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True Story: Los Kittens on Calavera Street

On Buena Vista and Calavera Street on San Antonio's Westside, there is a house.

It's a casa arreglada from the outside, those candy-colors we love, Christmas and Easter decorations all-year round.
In that yard, surrounded by a fence, there are kittens.

Last year, a kitten was hit by a car, and dragged itself around for three months. Another was so infested with fleas and parasites that an eye was falling out.

When I told la senora, says Maria Ramirez who is a housekeeper by day and santa gatera by night, she said
"que bueno que se muera."

Maria says that la senora isn't interested in getting the cats fixed or feeding them. She called me last Wednesday night, emergency, she said. Did I have room for two kittens? She found them in the street, somehow escaping from the pretty house with the painted fence.

Both gatitos were white, tiny, barely mewing. The smallest one almost fainted when Maria tried to give it some milk. The bigger one was gurgling for air, and both wore fleas as Paris Hilton wears jewels. Like most gatitos born in the barrio, pus was dripping from their eyes, worms in their pansitas and maybe leukemia.

After playing with the kittens yesterday, I felt like listening to Willie Jaye with his jumping, rock-spiced blues on the Eastside, if the blues had wings, I swear I'd fly away.

A Black friend of mine, 'Lonzo, once told me he only listens to the blues when he feels happy, because that's when he can take the pain. And that reminds me of the man on the bus who tells me he won't read the paper because there's too much dying.

In his book of poetry, Dreaming the End of War, the poet Benjamin Alire Saenz writes:

The curanderos say/the animals will save us/in the end/Be good to animals./Esos inocentes son la salvacion/del mundo./They will be waiting/when you die...

I named the baby kitten, Marshmellow, who eats from the big cat's bowl with his whole body. The older one, scratching, thriving, turning his head like a sigh, like that second before we wake up? I call him Hercules.


Artistic credit: Pachuco races on the overpass, by my amigo Adan Hernandez. From his book, Los Vryosos. Check it out.

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