You’re The Carmen Cat


He whispered to me and cuddled into a little ball in the corner of his bed.

“Don’t eat my toes!”  He admonished me as I reached to stroke the tender little balls of his feet.

“Not even one nibble?” I asked.

“No!” He giggled and burrowed under his blanket.

I hate waking up a sleeping bunny, but the nap was going really long and I knew I would get what for if I didn’t get him up and out and on the move, but fresh-baked boy is so delicious, especially when he is drowsy and warm and sweet, his deep brown eyes battened with eyelashes blinking slow at me.

He sleeps with his cat–Meow Meow–a little grey thing that is actually white in the original.

He has another stuffed cat, black and with white socks, that he calls, I kid you not, “The Other Meow Meow.”

Today he asked me to juggle for him.

I sing the theme song from the Ringling Brothers Circus and toss balls high into the air.

He sings along with me and moves his hands like he’s juggling.

Most of the time the balls get flung around the room and he laughs hysterically.

“Juggle Carmen!  Juggle!”

I taught myself how to juggle when I was 18, had just dropped out of college was living with my pregnant sister, her boyfriend and her best friend in the trailer of said best friends mom and dad, who were on vacation in Mexico for a month.  The trailer was in Stoughton.

It was cold.

We were broke.

Except when I was writing bad checks at the supermarket to buy food and smokes for the entire household.

My sister’s boyfriend, baby daddy, and general sleazy older guy preying on young stupid women who were blind to being used for having already been raised by their usury parents, had us all convinced that he was in love with each one of us, but betrothed to my sister.

God bless him.

He had it worked out.

He was 29 or 30?

We were, from oldest to youngest, 18, 17, and 16.5 years of age.

We all smoked, did his bidding, fetched him food, bevvies, wrote bad checks, and generally ran amok in the wilds of Madison and the local environs.

He was tall, dark, handsome, had thighs I wanted to just look at all night, they were so long and plied with muscle and a way of looking at you from behind a shank of oily dark hair, that had you smitten into doing his bidding, that you, and only you, were the only thing he was looking at in the world–the only thing that mattered at all, ever.

For whatever reason he had us all believing that we needed a street skill.

Some sort of trick or song and dance or number that each of us could fall back on in case we needed to beg or busk on the streets.

He played guitar.

I don’t know what my sister’s skill was.

Looking pretty, I suppose.

I’m not sure what her friend’s was.

Being annoying, I suspected.

I had no skills.

Aside from allowing myself to be talked into letting a middle age man kiss, really, just slobber over them, ugh, my poor feet, when the “family unit” whatever we were calling ourselves, the self-styled coven of idiots we were, was broke.

At, of course, the suggestion of my sister’s boyfriend.

I have never done porn.

I suspect it would be like what I sat through, the slurping of the toes, it was one of the most humiliating things I have ever done for money, and by far the most ghastly.

I stripped once, that’s another story, in a long line of weirdo things I did to help sustain the family, that might have actually been easier than the foot fetish dude.


Ever watch Shameless?

The American version.


Well, sometimes it hits a little too close to home.

Enough said.

So Damien, that was the name he went by.

Note to self, really?

I fell for someone who went by Damien.

It was either that or Wolf, but I think he was dating my sister’s best friend.

I slept with him, none the less.

Are you wondering yet how I went from cuddling with a little boy and juggling to this line of thought?

I bet you are.

Damien, assumed name, not his real name, decided that we were going to learn how to juggle.

My sister was bored to death with it in five minutes and went back to painting her long nails.

Her friend tried for perhaps ten minutes, then too, joined my sister on the couch (leatherette bands with the high wood curved corners and that stale brown/mustard/black/cream plaid that all couches seemed to be at the time) and began filing her nails.

I, however, was down for the challenge.

It took longer than I thought it should, hours, I think, but in the end, I had mastered the art of three ball juggling and could even do a trick or two.

I never did it for money though.

Until I nannied.

Then, well, it’s like you’re the Pied Piper of nannies, or Mary Fucking Poppins with tattoos, they come running.

“Juggle Meow Meow! Carmen Cat!  Juggle Meow Meow and The Other Meow Meow and Kitty Kitty.”

He rolled over in the bed, “please, oh please.”

I laughed.

Of course, my little kitten, I will juggle for you.

Juggling stuffed cats is easier than juggling live cats, not that I have tried, but it’s still a lot harder than juggling balls.

I tossed the grey cat, the black and white cat and the all black cat up in the air, I sang my little song, he clambered out of bed and tried to catch the cats then threw them all over the room.

“Let’s play Meow Meow Ball,” he said and whipped the stuffed grey cat across the room.

The kid’s got an arm.

He might be throwing more than a cat curve ball one of these days.

“Honey, let’s take Meow Meow downstairs and have a kitty cat snack,” I scooped him up and the stuffed cats and we went down for a cracker with sun butter on it and some milk before heading out into the wild world.

“I didn’t know you juggled,” the mom said laughing, “I thought you meant it metaphorically, like herding cats, you were referring to the boys, juggling them like cats.”

I laughed.

I told her about one winter in Wisconsin, it was cold, school was cancelled and I taught myself how to juggle.

I left out the part about dropping out of school, running away from home, bouncing checks all over Madison and beyond, chain-smoking cigarettes, doing prescription speed out of the medicine cabinets of my sister’s friends parents in their trailer in Stoughton and running amok on State Street with the other gutter punks, playing pinball at Challenges, and older men with dark eyes and salacious agendas.

I mean, my back ground check came back clear.

Why go louse it up?

It did, however, sink home, once again, how far I have come and how grateful I am to be where I am today.

Just another Carmen Cat doing the soft shoe shuffle for another two and a half-year old boy, juggling cats and singing.

This Old Cat, he plays one, he plays knick knack on your thumb, with a knick knack paddy whack, give a cat a ball, this old Cat goes rolling home.

“Meow Meow loves you.”

I love you too.

Sweet boy.

I love you too.


I hope I always get to be.

Your Carmen Cat.

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