Once a year, like a bath, whether you need it or not…even after 15 years of always good professional evaluations, knowing an administrator is dropping into my first grade classroom makes me anxious. Walk-ins, visitors, I don’t mind, but make it “the” formal assessment of my teaching abilities, and I go so far as to dust computers and clean my desk.
Knowing that I would need extra caffeine to get through the day, I ran over to the local convenience store on my way to work this morning. The store isn’t the closest, but the clerks are faster and minimally more courteous, so I generally drive the extra few blocks.
As I got out of my pickup, I noticed an orange cat near the front bumper, mewing plaintively. It looked like one of my daughter’s adopted strays, and I muttered a silent curse at people who abandon cats in public places with busy parking lots. The cat would be sure to meet a tragic end, but we had enough cats, and anyway, I had to get to work, early and dust my desk. Again. So I pushed aside the nagging thoughts about the poor, abandoned cat and went to get my can of diet caffeine.
One should expect, if one needs to be somewhere early, that some emergency will arise and make one late. Most of Laredo’s 300,000 residents had stopped for tacos that morning, and the one clerk at that store who genuinely hates me was there, cell phone trapped between his chin and ear as he tried to attend customers. By the time I got out, I’d forgotten all about the poor cat.
Until it mewed at me as I walked toward the truck, and then stood on its hind legs to sniff the grill. That’s when it hit me: I was the wretch who’d abandoned a cat by the city’s busiest street. The cat was my daughter’s latest project, a stray she wanted to tame enough to take to the vet. She would, she promised, then find a good home. She really believes that’s possible in a city with way too many stray animals roaming the streets.
The cat—Sunny?—did have a fondness for sleeping on the hood, but I hadn’t seen her there that morning, and I had checked under the truck, as I always do. So either she’d ridden the eight or ten blocks on the roof of the cab or in the bed. Or, worse—somewhere in the engine compartment.
My momentary relief over her safety gave me an immediate headache—what the heck was I supposed to do.
The evil me said she was too wild to catch, she’d never let me put her in the truck, and maybe she’d find a good home if she stayed.
The real me started cooing and easing toward her—and darned if she didn’t just let me pick her up.
Okay, but she’d claw me on those few short steps to the truck, jump out of the bed—and if I put her inside, she’d poop out of stress and fear.
Telling myself I could eventually clean up whatever she did to the truck, and I couldn’t leave her, I opened the door, pushed her in—and was amazed when she made no last ditch effort to claw my eyes out and escape.
By the time I pulled up alongside our picket fence and climbed out, the cat and I were good buddies. She looked at me serenely as I held the door like a private chauffeur, sniffed a little, and jumped out. A minute later, she’d squirted through the wrought iron bars, and I was off to dust my desk. Covered in cat hairs.
Oh, well. Righteousness over appearance. And another story for a second volume of The Cat Chronicles: Stories, Poems, Essays, and Photos About Cats and Life.
Guess she’ll have to go under the section about cats and Murphy’s Law.