My Cat Butch
It all began when
Joe and I were assigned some extra special duty in town. So it was Community Service, I wasn’t going to quibble about cutting grass or painting road dividers in lieu of some excess demerits, even if deserved.
It was a new program, somebody in Washington thought it would instil an extra sense of discipline in
the Midshipmen of the US Naval Academy.
Joe, my roomie, that it was a novel way to enjoy the historic town which we lowly Plebes were forbidden to peruse without
a pass, and even those were rarely given. And, I stressed, no matter what we were assigned to, they’d have to feed us. Anything
would beat Mystery Meatloaf.
I began to think
I might have been wrong, as soon as the truck bearing we miscreant middies turned
into the parking lot of our temporary employer. The Annapolis Dept. of Sanitation
never had two more dismal prospects. Oh well, we were used to cleaning toilets. It was a favorite pastime for our toothbrushes.
Whatever they had us do couldn’t be that bad.
I was wrong.
The truck stopped
near the building with the boldly stenciled ‘Garage’ in huge letters. Well that wouldn’t be so bad, in fact,
I told the driver that Joe and I were pretty good mechanics. He rolled his eyes and pointed to the dumpsters lined up ready
to roll for the day. So that’s why we were told to wear our steel tipped
work boots with our fatigues. We were, for the day at least, garbage men.
We were introduced
to the foreman and he asked if either of us could drive a big rig, or at least a truck. Both of us bobbed our heads up and
down enthusiastically. He saw right through us, of course, each wishing the hauling of the garbage cans on the other, and
herded us toward the back.
He gave us a brief
lecture on the ‘crusher’s’ nuances, such as how to turn on the crushing mechanism on and off, the back up
horn, and how the clutch handled a little heavier from your ordinary everyday variety stick shift. Other than
that it was pretty much just a big truck.
He also showed us
how to properly step up and down the ‘running boards’, pick up the
can’s, dump, return, and ride on the narrow platform until the next stop and of course, the rules of the road. To start us off, we’d both do trashcan duty and he’d do the driving, teaching
us both in turn how to handle the rig. Then, after lunch he’d said, (I
had to wonder if he meant the line of vending machines over by the pressure washers)
he’d he’d set us free to do it all on our own. He had some ‘pressing
matters’ to attend to that afternoon
And so our day began.
No PT drill, or
obstacle course had prepared us for the backbreaking efforts of just a few hours as ‘sanitation engineers’. And
yes, those vending machines were indeed lunch, Or, he said, there was a meatloaf
sandwich in the fridge nobody had claimed for a couple of days. We opted for the vending machines.
After a hearty meal
of stale potato chips, and a warm canned soda, I convinced the boss that Joe and I were ready to head out on our own.
Route map in hand,
we shared our duties amicably and I had just emptied the umpteenth trashcan, my arms aching, my back breaking, sweating like
a pig, when he started the crusher, so it took me a moment to see the debris
I screamed, “Stop!” as I jumped into the hopper and grabbed the cat, which unfortunately had no intention of being rescued. Rather it seemed determined
to disembowel me on the spot for having disturbed it’s lunch in the trash can, now sprawled all over in the depths.
out…the control’s are stuck!” Joe yelled, while, up to the armpits of gunk, I
was still being mauled by the feline. Joe helped grab my sleeve as we hauled
ass out of there, just before the trash compactor would have made short work of us.
Lee,” Joe gasped, “Please don’t do that again.”
Like I really intended
to be a garbage man ever again. They need to be paid megabucks with all the perks. Just
then the cat hissed and reminded me he was fully armed.
Yes, that was gratitude for you. But I’m of the old school.
You save somebody’s life, you’re responsible for it. Even if I was dripping blood, this little kitty wasn’t
gong to be left behind. Not on my watch.
Oh, Joe fussed as
I removed my shirt, so did the cat, pretty much a prisoner as I wrapped and secured him in
my shirt, which was already being ripped to shreds as the cat tried to escape. I checked the map and found a vet’s
closeby, not on our route, but what was tardiness compared to doing one’s duty.
while pleasant enough, held a hankie to her nose as we entered. Yes, garbagemen need to be paid hazardous duty pay.
“We kind of
had an emergency,” Joe said, “It was dumped in the trash. The crusher almost got it.”
We were led right
in, ahead of all the appointment people with cats, dogs, birds, and one lady with a snake. Creepy that one was.
If the vet was impressed
with our version of the rescued animal , she gave no indication. She did, however ask me
if I’d ever had a rabies or tetanus shot and would need to check us both
out with blood test momentarily.
She and her assistant
expertly sedated the animal and began their exam. X-rays proved nothing was broken or cracked, the blood work was negative
for anything other than anemia. It was almost like a cartoon moving watching the fleas jump ship and down the drain as they
washed the cat with disinfectant, trimmed the claws, and filed down the rather
long sharp teeth. Then the Dr. began to scrub up while her assistant began to
shave the cat’s nether quarters.
We asked what they
“Why, a castration,
of course, before we send it to the shelter…”
I’d lost the conversation just after the third word and woke up on the floor, Joe at my
side, a bit green himself.
I stressed it was just the lack of lunch, not the idea of a quick snip. Hey, it’s a guy thing, even
if it was a cat.
the Dr. said, “this will be a very good looking cat when he’s all dried and fluffed up. Too bad he’ll probably
have to be put down.”
“Put down?” Joe and I asked at the same time.
very difficult for grown strays to be adopted. And the ones that are, well, sometimes they just don’t make good pets.
But at least we can try. That’ll be $50 gentlemen. You can pay the receptionist, that is, unless you’d like to
adopt it yourselves. I can give you the license for $10 more,” she asked hopefully.
I looked at Joe
and he looked at me. We knew what would happen if there was even a hint of an
animal in our quarters. But what could I do? He was my responsibility and Joe argued with me all the way back to the Garage
as ‘Butch’ slept in the brand new carrier, and stayed asleep as Joe helped lug the kitty litter pan, bag of litter and some dry food to the employees lounge, while I sought out the boss to explain our interrupted
route, and thanked the powers that be that I’d been approved for a credit card.
As long as we continued
our route, the boss said letting a sleeping cat lie in the lounge was okay with
him, only he gave us a refuse truck to use this time, no crusher as the mechanics checked it out.
Joe asked as we drove the new truck, “Having an animal is against the rules."
"I know. We'll think
of something. We just have to get him home first...maybe the boat shed or something..."
"You know that cat doesn’t like you.”
name is Butch,” I stressed.
Fluffy.Besides, 'Butch' is more appropriate to salvage his wounded pride. “
And so we finished our stint of Community Service, certificates of completion in hand,
little good they would do us if we were found out about the cat.
He was awake
now and yowling like a banshee from it’s carrier. We had to find a place for him, someplace hidden. Someplace safe.
Someplace secret. Someplace out of earshot.
Never had Strategy
101 had such avid students cursing themselves for not having paid much attention to the rudiments of stealth and sneakiness.
Two traits Joe and I would soon master, thanks to my cat Butch.
More to come