Image for the poem How I saved a baby kitty and became a local hero.

How I saved a baby kitty and became a local hero.

I was stationed at the Howard Houses Housing projects in East New York Brooklyn during the first summer in which I worked as a seasonal Park Ranger with the New York City Department Of Parks and Recreation. Of the many summers I worked as a seasonal employee this was my favorite, most cherished and memorable assignment.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. Very clear and vivid. I work up that morning around seven, drank a bottle of water, showered, brush my teeth, packed my uniform and shined my work shoes. My uniform consisted of a beige short sleeve shirt, a name tag, dark green pants and a baseball cap with a shield NYC park ranger logo on the front. I made Breakfast, scrambled Ackee, eggs and salt fish and toasted a few slices of hard dough breadhot in the oven. I made some cocoa tea and poured a glass of orange juice. The kitchen aroma was filled with the normal caribbean scents that I have always been use to smelling.  
I sat at the kitchen table in my robe which had the written embroided words "Nichol's Sebastian on the upper left front in small cursive letters and "Macho Man" across the top of the back. A gift from my French, English speaking Canadian ex girlfriend. I opened the morning paper and saw the horoscope section. Curious I read what it had to say about Aries, "Just before Cancer season kicks off (at this weekend’s summer solstice), you’ll get a sneak preview of what’s to come. And for your charge-ahead sign, this kind of watery sensitivity can be very foreign indeed. But get ready, Ram: Starting today you will be able to keep up with the mood changes and reactions of others. You can “thank” communicator Mercury, who shifts into retrograde in Cancer and your touchy-feely house of naturalism.  
I closed the paper sucking my teeth saying, pure nonsense this superstitious thing is. I put the paper down and slowly ate my breakfast savoring the sweet spicy seasoning that has been infused in me from the first time I was able to eat solid Caribbean seasoned food cooked by my mother. After I finished, I washed the dishes with the sun rays gently touching the right side of my face and it felt really good. The time on the clock said eight thirty. I quickly dressed, wearing a blue lacoste shirt sleeve polo shirt, khaki cargo shorts white socks and rocking a pair of Jordan sneakers. On my wrist was a fossil timepiece with a leather band. Nine a.m. and I head out the door.  
My duffle bag strapped acrossed my back as I exit the building I can see a few scattered people heading towards the train station on Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Avenue. I also see a few kids playing hop scotch and handball in front of the building across the street. No taking public transportation for me, I will walk to work. Besides it's really not that far taking a few shortcuts and I'm there in less than an hour.  
I take my usual shortcuts and arrived at the Howard Houses Housing Projects at nine forty five a.m., said my morning hellos and clocked in. I went into the mens locker room and got dressed then proceeded to the office to get the day's itinerary with the pool faculty and the other seasonal park ranger that I work alongside, a Puerto  Rican female named Miranda. There are actually three of us, the other person, a black male named Geoff was off on this day.  
The pools open at eleven a.m. and closes at six p.m., seven days a week during the long hot summer season throughout the five boroughs that make up New York City.  
After the meeting, Miranda and I made our way to the front gate. There's always a crowd every morning with lots of children with their parents or older siblings and friends lined up outside waiting for the pool to open.    
The looks on their faces always made me smile to see their little beautiful and handsome faces beaming with excitment, their little bodies swaying and leaning restlessly, eager to get some much needed relief from the hot midday sun. Little girls in their mermaid and unicorn bathing suits with shorts on wearing afropuffs, bantu knots, cornrows, both plain and colorful ones. Many had micro braids, knotless braids, long box braids with curly ends, fulani braids, passion twists, dreadlocs and Goddess faux locs.
Colorful beads and bubbles decorated their hairstyles. The boys wearing shorts, some wit no shirts or shoes on. Their hair cuts almost as impeccable as the girls, caesars, hightop fades, Gumbies, and flattops with artistic designs on the sides and back of their heads. Almost everyone had towels, carrying book bags or brown paper bags which had their snacks and lunches in them.    
I stood next to one of two turnstiles with a counter in my hand while Miranda stood next to the other. It was now ten minutes to eleven and kids were asking is it time to open yet? Smiling I gave them a countdown by the minutes. It must have seemed for them as every minute they kept asking how many minutes till we let them in through the turnstile. I kept reassuring them that the cleaning staff was making sure everything was clean and the lifeguards were going out on the pool desk and in their chairs.  
As the time drew near I yelled out two minutes till we're open and the excitement build even more and crowd became tightly packed one of the lifeguards, a female named Mia came running towards me screaming "Rob come quick someone just tossed a kitten over the fence and into the pool."  
This terrible thing that just happened caused a great commotion with the children as the expressions on their faces turned from excitement to mortified. Screams of OMG! how can someone do that, and why were directed in our direction for an explanation. I look at them wanting to give an explanation but I had none to give.  
That's messed up man, this little girl said, kitten are nice, I like kittens.    
I rushed towards the pool areas and from the corner of my eyes I can see all the children leaving from the front of the building heading to the back which was surrounded by a fence. Their tiny finger clinging inside the open spaces, and their faces pressed against it trying to catch a glimpse of the impending tragedy unfolding before their very eyes.  
When I arrived on the pool deck I could see a lifeguard using a long pole with a hook attached to the end was trying to whisk the kitten out of the pool but he was too far and spotted black and white creature kept sinking yet paddling as fast as it could, fighting to stay afloat as his little head looking upwards bearly reached above the water.  
The kids were screaming through the fence, "save him, save him please Mr. Neil." Some were even crying "don't let the kitty drown" A few adults ran out of their project building to see what all the noise was about while others looked out from their apartment windows. The lifeguard was desperately trying his hardest to scoop the kitten up but his efforts were in vain and the kitten began to sink.  
The kids were screaming and crying, please kitty don't die. They look of despair on their faces was too much and without hesitation I dove in the pool and grabbed the kitten from out of the water in my full uniform and radio attached to my belt.  
I climbed out the pool and placed the kitten on a round concrete structure near the office. I moved its legs but animal was unresponsive so I proceeded to stroke his tummy upward  
Then blew air into his mouth reaching the lungs  
The water came gushing out, his eyes opened I could his lungs moving, he was breathing.  
He began to move and the kids started screaming and jumping up and down with great joy. They were so happy they started to hug one another, then everyone rushed back to the front gate. I wrapped the kitten in a towel and dried him off. He rubbed himself against the inside of my right  forearm purring. He seemed happy and appreciative to be alive. I was also happy that he was alive.  
Miranda took the counter and let the everyone in while I went to my locker, dressed in my street clothes and returned to my post. A parent of one of the children offered to take my clothes to the Laundromat to dried them and then went to her apartment and pressed them for me.    
I got high fives, hugs, and thank yous the entire day. They wanted to play with the kitten and we let them.  
To my surprise this wonderful Dominican lady cooked me Locrio de Pollo (Dominican Chicken and Rice) for lunch and adopted the kitten. The staff teased me about having an admirer to which I replied chuckling, at least I don't have to buy lunch anymore.  
I was the neighborhood hero that summer. The children told that story to every person in the projects. I felt honored.  
Written by thewatcher33
Published | Edited 1st Jul 2020
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