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Kitty Leaves Home.

Early one bright October morning, Kitty Walker stood outside the front door of her house for the last time.

In one hand she held a purse and two sets of keys: house keys chained to a small, white whistle she had found outside the grocery store where she always shopped, and the keys to her gray Honda, which was parked in the driveway. The last time she had pulled in, its left tires had overshot the gravel, crushing the edge of the grass.

Before sliding the front door key into the deadbolt lock, Kitty looked down the street that had been her world for nearly 17 years, past handsome oaks and neat yards, toward the intersection beyond. Hers was a split-level brick, ordinary in every way.

The familiar clunk of bolt against wood reminded her of all the trips in and out this door, the grocery bags filled with food and laundry detergent, the dry cleaning hung on wire hangers draped in wispy plastic, the neatly ironed men’s shirts boxed by the Korean woman who always asked, “stahchee on shihhrt?” Her daily habits had formed like furrows in a field yet no seeds had been planted and the field was barren.

When she first arrived at this house, Kitty’s red hair had been pulled up in a ponytail and she was wearing a cotton skirt and blouse, her one nice outfit. She had carried the rest of her personal items in two brown grocery bags stamped with the Safeway logo. In the intervening years, her red hair had turned to auburn but she was still wispy and fragile looking with bone white skin and a wary, cautious expression as if, at any time, she was expecting a ghost to appear.

She pulled out the key and wrapped her fingers around the handle of a small suitcase containing personal items — a change of clothes, tooth brush and paste, small plastic bottle of shampoo — and a softcover book of poetry by Lucille Clifton. She walked over to the Honda, which was registered in her husband’s name, opened the passenger door and tossed both sets of keys onto the floor mat. She shut the door, leaving the car unlocked. In this small act, between the house and the car, she had made the shift in her life. Now there was nothing to protect, nothing she owned, nothing that held her here.

She walked downhill to the end of the block, wheeling the suitcase behind her on the asphalt — there were no sidewalks in her subdivision — and turned left. From there she headed toward the main road and a bus stop. Local bus service was new and she was taking advantage of it for the first time. The small bus, only slightly larger than a commuter van, pulled up. She climbed aboard. As far as anyone in the neighborhood knew, she simply evaporated. Like steam.

Kitty, Episode One

6 Comments

  1. Rebecca Hoffberger
    July 10, 2007

    I think that men and women reach a time that they must step out of their skins, toss the keys of all their former vehicles, and stand contemplating, poised and drawn to walk down paths elsewhere, new and unknown, but emerging and walking forward with the naked essence that is un-loseable – themselves – stripped of the burdensome and the joyless. Some do this while alive, with deliberation, as did Kitty, some have the kiss of release in preparation for death. I saw this weekend a golden brown moth. Its head was a golden fur ball as if only its head had chosen to remain a caterpillar. This moth did not leave the screen door where I was engaged in the wilds of Michigan writing a foreword to a remarkable artist’s book – not for the entire 7 hours I observed him. I thought what a great metaphor for my present state – a butterfly with its head still stuck a caterpillar. Do you know the Roman philosopher Seneca’s quote – “The body is not a home, but an Inn, and that only briefly.” Lots of love and thanks to you, dear Laura.

  2. mwalker
    January 2, 2008

    very interesting, would like to hear more.
    good topic, holds my train of thought.

  3. qwerty
    March 11, 2008

    In 1974, the Kitty I knew stood in the middle of the highway. An abusive boyfriend had wrenched the steering wheel, forcing her to drive off the road. Her vehicle was in the ditch, her keys in the pocket of the angry young man. He hitched a ride in a van. Totally lost and alone, she finally rode into town with strangers.

  4. David Frazier
    November 22, 2008

    Sadly, there are folks in our church that remind me of Kitty and her plight in her world; helpless but hopeful that just around the corner will come a brigher day.

  5. R's mom
    August 11, 2009

    How eerie that I should read this at a time when I feel like taking a few favorite things and making my own way towards a new life.

    Except in my case, the Honda is registered in MY name.

  6. August 18, 2009

    Evocative, sad and gentle beginning. Easily holds my interest. Thanks Karen. Way to go, again!

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