Ruthie might not make it.
Sam holds her in his lap and strokes her warm, grey fur as he blinks back tears. Men may not be allowed to cry, but nothing says they can’t tear up. As long as nobody notices, he’ll be fine.
He hopes the boss got his message this morning. He’s sure the panic in his voice made it slightly garbled. Ruthie’s been with Sam since his college days. He hates to think of her getting old. It makes him feel lost.
The clinic surrounds him with cat toys, green and white polka dotted wall paper, empty chairs and posters hawking name brand cat food. Well, the chairs are mostly empty. Across the room from him is an attractive brunette with a small butterfly tattooed on her forearm. She is holding a very sad and sleepy looking tabby.
Ruthie meows and shifts in Sam’s lap. The woman throws Sam a sympathetic look. It makes him hot and cold at once.
“Poor kitty. What’s she in for?”
“I’m not sure. She’s been acting funny for weeks now. This morning she was vomiting and there was blood-” Sam stops to catch his breath as the horror of this morning’s scene replays in his mind. Stained sheets, stained carpet and Ruthie sitting there in the corner, shaking and retching.
“That’s just awful. Bart, here, has got a nasty cold,” the woman looks down at her pet and tries to lift the tabby’s paw, but it twitches and falls limp, “so sleepy. Poor thing.”
She pauses and contemplates his pink nose and sleepy eyes. A strand of hair slips across her face making her that much more lovely. The silence is choking.
“The name is Sam.”
She looks up, startled. He stares at her with intent blue eyes. Suddenly, his phone breaks into a mechanical rendition of Hava Nagila. As he awkwardly fishes his phone out of his pocket, Ruthie plops down onto the floor and retches. The woman quietly lowers her eyes, slightly embarrassed.
“Hello?” Sam juggles the phone on his shoulder while searching for a paper towel.
“Yes, sir….yes….” He throws the woman a pleading look, but she is busy trying to keep her daydreaming cat from clawing her skirt.
“I’m at the clinic now, sir. Yes…. yes I know sir.”
The back door swings open.
“I will finish it as soon as I get back.”
A portly Latina in scrubs steps out with a clipboard.
“Ms. Driscol?” she reads from the clipboard, then glances up at Sam who drones on into his phone while desperately searching for a paper towel, tissue, anything! She gives Ruthie a pained look while Ms. Driscol ushers Bart to the back.
“It shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours, sir…” the two women disappear beyond the back door, but the Latina returns promptly with a stack of paper towels. Sam gratefully takes them and dabs at Ruthie’s mess. The woman’s badge reads: RITA VASQUEZ.
“Alright, good bye, sir.” Sam slams his phone shut, relieved.
“Thanks, Ms. Vas…. Ms. Rita. Ruthie here is just feeling awful, and I’m late for work and…” she puts her hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry. I can take her to a waiting room and put her in a carrier after her appointment. You can come back for her at the end of the day.”
“Really? That’d be… will she be ok?”
Rita smiles, and Sam is reminded of something. He lowers his voice.
“That other lady, Ms. Driscol. Does she come here often?”
Rita erupts in a tinkling laugh.
“All men are the same. You here with a sick cat, and all you can think about is pretty ladies.” Sam turns red, embarrassed. She softens her tone, “you just come here at the end of the day, mister. I’ll make sure she’s here, too.” She winks at Sam, scoops up Ruthie and disappears past the back door.
Dumbfounded, Sam makes sure there isn’t any sick on his tie and locates the garbage can. As he shovels the crumpled paper towels into the bin, he hears the door behind him swing open. He turns around to see Ms. Driscol peeking her head out at him.
“By the way, my name is Linda. It’s nice to meet you, Sam. You sure know how to make an impression.”
She smirks at him and retreats before he can reply. He takes a step towards the door, hesitates, then thinks better of it. He turns around, grabs the keys from his pocket and slides out the exit.
She’ll be back for him. He knows it.