Calico Kitty by Linda M Rhodes
The shooting fountain sprayed crystal water falling back into the wading pond located at the center of the park. The merry laughter of children playing echoed on the warm summer breeze. The day was sunny and many children were splashing happily in the wading pool. All the children in the park seemed happy, all except little Jena.
Jena sat cross legged on the soft green grass staring intently at the aged Oak. The grand tree stood tall, it’s strong branches stretching to touch the azure sky; creating abundant shade on such a hot day.
As Jena sat patiently, a stranger neared bending down near her. Crouching in the grass beside her, Jena never looked at him, more past him. He was thin with thick curly black hair, deep blue eyes the shade nearly matching the sky. He smiled and nodded acknowledging the tiny little girl, whom seemed lost in her own world.
“Can I sit down?” The man asked waiting for Jena to nod her head yes, before he plopped down beside her. “What’s your name I’m Jim,” the man introduced himself. Jena never took her eyes from the old Oak, shrugging slightly she answered.
“I’m Jena, Do you see her?” she asked curiously. Jim looked in the direction of Jena’s gaze, but saw nothing except for the stately Oak.
“Jena, that’s a lovely name; see who Honey?” his mind inquisitive, indeed puzzled by this strange child. He had been watching her for nearly half an hour, while she sat perfectly still, quite contented simply staring. The whole time there was no evidence of anyone taking notice of her, worrying she may need some help.
“My kitty, just there on that branch,” Jena pointed to a low laying limb, but Jim didn’t see the cat. “She’s pretty, all different colors. Do you see her?” Jena spoke without taking her eyes away from the seemingly invisible cat on the branch of the Oak.
“Um, sorry I don’t see her. Is she a pretend kitty?” looking anxiously around to see if anyone else was paying attention, no one was. This entire situation was becoming more and more odd. Jim worried this child was lost or perhaps handicapped, since she appeared to see things that clearly were not there.
“No….I think she is scared and can’t get down. Will you lift me so I can reach her?” Jena asked in a soft pleading voice.
“Honey where is your Mommy or Daddy. Can I get them for you?” Jim was still glancing about fruitlessly, it was as if no one saw them.
“Mommy says she’s a Calico, you really can’t see her? You see me,” looking at Jim for the first time, her haunting wide eyes sent shivers chasing down Jim’s spine.
“I’m so sorry no I don’t see the cat. Jena where are your parents?” Jim insisted as an uneasiness churned in his stomach.
“Mommy and Daddy can’t see me no more, but you can. Please help me get my kitty, please?” her sad eyes welled tears, and her tiny arms reaching moved Jim to action. If only to gain her trust, he’d appease her obvious imaginative fantasy.
“Okay I’ll lift you up,” surrendering and standing up he held out his arms to Jena. With a brilliant smile she jumped into his warm arms. Surprisingly Jena’s skin seemed cold, odd on such a warm summer day.
Jim lifted Jena close to the low hanging branch of the oak, thinking she would simply grab her imaginary cat and he would return her safely to the ground. To Jim’s dismay Jena griped the branch and pulled herself up, swinging her tiny leg over the branch scampering out of his protective grasp. Balancing herself carefully, Jena stepping along the limb climbing even higher.
“Jena come down, don’t climb higher Honey leave the kitty,” Jim grew concerned as she was scampering higher and further away from him.
“She’s scared, she’s climbing higher, I can reach her wait an see,” Jena continued ignoring Jim’s pleads for her to stop.
Staring at Jena afraid to take his eyes off her Jim’s girlfriend, Christine wandered up to him. She was supposed to meet him for lunch, and was looking for him for the last twenty minutes.
“Jim, what are you doing? Lunch is getting cold,” Chris walked up to him lifting her head following his fixed gaze into the empty tree. “What are you looking at?” Chris was puzzled by Jim’s attentive stare.
“Hey, sorry Honey I’m watching Jena, she’s getting her kitty. Jena come down now that’s too high!” Jim called holding his breath as Jena eased slowly out on a long slender limb that was bending dangerously.
“Jena? Jim are you okay, there is no one in that tree,” Chris shaded her eyes scanning every branch of the Oak seeing nothing.
“Quit playing games, I have to make sure she’s safe,” Jim snapped taking his eyes away from Jena’s body only for a moment to acknowledge Chris.
Before Chris could respond, Jim heard a resounding crack and heard the shrill terrified scream as Jena fell from the tree. Making a sudden diving lunge Jim landed on the ground beneath the Oak, letting out a devastated cry, “No….GOD NO!”
Chris quickly bent by Jim’s side, placing her hand on his back to comfort. Something was definitely wrong with him. “Honey what’s wrong, Jim talk to me,” Chris urged.
“She’s dead, oh my God……she’s dead, and there is a kitty, a Calico kitty!” Jim babbled tears streaming from his eyes.
“Jim no one is there. There is no child, no Calico cat. Look at me, what’s wrong with you?” Jim pried his eyes from Jena’s frail broken body looking up at Chris, hugging her tightly.
“What do I do? Call 911 quick, I don’t even know who she is. God I should never have lifted her onto that branch.!” Jim sobbed blabbering like a child.
“Jim look at me there is no one….look see…. no one is there,” Chris tried again to reason with Jim, pointing to the ground where Jena was laying. As Jim glanced back at Jena, he witnessed her eyes flicker and open. Then as if a miracle this Angel stood up perfectly fine, as if she never fell. Her Calico kitty was purring softly nestled snuggly in her arms.
“Thank you, I knew you would see her,” Jena kissed Jim on his cheek then skipped behind the huge Oak and simply disappeared.
Jim wiped his eyes shaking his head in disbelief, then with Chris following he circled the tree twice. Totally confused Jim scratched his head leaning hard against the Oak feeling the rough bark press against his back.
“I don’t understand, she was here and as real as you and me. I didn’t see the cat till after. Chris you have to believe me.” Chris reached in taking Jim’s hand in hers smiling reassuringly. “I believe you, let’s get something to eat okay?”
The couple quietly ate their lunch at a nearby picnic table. Every so often Chris caught Jim staring at the Oak. “Are you Okay?” she was still concerned, even though Jim seemed to be finally acting normally. “Yeah, it was just so real,” Jim shrugged crinkling his wrapper that covered his sandwich. Collecting their trash they deposited it in a near by waste container.
Walking Chris back to her car they passed a polished granite memorial. Holding up a moment, Jim wanted to read it’s inscription. Chris felt Jim’s body tremble the moment he started to read. Gazing at the stone herself, she began reading too, gasping a bit overwhelmed by what it said.
“In loving memory of our Sweet….. Jena Leigh….and Calico Kitty.
Play forever in the park you loved so much”
Jim read the date of death, it was fifty years ago on this day. Chris looked earnestly at Jim feeling heart wrenching sorrow. “Oh my God you did see her,” she whispered. Jim nodded touching the stone it felt smooth as polished glass. Brushing away a tear that fell Jim looked back toward the Oak. In that moment Jim saw a Calico kitty darting around the trunk of the tree, being chased merrily by Jena Leigh.