Kid Joey was always on hand when Nana Rose got home from grocery shopping. She didn't live far from Grandma Crystal's house, and so he, accompanied by his trusty sidekick Kato, his BlueTick Hound buddy, always managed to be there to help haul in the groceries from the back of Nana Rose's ancient little car. Superheroes were like that. (Also, Nana Rose always showed her appreciation with milk and cookies - gotta love grandmothers.)
"This is the last bag, Nana Rose," Kid Joey said, gently placing it on the almost-full kitchen table. Nana Rose smiled. He was always so careful about setting things down gently, even though she would grab the eggs and the bread just to make sure they were handled extra carefully.
"Okay, honey," Nana Rose said, turning toward the cookie jar. Then she stopped and thought for a moment, and turned around to Kid Joey. "I got some ice-cream today, would you like that or your usual?"
"Oooh! Ice-cream, please!"
"Ice-cream it is! You want chocolate chip or rum raisin?"
"What's run raisin?" Kid Joey asked.
"Rum raisin. It's hard to explain, so I'll just let you taste it and you can decide."
Nana Rose pulled the ice-cream out of one of the many bag scattered about the kitchen table, grabbed a spoon out of the drawer, and gave Kid Joey a taste of what he decided was possibly the best ice cream he'd ever tasted. "I like that!" he exclaimed, nodding.
Nana Rose smiled. "It's my favorite too. Maybe I'll have some with you. Just give me a minute to put all the refrigerated stuff away and we'll have room enough at the table, or we can take it out on the porch. Deal?"
"Deal!" Kid Joey said, beginning to hand the cold stuff to Nana Rose. "Butter, eggs, milk, tomatoes…" he ticked off each item as he handed it to her.
"Uh-uh. Tomatoes go on the windowsill, please," Nana Rose interrupted him, and he nodded and lined the tomatoes on the sill so that they would get all the way red. That's when they made the very best tomato sandwiches, after all, especially with lots of mayonnaise the way Nana Rose made them.
Then he continued handing her the fridge stuff: "Cheese, ranch dressing, onions, celery, cream cheese. That's it, Nana. The rest is all canned stuff and boxes."
"I think you're missing the hot dogs…" Nana Rose said softly, beginning to paw through the bags herself, because she was almost as eager for ice cream as her grandson.
"Oh. Here, I'll help you look," Kid Joey rounded to the other side of the table and began searching through bags too. No hot dogs.
"Would you go out and look in the trunk of Nana Rose's car and see if they maybe slid out of the bag, please?" she asked, handing Kid Joey the key. "Please be careful to put the key in your pocket when you get the trunk open, so you don't accidentally lock it inside."
"Sure, Nana Rose," Kid Joey said, taking the key from her, and heading for the door, always helpful.
"No hot dogs in there," he said, returning several minutes later and hanging the key on the little hook by the door. He loved the hook. It was an elephant, and it's turned up trunk was the hook. Nana Rose had the neatest stuff all over her house.
"That's funny. Maybe the cashier forgot to put them in the bag…or maybe I forgot a bag, but I seem to have everything else," Nana Rose said, turning to the counter where the ice-cream awaited scooping.
Later in the afternoon Kid Joey sat on the front steps playing with his Matchbox cars, as the sun peeked in and out of the cottony clouds in the sky over Knight Island.
He looked down and noticed that the water bowl for the kitty that lived under the steps was empty and took it over to the hose to fill it. Poor thing must be thirsty, he thought, though he knew she wouldn't have been for long because Nana Rose made sure everything in and around her house was well nourished and never thirsty or wanting for anything if she could help it…came from growing up poor during the Great Pression, she always said. He couldn't figure out why it was so great if everybody was poor and hungry.
He figured Nana Rose would fill him in on the details sooner or later, and focused on sitting the bowl down in the grass by the back steps without spilling it.
When he bent over, he could see into the cellar window. On the shelf next to the window sat the outside cat, Shelly (named because she used to bat clam shells that Nana Rose decorated her flowerbeds with, around in the yard), who was skinny again.
"Nana Rose! Nana Rose!" Kid Joey bolted up the steps and into the kitchen.
"What's all the commotion about, Joey?" Nana Rose asked, turning toward him.
"You have to feed Shelly right away! Did you see how skinny she is?"
Nana Rose sniffed a little laugh out her nose, smiling, and said, "That's not why she's skinny, honey. I knew she wandered off somewhere to have her kittens; so she's back, huh?"
"Kittens!! And you didn't tell me?" Kid Joey's eyes widened in surprise.
"I'm sorry, honey. We would have told you, but we haven't seen her for weeks. We thought she was over in the barn across the back field. She goes there for weeks at a time in the winter, and we thought she went there to have her kittens." Nana Rose led the way down the steps.
Kid Joey never used to like the basement before this year. He'd always thought it was kindof spooky down there, with the big ol' furnace, and closets where monsters could hide - of course, since Rosie's friend Gary the Gargoyle had moved in with them, and she took him absolutely everywhere with them, no mean monsters had the guts to hang around. Gary was not the prettiest of Rosie's friends by a long shot, but he sure knew how to handle those monsters! He just stood tall, squinched up his face as ugly as he could make it, let out a howling roar, and scared the holy crap out of any meanies around. Scared 'em so bad they never came back!
Anyway, by the time they reached the bottom of the stairs, all monster thoughts were gone. No monsters lived in Nana Rose's basement anyway, just kittens. Kittens! And their skinny mommy.
"So that's where you went!" Nana Rose whispered as she found Shelly and her kitties on the shelf by the window in a box with old clothes in it Nana Rose had been saving up to donate to the community center. "Looks like these old clothes came in handy after all. Hey!"
"Awww!" Kid Joey said at the same time, and was startled at the sharp whisper from his grandmother. Then he almost laughed.
"You little thief! Look, Joey!"
Halfway under Shelly's butt, with a kitten beginning to bat at it, was a chewed open hot dog package, completely empty and licked clean.
Kid Joey laughed softly, picking up a kitten heavy with hot dog cologne and hugging it. "Well, I guess the great hot dog mystery is solved!"
To Joey - Love you to pieces! Hugs!