From the Archives

The Story of Simon.

On a sunny day in autumn, the dump in Hollis, NH always seems to be packed with people. My mother has always said that the dump is the social hub of the town. Nearly everyone in town passes through about once a week: perhaps that’s what makes it such a popular place for political campaigns.

That Saturday had political campaign leaflets and a group of schoolchildren selling candy bars to raise money for the elementary school playground. As I pulled in and started hauling recyclables, these kids asked if I would like to buy a candy bar for their cause. I told them “in a minute,” as my hands were full and people and automobiles were teeming around me, each more eager than the next to get this smelly job out of the way and get on to more fun things.

Having dumped my paper goods, I moved back to the table to ask the kids about their cause. Somewhere during my fledgling work experience and law school, I became something like a grandmother in my own eyes: I like to have kids explain to me what they are selling and exactly why. Not that I have ever seen a child who is raising money for a bad cause, I just like to know that they know what it is they are doing beyond selling sugar.

I didn’t get very far in my interrogation, because the mother of some of the children was holding a tiny kitten in a fold of her sweatshirt. I was instantly captivated, thinking that this must be a new addition to their family that they couldn’t bear to leave at home while they spent the day outside.

I was wrong. The woman explained to me that someone had abandoned a litter there at the dump and along with passing out the political leaflets and selling chocolate her little group was trying to get harried Hollis residents to take them home. With the skill of a snake-oil saleswoman, she handed me the little tabby and smiled an angelic smile of wonder as we both discovered that he had double paws with claws of velcro.

The double paws did it. As a child I had always wanted a cat with those four-wheel drive feet. Within a few impulsive moments, I had made the decision to take him home with me - forget about the fact that I had been living with Mom since my graduation from school and subsequent job hunt. Forget about the fact that it’s not practical to take on a pet when you don’t know where your life will lead you in a month. I had to have him.

As I looked up from this appealing baby, everything slowed down a bit, movie-style. I saw other people holding kittens - these people were laughing and talking with the children, infected by the kids’ energetic enthusiasm and softened by exposure to the tiny felines. Suddenly, other people didn’t seem to be in such a hurry to get the Saturday dump run over with. They smiled at me, as my new little tyrant scrambled up to my shoulder. The kids offered to help me with my bottles. A man traded me a cardboard box that was sturdier than the hastily reconstructed one from my own trunk. Surrounded by garbage and noise, the helpfulness and good cheer of the people of my hometown reminded me of the good things of small town life.

Simon is grown now - he sits on my lap with typical feline stolidity, no longer that purring baby who rolled over onto his back and waved outsized, oven-mitt paws at my distant face. But he still looks up at me with steady, trusting eyes. He is a lasting reminder of my hometown. Where else could you go to the dump and come home with a baby?

Posted: Tuesday - May 31, 2005 at 07:36 AM         | |