There are too many to keep track of, so I'm making a list of Things We Don't Talk About.

By Kaylee Winters, age 7 ¾


Where All the Postmen Live

When I ask her, Mom tells me "that's a silly question." She doesn't tell me the answer. Maybe it's a great big mystery, the kind that the adults keep to themselves until you're-old-enough-to-understand. I doubt it, though. I'm just asking about postmen.

I wish I could talk to Dad about it, but he's away right now. I can't say the name of the city he's in, but I'm going to try it anyways. Gardaharaparge. Gwardahapaje. Guardarapag. Those don't sound at all right, but they're the best I can do. He's there, doing business. I wish he wasn't so important.

Getting back to my question—the one you're writing this for—I want to know where the postmen are when they're not working at the post office or driving one of their trucks. Teachers don't live at the school, so postmen have got to live somewhere else.

Maybe they have little beds in the backs of their trucks. That way they could go across the country, picking up mail in one town and delivering it to another. Whenever they got tired, they could just climb out of the driver's seat and go to sleep. That would be kind of nice; living that way.

Maybe I want to be a postman when I grow up.

Grandpa's Teeth

Grandpa is the only man I know who can take his teeth out when he's sick of having them in his mouth. Last time we visited him, he said that they were hurting. I started to go out into the hallway to ask a nurse to fix it, but he just pulled his teeth out and dropped them on a bedside table. Then he offered me a chocolate. Without his teeth in, he wasn't going to eat it.

The first time I talked to Mom about it, she said "That's what happens if you don't brush your teeth."

I said "I don't believe that. Craig never brushes his teeth and they look kinda yellow, but they don't come out unless they're wiggly. Besides, I think Grandpa's teeth are cool."

Mom said "Hmph," and left it at that. I tried asking her again, but she told me to go bug somebody else. Dad's still away, so I talked to him over the phone a little later. He told me to go ask a dentist. I suspect that when I ask the dentist, he'll tell me to ask Grandpa.

Oh, I just remembered. I forgot to ask Dad about the postmen.

Our Cat and Where He Went

Gray (short for Graymalkin. Mom says she used to have a cat with that name,) goes out of the house every night. When he was just a kitten, we tried to keep him inside. He would scratch at the door and mew until finally we decided to let him out. Now that he's older, we open the door for him every night at six o'clock. He shoots off, across the back yard, into the woods. Dad told me once that the woods were dangerous for cats. I asked him why, but Mom hushed him before he could say anything else.

Gray is lean and strong and looks like a tiny cougar. I've seen him hunting mice, and I'm sure he can take care of himself. This is why I wonder why Gray's not here. He's been gone for three days. Mom was the first one to tell me that he was missing—he usually wakes her up in the morning, scratching at the front door. I didn't think too much about it. I trust Gray. Another day passed, though, and Mom got this worried look on her face when I asked her about it. It was an I-burned-your-birthday-cake-but-there'll-be-lots-of-ice-cream look. A Dad's-got-some-important-business-to-finish-up-he'll-be-a-few-more-days look. I immediately didn't like it.

I asked her where she thought Gray was. "Maybe he's gone traveling. Like Dad. He could send you a postcard." I'd rather not think of Gray like Dad. Besides, I know cats can't write. I'm not six anymore. I told her that wasn't possible, and this unreadable look crossed her face.

The Fight

I don't like Craig. He has yellow teeth and he smells, but he follows me around anyway. Not at home, I mean. At school. During recess. Yesterday, I told him about Gray. He told me Gray was dead. I threw wood chips at him.

I mean, I didn't go looking in the woods for some wood chips to throw at him. I just picked up a handful off the ground and chucked it. There's wood chips everywhere, by the way. Piles at the bottom of the slide and around the swings. Some are small enough to get stuck in the bottom of your shoes. The other ones are big, so that when they bounced off of Craig's head he yelped.

'The fight' (which is what everyone started calling it) was over pretty quick. Before Craig could even begin to chase me, Mr. White had grabbed both of us by the arm and dragged us to the principal.

The principal looked like God: old and angry and with a beard. He lectured us independently. Then he lectured us together. Finally, he called Mom (and Craig's mother. His Dad lives on the coast,) who arrived twenty minutes later and dragged me off of the uncomfortable chair outside the principal's office and walked me to her car and started yelling as soon as she started driving.

She ran out of steam pretty quickly, and we drove most of the way home in silence. Once she asked me what the fight was about, and I told her what Craig had said about Gray. She went even more quiet. We don't mention 'the fight', now. When Dad comes home tomorrow, I don't think either of us will tell him about it.

Gardaharaparge

Dad's back. We don't know for how long, so no one says anything about it. Except—just once—for me. He came back at a Sunday morning. Mom drove out to the airport to pick him up. When she spotted him in the crowded terminal, the first thing she did was walk over and hug him. The first thing I did was ask how long he was going to be home for.

I guess Mom didn't want to know, 'cause she immediately told me I was being rude. Dad laughed in a way that said "I'm not going to answer." I just shrugged and started talking about how glad I was that he was back from that place I couldn't pronounce. He smiled and opened his suitcase and took out a packet of candy for me. It was sort of chewy, so I didn't have much to say during the drive home.

He's asleep, now. It was a long flight, I think. When he wakes up, though, I'm going to ask him about the postmen.

Phone Calls

It rang in the middle of the night, and I could hear it right through the wall. Dad must've picked up on the fourth ring, because that's when the noise stopped and his low voice cut in. I was sleepy, so I didn't listen to closely. I don't think Mom even woke up. He didn't say too much. Just a few words. Then all the sound stopped. I guess he put the phone back in its cradle.

Cradle. That's such a weird word for the white thing that goes under the phone. Like it's a baby, crying whenever someone calls it. Maybe that's why they named it that. I don't suppose you know, do you? No. I didn't think so.

It's really late now, so I should probably go back to bed. Mom always makes really good breakfasts the day after Dad comes back. Biscuits. Fresh orange juice. Bacon. I don't want to be so sleepy that I miss that.

I really hope Dad's phone call wasn't about travel.

What Really Happened to Gray

I've got this project for school. There's this local author visiting, and everyone's supposed to write a story. Normally, I like writing. I just can't think of what to write about. Dad called it "writer's block," and I think that's a good way to describe it. There's a concrete brick in the way of all the stories.

I was thinking about it at lunch the other day while I was opening up my milk carton. Craig was sitting several tables away (we don't sit together anymore), and I happened to look over at him. He made a face at me and turned back to his food. That started me thinking about Gray.

At first, I was still angry about what he had said. Then I started wondering what it would be like if someone else lost their cat. What they would do. What would happen if the cat came back. Maybe as a ghost?

I tried talking to Mom about my idea, but she looked a little sad. I asked her if something was wrong. She said Dad was leaving again, soon. I said "oh." Then I went to my room and tried writing my story about the cat. I didn't get past the first line.

Where Inspiration Comes From

Something strange happened on the night Dad left. I was sleeping with the covers up over my head and the pillow under my neck (I know I tell everyone I don't sleep like that, but I do) when I felt something land on my bed. The springs creaked and the frame shook a little bit, and I stuck my hand in my mouth to keep from breathing too loudly. Then I prayed that the whatever-it-was hadn't seen the movement beneath the covers.

Slow footsteps made their way up the comforter, right to where the pillow was. Then they stopped. The sheets twisted a little bit as something settled into them. I heard purring.

"Gray?" I whispered, softly. Can't don't talk. I don't know why I expected an answer. The purring continued, though. "Okay. It is you." I said. Then I leaned back against my pillow and fell asleep.

When I woke up, all traces of cat were gone. My door was closed. My window was open, but it had a screen over it to keep the bugs out. There were no tufts of fur anywhere. Just in case, I got up and checked under the bed and in the closet. No Gray.

When Mom woke up, I tried asking her if she had seen Gray. She started talking about dreams; which was interesting, but didn't relate to my question. I guess I'll write that story about the cat after all.

Ghosts

...

Why Craig Won the Contest

Because he is a cheap liar and got help from his parents. And because I didn't actually finish my story.

Why I Don't Want to Be a Postman Anymore

Dad came back today, and I finally asked him. He told me that postmen live in houses and lead lives the same as everyone else. They have to stay in one place and deliver mail written to nearby people. They don't travel across the country. They don't sleep in beds in the back of their trucks.