Life is marked by certain events. For Becky, it started when she was very small -- the time she saw her elderly neighbor fall off his porch while calling "Here, kitty kitty!" The milk from the saucer he held splattered as the blue dish landed and rattled around in a circle until it settled upside down on the driveway cement. When she stood over him saying "Wake up", Becky saw something oozing from his ears and she knew something wasn't right even though the raggedy gray kitty was purring and lapping up the milk that had puddled next to Mr. Henley's slippered foot.
Waiting for his chubby wife to open the screen door and come see about her husband, Becky called out "Hey, he felled down! Hey!". But the fat lady didn't come to the door and the old man wouldn't wake up so Becky ran through the bushes and across the lawn and banged on the door of the one-room studio apartment crying, "Mama! Daddy! The old man felled down!"
The curtains of the door's window parted, her father peeked out and said, "You stay outside and play Becky. We're bathing Tommy and don't want any drafts from you running in and out." He dropped the curtain and disappeared from the window. Surprised and hurt, Becky banged on the door some more and her mother said in her mommy voice, "Becky, go play!"
Even though she was only three and a half, Becky knew that Mr. Henley was in trouble and needed help so she continued to pound on the door and began to cry, "But the old man felled down and there's snot in his ears! There's snot in his ears!"
Finally, her daddy opened the door. She saw her mama wrapping her wet baby brother up in a soft, yellow, terrycloth towel on the kitchen table near the sink where the bath had taken place. Becky's daddy scooped her up in his strong tan arms and tried to soothe her tears as she blurted out all she knew about the old man falling.
Setting her feet on the ground, her daddy asked her to show him what she was talking about so Becky grabbed two fingers of his big hand and led him to the neighbor's backdoor. She watched as her daddy knelt down beside Mr. Henley and listened as he spoke gently to him. Then she watched as her daddy stepped over the old man and up the three steps to the screen door which he opened and, poking his head inside, called for Mrs. Henley.
"You go back home, Becky, and stay inside with your mother and Tommy". Being a good girl, Becky did as she was told and, from her perch on the back of the fraying couch, looked out the picture window and watched the grown-ups. She saw policemen and men in starched white uniforms coming and going. Finally, they rolled old Mr. Henley out on a gurney, a sheet covering his body and face, and lifted him into the back of the ambulance with the red flashing light on top.
"Mama, where did the old man go? Why did they hide-and-seek his face?" Her mother's lap was warm and soft and her slender, freckled arms had a soft coating of light hair and the clean, sweet smell of Jergen's lotion.
"Mr. Henley went to Heaven today, honey."
"Well, when will he come back? He has to feed the kitty." Becky's clear blue eyes looked up at her mother's.
"Mrs. Henley will have to feed the kitty now. Mr. Henley won't be coming back."
Becky thought about this and, though she didn't understand, she fell asleep and then dreamed again and again of the old man falling and the cat lapping and the stuff oozing from the old man's ears. Her mother and father took turns consoling her throughout the night.
The next day, and for days after that, Becky timidly tip-toed across the lawn and peeked through the bushes to the place where Mr. Henley had fallen off the porch. She waited and waited and, day after day, watched for him to step through the screen door with a saucer of milk in his gnarly hand, to smile at her with his wrinkly face, and to once again call for his raggedy cat in his deep, crotchety voice, "Here kitty, kitty! Come eat!"