Around the time of my first sleep-over at my grandparent's house, I can remember having a major crush on Rex Trailer. Rex was the dark haired, lasso swinging good guy with a beautiful buckskin horse who graced Boston television in the sixties. Every Sunday morning for years I could be found watching Rex, Pablo and Sgt. Billy round up the posse in between the Hercules and Touche' Turtle cartoons.
That night as I waited for sleep in the back room, I was thinking pleasant thoughts of the kid's cowboy show as I drifted off, the lights and sounds from the busy road coming in through the door, which was open to the piazza. I felt comfortable and happy. Several hours later I awoke with a start in the darkness. I felt that I must have been dreaming, because I thought someone had called my name, waking me. It was long after midnight. My grandparents were in their seventies at the time, and fast asleep at that hour.
I have always loved animals. My mother harbors fear and loathing for anything with fur, so the only pets we were allowed to keep were goldfish, turtles and parakeets. More than anything else in the world, I wanted a cat, but it was not about to happen. Even so, I took every opportunity to beg and plead for one, and I fed every stray I could find in the hope that someday, I would get to keep one of them.
Alone in the dark room that night, I suddenly heard meowing. I pushed myself up a bit on my elbows, trying to determine where it could be coming from. Then I heard my name called in a loud whisper. I was wide awake now and there was no mistaking it. It was almost a hiss and it shot a bolt of fear through me. The sounds were coming from the doorway to the little stone balcony. Whatever was calling me, it was out there waiting. I suddenly felt certain that it wanted me to get up and walk out there. It was luring me with something it knew I wanted; a kitten. Strangely enough, I knew instinctively that it was a fake meowing. I knew there wasn't really a cat out there. The traffic was all but silent now in the dead of night, but the meowing continued and then it came again, louder this time...the hoarse, stage whisper...one word...my name. It had an other-worldly quality to it. Since the door was open, there was nothing to prevent the whispering thing from entering the room. I laid back slowly and drew the covers up to my face as I shrank down under them, paralyzed and barely able to breathe. I shut my eyes so tightly, they hurt. I felt like I was about to die, and I started to pray silently. I kept that position for what seemed like an eternity, afraid to open my eyes, afraid to breathe. At some point, I must have either fallen asleep or passed out from lack of oxygen.
In the morning I told my grandparents that I wanted to go home. I would not spend another night in that room. As I recounted the events of the night before, I saw a strange expression cross my Nanny's face and she turned to Pa with a knowing look. "Now Nell, don't be frightening the child with stories." warned Pa, before she could speak. I was not the first one to be visited in the back room at night! Eventually my grandmother told me whole story, and I will tell it to you in the next post.