by Jymie Darling

So a little time goes by. The cat gives birth. I pick mine. I name Mai Tai. I overhear my mom talking to Janine’s mom. She is noticing a change in Janine. And the people that moved into the house are weird. She says that they claimed to be Catholics but when Janine went over with a cross to welcome them to the neighborhood, they screamed:

“Get that cross out of here! Are you crazy? Do you know what they will do with a cross in here?”

I looked across the street. Their blinds were crooked and closed. It was weird because my dad’s blinds were always crooked in there too. He said that he could never make them close straight.

I have to wait for the kitten to be weaned. My mom and I leave. The neighborhood seems odd. People seem to be odd and staring at us…almost creepy like.

I think nothing of it and focus on when I can get my kitten and how cute my kitten is.

I go to school and I see Janine but she is becoming more and more distant and cold towards me. But it is the start of volleyball season and I am preoccupied with practice and games and such.

Then one day, I am at practice and Coach Merlin comes up and tells me that Principal Mayor wants me up at her office. I leave the court and go see Mrs. Mayor. She tells me that I am suspended from the team pending an investigation into my actions towards Janine. I ask what did I do? She looks at me and says:

“You know full well what you did to her and when we prove it, you are expelled. I am so disappointed in one of my athletes and honor roll students.”

I sit in the office as they called my mom. Janine is in the other room. I yell out at her “What do you think I did to you?” Her mom walks in, hugs me and steps into the principal’s office. They are in there for a bit. My mom shows up and glares at me. She slaps my head as she goes into the office while giving me the “I am going to kill your ass when I get out of here” look. The coach comes in and asks me what is up. I am in tears and shrugging. She goes into the office.

Janine’s mom exits and hugs me again. She grabs Janine and they leave. My coach comes out, hugs me and says she will see me down the hill for the last part of practice. My mom comes to the door and tells me to come in. My mom hugs me and apologizes. The principal apologizes. My mom tells me to run along to practice.

After practice, my mom is waiting for me in the car. I get in. She explains that Janine had told everyone that she got pregnant by some boy and then ran to the principal and blamed me for starting the rumor. I asked why me? Why would she do that? Are we not friends anymore? My mom explains that her mom and dad are getting divorced. He had an affair with a neighbor and Janine is lashing out but I need to stay clear of her to avoid trouble.

A few weeks go by and Loretta calls my mom in hysterics. She says that we have to come get my kitten right this second as she is fleeing for her life. My mom and I jump in the car and rush over. I grab my kitten. Penguin is out there in his yard. His yard is all dirt and he is pouring gasoline all over the ground. The people from across the street had fled in the night, leaving the house opened and half their stuff behind. Janine’s dad is ranting in the street that he does not know why he cheated and he is sorry. My mom asks Loretta where will she go? Loretta answers…I do not know. I will call you when I am there and safe tho. I look at Janine, she glaring at me.

My mom and I go to leave, the neighbors have begun to gather around the house on the yard. They are just glaring at Loretta. My mom tosses me and the kitten into the car. As we pull away, I hear some woman say to Loretta

“You are the last one standing. You are the only one left. You can save…..” and then we were too far to hear the rest. I asked my mom what just happened. My mom said “you need to forget it and never go back to that street again…YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” I nodded and held onto my kitten.

Later, I learned that the entire neighborhood suddenly began having affairs with each other. Penguin went insane and set his dirt lawn on fire. Janine and her mom were in East LA and then they disappeared.

That was not the last time I went to the neighborhood and each return becomes more bizarre but not quite as frightening.

You will notice…penguin’s place still is a dirt lawn.

 

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