"Mine"

The small girl was no more than three years old, but already showed the promise of beauty.

Her short, red curls set off her huge, long-lashed, sky-blue eyes. She was taller than most children her age, independent, curious, adventuresome and kind. Little Kathleen equally exasperated and amused her mother, Selma, who worked nights in a saloon as an escort. Her husband, and the father of Kathleen, Wayne Russell, was a riverboat gambler who had abandoned his family shortly after his child's birth.

"Now, Kathleen, you be a good girl today for Martha, please, Darlin'"

The child was dropped off every evening with a cranky, old washer woman, and picked up in the morning on Selma's way home from work.

Little Kathleen rarely spoke, and just looked up at her mother with big, solemn eyes, and nodded her head.

Sighing and hoping that for once she could fetch Kathleen after work without Martha complaining, Selma dressed her child in a clean, but old dress, picked her up, and hurried towards the washer woman's house.

"Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!" the little girl squirmed in her mother's arms, excitedly pointing with her chubby right arm.

"What in the world!" The lovely, green-eyed woman in the low-cut, tight dress and heavy makeup frowned as she tried to hang onto her struggling child.

They were passing by a narrow alley, and peeking from behind a barrel was the green-eyed face of a small orange cat.

Now kicking fiercely, Kathleen managed to wriggle free of her mother's arms, and dropped to the wooden sidewalk. She darted into the alley before her startled mother could grab her.

"Kitty! Kitty! Kitty! MINE!" The little girl had picked up the filthy, skinny cat and was hugging it to her body, the cat's hind legs touching the ground.

"KATHLEEN! You let go of…" Selma stopped mid-command at the sight of the pure, glowing joy on her baby's face.

"Oh, come on then!" The exasperated woman picked up the child, still hugging the young cat, and carried them both back to their shack by the river.

"I'm going to be late" she grumbled, thinking of the chewing out her boss, Jack Ronan, would give her.

Selma was a no-nonsense woman, toughened through necessity, but the protective shell around her heart could be pierced by her beautiful child.

Once home, Selma put Kathleen and the cat, still clutched in her small arms, inside, closed the door and went out back for an apple crate she had seen the other day. Back inside, she put a clean old towel and a small plate of milk in it, and put the crate over by Kathleen's small bed.

'Now, Kathleen, you know Mama has to go to work, and you have to go to Martha's. Put your kitty in the crate, and you can play with it in the morning. It will be just fine until then."

The smile fell from the child's face, but she carefully put the cat in the crate, and smiled again when the starving animal greedily lapped at the milk, and began to loudly purr.

"MINE!" Kathleen crowed in pleasure.

"Yes, Darlin', it's yours. But, you need to give it a name to learn. What do you want to call it, Honey?"

The small girl looked at her cat with her big blue eyes full of love, then back up at her smiling mother.

"MINE!' And Mine he became and always was.

Over time, the high-pitched call of "Kitty, kitty, kitty!" came to be a part of the shanty town, as the hardened denizens couldn't help but smile at the sight of the glowing little red-haired child running after her cat called "Mine." And after a while, the beautiful little girl came to be known as Kitty.

End