Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Overheard in a Thrift Shop

discount store

Tuesday is Rescue Story Day, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted this poem about rescues and about life, literally written from a conversation I overheard in a thrift shop.  

Overheard in a Thrift Shop

© 2010 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Oh, look at this yellow lab painting, it’s so nice. I’ve always liked yellow labs. I have one now.

I don’t have a dog, but I wish I could.

Well, I always said I wouldn’t get a dog unless it was a rescue,
so I probably wouldn’t get a yellow lab,
but this dog came from a neighbor’s daughter
her brother had been feeding the dog—
she had twelve puppies.

Twelve puppies?!

Yes, and they all lived.
The owner put them all outside
and he probably never fed her right.
The boys found her and started taking her food.
Their sister found out
and went and told the guy she was taking the dog and the puppies.
He didn’t care.

Well, how did you get the dog?

Well, this girl, she was only 17,
but she knew right from wrong,
and she found homes for a few puppies and took the rest to the shelter.
She got the mother spayed and things were fine,
then she was killed in a car accident.

Oh, my!

Her father took care of the dog, but then he went to jail.

Oh, no. So did you take the dog?

I offered to keep the dog until he got out;
it’s a short sentence—
he’ll be out later this year.

Bless your heart!
Are you sure he wants the dog?

He already asked about her.
Think it has to do with losing his daughter.
I mean, she was only 17, and killed in an accident.


I’m sure the cat will miss the dog too. They’re friends.

You have a cat too?
You sure got a full house.

Yeah, the cat belonged to my daughter-in-law,
she got him for the boys,
but after a year or so, the cat started to pee on the boys’ things,
they were going into puberty, you know,
I think it was that hormonal thing.
She tried everything, but the cat wouldn’t stop.
She gave him to a neighbor, an older man
who lived by himself,
and the man kept the cat in the basement with a litterbox and food and water.
Then the man told me the cat was getting some litter on the floor.
That’s okay, I told him, just sweep it up, it’s probably clean.
Then the cat started coming upstairs,
and he told me it was pushing his golf balls around.
That’s okay, I said, that’s playful.
Then he said the cat woke him up in the morning, he touched his nose to the man’s,
and I said, just give the cat to me.

Bless your heart! You are a soft touch.

Yeah, I don’t know how it will be when the dog goes,
but he lives close, I’ll be able to see her,
and I’ll be ready to take her back at any time.
At least I’ll have my cat.

This was a conversation between two people which I overheard, secretly taking notes, as I was browsing the overcrowded racks of a local thrift shop after dropping off some dishes for donation. The rhythm of a conversation between two people who know each other well and working in tandem, in this case the cashier and a volunteer who were unpacking and tagging things, has a rhythm of its own built on the familiarity of the two people, and can often sound like poetry, so instead of my initial idea for a short story based on their conversation, I wrote it up as verse.

Honest, open, unguarded conversation between two people is so precious.

I showed the cashier my writing later and asked if she minded if I published her story in this way. She was fine with the idea and told her friend, the volunteer. The cashier and I have since become friends.

cat rug
The cat rug (folded).

I was determined not to purchase anything when I dropped off my donations, but right inside the door was this feline-themed rug…and I was hooked. These are nice to have around the house, and often I use them in my displays at shows or festivals, indoors or out, especially if I’m on concrete. They also come in handy as donation items to benefit shelters and animal organizations. Since this one looks completely new, that may be its fate, my way of thanking the universe for giving me this poem.


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

14 thoughts on “Overheard in a Thrift Shop

  • What a beautiful story! I am so glad I got to read this, on this pretty Sunday morning. Isn’t it great the kindness people show towards animals. I wish there were more stories like this one. 🙂

    Isn’t it true about thrift stores and not wanting to buy anything, that is the day you find something that is perfect! It is, at least for me. Whenever I donate, I take a quick peak in and usually find something that fits perfect in my home. Thank goodness I don’t go all the time and have school to keep me busy.

    Love your stories. 🙂

    • Linette, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Like I said, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing as their words drifted over the racks, what a gift, and yes, heartening in their goodness. Just because we do hear so much bad news it was so important to share.

      But I never get away without a box or bag of stuff! On this particular trip I stopped in just to drop things off and the cat rug drew me in–good thing or I’d never have heard the story!

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  • You are so innovative, Bernadette! Who would have thought of putting a conversation into verse? Loved it. And I agree about the rhythm. This is why random listening can be so entertaining 🙂

    • Carolyn, that encouraged me to plan my erstwhile study of dialects for my Master’s degree, I always did hear those rhythms along with vocabulary and pronunciation. An erudite way of saying I like listening to the way people talk, and most people speak in their own style of verse but don’t realize it.

      • Go for it! I would be very interested in your thesis. I minored in Linguistics at uni many years ago. Dialects are fascinating!

        • Carolyn, that was 30 years ago, it’s a little too late to pick it up and go now! Being where you are you probably aren’t familiar with my local dialect called “Pittsburghese”, but I was going to focus on the roots of the vocabulary and pronunciation, a mix of Scots-Irish, Eastern European and Central European as each ethnicity dropped by to add their food and curses to the mix.

    • Robin, I can’t imagine not listening to the chatter around me; I’m not so down with the one-sided cell phone conversations, but they can be interesting too.

  • It’s incredible how some people fail to engage with animals! I hope that for every cat locked in a basement there’s a woman like the one in your poem who’s prepared to rescue them.

    • Mark, I hope so too, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to make this into a story others could read. I’m just glad she was there for the cat!


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