26-New York City – Bitsy and the Bathtub

Tara, the cat

I moved from the wilds of Atikameg, Alberta to New York City in 1959 (My husband wanted to be an off-off Broadway actor). This was at the very end of the Joe McCarthy Communist witch hunt days.

We lived uptown first of all but then we bought the key (a time-honoured practice in those days) to a three room, rent-controlled apartment at 171 East Second Street on the Lower East Side of New York City. This area was called ‘alphabet city’. We were between Avenues A and B. There were also Avenues C and D which explains the nickname.

The bathtub in the kitchen of this apartment was an old claw-footed model which had been raised up on four 3″ wide pipes so that the top was about waist level. We got a plywood cover and tiled it to make it a usable kitchen counter for preparing food and what have you.

We had a dog and a cat. The dog was called Ladybird, after then President Johnson’s wife. Ladybird was a lovely female boxer and she was very fond of her food. We also had a cat, called Bitsy, a grey tabby. If we left Bitsy’s food on the floor the dog would eat it, so we put her food on the counter top covering the tub. Bitsy would jump up there to eat her food and all was exceeding well. Her dish was placed on a little plastic tray to keep it separate from our own food preparations.

The pipes in the building were suffering from hardening of the arteries due to calcium and mineral deposit buildup, particularly in the hot water pipe that led to the tub. When you started to run a tub only a trickle got through and it took almost an hour to fill the tub.

One time I had the tub top off. The bathtub was filling and had almost reached its capacity when Bitsy decided she wanted some food, without checking as she usually did, to see whether the counter top was on or off. She made a vast leap intended to land her directly in front of her food and saw beneath her, oh horrors, a bathtub full of very hot water!

You have seen those cartoons where animals, on the edge of a chasm, develop the ability to walk on air, until they discover that there is nothing beneath them to offer support. Then gravity takes hold and down they go.

Well, Bitsy had that ‘magical cartoon moment’ when she was in mid air. She magically froze in mid air then did a kind of flip motion with her backbone. I don’t know how she did it but, miraculously, she ‘walked on air’. Nothing got wet but the tip of her tail.

wavy line

© Sonia Brock 2005

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