i live in a low income family neighborhood on the west side of cleveland, ohio.

i live on the ugliest street — it has almost no trees. many children. many dogs, especially pit bulls, dobermans, chihuahuas. lots of fences.

the greatest cultural influence seems to be rap, in clothing & speech. the predominant gang here is the latin kings. the children tell me that once you join a gang, you may never leave it, except by being “jumped out”, meaning that the whole gang beats the member who is leaving. even after you grow up & leave your geographical area, you still belong to the gang; your children will belong to the gang. it is a national organization: they keep records.

i have no biological children of my own. i am fifty-one years old & not happy with menopause. i am happy in my home & my neighborhood. before i moved here, i owned two cats. one of them, white — my favorite, was unhappy with his new life, and, because he loved my ex & my ex loved him, i returned him to his former home. i consoled myself with the fact that i would have less expenditures — food, litter, vet bills.

one day a doberman pinscher came into my life. he was lying on a discarded mattress across the street from my place of employment. (i work in midtown cleveland, a no man’s land between the asian community & the african american community) he was dreadfully thin & sweet. one morning, when the guys opened the gate, he was there waiting, asking to come in. i went to the supermarket & bought him a bag of dogfood. i took him to the vet, who said that he had lost so much weight that some muscle at the back of his head was practically gone & would never return. when i tried to take him home, he looked at my cat, princess, like lunch.

the boss wouldn’t let him stay inside our building, so i had to leave him out in the yard howling with loneliness.

the guys across the way found him a home with a kind alcoholic who frequented their local bar.

it was because of this dog that they knew i had a soft spot for animals. one day in august, they brought a three month old tiger kitten to me. lou, a big slavic guy with a deep voice, told me that her owner had kicked her, then thought that this was too nice an animal to kick. i took her home & bathed her fleas out in the sink. i named her mandy.

she was the first of this group of cats who live with me.

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