My Dubious Mental State Gets an Ass-Whupping from the Great Beyond
Kitten meets Dawg. Soon,
A warm yellow rain anoints
The hydrant of love.
"You promised me some animal poems, yes?"
Mr. Frasconi is looking at me with one silvery eyebrow lifted a half-inch higher than the other. You would think I'd know better than to try and pull a fast one on a world-famous poet, but apparently, I don't.
"Um," I say, oozing lameness. "That is an animal poem. Kitten. Dawg. Get it?"
"It's a love poem, Fe-li-ci-a." He always gives my name four syllables. When you're writing a lot of haiku, like I have been lately, you automatically count the syllables in everything. Rice Krispies, three. Matthew Dwyer, four. Mrs. Felicia Dwyer, seven. Not that I'd really take his name once we're married, my mom would go all Gloria Steinem on me.
Mr. Frasconi sees my mind wandering and repeats, for emphasis (insert Meaningful Echo Effect here): "A looooooooove pooooooooeeeemm." Poem, two syllables. Some people think it's one. Not me.
Me, Fe-li-ci-a! Po-et-ess, Total Mess, Felicia the lovelorn. Whose name means happiness, HA!
"This Kitten in your poem, she is you? And the 'Dawg'--interesting spelling--still the same boy? The one with the rabbits?" Mr. Frasconi can never remember Matthew's name, which is odd, since he's been read-ing my unrequitedly-in-love-with-Matthew poetry since late September and now it's February, and that is like ten zillion poems by now. But I guess I don't call Matthew Matthew in the poems. Usually it's just "him," or "you," or "O, perfect one!" or "unattainable boy of mystery."
"And the 'warm yellow rain'-hmmmm." Yes, thanks to me, Mr. Archibald Frasconi, mega-award-winning poet and currently a Master Mentor at the Manhattan Free Children's School, is being forced to contemplate the symbolic use of pee-pee in a love poem.
Poor Mr. Frasconi. Maybe I should explain the whole Sex Kitten and Horn Dawg thing to him. But a poem has to stand on its own, as Mister Master Mentor himself has often told me, and after some initial resistance I've come to agree with him. You can't follow your poems around explaining them to people, it's just impractical. So, as they say in the cartoons, I shaddup.
Mr. Frasconi leans back in his chair. "No more love poems for a while, okay, Fe-li-ci-a? Look around. Observe. There's so much to see."
There are private schools in this great city where all the students are bored fashionistas and all the teachers are boring fascists.
The Manhattan Free Children's School is NOT one of these schools.
What the MFCS is, instead, is a small private school housed in a crumbly-pretty, pretty crumbly old brownstone near Gramercy Park. And we never call it the MFCS--at least, my friends and I don't. We call it the Pound. Why? Because we are the Kittens, the boys are the Dawgs, so we go to the Pound, get it? And, frankly, it's just too hysterical-making to think of ourselves as the Free Children. I know I go there because my mom is stuck in groovy mode (can somebody please give peace a frikkin chance already, so the poor woman can MOVE ON?), but being the Free Children is too granola for words. We'd much rather be the Sex Kittens, thank you!
Kitten Directive Number Infinity: Kittens Are 4-evah!
Speaking of which:
"It's a perfectly NICE poem. It's just a little--you know! Gross!" Jess says, helpfully.
"Ewww," adds Kat, cutting to the chase.
We are sitting in our favorite booth at the Moonbeam Diner, Official Restaurant of the Sex Kittens of New York City.
Kitten Directive Number Twenty-three: Any Kitten can convene an Emergency After-School Kittensnack at the Moonbeam to discuss matters of personal urgency. Her littermates will listen, advise, and pounce if necessary, to perform the Kitten Heimlich Maneuver and help said Kitten cough up those painful furballs of self-doubt.
But right now, my fellow Founding Members, Miss Jessica Kornbluth of the Upper West Side and Miss Katarina Arlovsky, born in Moscow but now residing in Washington Heights, are not pouncing or Heimliching. Instead, they are looking at me with looks of extreme dubiosity. As in, Felicia, we have read your little haik-ewww and you need to WAKE UP.
"Really?" I say, feeling tragically misunderstood. "You don't think it's about animals?" Stubborn, I know, not my best quality. But Mr. Frasconi kind of bummed me out by kiboshing the Matthew poems, and if your two tightest Kittenpals can't see your side of things, who can?
Jess has an unusually animated face and way of talking, and her eyebrows achieve serious altitude when she's expressing any strong emotion (sort of like Mr. Frasconi's, come to think of it). Right now they look like they're about to fire their booster rockets and bust a move out of the atmosphere. "Fee," she says, in her listen-to-me tone of voice. "I'm no poet, but I think Mr. Frasconi's point MIGHT be that you are spending way, way, WAY too much energy on this THING, you know, this nonexistent THING with Matthew, and maybe, just MAYBE you should take a BREAK!"
"You're obsessed," says Kat darkly. She's chewing on her hair, which she quit doing a year ago because it gave her split ends. "Obsession is dangerous. People go insane."
"The syllables are perfect, though!" Jess adds. "Five-seven-five, that's awesome!"
I am about to feign huffiness and get all don't-count-syllables-to-me, but for one thing the Moonie arrives with our food (all the waitstaff here at the Moonbeam Diner wear black T-shirts with big yellow cheesy moons on them), and for another thing--
Could they be RIGHT?
Am I not only obsessed with Matthew, but skipping merrily down the garden path to kookooland?
There is only one way to find out.
Felicia's Private Kitten Directive Number Eleventy-seven: (insert New Age Music Suggestive of Imminent Communication with Unseen Forces here!): When in doubt, consult the Oracle!From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love by Maryrose Wood. Copyright © 2006 by Maryrose Wood. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.