So much has happened between the time I wrote the story on dissecting cats in anatomy lab and the story I’m about to tell you now. So, buckle up, and hang on!
Since Spouser’s businesses went “belly up,” and I stopped taking nursing classes at the University to search for work, I’ve learned a thing or two about life in general. Things will NEVER turn out like you think they will, and when you figure you’ve got it all figured out, life will throw in a monkey wrench and derail your plans.
After working as a nurse assistant and dreaming of being an emergency room nurse, the day I took a full-time reporter job at the Valley Town Crier, I mentally had to take my adrenaline level down a notch — or 10. Let’s face it, folks, this isn’t investigative crime reporting.
Then, from my first assignment, I discovered that reporters need all the adrenaline they can muster. It was a Saturday, and my first duty was to “cover” a local 10K race, which means take photos and write a story. I didn’t know it at the time, but my camera has a delayed shutter, which means I snap the shot and count to three before the picture is actually taken.
So, to get a decent photo of the runners, I had to dash ahead, turn around, and start snapping about five seconds before the first runner appeared. Out of a hundred photos taken that day, most of mesquite trees and an unoccupied blacktop, I was able to hit a few laggers.
And then, when I finally made it back to the finish line, the frontrunners were just coming around the corner. “Get ready. Here come the winners!” a policeman standing next to me shouted.
The batteries in my camera were dead. I fumbled in my pocket to retrieve more batteries, and when I opened the compartment on my camera, the old batteries fell out and rolled across the street — right where the racers would be crossing.
I heard the theme song from “Chariots of Fire” in my head as I loped across the street after the rolling batteries. In slow motion, I could see the mouths of onlookers’ drop, the policeman lifting his whistle to his puckered lips and blowing, and the runners’ confused expressions as they screeched to a halt.
That was several months ago, and so far every assignment has been electrifying. “Let’s just try not to get electrocuted,” Spouser warns, as I set out on today’s project: the ribbon-cutting for Edinburg’s new Sears Hometown Store.
“Electrocuted?” I question. “I’m not going to be demonstrating power drills, you know. But I might be taking pictures of them.”
An hour into the grand opening, and I haven’t dropped a toolbox on my toe yet. Everything’s moving along without a hitch, so I figure I’ve got the day off from drama.
“Excuse me, sir. May I ask you a couple questions about your shopping experience here?” I ask customer Omar, as he puts his purchases into the bed of his pickup truck.
“Sure,” he replies. “I have been looking for meow.”
The meow seems to originate from my belly area.
“Pardon my stomach, sir, meow,” I say. “It usually sounds, meow, more like a dog growling than a cat meowing.”
The meows only grow louder and more frantic. I realize it’s not my stomach at all, but a cat somewhere in the middle of the parking lot, with cars coming and going, and people all around. This is no place for a cat.
All at once, Omar and I realize that the meowing is coming from, possibly, inside the engine of Omar’s truck.
FLASHBACK! I suddenly remember the scene when I was a teen-ager, and a man untangled a badly mutilated cat from the engine of his ‘77 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I’ve never forgotten that, and I’m not about to see it happen again.
Reporter adrenaline boiling, I beg, “Please, sir, you can’t go now!” I fall down on my knees and begin to crawl under the man’s truck. (I was later told that the owner of Sears and a couple of his employees were watching from the window.) “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, meow.”
Omar joins me and drops to his knees. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, meow.” (More Sears’ employees and several customers watch from the window, drawing more unwanted attention to the commotion.)
Suddenly, a gray kitty works her way out of her hiding spot and runs across the parking lot. “You go this way; I’ll go that!” I shout to Omar.
Again, I hear the now-familiar theme song from “Chariots of Fire” in my head as I scamper across the parking lot after the getaway cat. (Faces of onlookers are pressed against Sears’ windows, trying to see what’s going on.)
I’m praying she won’t get run over before we catch her, when Omar traps her against the Sears building and motions for me to go around the other side. It works! Omar picks up the cat, which is unharmed.
“This looks like Mittens, our cat that’s been missing for three days now! But it can’t be. She was wearing a collar.” He looks under her chin and finds a white mark that confirms Mittens’ identity.
I’m about to burst into tears as Omar puts Mittens in his truck and turns to me. “Were you about to ask me a question about shopping here?”
I fight back the tears, so relieved she’s not hurt.
“And to think she had been up inside the engine, or tire well, while I’ve been driving around town,” Omar said. “Such a miracle she wasn’t killed.”
Motioning for him to go on home, I hand him my business card and manage to choke out a muttered, “You go; she’s hungry.”
When I get home, Spouser asks if the ribbon-cutting was exciting. “Yes, and you have no idea how exciting,” I reply.
The following morning I receive a photo text with a snapshot of Mittens sleeping at home on her bed. Omar writes: “My wife and I thank you for giving us back our Mittens. She looks at ease, doesn’t she?”
So maybe our lives haven’t turned out like we thought they would, but they’re turning out pretty darned well when we stop and think about it.
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