grave.
I was dead, and the David I loved was dead.
I married Sam because he came along and wanted me, and I didn’t care about nothing no more.
But for long after, even when the children began coming, my head was still far away in the dream of the time when love was. Before my eyes was always his face, drawing me on. In my ears was always his voice, but thin, like from far away.
I was like a person following after something in the dark.
For years when I went out into the street or got into a car, it gave a knock my heart—“Maybe I’ll see him yet to-day.”
When I heard he got himself engaged, I hunted up where she lived, and with Sammy in the carriage and the three other children hanging on to my skirts, I stayed around for hours to look up at the grand stone house where she lived, just to take a minute’s look on her.
When I seen her go by, it stabbed awake in me the old days.
It ain’t that I still love him, but nothing don’t seem real to me no more. For the little while when we was lovers I breathed the air from the high places where love comes from, and I can’t no more come down.
Freeman delivers this well crafted tale with cunning and patience, just like the cat’s. It is about the need for companionship, even by those who can survive alone in the harshest conditions.
The snow was falling, and the Cat’s fur was stiffly pointed with it, but he was imperturbable. He sat crouched, ready for the death-spring, as he had sat for hours. It was night—but that made no difference—all times were as one to the Cat when he was in wait for prey. Then, too, he was under no constraint of human will, for he was living alone that winter. Nowhere in the world was any voice calling him; on no hearth was there a waiting dish. He was quite free except for his own desires, which tyrannized over him when unsatisfied as now. The Cat was very hungry—almost famished, in fact. For days the weather had been very bitter, and all the feebler wild things which were his prey by inheritance, the born serfs to his family, had kept, for the most part, in their burrows and nests, and the Cat’s long hunt had availed him nothing. But he waited with the inconceivable patience and persistency of his race; besides, he was certain. The Cat was a creature of absolute convictions, and his faith in his deductions never wavered. The rabbit had gone in there between those low-hung pine boughs. Now her little doorway had before it a shaggy curtain of snow, but in there she was. The Cat had seen her enter, so like a swift grey shadow that even his sharp and practised eyes had glanced back for the substance following, and then she was gone. So he sat down and waited, and he waited still in the white night, listening angrily to the north wind starting in the upper heights of the mountains with distant screams, then swelling into an awful crescendo of rage, and swooping down with furious white wings of snow like a flock of fierce eagles into the valleys and ravines. The Cat was on the side of a mountain, on a wooded terrace. Above him a few feet away towered the rock ascent as steep as the wall of a cathedral. The Cat had never climbed it—trees were the ladders to his heights of life. He had often looked with wonder at the rock, and miauled bitterly and resentfully as man does in the face of a forbidding Providence. At his left was the sheer precipice. Behind him, with a short stretch of woody growth between, was the frozen perpendicular wall of a mountain stream. Before him was the way to his home. When the rabbit came out she was trapped; her little cloven feet could not scale such unbroken steeps. So the Cat waited. The place in which he was looked like a maelstrom of the wood. The tangle of trees and bushes clinging to the mountain-side with a stern clutch of roots, the prostrate trunks and branches, the vines embracing everything with strong knots and coils of growth, had a curious effect, as of things which had whirled for ages in a current of raging water, only it was not water, but wind, which had disposed everything in circling lines of yielding to its fiercest points of onset. And now over all this whirl of wood and rock and dead trunks and branches and vines descended the snow. It blew down like smoke over the rock-crest above; it stood in a gyrating column like some death-wraith of nature, on the level, then it broke over the edge of the precipice, and the Cat cowered before the fierce backward set of it. It was as if ice needles pricked his skin through his beautiful thick fur, but he never faltered and never once cried. He had nothing to gain from crying, and everything to lose; the rabbit would hear him cry and know he was waiting.
It grew darker and darker, with a strange white smother, instead of the natural blackness of night. It was a night of storm and death superadded to the night of nature. The mountains were all hidden, wrapped about, overawed, and tumultuously overborne by it, but in the midst of it waited, quite unconquered, this little, unswerving, living patience and power under a little coat of grey fur.
A fiercer blast swept over the rock, spun on one mighty foot of whirlwind athwart the level, then was over the precipice.
Then the Cat saw two eyes luminous with terror, frantic with the impulse of flight, he saw a little, quivering, dilating nose, he saw two pointing ears, and he kept still, with every one of his fine nerves and muscles strained like wires. Then the rabbit was out—there was one long line of incarnate flight and terror—and the Cat had her.
Then the Cat went home, trailing his prey through the snow.
The Cat lived in the house which his master had built, as rudely as a child’s block-house, but staunchly enough. The snow was heavy on the low slant of its roof, but it would not settle under it. The two windows and the door were made fast, but the Cat knew a way in. Up a pine-tree behind the house he scuttled, though it was hard work with his heavy rabbit, and was in his little window under the eaves, then down through the trap to the room below, and on his master’s bed with a spring and a great cry of triumph, rabbit and all. But his master was not there; he had been gone since early fall and it was now February. He would not return until spring, for he was an old man, and the cruel cold of the mountains clutched at his vitals like a panther, and he had gone to the village to winter. The Cat had known for a long time that his master was gone, but his reasoning was always sequential and circuitous; always for him what had been would be, and the more easily for his marvellous waiting powers so he always came home expecting to find his master.
When he saw that he was still gone, he dragged the rabbit off the rude couch which was the bed to the floor, put one little paw on the carcass to keep it steady, and began gnawing with head to one side to bring his strongest teeth to bear.
It was darker in the house than it had been in the wood, and the cold was as deadly, though not so fierce. If the Cat had not received his fur coat unquestioningly of Providence, he would have been thankful that he had it. It was a mottled grey, white on the face and breast, and thick as fur could grow.
The wind drove the snow on the windows with such force that it rattled like sleet, and the house trembled a little. Then all at once the Cat heard a noise, and stopped gnawing his rabbit and listened, his shining green eyes fixed upon a window. Then he heard a hoarse shout, a halloo of despair and entreaty; but he knew it was not his master come home, and he waited, one paw still on the rabbit. Then the halloo came again, and then the Cat answered. He said all that was essential quite plainly to his own comprehension. There was in his cry of response inquiry, information, warning, terror, and finally, the offer of comradeship; but the man outside did not hear him, because of the howling of the storm.
Then there was a great battering pound at the door, then another, and another. The Cat dragged his rabbit under the bed. The blows came thicker and faster. It was a weak arm which gave them, but it was nerved by desperation. Finally the lock yielded, and the stranger came in. Then the Cat, peering from under the bed, blinked with a sudden light, and his green eyes narrowed. The stranger struck a match and looked about. The Cat saw a face wild and blue with hunger and cold, and a man who looked poorer and older than his poor old master, who was an outcast among men for his poverty and lowly mystery of antecedents; and he heard a muttered, unintelligible voicing of distress from the harsh piteous mouth. There was in it both profanity and prayer, but the Cat knew nothing of that.
The stranger braced the door which he had forced, got some wood from the stock in the corner, and kindled a fire in the old stove as quickly as his half-frozen hands would allow. He shook so pitiably as he worked that the Cat under the bed felt the tremor of it. Then the man, who was small and feeble and marked with the scars of suffering which he had pulled down upon his own head, sat down in one of the old chairs and crouched over the fire as if it were the one love and desire of his soul, holding out his yellow hands like yellow claws, and he groaned. The Cat came out from under the bed and leaped up on his lap with the rabbit. The man gave a great shout and start of terror, and sprang, and the Cat slid clawing to the floor, and the rabbit fell inertly, and the man leaned, gasping with fright, and ghastly, against the wall. The Cat grabbed the rabbit by the slack of its neck and dragged it to the man’s feet. Then he raised his shrill, insistent cry, he arched his back high, his tail was a splendid waving plume. He rubbed against the man’s feet, which were bursting out of their torn shoes.
The man pushed the Cat away, gently enough, and began searching about the little cabin. He even climbed painfully the ladder to the loft, lit a match, and peered up in the darkness with straining eyes. He feared lest there might be a man, since there was a cat. His experience with men had not been pleasant, and neither had the experience of men been pleasant with him. He was an old wandering Ishmael among his kind; he had stumbled upon the house of a brother, and the brother was not at home, and he was glad.
He returned to the Cat, and stooped stiffly and stroked his back, which the animal arched like the spring of a bow.
Then he took up the rabbit and looked at it eagerly by the firelight. His jaws worked. He could almost have devoured it raw. He fumbled—the Cat close at his heels—around some rude shelves and a table, and found, with a grunt of self-gratulation, a lamp with oil in it. That he lighted; then he found a frying-pan and a knife, and skinned the rabbit, and prepared it for cooking, the Cat always at his feet.
When the odour of the cooking flesh filled the cabin, both the man and the Cat looked wolfish. The man turned the rabbit with one hand and stooped to pat the Cat with the other. The Cat thought him a fine man. He loved him with all his heart, though he had known him such a short time, and though the man had a face both pitiful and sharply set at variance with the best of things.
It was a face with the grimy grizzle of age upon it, with fever hollows in the cheeks, and the memories of wrong in the dim eyes, but the Cat accepted the man unquestioningly and loved him. When the rabbit was half cooked, neither the man nor the Cat could wait any longer. The man took it from the fire, divided it exactly in halves, gave the Cat one, and took the other himself. Then they ate.
Then the man blew out the light, called the Cat to him, got on the bed, drew up the ragged coverings, and fell asleep with the Cat in his bosom.
The man was the Cat’s guest all the rest of the winter, and winter is long in the mountains. The rightful owner of the little hut did not return until May. All that time the Cat toiled hard, and he grew rather thin himself, for he shared everything except mice with his guest; and sometimes game was wary, and the fruit of patience of days was very little for two. The man was ill and weak, however, and unable to eat much, which was fortunate, since he could not hunt for himself. All day long he lay on the bed, or else sat crouched over the fire. It was a good thing that fire-wood was ready at hand for the picking up, not a stone’s-throw from the door, for that he had to attend to himself.
The Cat foraged tirelessly. Sometimes he was gone for days together, and at first the man used to be terrified, thinking he would never return; then he would hear the familiar cry at the door, and stumble to his feet and let him in. Then the two would dine together, sharing equally; then the Cat would rest and purr, and finally sleep in the man’s arms.
Towards spring the game grew plentiful; more wild little quarry were tempted out of their homes, in search of love as well as food. One day the Cat had luck—a rabbit, a partridge, and a mouse. He could not carry them all at once, but finally he had them together at the house door. Then he cried, but no one answered. All the mountain streams were loosened, and the air was full of the gurgle of many waters, occasionally pierced by a bird-whistle. The trees rustled with a new sound to the spring wind; there was a flush of rose and gold-green on the breasting surface of a distant mountain seen through an opening in the wood. The tips of the bushes were swollen and glistening red, and now and then there was a flower; but the Cat had nothing to do with flowers. He stood beside his booty at the house door, and cried and cried with his insistent triumph and complaint and pleading, but no one came to let him in. Then the cat left his little treasures at the door, and went around to the back of the house to the pine-tree, and was up the trunk with a wild scramble, and in through his little window, and down through the trap to the room, and the man was gone.
The Cat cried again—that cry of the animal for human companionship which is one of the sad notes of the world; he looked in all the corners; he sprang to the chair at the window and looked out; but no one came. The man was gone and he never came again.
The Cat ate his mouse out on the turf beside the house; the rabbit and the partridge he carried painfully into the house, but the man did not come to share them. Finally, in the course of a day or two, he ate them up himself; then he slept a long time on the bed, and when he waked the man was not there.
Then the Cat went forth to his hunting-grounds again, and came home at night with a plump bird, reasoning with his tireless persistency in expectancy that the man would be there; and there was a light in the window, and when he cried his old master opened the door and let him in.
His master had strong comradeship with the Cat, but not affection. He never patted him like that gentler outcast, but he had a pride in him and an anxiety for his welfare, though he had left him alone all winter without scruple. He feared lest some misfortune might have come to the Cat, though he was so large of his kind, and a mighty hunter. Therefore, when he saw him at the door in all the glory of his glossy winter coat, his white breast and face shining like snow in the sun, his own face lit up with welcome, and the Cat embraced his feet with his sinuous body vibrant with rejoicing purrs.
The Cat had his bird to himself, for his master had his own supper already cooking on the stove. After supper the Cat’s master took his pipe, and sought a small store of tobacco which he had left in his hut over winter. He had thought often of it; that and the Cat seemed something to come home to in the spring. But the tobacco was gone; not a dust left. The man swore a little in a grim monotone, which made the profanity lose its customary effect. He had been, and was, a hard drinker; he had knocked about the world until the marks of its sharp corners were on his very soul, which was thereby calloused, until his very sensibility to loss was dulled. He was a very old man.
He searched for the tobacco with a sort of dull combativeness of persistency; then he stared with stupid wonder around the room. Suddenly many features struck him as being changed. Another stove-lid was broken; an old piece of carpet was tacked up over a window to keep out the cold; his fire-wood was gone. He looked and there was no oil left in his can. He looked at the coverings on his bed; he took them up, and again he made that strange remonstrant noise in his throat. Then he looked again for his tobacco.
Finally he gave it up. He sat down beside the fire, for May in the mountains is cold; he held his empty pipe in his mouth, his rough forehead knitted, and he and the Cat looked at each other across that impassable barrier of silence which has been set between man and beast from the creation of the world.
The anticipation was so great this day, unlike most days where Blue lived. There was so much attention being given to the house. Dusting, mopping, vacuuming was having to be done. She was only 7 but she was vacuuming the living room, while trying to over hear what the adults were fussing about.
There was something going on today that had been a long time coming. Her father’s dad was coming. He was her grandfather and for the first time that she could remember she was going to actually get to see and meet him. Blue was so thrilled she could hardly contain her emotions of happiness and thrill. So why were her parents fussing and bickering all morning?
It was nothing unusual to hear them argue or fuss or even to see her father raise his hands to her mom. Today though should be a time for being happy not fussing or fighting with each other. After she got down cleaning her room she tried to ease drop and listen to what was being fussed about. She finally knew what it was. She heard her father state that he hated his dad and that he wished him dead. He also said that he would not go to his funeral if he ever did die.
What in the world was he saying that for? Blue thought that being a family meant that everyone accepted and loved everyone else. Little by little though in her short life she was learning that adults did not get along with each other and that apparently they could never really love anyone. It was a shame that Blue learned this at a young age but she did. You know how kids think their world is so magical and great? Well, no matter how much Blue wanted to believe that , the adults in her life taught her so much of that was not true.
After lunch Blue was sitting on the couch awaiting her grandfather’s arrival. She had heard her mother tell her sister that he would come after lunch some time. She heard a knock on the door and immediately she knew it was him. Her father went into the back bedroom and shut the door. She thought how odd that was but she was so excited she gave that very little thought. When her mother answered the door, there was this tall man standing in the doorway. He said. “Hello, I am your father in law”. My mother acted as if she was nervous and she said ,”Hello, nice to finally meet you.” Blue knew this had to be the first time he had seen her mother, how weird, she thought to herself.
Her mother asked him to have a seat at the table in the kitchen and then offered him some coffee, he gladly accepted. He saw Blue peering in the kitchen and he motioned for her to come see him. Blue cautiously waked into the kitchen and hopped on his lap. She really was observing every little detail about him. She felt so happy at that moment. She noticed he had a finger missing. She rudely asked him why he had no finger. Her mother scolded her and explained that was not nice asking people such a personal thing. He told her mother and her that it was okay. He also said that when he was young he lit a firecracker in his hand and not knowing much about t, it went off in his hand. Blue was surprised at that answer. He mother explained that that was why you don’t touch things like that. He chuckled and said, “Yes I did some crazy things in my young life.”
Blue was thoroughly enjoying her time with her grandfather, but her father had not come out of his room the whole time. She started to tell her grandfather that her father was there, when her mother motioned for her to be quite. How odd she thought, after all it was her father’s own dad. Once again for Blue she was not able to understand this whole situation but she tried to focus on her grandfather while she could. He explained that he wanted to tell us he was moving and had come to say goodbye and let us know. Blue suddenly became very sad. She told him she did not want him to go, he exclaimed that he knew his son did not want to see him so he had better get going and that he was happy to had met her, and one day he said maybe she could visit him. Blue told him she very much wanted to. Her mother walked him to the door and told him goodbye and thanked him for coming. Blue and her sister waved goodbye to him through the screen door until he got out of sight.
Blue wondered in her mind if she was ever going to see him again. She never did. She always cherish in her mind that one day she met him. Although she did not know why her father did not like him, she thought he was special. His few hours spent there seemed liked a short time, but that did not make them any less special to her. Once she got the courage to ask her father why he did not love his dad or want to see him, and he told her” That man is not my dad, he is a mean SOB, and I hate him.” What a message to convey to a small child about someone who she called grandfather.
Just goes to show you that adults don’t ever try to change, she thought to herself. Blue just did not want to ever grow up to be like that, and she determined in her mind that regardless of circumstances she would not.
School was not something this girl was very good at doing. She really seemed to have a hard time with her grades and keeping up with her assignments that the teachers gave her. She always had some excuse and seemed to barely stay out of trouble by the skin on her teeth.
I noticed that girl back when she was in elementary school. I was a substitute teacher and frequently had to sub in that girl’s classes. I always dreaded having to ask her for her homework or for the assignment she was supposed to finish. She always peered up at me from the corners of her eyes. Never ever making full eye contact, I just assumed she was shy or embarrassed.
At recess she would pretty much try to find a niche to fit in. Never really had a certain one she fit in. She did not have the best clothes, a lot of the time they had holes in them or were too small. Her shoes were always ready to fall apart and she never wore anything with a brand name. In the winter time I felt bad for her because she did not have a winter jacket or coat to wear. She was often sent to school with a windbreaker type of jacket on. I again assumed her family did not have enough money or what have you.
Each year that I subbed I noticed she never had paper, or pencils, you know all the list of school supplies the school system expects you to pay for. It was a good thing that the teachers usually made a big tote of the supplies that were brought and they would allow any student to pick from that pile of stuff, if need be. I think that was brilliant because not every child could afford all those school supplies and in the way they let the child do, no one had to be embarrassed. That girl, was never one who had those supplies.
Often times I wanted to reach out to that girl. I watched her sometimes because I felt pity for her, and sometimes because I was heartfelt worried about how she really was, what her home life was and what was she enduring each day. Often she was hungry, and asking other students for their left over or discarded food on their school lunch trays. This told me two things, she must have not had money to buy a school lunch, or she was always hungry. I assumed a little of both at times.
That girl haunted me in that I was always someone who liked to stay in trouble. I saw her often sitting at the principal’s office, waiting to be seen by the principal. Usually it was for fights or arguing, sometimes even stealing things or taking what was not hers. She seemed to love confrontation. I often wondered why she was so mean or mad or sad. As a teacher or teacher’s sub, you are to keep children’s information confidential, but often times I overheard teachers basically saying that girl’s name and stating that they wished she would be moved to another school.
I thought about those conversations and as a mother, that really bothered me, It bothered me that none of those complaining tried to get to know this child, that girl. I thought that was part of being a teacher, to love your students for the good in them and trying to help them if they seemed to fall by the wayside. I have to admit, she was a handful but she was somebody’s child. Somewhere, underneath that stay away from me exterior, she wanted to be loved and accepted. She wanted to have nice things to, and be able to buy her something to eat like everyone else did. I felt so sorry for her.
One morning I was watching kids that were arriving from off the bus and going to their classrooms, when I heard a fuss going on. I thought it was kids, but when I stopped at the corner of the hall I saw a mother, slapping her kid in the back of the head, she was fussing profusely at that girl, the one this story is about. That girl’s mother stood a good 6 foot and was hitting her and fussing at her, stating that she was making her late for work and everything. I heard that girl tell her mother that she forgot her book bag and that is what she was trying to do and going to get it. That girl’s mother was berating her even more for being slow and lazy and when that girl said she needed lunch money, the mother said, “hell no!” She told that girl who maybe next time she would pull her %^&* together and do what she is told, so she wasn’t giving her any money she did not earn.
I knew immediately why this girl did what she did. I felt every much a part of her embarrassing and humiliating morning. I sympathized with this very misunderstood girl, that girl. There was so much anger at her mother, I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to say look at your daughter, she won’t have a good day, won’t get to eat and go hungry, get bad marks for no homework or having her books. That girl want have any school supplies or things she needs. She looks like her hair was not comb and has dirty clothes on. She will be made fun of and laughed or teased because of you, failing as a mother.
I thought to myself that bad morning, of how many other children would feel like that girl and how many we as adults fail to see, for what they really have to go through at their own homes. I went up to those gossiping teachers and explained what I saw that had happened. I hope I made them feel really bad for how they had thought of that girl. I hope they started looking at things differently than before.
The sadness and treatment of a child feels can change them into adults we do not recognize. Our society should help and nurture our children of tomorrow, today and in the future. Those kids, the ones mistreated, hurt, neglected, shamed, ostracized, and tortured or the ones who will be our future. They will grow up and be the same on the inside as they were then, but taking it and living it out in an adult way.