“Hi Carl,” I said casually.
I was doing my best to make it seem like I wasn’t carrying an institutional sized bag of kitty litter. Carl and the window lettering guy were having the sort of conversation that stops when the person they are talking about walks into the room.
“Um, hello. Please, allow me,” Carl replied.
He held my office door open, carefully peaking inside, closing it rather quickly after I passed through.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed.
Every single time that I have opened and closed that office door during my tenure here, the glass rattled. I was aware that it was most likely due to age, but it always made me feel as if it were rickety and that it was only a matter of time before it was going to shatter upon closing.
I yelled his name for no other reason than I was inside the office and he was not. I flung the door open, excited that it worked so well.
Carl and the lettering guy were nearly to the end of the hallway.
“I just wanted to…”
There was no point, they were outside before I could finish the sentence. I understood, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around Carl being faster than, well frankly, anyone.
“Poor lettering guy,” I mused.
I decided I would wait for him to come back and finish before I brought in the food bag, but in the meantime, I had an errand to run.
“Hi! Welcome to AAPT! How can we help you today?” McBubbly asked.
According to the cat-shaped tag on her blouse her name was Missy, but McBubbly seemed to fit more accurately. I had never met a Missy whom I could recall, but I felt like this particular one was governed by the Muffy Rule. Far from a universal constant, the Muffy Rule was a theory I stumbled onto after a bottomless glass of wine in a bar too close to the college campus. It very simply states that all Muffys, as well as corresponding friends including but not limited to Buffys, Bunnys, Sissys, Missys, and sometimes Heathers must have blonde hair, be annoyingly bubbly, wear heels with nearly any outfit, and attract men like moths to a flame.
“Hello Mc, um, Missy. I was hoping you could introduce me to the newest and furriest love of my life,” I said somewhat sarcastically.
“Aww? Really? Like, that’s so sweet! I would love to be a part of this day in your life today! I have to tell you, the way you asked was like the most awesomest thing you could have ever said! And I know, you’d probably like take them all, but are you looking for a sweet, cute, and super-duper cuddly kitty or a big, soft, huggable and playful puppy to share your world with?” Bubbly asked.
There were few things I had not gotten around to doing that morning including eating breakfast. Had I, thanks entirely to McBubbly, I would have just tasted it for a second time. I forgot something else though, far more destructive to my psyche and personal well-being. Not only did I drive to the office, picking up cat supplies along the way, but I was in the parking lot of the shelter before I remembered the dick smudge on my window. Granted I had a lot going on, but a window stain of this magnitude should have demanded my utmost attention. Faced again with only my sleeve to wipe it off, I reached down and scraped up a handful of dust and gravel from the parking lot. The rocks clinked off the glass, but the white dust stuck the way cops leave visible fingerprints on a drinking glass after dusting. Great.
“I was thinking cat,” I said.
“Aww, we have so many adorable kitties who I’m sure would just love to share your life with you. We just need to start with a few like, you know, questions?”
She just sat there looking at me with her face.
“Um, sure. Glad to, happy to,” I said.
“Great! How did you hear about us? What I mean is what made you pick AAPT?” she asked.
“I saw your sign, animal adoptions,” I said.
“Great! Are you familiar with AAPT and our adoption services?” she asked.
“No, I’ve been thinking about it for awhile and like I said, I saw the sign and decided, ‘Today’s the day’. I’m not even sure what the acronym on your sign stands for,” I said.
“Great! I can help you! I’ll have to ask about the acronym thingy, but our sign says AAPT and that stands for Animals Are People Too! Isn’t that great?” she asked enthusiastically.
“Wow, that is,” I said.
I scorn things in my life I find ludicrous although I’ve done a great job over the years not letting others in the room know how ridiculous I think they are. All of my skills to that extent were on the table now as I was immersed hip-deep in a dank pool of crazy.
“I know right? We just have a few forms for you to fill out today, you can have a seat in one of our super comfy chairs and enjoy a cup of our super scrumptious fair-trade coffee,” McBubbly said.
I’ll admit the coffee was good. I filled out the litany of forms, somewhat surprised that my blood type was not in question. An informational pamphlet rack formed an unavoidable wall between the coffee and the only writing table available. I collected a handful for the road including why leather was bad, where I should buy my coffee from, why eating meat will kill me, and how the fur industry is in fact a metaphor for world domination by capitalists.
“You guys really ask a lot of questions,” I said.
“Great! You’re all done! We do our best to make sure your friend of choice is the best overall fit for both of you going forward. Isn’t that just something?” she asked.
“Yeah, great,” I said.
“I know, right? Well if you’ll just step this way into our amazing living quarters we can find you the best friend your looking for,” she said walking.
The bright white room was lined with cages, some quite large with bars thick enough to house anything large. The new, gray paint still shined on the concrete floor. The smell of it mixed with bleach imposed on my senses. I felt sorry for the beasts that had to breathe it in all day. Bubbly chattered on and on, something about never putting an animal down and the good folks at AAPT going the extra mile.
“So, how long have you guys been around? The AAPT I mean,” I asked.
“Ooh, you know what? I’m not really sure about that. We are currently expanding in the area though to really try and help every last animal we can,” she said.
“How long have you been here?” I asked.
“Oh I’ve been here since we opened,” she said.
“I take it that’s recently?” I asked.
“Oh yes, like I said, we are expanding,” she said.
A dinging bell sent Missy back to the front entry, presumably to irritate a different victim.
“Oh my, well, duty calls! Feel free to look around and get to know some of our guests. You never know who’s going to pick you! And remember. Let’s not open any cages without an official representative from AAPT present to assist you okay? Okay great!” she sang.
I wandered the rows half expecting one of them to bang a tin cup against the bars. Dogs were front and center, wagging their tails and air licking me through the tiny holes. Most cats were evasive, staying against the back walls of their cells, trusting nothing. There was one cat however who’s eyes appeared to lock onto my soul as I passed. He was gray with black stripes and most definitely troubled. I don’t think he was abused. I felt like instead his troubles were more self-imposed, like he laid awake at night questioning every decision he’s ever made while bouncing a ball of yarn off the wall over and over again until the wine was gone.
“Richard,” I said reading off the tag.
The penmanship was all Muffy, but he clearly came with the name. I heard the double doors leading to the front entrance bang open. Heavy heels pounded the new paint, the pitch was soprano, a woman, aggressive and in some sort of hurry.
“Of course Mrs. Owens, of course. I’m sure he’s expecting you, but I’ll just have to let him know that you are here. Mrs. Owens? Mrs.?”
Mary Owens charged through the animal living quarters presumably en route to the heavily reinforced steel door in the back of the room. Finding it locked, her tiny fists lacked the necessary meat to make a significant enough boom on the heavy metal to be noticed. I decided it best to remain anonymous among the natives.
“I know you’re in there,” Owens yelled as she banged.
She continued to rave for minutes while McBubbles did what she could to thwart her aggression. Eventually the door swung open. A large man bulging at the seams of his cheap suit stood in most of the frame blocking her way.
“He will see you now,” the large man said.
He stepped aside and let her pass. He glanced momentarily at Bubbles but turned his full gaze to the cage I hid behind as he closed the door. I had been noticed. My instinct to look up confirmed the many cameras that lived in the room. McMuffy noticed me as well.
“Well, how did we do?” she asked.
“I’ll take this one. Richard,” I said.
“Great! I do have to tell you that Richard is one of our older residents and sometimes it’s a little bit harder for them to get accustomed to a new home, but they sure are easy to love!” she exclaimed.
I bent down to get a better look into the cage.
“Are you sure about him?” she asked.
“Yup, he’s the one. I feel like we can relate somehow,” I said.
“Great! That’s awesome! Let me go ahead and put one of our special notes on his house, that way everybody will know he’s spoken for,” she said.
“I have a collar and leash in the car, I’ll just go out and…”
“Oh! You know that’s great that your so extra prepared to love him but I’m afraid you’re not going to be able to take him home today. You see we have to approve your application. I’m afraid not everyone is, you know, just right for like, sharing their lives with some of our guests,” she said.
“Just right?” I asked.
Buffy leaned in close and whispered into one hand to block those who might be figuratively listening, “Some people are just big meanies.”
“I thought the idea was to adopt them out. You know, find them homes?” I asked.
“It’s quite simple actually,” the man said.
I never heard him coming. All of a sudden he was just ‘there’. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the steel doors were now open and there was no sign of Mrs. Owens or the immense man.
“You see, we don’t know anything about you Ms. Maximine. For all we know, you could be moving these animals into shall we say, a less desirable situation,” he said.
“Less desirable than a cage? And apparently you do know something about me seeing as how you just used my name,” I said.
“Why it’s on your paperwork of course Ms. Maximine. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wesley Meltone, I’m the President of AAPT,” Wesley said offering his hand.
“Nice to meet you. Philippine Maximine,” I said.
“Ms. Maximine I will tell you that in order for us to get to know you better, you might want to consider joining the club so to speak,” he said.
“Yes, well you see AAPT is much more than just adopting cats and dogs. We do our best to use our resources to do what’s right for our communities. We donate time and money to organizations that may otherwise lack funding opportunities, maybe even help to affect policy. We even rescue and home exotic animals that otherwise would undoubtedly have to be euthanized. Becoming a member of the club just means you’ve donated. It’s all on the up and up I can assure you,” Wesley explained.
“If I do, can I take the cat home today?” I asked.
“Well of course, of course you can,” he said.
“Excuse me Mr. Meltone but,” Bubbles tried to interject.
“I’m sure it will be fine Missy, everything is going to be just fine. Missy here will make sure you get what you need. A pleasure Miss Maximine,” he said.
He motioned his hand and the big man appeared. He whispered something in his ear and he promptly left the building. Wesley returned to the room with steel doors. Looking inside I could see now it was an office, warm and comfortable with castle topped chairs and a large ornate desk, affectionately adorned with a ready and waiting Mrs. Mary Owens.
On the way home Richard sat in the front seat fully panicked, maniacally meowing at the passenger window like he was calling for God himself to come down and rescue him. Undoubtedly he noticed the smudge and was only echoing the sentiment of every other cat he’s ever known.