San Diego, 1957
Abigail burst through the front door of her house. “Mom! Guess what? We got a kitten! And he’s the most wonderful kitten in the world!”
Mom laughed. “Then we’re lucky to have him. Where is he?”
“Dad’s bringing him in from the car.”
The front door opened, and Dad came in with a small gray and white striped bundle in his arms. “His name is Jake, and he likes to explore. He was so interested in what was under the seats that I almost couldn’t get him out of the car.”
“Hello, Jake.” Mom scratched him behind his ears. He purred. “Abigail, why don’t you show him your room?”
“Yes, and other important things,” said Dad, “like the litter box.”
Abigail showed Jake that the litter box was in the laundry room, the water and food bowls were in the kitchen, and her room was upstairs—second door on the right. Then Jake set off to explore on his own.
He discovered that the soft cloth covering the sofa was good for climbing, the laces on Dad’s boots were good for scratching, and the towels in the upstairs bathroom were good for napping. But what he loved most of all were Mom’s toes. Her toenails were always painted with bright colors, and as she walked they seemed to sparkle. Jake loved to stalk and pounce on them.
While he was indulging in his favorite treasures of the house, everyone seemed to call him by a new name: “Jake! Stop that!” He didn’t know what it meant, but he liked the sound of it.
One sunny Saturday morning, Jake was trying to figure out how to get onto the fireplace mantle when a knock came at the door. Abigail opened it, and a man’s head popped inside.
“Hello there,” he said. “I’m from Encyclopedia’s Galore. Is your mother at home?”
“Wonderful!” He stepped through the door and set a huge suitcase on the coffee table with a loud thunk.
“Mom!” yelled Abigail. “There’s some encyclopedia person here to see you!”
The man began to pull books from his case, and something shiny peeked out from the cuff of his shirt. It appeared and reappeared, sparkling in the sunlight. This was even better than Mom’s toes! Jake crept behind a chair to get into perfect stalking position.
Mom came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Her brow knit into a tiny frown. “May I help you?”
“Hello, ma’am.” The man stood, smiling. “I’m Peter Finklestorm from Encyclopedia’s Galore, and I’ve got the nation’s finest encyclopedia’s here.” He swept his arm across the array of books on the coffee table, his wrist sparkling again. “And, today, they’re for sale at a price that can’t be beat…”
He went on talking, but Jake wasn’t listening. Mr. Finklestorm’s arm waved up and down, up and down. Jake would have to time it just right. As that arm went up once more, Jake sprang from behind the chair, leaping as high as his little legs could propel him. He extended his claws, bared his teeth, and wrapped his paws around that shiny gold band.
“Jake! Stop that!” yelled Mom.
Something grabbed the scruff of Jake’s neck and his legs went limp. The something let go, and he was falling. Jake kept his legs under him (as every cat knows how to do), landed neatly, and was back in the air again. That gold band wasn’t going to get away!
“Uh, nice kitty,” said Mr. Finklestorm. He tried to peel the cat off his arm again, but Jake wasn’t letting go.
“Jake! What are you doing?” said Abigail.
Mom snickered. “I’m—” She covered her face, trying to hide a smile. “I’m terribly sorry. He’s still a kitten, you see.”
“Yes, yes of course.” Mr. Finklestorm finally managed to dislodge Jake, then held him with one hand while he packed up his books with the other. “Thank you, uh, for your time. And, uh, here is your…kitten.”
Abigail took Jake, who promptly tried to launch himself at Mr. Finklestorm’s wrist again.
“Yes, um, have a good day!” Mr. Finklestorm scooted out the front door and down the sidewalk, his long legs swishing furiously.
Mom burst out laughing. “Well, Jake, you’re a good cat to have around when pushy salesmen invite themselves inside.”
Jake was sad to see the shiny band go.
A week later, another knock came at the door. Jake hid behind the sofa. Maybe the shiny gold band was back!
Mom opened the door this time, and a different salesman smiled at her.
“Good morning, ma’am! I’m from Encyclopedia’s Galore, and I’ve got the nation’s finest encyclopedia’s here. May I come in a show them to you?”
“Oh, no thank you. We’ve already been visited by your company.”
“Oh?” The man’s eyebrows raised. “We don’t have any record of a visit to your home.”
“Oh, yes, we’ve definitely had a visit. But, you see, our cat ate the last one.”
She nodded at Jake, who calmly licked his paw.
“Ah, I see.” He cleared his throat nervously. “Well, have a good day then.”
Mom shut the door, giggling.
Jake was disappointed. He was hoping for another gold band to play with. Oh well. At least he still had the sofa, shoelaces, and towels. And Mom’s toes, too!