The Pwetty Kitty Combat Rangers all started with a guy we called Hot Leaf.
However, to be contrary, I never found Hot Leaf to be truly hot; he wasn’t quite my type, which has always been tall, goofy, smiley guys with long hair. Hot Leaf was shorter than the average guy, with stiff, spiked hair, a dangly earring or two, a threadbare Ren and Stimpy T-shirt, and Doc Martens. He probably listened to college radio before I realized that college radio was even a thing. Still, his presence unnerved me, turned me shy; he prowled through the spring-long teenage art program we all attended with great confidence that translated into undeniable sexuality
After the program let out one day, Posie and I were leaving the parking garage when we noticed Hot Leaf behind the wheel of some sexy Jordan Catalano-esque car, and Posie made the astute observation that he was driving around half-naked, so naturally, being horny for adventure and shirtless boys, we were like, “Let’s follow him!” We almost lost him no thanks to a red light and an asshole red car, but the winds were kind that day. We tailed him openly, making zero pretense of our intentions, and when Hot Leaf finally turned off the main road, he waved us goodbye.
It was easy to get our friend Twist on on all this; she was full-steam-ahead from the get-go, always inviting strangeness into her world with little hesitation. She made a special mix tape for such purposes, and even created us a website devoted to our adventures (and featuring Hot Leaf fan fiction!).
She and I would drive out to where he lived, searching the radio for good spy music. (The jazz played on 106.1 did the trick.) I don’t know how we eventually came to figure out where his house was—I honestly think it was a whole heap of boredom paired with a couple of lucky turns and spotting his car parked outside on the street.
Our name came to be one night when Twist and I were hanging out in the empty lot of the park near his house. We had a marker and a medium pizza box from the pizza place where we both worked, having transformed it into “The Electronic Leaf Tracking Device: If opened, it will self-destruct.” (On the inside of the box: “KABOOM!”)
We struggled with how the heck to sign our names; we couldn’t think of anything for the life of us. (The use of our real names was not entertained even for a nanosecond.)
Then we saw a cat and declared it a fateful sign, and so the Pwetty Kitty Happy Club was born! Twist put the pizza box on Hot Leaf’s porch and ran away while I manned the getaway car, and then we drove home listening to Hanson and feeling super pleased with ourselves.
Our surreptitious gang was eventually rechristened the Pwetty Kitty Combat Rangers when Twist picked up a pair of toy walkie-talkies that I don’t recall us ever actually using during our escapades. We envisioned ourselves in cat ears, cat masks, and lots of black leather as we skulked the premises of the Hot Leaf homestead with water pistols.
For me, “going Leafing” came to mean very little about actually getting anywhere near Hot Leaf and more about daring each other to see what sorts of things we could leave on his porch without getting noticed. Some notable trinkets:
- A very hairy cat toy
- A Pwetty Kitty Combat Ranger iron-on transfer
- A cat necklace
- A Hot Topic envelope covered in our lip prints
- A cat barrette
- A condom in a briefcase
One night, it was a pair of red thong underwear in a takeout box (used specifically for cavatinis).
We drove it to his house, and the first time we went by, Twist was like, “Aw man, I think someone’s out on the porch! I’ll just throw it.” I fretted that the panties would fall out of the box if she did that, and that sent her on a rant: “The panties aren’t going to fall out! They’re in a cavatini box! People who get cavatinis to go don’t want it to spill in their car so the box won’t open!” Now, I sort of hate the word panties, but when raving, Twist has a way of making it sound cool.
So we drove by, and Twist flung the box out the window. It thunked against Hot Leaf’s car, and as I sped off, Twist squealed, “Someone IS on the porch!” Then I saw headlights behind us, and I thought someone was following us and I almost passed out.
But it all ended anticlimactically: We pulled into a gas station, where I put gas in a car for the first time in my life, and Twist bought me a root beer float, and no one was arrested for panty flinging.
As for Hot Leaf, rumor had it he found the whole affair rather amusing and flattering, though his mom was getting irritated with our shenanigans. Twist eventually took down the PKCR website, fearing his parents would read all the sexual stuff she posted.
It wasn’t until a year later when Posie and I randomly ran into a couple people from the art program, and they told us Hot Leaf was at some random house a town or two away, so we drove out there and kidnapped him. I remember finding him to be kind of dull (of course he was! After all that HYPE?!), but I did think it to be surreal hanging out with him after all that time. He learned who all of us were: “It’s all coming together now!” he said. I think Posie made out with him. A perfect ending!
And I didn’t see him again until 2010, when he was at karaoke, humping the microphone stand and just really selling the song. I don’t think he saw or recognized me, but that’s okay. That had never really been the point.
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