Anna, Banana, and the Little Lost Kitten
Chapter One Just My Luck
“Which one’s worse, walking under a ladder or a black cat crossing your path?” I asked, hopping over a line in the sidewalk. Chuck and I were walking to school and playing the game where you’re not supposed to step on any cracks.
“They’re both bad luck,” my brother said. “About the same amount. But you can cancel out bad luck with good luck by finding a penny or a four-leaf clover, or knocking on something made of wood—like your head,” he teased. He tried to tap his knuckles against my skull but I dodged out of the way.
“Missed me! Ha-ha.” I straightened my backpack on my shoulders.
Chuck had been reading The Big Book of Small Superstitions for a report he’d be giving at school today, so now he was kind of an expert. I wasn’t sure I believed in that stuff—I love animals, so seeing a cat of any color seemed like good luck to me—but I thought it was fun to hear about.
“Breaking a mirror is the worst one,” Chuck said. “Then you have bad luck for seven whole years. You’d have to find a lot of pennies to make up for that.”
“Whoa.” I wondered if I could train Banana, my dog, to sniff out lucky pennies. With her help, I bet I could find enough extra luck to share with everyone in my family and my best friends, Sadie and Isabel, too. Though Banana was more
interested in chasing squirrels and eating treats than she was in luck or money.
I followed Chuck around the corner, toward the Surely Shirley house. I call it the Surely Shirley house because it says SHIRLEY on the mailbox in big purple letters, and when I asked Dad why, he said, “Surely Shirley lives there,” which made me giggle. I didn’t know if Shirley was the person’s first name or last. Maybe it was both. But I was pretty sure an old couple lived there. I had seen them out in the yard a few times. Most likely they were Mr. and Mrs. Shirley.
Banana and I loved walking by the Surely Shirley house. In spring, summer, and fall, colorful flowers bloomed in the garden. Fancy lights twinkled in the tree branches all winter long. The bird feeders attracted lots of sparrows and robins, and the shiny, purple gazing ball and dancing frog sculpture were like something out of a fairy tale. It was always the most cheerful-looking yard on the block.
But it wasn’t like that today. Not at all.
Today the garden looked brown and wilted, like everything in it was feeling sad. Sharp-seeming bristles and extra-huge thorns reached out like they wanted to bite us. It reminded me of the witch in the book I’d been reading, and how everything near her lost all its color whenever she got angry. There weren’t any witches
around here, of course—I knew that spooky story was only make-believe—but I walked a bit faster anyway.
“Do you think the Shirleys moved away?” I asked.
Chuck shrugged. “I dunno. Why?”
“Because the house looks kind of creepy and abandoned, doesn’t it?”
Before he could answer, I heard a howling shriek and a crash in the bushes, like an enormous creature was racing straight toward us. I screamed and jumped as something white—was it a ghost?—streaked past me, just inches in front of my feet. My heartbeat pounded in my ears like a drum. I grabbed on to Chuck for safety.
It took me a few seconds to realize Chuck was laughing. I dropped his arm and looked where he was pointing, in the direction the white thing had gone.
There it was, across the street: not a ghost or a monster or a terrible, ferocious beast. It was a tiny white kitten. His ears were pink and his fur was as puffy as a dandelion ready for its seeds to be blown. His whiskers twitched as he looked
straight at me, then he slipped into a hedge and disappeared from sight. He was adorable, not scary.
My cheeks felt hot with embarrassment and relief. Chuck clutched his stomach and tried to catch his breath from laughing so hard. “You should have seen your face!” he said. He
stretched his mouth and flailed his arms in what I guessed was supposed to be an impression of me.
“You jumped too,” I said.
“Did too.” But we were both grinning. Now that I knew we were completely safe, I had to admit it had been pretty funny.
“C’mon, scaredy cat,” Chuck said. He leaped over a crack. “We’d better get moving before more kittens attack.”