This vignette is about how I got Canela. Let me know what you think.
The last thing I want is a cat. I don’t need something to take care of with the litter box, food, vet’s bills. I haven’t even managed to take care of myself since (Ex) and I broke up. It’s been eight months and I still live in my parents’ guest room. I still work at a strip club. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t really have any kind of friend for that matter and I’ve gained fifteen pounds. The list of things I want is long and a cat isn’t on it.
“Did you see the kitty?” one of the dancers asks excitedly.
I’ve just gotten to work and we’re changing from day shift to night so it’s a little hectic with some dancers clocking in while others are cashing out.
Working in a strip club, there are several jokes I could make to answer her question. Usually if a stripper asks you anything about seeing a kitty you can expect to be out at least twenty five dollars before all is said and done.
“No,” I say, “I did not see the kitty. I’m not sure I want to.”
“Oh my God, it’s adorable. It’s out in the parking lot. Brian found it and he’s carrying it around.”
Brian is the parking lot attendant. He stands outside every night waving two Mag-lites directing the cars into parking spots they could have easily found on their own. He looks like he’s landing planes.
All night the girls are running back and forth from the parking lot to the club because they want to pet the kitten. Finally, curiosity gets the best of me.
“You want to see the kitty?” Brian asks me.
He makes a kissing sound, bends down and snaps his fingers and a tabby kitten, big-eared and skinny, trots out from under a Buick. The kitten is so tiny that I imagine she has barely been weaned and one of her front paws is peach, while the others are grey. When I scoop her into my arms, her purr drowns out the bass thumping from inside the club. I can’t even hear the traffic speeding by on the highway beside us.
“You want her?”
“You’re not keeping her?”
“Naw, I don’t want no cat. She’s a friendly little thing though. Sweet. Make somebody a good pet if she don’t get run over out here in this parking lot. She ain’t a wild cat, that’s for sure. Somebody musta dropped her off.”
I keep the kitten in the break room. This accomplishes two things. It keeps the dancers inside and it prevents the kitten from getting hit by a car. The kitten is thrilled with the attention she gets, along with several pieces of take-out sashimi. Whenever I can get a bouncer to cover the register, I check on her.
“Somebody’s got to either put her back outside or take her home at the end of the night,” the house mother tells me.
I can’t take a kitten home. It’s not my house for one. Maybe if I was on my feet more and had my own place. There was no way I could have a cat at my parents’ house. Not with their three dogs. It would never work out.
I left my cats in Atlanta with (Ex) for this very reason. They loved that backyard. They sunned themselves on the back deck and chased chipmunks under the pine. I couldn’t take them from their home. I knew how it felt to be ripped from a place you loved and forced to live somewhere you didn’t and I figured if I had to suffer, it wasn’t fair to drag them along with me.
I had two cats. One of them since the sixth grade. My mother bought her for me at a pet store across from the mall the week I left Millpond and moved with her and (my stepfather) to New York. She said I needed something to love. That cat was sixteen years old. And I abandoned her, thinking she would be better off without me.
I don’t deserve another cat.
I call my mother and tell her about the kitten.
“Do you want it?”
“I don’t know. Someone has to take it, at least for the night. Maybe I can find it a home.”
“Let me come get it right now. A kitten doesn’t need to be hanging around in a strip club. Lord knows what can happen to it.”
The first night, I don’t want the kitten in my bed. I make it a shoebox to sleep in on the floor, but it uses its tiny, pin-like claws to hook on and climb up my mattress, where it curls up on my pillow beside my head. I let it stay.
The kitten, which I don’t name because I’m not keeping it, follows me everywhere. It wants to be as close to my face as possible at all times, furiously head butting, bunting against me, even climbing up my pant legs to get into my arms. And it never stops purring.
The second night the kitten gets sick. It knows to use the litter box in the bathroom attached to my bedroom, and it has diarrhea. I find streaks of blood and mucous in the box. Again, the kitten wants to sleep by my head, but in the middle of the night it wakes and cries out, a moan I can tell is from pain. She has stopped purring. The kitten vomits and cannot control her bowels. All night long I hold the limp kitten close to me. I try to get her to lick ice cubes so she isn’t dehydrated.
“It’s ok kitty. It’s going to be ok.”
Her breathing is ragged, yet she manages to tick out a few beats of a weak purr.
In the morning I take the kitten to the vet, where she stays for two days. They put her on an IV, deworm her and give her antibiotics after I authorize treatment.
“Ma’am, you realize this kitten is a stray. She’s very ill and since you say she’s not your cat, we could save you a lot of money if we euthanize her. You do know you are financially responsible for her medical bills if we treat her, right?” the vet tells me.
“I don’t care what it costs. Just make her better.”
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