It started with the cat. Layce and I took Bear and Darla Sue to the vet to get their yearly shots. On the way Layce rolled the windows down and Bear stuck her head out happily.
“Should the window be down all the way? What if she jumps out?” I said. I graduated from the “Best of All Possible Catastrophes” school of thought when it comes to pets.
“She won’t. Darla Sue might,” Layce said.
I glanced down at her. She looked so passive. “Really?”
“She used to jump out the window and chase after cats. I’d be driving along and she’d see a cat and jump right out the window.”
“With the car moving?” I asked.
“Yep, just like this.” We’re going about five miles an hour.
“You made it sound plural. She did it more than once?” I said.
“Just a couple of times until I started rolling up the windows,” Layce said.
“It’s amazing she’s made it to this advanced age,” I said. Darla Sue is seventeen.
“She was younger then.”
We pulled in the parking lot and there was Sandy the meet-and-greet dog waiting for us.
“Is Bear going to be all right with this?” I said, feeling heart palpitations.
“Oh, yeah. This isn’t her territory,” Layce said.
I wasn’t convinced that a territorial dispute would not ensue. Layce let Bear out and I scrambled after her in case she needed my help only I’m holding Darla Sue and still had my seatbelt on. I almost killed us both trying to get untangled and out of the car. Darla Sue looked at me, obviously perturbed.
Bear and Sandy said their hellos and all was well. We went inside. Bear licked the face of a terrified puppy whose entire body was as big as Bear’s head and Darla Sue took an unscheduled perhaps malicious potty break on the waiting room floor. Bear went in for her shots, registering her protests on the way by having to be pulled into the examination room. I put Darla Sue down and took a big step by letting her wander. It’s not like me not to helicopter her movements in such a situation. She wasn’t leashed because you just scoop her up if necessary. I sat watching the fish tank and trying to think tranquil thoughts. I looked up just in time to see one of the office cats about to slink down and do God-knows-what to Darla Sue. I snatched her up and turned to see the office iguana sitting up on a shelf. I thought the thing was stuffed until it blinked. I almost dropped Darla Sue and the parrot in the corner, named Boomer, said, “Oopsy daisy!”
“What the hell?” I said, sitting back down.
To which Boomer said, “Oh, no, not today motherfucker.”
The vet tech looked up from her paperwork and admonished, “Boomer, language.”
“English, French, Italian or Swahili?” Boomer asked.
Darla Sue went in for her shots while I kept scanning for other animals creeping about. Is there a python in here I needed to know about?
Layce paid while the desk cat, a handsome silver tabby, got in her purse and fished out a tampon. She played with it like it was a white mouse. A small cat fight ensued, but Layce finally won. We said our goodbyes while Bear and Darla Sue gave the vet the “thanks for sticking me in the butt again” look. Everyone hopped in the car and we drove off.
“You didn’t tell me about the menagerie,” I said.
“Today was pretty calm. One time he had two goats who got stuck together during copulation. Now that was wild,” Layce said.
I tried really hard not to conjure up the image. I’m not eating feta for a while.
I turned around to see how Bear was doing after her ordeal.
“Oh, my God,” I said, my voice all high and squeaky with the edge of absolute panic in it.
“What?” Layce asked.
“There’s an enormous orange cat in the back seat.”
Bear and the cat stared at each other. Bear is a big dog. The cat was no slacker himself and we were driving in a small car with a lap dog in the front seat and a neurotic passenger who was about to wet her pants. I imagined lots of bad things. Bear and the cat wrestling in the back seat, Darla Sue jumping out the window, Layce crashing the car, me losing an arm trying to separate two domesticated animals that have gone back to their preternatural state. I hoped Bear didn’t think we got her take out lunch or on the other hand that we adopted a cat without informing her.
Instead, Layce calmly rolled up the windows so the cat wouldn’t jump out and made a U-turn. The cat was now sitting right next to Bear looking out the window–perhaps trying to get his bearings. We pulled back into the vet parking lot and tried to avoid hitting Sandy who was still on meet-and-greet duty. I wondered how Sandy felt about cats.
Layce got the cat out of the back seat and carried him into the vet office.
Dr. B. said, “Garfield, did you jump in another car?”
Garfield shrugged and walked off, perhaps upset he’d only gotten as far as the Out West cafe.
“He’s done this before?” Layce asked.
“Any car with the windows down. One time he got in a semi-truck and made it all the way to Pryor before the guy saw him. Had to turn around and bring him back. That may have been a personal best.”
The four of us drove home, leaving Garfield to wait for his next ride. I thought of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and wondered if he had read it. I took two aspirin and went upstairs for a nap.
I can hardly wait for next year’s visit.