postcards from the pug bus
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Trigger warning! The content of this website may cause raging panic attacks in hypersensitive snowflakes who suffer from androphobia, galactophobia, emetophobia, corprophobia, claustrophobia, fear of taints, and other psycho-sexual maladies too numerous to mention.
The pile of fur on the sun porch just inside the back door didn't strike me as a good omen either. I assumed that Jack, one of our six house cats, had slipped through the door between the kitchen and the sun porch while the pet sitter was entering or leaving the house. Jack loves to make his craven way onto the sun porch and down the stairs into the basement, where he antagonizes our two indoor-outdoor cats, Skippy and Chirp.
"Oh well," I thought, "at least Jack didn't escape through the back door on the sun porch, and he isn't running loose in the neighborhood."
Turns out I was wrong. "I'm truly sorry about your cat Zack," the letter began. At first I was amused by the misspelling, but my amusement faded as I continued reading.
"He got out the second day I was here, I think. That was the day my boyfriend came over to help me carry the love seat from the living room to a spot behind the garage, and somehow Zack got out the living room door.
"I don't know how he got into the living room to start the smoke fire in the first place. I thought I had closed the door between the kitchen and the living room, like you said to do, and I could have sworn I remembered to turn off the light on the windowsill near the love seat ... but I guess I didn't because when I got here one morning to feed the cats, I smelled smoke, the lamp was burning a hole in the love seat and Zack was clawing at the Frenched door between the living room and the kitchen, trying to get back into the kitchen. Judging by the damage he did to the door, he must have been stuck out there for a while.
"I didn't know what to do about the love seat, and the racket from the smoke alarm was scaring all the cats. Luckily my boyfriend had just finished serving the majority of his sentence, and he's on work release now, so I was able to catch him before he left the group home to go to his job that day. He came right over and helped me move the love seat.
"Anyway, I put lost-cat posters around the village with your name, address, and phone number on them. Several people called already to say they've seen Zack. Some guy who says his name is Mole started calling and saying if you want to see Zack again you should leave $500 in an envelope taped to a grave marked Stoltzfus in the cemetery up the street. Like that really narrows it down around here! I told him he was wasting his time. You couldn't leave any money because you weren't going to be home for a few days anyway. He didn't call back after that.
"Otherwise nothing else too exciting happened while you were away. You're probably going to notice sooner or later, so I might as well tell you--those are all new fish in your tank in the bedroom. I didn't overfeed the old ones or anything, but I must have forgotten to put the heater/water-filter plug back in after I had taken it out to plug in the vacuum cleaner so I could go over the spot on the bedroom rug where one of the cats had thrown up after eating this plant I had gotten you for a surprise welcome-home present.
"I felt just terrible about the fish. I didn't know you had so many until they were all floating around the top of the tank and I had to fish them out, so to speak, and put them in the trash. I went to the pet store thinking I would at least get you a couple of fish so the tank wouldn't look so empty. When I told the man at the pet store what had happened, he was so nice. He said he knew you and that I could take all the fish I wanted, and he would just put them on the tab. You had about thirty, right?
"There's a bill from the plumber mixed in with the mail. I had to call him after my boyfriend tried to fix the toilet that was running in the upstairs bathroom. He just made everything worse. It was really overflowing when he got through 'fixing' it.
"I apologize about the stains on the hallway carpet. It's not your cats' blood, though. It's the plumber's. I tried to clean up the stains, but all I did was make them bigger. I called the carpet cleaners, and they said they can be here first thing tomorrow.
"I think the cat that scratched the plumber was Ginger. She's the one who doesn't like people, right? She was sleeping behind the toilet when the plumber started working on it, and he frightened her, I guess. I told him that she's an indoor-only cat, but he was in a foul mood about being scratched and having to go to the emergency room, and he insisted I take Ginger to the vet's and leave her there to be quarantined for ten days to make sure she doesn't have rabies. I know you said not to let her get out of her room upstairs, but my boyfriend ..."
As I turned the page to find out what this boyfriend, about whom I was hearing more than I wanted, had been doing upstairs, I realized with a sense of relief that I had reached the last page of the letter. That's when I noticed the letter had been notarized.
I sank into a chair in the kitchen, afraid to survey the damage in the living room quite yet, and I began to cackle. The clammy feeling produced by whatever it was I had just sat in was the final indignity that sent me tumbling into the abyss.
"What the hell," I thought. "It was a great vacation. The house is still standing, and I know Bowser will be glad to see me." As I was taking solace in that thought, my wife said, "Hon, where's the dog?" That's when I noticed the arrow and the word over in the lower right-corner of the last page of the pet siter's letter.