I can’t remember Sergio’s last name. We met when we lived at the house at 4405 South Wood Street in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. We must have been ten years old back then. He thought I was the funniest kid in the neighborhood, so he always laughed at all my jokes. What made him unusual in my eyes was that he was Mexican, but not Catholic. I always assumed everyone in our neighborhood was Catholic regardless of his or her ethnic origin. I never thought of asking his religion until he went to Sunday mass with me once. As an outsider, he was more of aware of the Catholic rites than me, perhaps because I performed them as a matter of habit that was so ingrained in me. After we sat in the pew, Sergio watched the parishioners as they entered and blessed themselves with holy water. Then, he asked me why I didn’t stick my fingers in the water basin. As is my custom, I often forget to do things that have become so habitual. One time, I mentioned that we had a red cat. He insisted that there was no such thing as a red cat. I insisted that we had one. The rest of the boys looked at me as if I were crazy. Eventually, Sergio bet me a quarter that I didn’t have a red cat. I took him on. We did the official shaking of the pinky fingers that made our bet legal and binding in the Back of the Yards parlance. The loser had to pay up. He asked for proof that I had a red cat. I went home and pulled out a toy red plastic cat with wheels that I pulled by a string to Sergio. When he saw the cat, he laughed and laughed. He continued laughing for minutes. Then, he paid me a quarter as he continued to laugh.

See my red cat? Now pay up!