Friday, April 22, 2011

THE UNPUBLISHABLES, PART V: KITTY POO BAGS JOHNSON

KITTY POO BAGS JOHNSON: The Story of a Man Named Johnson Who Carried Bags of Cat Poo Around








Kitty Poo Bags Johnson was an old widower in the neighborhood who lived with five cats. He got his name because, if you rang his doorbell, he would inevitably answer holding a plastic bag of cat feces in one hand, and a scooper in the other. The nickname wasn’t because we disliked him. We all loved KPB, as we often called him. Josh, Robbie and I would visit him all the time. He didn’t yell at the neighborhood kids like other old people would, and he was real sweet to those cats of his. They were all strays at one point, and KPB took them in.

There was a litter box for each cat. Each room was filled with big dust clouds, frequent stenches and litter we would often step on, both clay and crystal. Some of the cats also had vomiting problems because KPB kept their food and their litter in the same room. So, in addition to emptying litter boxes all day, KPB was cleaning up kitty puke a lot.

KPB’s wife had died a year or so before. She was really nice too. She would make candied apples and popcorn balls for Halloween, and Christmas cookies for the holidays. She would make us lemonade in the summertime and hot chocolate in the winter. She loved crossword puzzles and sudoku. KPB was really lonely after she passed. So we all started coming by more often.

My little sister Kate adored KPB, mostly because she was a collector and there was always stuff to collect around the KPB house, like stray cat poo or old chewed-up cat toys. KPB smoked these really big stogies. Whenever she would come with us to see him, she’d always go home with a handful of KPB’s used cigar butts she’d picked up off the ground.

KPB was the kind of old man that the paranoid parents would at first suspect was a pedophile, what with his being around children more than adults and always offering us candy. But he was a genuinely nice person who loved kids and animals, and neither in any sexual way whatsoever. He was the opposite of W.C. Fields in this aspect (meaning that Fields hated children and animals, not that he engaged in sexual relationships with them). And KPB was a huge Fields fan. He named all of his cats after characters Fields played in his movies:

There were little Cuthbert J. Twillie and Larson E. Whipsnade, both orange tabbies; Egbert Souse, (pronounced sue-ZAY, with an accent grave over the E, as Fields says in the film The Bank Dick), a black cat; and The Great Man, a Siamese. This last name was certainly an odd one for a cat, but no more so than the others. The fifth cat’s name, Mr. Dilweg, was from a Fields short, but this didn’t make him any less important, KPB always said. Mr. Dilweg was a grey and white fella.

The funny thing was KPB was even built a little like WC Fields. He was usually dressed in a white T-shirt and black work pants. He always dressed like the men you would see in old movies, or Elmer Fudd. In a cartoon life, KPB would probably be Elmer Fudd.

One day KPB invited the three of us in for smoothies. It was a warm summer day, and he had been on this kick about giving us a variety. Instead of lemonade, he’d make us lemon snow cones with his son’s old Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. He had had a smoothie at the dairy bar and found it very refreshing. He wanted to break out his blender and start chopping fruit and making his own. But he wasn’t quite there yet.

So, when he invited us in, KPB produced three bottles from his refrigerator. “This is a yogurt blend,” he said proudly. “Who wants what? I have Berry Crème, Mocha Latte, and Green Tea Smoothie.”

Josh took the Berry Crème. Robbie and I both wanted a Mocha Latte. Luckily KPB had extras in the fridge. As we drank them we each made gagging sounds in unison. These were not smoothies. They tasted like soap. I looked at my bottle and Village Creamery was the company who made the drink. But they weren’t drinks. They were actually exfoliating body washes.

KPB felts terrible and apologized to us over and over. We said it was no big deal, and it wasn’t. We each had a mouthful of soap and a pretty good shock, but no harm was done. This wasn’t how our parents saw it, at least mine and Robbie’s. They misunderstood and thought KPB was trying to discipline their children by washing our mouths out. How dare he, they said.

Both fathers went over to KPB’s place to give him what for. He tried to explain, but neither would hear it. Robbie and I were forbidden from going to see ole KPB anymore.

Josh’s parents, on the other hand, were quite easy going, some might say neglectful. His father, who longed for the days of spankings and cuttin’ a switch, just said, “Good for him.”

So Josh was still allowed to see KPB, and he did for the first week. But a ten-year-old kid would surely rather hang out with boys his own age than an old man.

Eventually the three of us stopped seeing him. We’d talk about him, and every once in a while Josh would stop by to get an update. Or we’d look over in his direction and see him sweeping the walkway or watering the flowers.

Then one day Josh came running to us, shouting that KPB was dead. His front door was slightly ajar and Josh knocked and knocked, then went right in. He found KPB on the kitchen floor. His cats had been eating his face off. We later discovered that Josh was lying about that last part, but this didn’t lessen the shock any.

But, yes, KPB was dead. Everyone in the neighborhood was heartbroken, but we knew he was reunited with his wife in a better place. And no one had to worry about the cats after an overzealous cop shot all five while KPB’s body was being carried away. They too were with KPB.

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