(This is a sequel to the post: “Lila Bea Lends an Ear”, so you might want to read it first.)
“…There’s no reason to get excited, The thief, he kindly spoke;
There are some among us here say that life is just a joke…” -Bob Dylan **
After the required interval between visits to the veterinarian, I took Lila Bea back in for a follow up. Her ears seemed to be doing better as far as I could tell, but the proper (and potentially expensive) thing to do was to get a professional opinion. If we think she is fine, and we’re wrong, what are the chances the condition will get even worse than before? I decided to take Zipper along, too, just in case. I let them sit up front to help me drive.
Although Sir Benson Zipper Dee Doo Dah was fine the other day, he went with us just the same, at least to give Lila some moral support. Besides, he likes to go, which is good, and makes it easier when he does need to see the vet. He has learned that the employees of the animal hospital have been conditioned to dispense dawg biscuits (for which I expect to be charged, and at prices I’d rather not think about), and there is little else on earth more important to Zipper than biscuits.
Several animals of different species, breeds and sizes populated the waiting room in the company of their trained feeders and regular care givers. These well disciplined pet people were all properly conditioned to sit quietly, and not spit and growl at each other, which is a good thing. People often misbehave when not accompanied by caring and watchful dawgs, cats, parrots, or other responsible critters.
On my best behavior, and pulling tightly on leashes (which I have been trained to do well), I opened the door. As soon as we entered, both of my puppies recognized an old friend and their energy level increased three hundred percent. The odds of such a surprise encounter on a ramdom visit to the vet are slim, but as luck would have it, they saw a familiar face. Then, I saw it too, but my reaction was different than theirs.
Sitting on a bench was a well dressed lady holding a sickly looking gray tabby kitten in her lap on what appeared to be some kind of magazine. I’d seen that lady, that cat, and perhaps even that magazine before. Although Lila spoke to her enthusiastically, the lady didn’t seem to want to make eye contact with me or my dawgs.
Holding my pets on short leash, I sat down directly across from her, because all the other options were taken. I resolved myself to a possible confrontation, and waited patiently for her to look up and recognize me. As soon as she did, and forgetting the rule that “whoever speaks first loses”, I spoke first:
“You did a very kind thing to take that cat from those boys,” and additionally because I couldn’t resist,
“How much were they asking for it?”
Maybe it was my acknowledgement of a kindness on her part that broke the ice. Raising the fingers of one hand first to her lips, and then fanning her adam’s apple, she studied me a minute, and replied:
“Well, one said twenty, and the other said fifteen. I told ’em I only had a five, and the oldest boy said that would be just fine. Really, all I had was a five, and was planning use it to have lunch with my friend. But I felt so sorry for those boys, and for the kitten, too. I used to have a Cat named Tom just like this one, but he got run’d over by a school bus the last day of school.”
When I learned she’d named this one “Tom” as well, I complemented her on the creative avoidance of confusion, because cats hate to be called by the wrong name. I was beginning to feel a little guilty about my harsh judgement of her a few weeks back. This woman obviously had a warm spot in her heart for the down-trodden, and I was desperate to find some way to show myself in some light other than that of a selfish, heartless, ill-mannered heathen, but having trouble with it.
The awkwardness was amplified by the knowledge of her other cat, which I’m sure she loved dearly, that had met with such a sad end. No doubt, the bus driver had not done it intentionally as you can never be sure when a cat is going to decide to cross the road. I was further convinced the school board would take no responsibility in the matter as they have never taken on any kind of responsibility for anything else.
Perhaps it was ironic, but maybe it was just luck that the lady could find a replacement so quickly. I thought about the luck of those boys: what are the chances of you trying to sell a kitten, and immediately find a lady that recently lost one just like the one you are selling? Add further that she would be desperate to have it? The odds are, that if it had been me, even trying to give it away, the intended recipient would’ve most assuredly been allergic to cats.
The whole time, Lila and Zipper were pulling hard at the leashes trying to get over to the woman, and her little kitten. Lila was wagging her tail wildly, and saying something that sounded like: “Hey! Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!” Zipper would’ve wagged his tail, too if he had one. It took a lot of effort to ignore the puppies, and I’m sure the lady held out for about as long as she could.
With knees pressed tightly together, she smoothed the hemline of her dress down by her crossed ankles in a most dignified and modest way. Everything about her demeanor implied she wished to maintain a prim and proper Victorian image. Nothing about her strictly down-to-business hairdo, makeup, or clothing implied that any indulgences for flirtatious mischief would be tolerated of anyone within her spheres of influence. Seeing her would convince the rowdiest of undignified honky tonk scalawags that all babies were brought by storks.
Although her persona was not very inviting to chitchat, when she finally looked down again at my two dawgs and smiled, I mustered up enough courage to speak once more:
“They won’t hurt you, but don’t let ’em get to the kitty! They have a reputation with small furry things…” and before I could say another word, the cat jumped on the top of Zipper’s head, latching on for a ride. The leaping cat’s hind-legs, and the corresponding start of her lunging for the kitten just as a decorative button and bow garnishment to her ensemble snagged the bench, caused the entire skirt of the lady’s dress to fly up exposing a previously undetected flamboyance for style, and dignity went into remission.
Her frantic efforts to reposition her dress were interfered with by the facts that she was also trying to use it as a safety net for the kitten, and at the same time, as a shield against the dawgs. Making matters worse, the hem of her long dress somehow managed to get hung up over the backrest of the bench, and stayed there much to everyone’s amazement. All modesty took a side road leaving little to nourish the imagination. It was a crazy, and most unexpected presentation. If the other observers had been polled before I got there, all would have bet against the odds of this show ever happening, but it did.
Lila Bea thought the whole commotion was a game, but I could tell that Zipper was not seeing any sport in it. Neither was the lady. The cat and its lady were obviously serious, and not at all playing, but an innocent bystander would’ve taken this to be some kind of circus act deserving center-ring attention. Besides with the appearance of what I thought to be unseasonal lingerie, I was impressed with the lightning speed of the little feline, which was apparently a fully trained post-graduate ninja kitten with very sharp baby ninja teeth and claws.
All the other animals in the room launched into hissing, howling, barking, screeching, and jumping mode, and the calm of a library just moments before exploded into the atmosphere of a professional wrestling match. Zipper and the cat were producing a duet that made you want to look about for a fire truck, and a cockatiel named Wendy was screaming: “Naughty bird, naughty bird, naughty bird!”.
I thought Wendy’s assessment of the situation was profound. The noise and motion were beginning to attract some studious consideration from the clinic’s staff members, but we got everybody separated quickly before any harm was done, and before it became necessary to call the police.
What I had been about to say in my defense for not taking the stray kitten into my home in the first place was about to change. That cat was street-smart, and at black belt level. The idea that the kitty would be in any danger from the dawgs at my place was no longer an excuse, and I knew it. So, under the circumstances, I decided to make no excuse at all, which goes against the grain. I’ve always prided myself for having one ready at all times, but this time I was busted.
All of us made a stab at regathering composure, but any attempt to regain dignity was not validated. It had evidently slipped out the door during the mayhem, and intended to be excused for awhile. Not a lot of eye contact was happening anywhere in the room, and when it did occur, it would fall away quickly. Across the way, I heard a sigh, but didn’t look up to see who it was coming from. I didn’t want to chance further exposure to the display of drawers unveiled for public scrutiny, and have my neighbors think I might be peeking. Besides, it was a pathetic little whimper of a sigh anyway, so deserved no serious acknowledgement.
The lady, I say without prejudice, but only to help you understand the amount of real estate involved, would not ever be thought of as a thin person. She sat back a bit further on the bench as best she could with the front of her dress wrapped securely around the kitten, and held close to her bosom. Her eyes, now as large as saucers, were intensely focused, to the oblivion of all else, on her kitty and my two menacing canines. She was not going to allow my dawgs to restore her to a state of grief, and she was obviously prepared to make whatever sacrifice necessary to ensure it didn’t happen.
She kept one foot dangling across the armrest of the bench in a cocked position just in case the dawgs mounted a reprisal attack. Her knees were now about three feet apart, and her thighs fully exposed almost to her backbone. Her focus was so intense on other matters that she seemed unaware of it, as she was also unaware that the back of her dress was still hiked over the rear of the bench instead of her. I think everybody else was aware, but we live in a polite society, so no conversation about it was attempted.
The dozen or so other people in the waiting room just fidgeted and fiddled with collars, harnesses, and leashes, or took on intense interests in pamphlets advertising nutritious dawg foods, pet vitamins, flea collars, and other tick and vermin inhibitors as if they were going to have to do a term paper on them. If I could have gotten up and left without attracting any attention to myself, I would have done so. I’m not surprised that Dylan’s poem was again in my head:
“There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief;
There’s too much confusion here, I can’t get no relief… ” **
I held and drew tightly at my two tethered hounds in a manner that would have choked me to death, but it only minimally restrained them. I settled back on my side of the room struggling to stare at the walls, the ceiling or the floor. Nobody spoke. Just any distracting remark, even about the weather, would have been greatly appreciated as a means to ease the tension. But dialogue was sinking as if it were a shipwreck. With a feeble attempt to restore and keep civil conversation afloat, but without so much as looking up for fear of having to climb difficult and unforgiving stares of resentment, I asked her:
“So, what did your friend think about you buying the cat?”
Since she was taking a moment to consider the question, I thought perhaps she didn’t hear me. So I repeated:
“Your friend. What did she think of your buying the kitty cat from those little boys?”
Here was her opportunity to get the focus re-situated, but it took her awhile to articulate anything. During the silence, I made the mistake of looking up, but expeditiously tilted my head back downward so she could speak directly into the top of it. Tugging slightly at her dress in a way that benefitted nothing but the sheer will to tug, she finally responded by saying;
“Well, she said she thought it was a crazy thing to do. Said somebody was always giving away kittens, and that I was being foolish to pay for such a thing, and do it with my lunch money.”
Turns out that her friend bought her lunch back on that fateful day, so perhaps the only uncharitable soul in the whole community was me. I’ve often been so recognized, and have won many awards for it, but it is no status to be proud of. The dollar I gave was shamefully little, and honestly, I was beginning to wish I had it back. I’m often remorseful whenever I’ve given a dollar to any charity, especially when I could’ve given a quarter instead.
I could think of nothing else to say to her. All I could think of was the implied destiny brought on by the chance of both of us showing up at the same vet, and at the same time. That, and the fact that her dress was now almost up around her ears, created such a bizzarre picture that no self-respecting bookie would have ever given odds on such a thing happening. I was beginning to think my dawgs and I would need a good lawyer. The more I thought about it, the more of a dreary cloud of congested air seemed to hover over the room as if threatening to storm.
The discomfort of the situation at long last lifted as they called for her and her kitten to go on back to the examining room. This time as she stood up, the back of her dress surprised us by deploying into place as it should, and followed her. Except in the front, where it was still completely pulled up to serve as a kitty blanket, the rest of her outer garments now looked normal.
Somehow, I don’t think she was ever made fully aware of her gown’s previous aggregate disposition, but if she looks down at how she is carrying the cat, it would be impossible for her to not be suspicious of at least some compromised propriety. The dawgs tracked her movement closely as she walked toward the door, but I pretended not to be paying any attention. As soon as her dishevelment was out of sight, I went straight up to the desk and pulled out my wallet:
“I wish to make a payment on account. (pause) On account of circumstances. Not mine, but hers. (pause) The one with the cat. She just walked by here! (pause) Oh yes, that’s the one. Whatever her bill comes to, here’s five dollars of it, but please, for the love of God, don’t tell her I did it! (pause) Shhhh! Not a word!”
At least I managed to reduce the price of the kitten itself back to fair market value. My conscience was now on the mend. And, I expected it to become as clear as spring water as soon as I could rid myself of a few lingering visions. Bright red, lacy underpinnings seemed to serve as such an unlikely foundation to the wardrobe of the missionary. Garments of such provocation were just not expected, and erasing the image was a demanding task, if not an impossible one. To expedite matters, I stared intently at the floor, and, adopted a prayerful mood to find a way to gain some sense of forgiveness, if even from myself alone.
Though perhaps it went unnoticed, I made an almost audible statement of a promise to try to be a better person from here on out. I know moments of such resolution are emotional, and not given to much of a long life. Folks often make these kinds of announcements, and regularly at the beginning of each new year. But the history of the entire human race has established clearly, and as provable fact, that seldom do such seeds sown find fertile soil.
They called for us at last, and after a stealthy gander to see if Lady Godiva (or Lady Godzilla) was still prancing around, we went on back. The Doctor was a pleasant young lady. She took a liking to our dawgs, and they to her. Lila Bea’s weight and temperature were normal, and a quick ear check showed my assessment to be correct. She was fine. We could stop the medication, but are to continue periodic cleaning. Whew! That was a breeze compared to what it took to get past the waiting room!
Other than me, everybody got a biscuit. I was expecting instead to be treated with an invoice, but the vet said previous charges included the follow up. I was stunned, because I knew tomorrow would be payday, and I was very concerned as to how they would manage.
It was time to leave, but I wouldn’t budge from the examining room until completely assured there was no chance of running into the tabby tomcat lady with the wine colored skivvies. My caution met with giggles, and was told she was still down the hall arguing over the news that “Tom” was a “she”. That was funny, but I tried not to picture in my mind any part of what might be going on back there. With leashes in place, we wasted no time going out to my truck. The puppies were placed in the back seat this time to make sure the seasonal shedding of dawg hair would be spread evenly over all the upholstery, and then headed for home.
Instead of feeling the stress of traffic, I was delighted to be there. Once I cleared the parking lot, and got back on the main road, my mind; my heart, my whole body felt better. In the best of spirits, the dawgs and I enthusiastically joined in singing along with a familiar tune on the radio:
“…Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth;
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth…” **
The trip seemed unusually smooth, and I realized the half dozen traffic lights I came to on my way were all green as I approached them. That has never happened before, and I thought it odd. I nervously approached the last one, but cleared the intersection while it too was still green. I began to smile thinking luck, whatever it is, was changing for the better, and I took it as a good sign. Maybe it was just the song.
Once back at the house with the dawgs, and after a little settling in, I began work on a project I’ve been putting off too long. I was in the midst of sorting a huge stack of papers that should have been thrown out years ago when the doorbell rang. My heart sank down to my lower digestive tract, and a lump the size of Gibraltar formed in my throat. At first, my legs didn’t want to move, and I began to sweat as if I’d been lifting weights in a boiler room. The sweet memory of getting all the lights green on the way home melted, and then evaporated.
A “sense of doom” kind of thought jumped up that the cat lady had found out about me paying a part of her bill, and was now morally obligated to help me in return. Surely it would be that crazy woman with the scarlet bloomers at the door. I just couldn’t shake the fear that she was coming to give my decrepit soul one more chance at redemption. No doubt, she was going to throw out the lifeline. But I was afraid her lifeline might take the form of a garter belt or a hangman’s noose, and I wanted no part of it.
The only salvation I needed was to be kept away from her. I certainly wanted none of the scalp collecting ritual which was the custom of her tribe. Nor did I want any further sight of her or her cat, her pamphlets, her dress, or her crimson knickers. In spite of my efforts to expunge that demon, the image was branded to the forefront of my consciousness, and would surely be my conductor into perdition.
We all have our moments of regrets, and now I was consumed with regret for having had repentant thoughts in the first place. I’m sure I was muttering incoherently as I finally walked slowly towards the door. I knew I would not invite her into the house, but was trying to think of some explanation that I could give that wouldn’t sound too rude. Through the small window in the door I caught glimpse of my visitors. To my overwhelming and delightful surprise, it was not her.
Looking back on it, I should not have been surprised. When you think about it, there is no sensible reason that poor woman would ever want to see me again, either. If I were her, I wouldn’t want to see anybody–maybe ever, but certainly not today! Besides that, surely by now she has come to the realization that I have already seen way too much of her as it is, which was true.
I opened the door and greeted two barefooted boys standing on my front porch, holding a box. The coincidence of them coming back on the same day I went back to the vet coupled with the accidental meeting up with the cat lady was most bizzarre. I decided to make the best of it thinking: “this oughta be cute.” Without hesitation, as soon as I opened the door, I asked them:
“Whatcha got? Kittens?”
Both boys smiled at me, and shaking their heads indicating “no”, while the older of the two took command, and answered:
“Not this time. Hey mister, don’t you wanna buy some nice puppies?”
That caught me off guard. “Nice puppies?” What other kinds are there? So, I had to ask: “What kind of puppies?”
Without looking up at me, the young one timidly offered: “My sister says they’s rat terriers.”
Rat terriers? That he wouldn’t look me in the eye caused me to brake, and downshift my curiosity to a mild spirit of inquiry. I slowly peeled back the box lid, and looked down on what was not the offspring of any kind of a dawg. Although mammalian, resemblances were more to rats than terriers.
The jaw-dropping spectacle before me was not one, but three fuzzy baby ‘possums in dire need of suckle. I silently thanked Providence for there not being any puppies in the box since I could’ve weakened at the sight of ’em. Looking around this way and that, and scratching my head, I grappled with a flurry of words that might serve to apply a little diplomacy here.
After some assessment of options, I suggested to my young neighborhood livestock brokers that they should try to get these back with their mother. The boys told me that was not going to be possible. It seems that mama ‘possum had been involved in a little bad luck at a nearby crossroads earlier the night before, and was no longer in a position to raise a family, or do anything else for that matter–ever again. I have heard of this sort of thing before. Apparently, ‘possums are known for making bad decisions in even the lightest of traffic conditions.
Faced with this sobering news, I moved on to plan “B”. I told the boys that if they’d wait, I would look up a number for a wildlife rehabilitation center or an animal control unit. As is often the case, what seems reasonable to me does not always seem reasonable to others. They took my suggestion to imply I was intending to interfere with the free enterprise system which sustained their booming pet business, and objected. The boys started backing down the steps as if I were some kind of venomous snake, and I heard one of them say:
“C’mon! He’s gonna tell the dog pound on us! Hurry! Let’s cut through to Picara Pointe!”
Just then I saw four nicely dressed individuals (a man and three women) get out of a car about a block away. They were carrying books and pamphlets. Their timing could not have been better. All interruptions are equal, but few come with a built-in interruption distraction mechanism. What could be more distracting to a door-to-door ministry than a box full of hungry, baby ‘possums?
The apostles were now sizing up the neighborhood, and began walking this way. I needed to quickly engage the distraction mechanism, but the boys were now running hurriedly away with their precious cargo. They were making a beeline towards a path through the woods known to all boys of the past two generations around here as a “secret” shortcut to an adjacent subdivision. Needing to act quickly, I called out to them:
“Hey! Hey fellas!” and then I gestured in the direction of the canvassers. The boys showed a brilliant understanding of the basic principles of marketing, and recognized opportunity even before it knocked. They did an immediate about face, and charged full speed directly up to a man and a woman who were just about to ring the doorbell across the street. I watched eagerly to see if the boys would get their attention, or be dismissed.
As soon as I saw the man look in the box, I concluded my involvement in this affair was over. I’ve been known to jump to a conclusion on occasion. I often am the first to accomplish the threshold of one with an untimely speed long before any proper verdict is due. My reputation with handling a premature conclusion was to be upheld again that very day, but I didn’t know it yet.
I closed the door behind me; stepped into the living room and walked over to the radio. It only took a moment to adjust the settings from easy listening to an oldie’s rock ‘n roll station, and then cranked the volume to high. This would help me be sure not to hear the doorbell when it rang, and went back to sorting a huge pile of worthless papers.
I kept a watchful eye on the front porch through a nearby window, but with no intention of answering any knock at the door. Do you ever have one of those days when a tune gets into your head, and you find yourself singing or humming it even when thinking about other things? The radio station was playing that Jimi Hendrix version of Bob Dylan’s song again. I thought about the timing, and imagined it must be some random accident, or coincidental fluke. Was there a full moon or something? I didn’t know, but thinking it all just happenstance seemed to be pushing the envelope: there must be a gremlin involved.
Then I had a second thought: the events going on outside might be more fun to watch than the boring stack of papers in front of me. I couldn’t stand it another minute. On this day of unusual days, it was likely that somebody–some emotional weakling; some ignoramus nincompoop, some birdbrained imbecile, some gooberheaded turkeywit right here on my very block might just be convinced to willingly take possession of a box full of unweaned ‘possums, and I was going to just sit here and miss the whole show? Not on your life!
I dashed outside through the front door pulling it to behind me, and was half way across the yard when I realized that by closing the door, I’d locked myself out of the house. Although I know it was my own oversight, thus my fault as much as anyone else’s, my thoughts quickly ran again to luck as if I might be able to find some supernatural imp to blame it on.
Blame almost always begs for a transfer, but this time not only did it not seek new barracks, it was signing up for reenlistment. My tennis shoes were untied. Not paying attention, I stepped on my own laces which caused me to stumble into the small shrubs by my mailbox. I reached for the handle of an adjacent garbage can for support, and pulled it, and its stinky contents down on top of me. A group of yellow jackets must have thought I was trying to compete with them for some tasty morsel, and began dive-bombing my head.
Not wanting to appear out of control, I attempted to recover in a nonchalant manner that implied I had done all those acrobatics on purpose. But because of the persistence of the yellow jackets, I don’t think it worked. Furthermore, I was probably now going to need a bath and fresh clothes before I would be fit for any social engagement; the contents of the garbage can had a deteriorating effect on my cologne.
Apparently, the image of a deranged lunatic flopping about like a displaced fish between the curb and the street was quite a show. Wild gestures, and loud colorful language must have made me sound and look like a crashing helicopter. Maybe the visitors thought I was yelling “dumb-ass” and other stuff at them, but it was all directed at myself. Something, perhaps the smell of my shirt, caused the crowd to disperse.
As I watched the canvassers drive away, I soon found myself to be the only human being in sight. I looked around, and even the two little boys seemed to have vanished leaving no trail or trace. In their haste, they seem to have forgotten their package. But, I’m sure they’ll expect to collect for it when they come back around in a few weeks to sell me chickens and snakes.
My cell phone rang. Just when I thought good luck had abandoned me, I found I was among the select and fortunate few. Much to my awe and wonder, I was being told that if I subscribed to a series of upgrades to services I don’t even have, and would have no use for, I become eligible to purchase a truck-load of turnips or something for a children’s home in either Zimbabwe or Wisconsin. I couldn’t be sure which, because there were noticeable differences between the caller’s dialect and the customary miscarriage of language we speak here.
Listening was strenuous exercise. You have to hold the phone pressed tightly against your ear enough to cause a headache; and with a finger poked deeply into the opposite ear, lean forward almost to the point of imbalance keeping both shoulders hunched up in the “I don’t know” position. Remember to keep one eyebrow a bit higher than the other, and your mouth wide open even when you are not speaking, or you won’t be able to understand a word of it. Perhaps it was unfair of me, but the telemarketer was pretty much required to repeat everything he said at least twice. The louder I spoke, the louder he spoke, and you could’ve heard us both four or five blocks away.
I think the caller said his name was Stephanie. I almost made him spell it. At this point, not much of anything was going to blow my mind. I looked down, and found fate to be in my camp. There was a telephone number scribbled on the back of a religious brochure laying by the curbside right in front of me. The number was important enough for somebody else to write down, so my mission became clear:
“Stephanie, I’m glad you called. Unfortunately, your group probably didn’t give you the best number to call. But the good news is, I happen to have it right here. It will get you to the people you are supposed to be calling.”
Stephanie started to protest, but I reassured him that his bosses couldn’t possibly know everything, and asked that he stay with me, and listen:
“These folks I’m telling you about spend all of their time and efforts looking for people like you. They were just here, but you missed them by only a few minutes. Had you called sooner, I would’ve let you speak with them as they seemed anxious to talk to somebody with your level of enthusiasm.”
Again, Stephanie seemed restless, and kept trying to interrupt, but I stayed on track:
“I think they’ll be very responsive to what you were telling me, and as a matter of fact, I’m sure would rather talk with you than eat when they’re hungry, and there’s a reason for it. Now, listen carefully! Give them your best and most assertive presentation: they’ll love it. Not only can they afford to buy, but they recruit solicitors heavily, if you know what I’m saying. This could be the most important call of your career!”
I gave the number to him. I gave it again, and had him repeat it back to me. My suggestion was that he call them right away, as they were in a business he might find far more lucrative than his current situation. He thanked me sincerely. Stephanie seemed like a polite young man, so I was glad to be of service.
Mid-July in the heat of the afternoon is a good time to be indoors if you can be. There was no breeze. Time slowed down to the racing pace of a garden slug, and there seemed to be a magnifying glass between me and the sun. This helped the foul smelling liquids from my recent tumble with the bilge from leftovers to expand forming a barrier cloud to protect me from any chance of intimacy should anyone come by, and try to get too close to me.
A few more telemarketers called so I wouldn’t be bored. Each of them did wonders to boost my sense of self esteem by letting me know I was among an elite minority, and that not everybody gets chances like the ones they were going to tell me about. I’ve never felt so significant in my life, and out of gratitude, provided each one of them with information about who to call next.
It was almost an hour and a half before Brenda got home. The shade of a tree had saved me, but I was very glad to see her when she pulled into the driveway. Perspiration leaks not only your body’s electrolytes, but a significant portion of a necessary nutrient called “composure” as well. Mine was used up, and replaced with a mimicking numbness and dehydration. My wife slowed her car to a stop; lowered her window, and smiled at me asking:
“What have you got in that box?”
I didn’t say a word, as I was all out of them at the moment. With the aid of helpful telephone solicitors, I had spent mine, squandered them in fact, and sat there linguistically bankrupt. With balanced intent and a kind of gracefulness in her stride, she got out of the car to see for herself. She approached the box with no show of caution, and looked inside.
A woman has a way of putting things, and can do so in a manner that shows her feelings. It is particularly more likely if another woman is around to hear it. But some things said ring clearly even to a man, especially if he has had a few decades of matrimonial experience with her. After a quick glance turned into a stare of unmasked amazement, she said:
I knew what that meant, and had seen it coming. I had processed the likelihood of this over and over in my head, and had rehearsed all of my options now for over an hour. Though I was filled with some anxiety, There was the humorous thought of seeing the looks on the veterinarians’ faces in the morning should I ask them to de-worm and vaccinate some ‘possums, but I thought better about it. I did not want the pet doctors to know I was a gooberheaded turkeywit, and have them charge me a fee for it.
It was about then that Brenda said something smelled a little gamey, and I told her it was the ‘possums. I offered that under the circumstances, and the price of air fresheners being what they are, we shouldn’t attempt to keep them. If we did, the dawgs would surely eat them if they could get to them, and they would be persistent about it. There are things that might distract you or me, but little if anything, even showing your underwear, would be any significant distraction to a dawg chasing a ‘possum.
I told her some folks had successes with taming them, but you cannot domesticate them. Novices like us might find it difficult to recognize the proper age for adoption: these seemed too young, but in no time at all, they’d have needle sharp teeth, and may develop an attitude. It seemed much more sensible to contact a shelter that would have some hope of caring for the orphans, and if they survived, would know how to go about reintroducing them to the wild. Brenda saw the wisdom in it, so that’s what I did, right after changing my shirt.
It took a little persuasion and the promise of the appropriate donation, but I finally found a sympathetic ear. Within the hour, a young lady came by and took them away in her truck, thus putting a hopeful end to the serendipity. Since I paid her in cash (which was the deal), I couldn’t help but wonder if she might put the ‘possums out at the end of the street, and go to dinner at my expense. I decided to follow her until she was clearly outside of my neighborhood: what she might do after that was no more of my concern.
I thought about posting a “No Soliciting” sign, and I thought about dismantling the doorbell. I did neither. I felt it didn’t matter any more. It would be the same as closing the door to the stable only after all the horses have run away. A repeat of the day’s events seemed unlikely if not downright impossible. I managed through it once, but don’t think I could do it again at gunpoint. Could you? What are the odds?
“…You and I, we’ve been through that, and that is not our fate (at least today);
So let us not talk falsely now, because the hour is getting late.” **
** From “All Along The Watchtower” Written by Bob Dylan
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