Age 13: Sneaker and I were sitting in my bedroom listening to music. Being that Sneaker was a cat, he couldn't care less about music. He was in my room because he also didn't care much for the rain, and this was likely the quietest place he could find without having to leave for the wet outdoors.
My bedroom was in the basement of our cozy two story house. We moved so many times that it became easier to keep track of places where we'd lived by their color - thus, we'd come to refer to this particular house in the Pocono mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania as "The White House."
As each song ended, the room became quiet - or, it became as close to quiet as a house with five children, two adults, a bird, a dog and a cat can get - not to mention the ever present sound of the washer and dryer thanks to the laundry room being directly across the hall from my bedroom. I knew Sneaker would be headed off to curl up in the dryer as soon as the load of towels was done.
My family had a thing about towels... We'd only use one once before dropping it in the dirty wash. We must have owned a billion towels, and most of them were always in the wash. It didn't make much sense to fold clean towels and put them away since we'd just be using them again - not to mention that the laundry room was also the second bathroom.
Walk in, reach into the dryer for a clean towel, and take a shower. Well - usually one had to chase the cat out of the dryer before reaching in for a towel. Sneaker was no dummy... the dryer was the only place in the house he could be guaranteed a bit of peace and quiet.
The washer stopped.
Sneaker lifted his head off my bed, waiting to see if my mother was going to come downstairs and open the dryer.
(Why do I speak to animals as if they have a clue as to what I'm saying?)
In the background, I overheard many voices coming from the dining room upstairs, including the distinctive cackling laughs of my mother and her friend Barbara. Barbara's husband Danny was howling too. Clearly, something was really funny.
Between the cackles and howls of laughter, I heard my younger brother. He was a little kid at the stage when words were as much about how they sounded sound as they were about what they meant. He'd chosen a word and was altering it ever so slightly to make new 'words'.
The word he chose to start with was 'truck'.
"Truck, duck, buck, guck, luck..."
Mike had no idea why this was funny, but whatever he was saying brought him an audience.
"OK Mike, that's good." I heard my stepfather say. "I think you're done with that one."
"...muck, nuck, puck"
Danny chimed in: "No no no!!! Keep going! Keep going! There's more!!!!"
"Wuck, suck, juck, kuck..."
With his next word, he hit the jackpot, sending the room into an eruption of ear-piercing howls of laughter.
Out of the mouth of a five year old, Fuck is funny, and Mike knew it.
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!!!"
The next word Mike chose to play with was disk - which he couldn't really say. He kept flip-flopping the 'k' and the 's', which only made it funnier.
Thanks to intercourse and male anatomy, Mike was off and running with the best comedy act a little kid can hope for.
"Dicks? ...Dicks! Dicks! Dicks!"
Meanwhile, Sneaker gave up hope of a warm dryer to sleep in as the washer kicked in to a new cycle. He trotted out my door in search of an even quieter place than my bedroom. "Good luck buddy! If you find somewhere more peaceful than this, let me know, 'cause its chaos out there."
The wash, the rain, and the music in my stereo helped to drown out the goings-on upstairs. Who needs a cat when you've got music?
Even as a child, my music collection was impressive. By age 13, I easily had fifty records and a growing cassette collection. I could sit alone in my room and listen to records for hours - which is exactly what I was doing as Mike wrapped up his act and was sent off to bed.
Much like Carrot Top doing those AT&T commercials, Mike had no intention of leaving the spotlight so easily - so there was some screaming and crying. I couldn't really blame him. Barbara and Danny were fun people to be around. They were downright jolly - but, as Mike was fighting off bedtime, they likely realized how many hours had passed, and they headed off to their house on the far end of our street.
My sister Karen came home, dropping her wet sneakers and clothes in the hallway outside my door, which my stepfather tripped on minutes later. My mother came by to swap out yet another load of laundry as my older sister Lisa was upstairs grumbling about something or other, and the dog was barking at the cat who'd been foolish enough to go outside and now wanted to come back in. I was pretty much oblivious to it all, because I had a new album to listen to. Ahh, simple pleasures.
But one can only block out so much noise...
Thump! - Whir, whir - Thump! - Whir, whir - Thump!
I heard my mother call out "Is somebody drying sneakers?" This was followed by a series of shouting by just about everyone else in the house.
"Jesus CHRIST that noise!"
"I think Karen might be... she just came in from the rain... Karen...? KAAARREEENN!!?!!?!!!"
Thump - Whirrr - thump - whirrr - thump
"Who's drying sneakers?!!"
"I told you I think it might be KAREN!"
"I almost cracked my head open tripping on her wet sneakers a while ago! Did she put 'em in the dryer?"
"Where the hell is KAREN?"
"KAAARREN!!!!! ARE YOU DRYING SNEAKERS?"
I turned up my music in hopes of fighting off the noise outside of my bedroom, but the rain, the shouting, and the thumping would not be outdone.
Eventually, the house became quiet. Too quiet. My house became the sort of quiet that I thought my house was incapable of.
The thumping had stopped.
The shouting had stopped.
And, as if weather could be aware of the goings on in our house, the rain had stopped.
All was still.
Apparently, someone was drying Sneaker - as in, Sneaker singular, the cat, rather than plural, the footwear.
Poor little guy curled up in the dryer again. Apparently, my mother came along and reached in to see if the towels she was drying were done. She must have felt something damp - closed the door - and... well... let's just say that he got fluffed to death.
Funny how we tell children that people die, yet pets always run away.
Poor Sneaker. He was such a good cat.
Sadly, this was a true story.
To this day, I will not - under any circumstance put footwear in the dryer. Nor would I name a pet anything that might end up in a dryer.
...or an oven - which, thank god, I have no story for.