— Ilsa, damp and determined.
This little girl is Ilsa, the daughter of Ellie, the young lady who comes to clean my rental house once a week. Last year Ilsa was very shy and either hid behind her mother or sat in a corner playing with her phone whenever I tried to talk to her. This year, however, at the mature age of 4, she is an affectionate chatterbox, following me around, chatting me up, smiling a lot, even before I gave her the red licorice that she seemed not to realize she could chew and swallow. An hour after I gave it to her, she was still sucking on the end,, her lips stained with what looked like a very unskillful application of red lip gloss Staying near. When I heard her humming, I asked if she knew any songs. She proceeded to sing a very involved song that lasted at least five minutes. Either she was making it up or has an excellent memory. It was in Spanish, so I didn’t follow it as my mind tunes out and I forget to listen closely enough to try to make out the lyrics.
Afterwards, we talked about cars and dogs and cats and crocodiles and I showed her photos of Morrie on my computer. Her mother called her in twice, telling her to let me work (on blogging) but each time she eventually came back out to stand near and smile and talk and smile and play cocoon with the hanging towels and sheets that hung all around me on lines strung across the porch. Finally, she wrapped herself in a damp-sheet hanging on the line near me and started singing the same three-word line over and over again. I strained to hear it. It sounded like “Hunta para siete,” so I Google translated, but got no answer. She came close, touched my arm and continued to sing it, over and over. When I asked her mom what it could mean, she had no idea. Then, suddenly, I heard it correctly and with the correct spelling. She was singing “Junta para siempre”—“Together forever.” How sweet is that?
When she and her mom left, almost immediately, another little girl walked up to the steps leading up from the sand and climbed up to my porch. Fresh from the ocean, still in her suit, she dripped water from suit, hair and body. In one hand she held a strand of long black hair, sucking on the tip.
She is the little girl who last year had entered the house, poured four cups of dogfood into Morrie’s dish and locked him inside his cage with it. She was also the little girl who would let him off his long lead every time she walked by the porch, freeing him to come play with her on the beach. When their play ceased, she left him to run free, with several potentially dangerous situations arising. So, it became necessary for me to never put Morrie out on his own. It was a very limiting plan–for me. I ended up not going on any of the day excursions Tess and Rita and John planned because… I had to stay home with Morrie
I gave Elsie the sad news that Morrie wasn’t here this year and neglected, on purpose, to tell her I had a cat with me and she eventually climbed down the stairs and slipped away like the accomplished little cat burglar she is. No, I didn’t tell her I had a cat along with me this year.
Elsie, wet and wily.