Veterinarians of the world unite! or, carl!

The second red line faded. Sic transit gloria. A notable resumption of the senses. Four days prior, my cat walked into the guestroom, swaggered no less, proud, as downstairs my father busied himself about the kitchen with the wet dishes, and then his study, readying his bag. I bent down to snatch her close to my chest, pulling my showered hands from a pile of dirty laundry. She smelled of my father’s aftershave, in the fur of her ribs and nape of her neck, and then as she bloomed into my intricacies I caught the correct spellings of fireworks and chemical reactions. I pulled her close over my nose and inhaled fully the imparted eau de toilette. She nuzzled, and then, excited, wiggled free and began to stalk me. It would not be long now, I told myself, fingers on the cord of the blinds.
    She underwent her ovariohysterectomy and adjusted to life in a cone. It was cute, certainly, but it turned her clumsy and the cone accumulated a terrible odour from her food, which I tried to wipe away with a wet cloth as she resisted. At first, she would sleep in peculiar places, spots she had not occupied previously: the laundry basket (a theme), in the middle of the kitchen floor (perhaps cool), underneath the northeastern corner of my bed (hottest early in the day). I pet her when she let me. Eventually she slept in my arms or with her head on mine. Lying there, my face towards the rising sun—‘I love you so much, you know? I love you more than anything. You’re my buddy. You’re a little shit, but you’re my best buddy in the entire world.’ She purred, stirred by the sound of the binmen and the racketing trolley, a bleating horn.
    On Thursday, after my second red line faded, three days after her ovariohysterectomy, we went back to the veterinarian. The eau de toilette, like a dead arm, was long gone. It was a summer evening in the months of May. The air was moist, was warm; trees overhung the pavement; blossom’s pollen swum in golden rooms between garden fences; nectar clogged the drains; perspiration tasted saltier, and cars at the traffic lights had their windows rolled down. An old man in the waiting room crossed arms and chatted with the receptionist for his cat to emerge. ‘Nineteen. Kidneys gone.’ The cat was a big white lump with fur that had begun to curl and made a low sound for someone named—Carl, Carl… Carl. The old man—‘He’s grumpy.’ An old woman, who seemed to have no business but standing around in the veterinarian’s waiting room passing comment—‘They always get grumpier after nineteen.’ But nothing she said made a difference to anyone, and they ignored her, for she just stood, knuckles on hip, in the veterinarian’s waiting room passing comment. The old man bent down to see into my cat’s carrier, quite close, a strawberry nose leaning in, from where she looked out with big green patient eyes—‘O, wow, you’re sweet, aren’t you!’ Carl… Carl! ‘Don’t worry, Tubs, it’s nothing serious!’ and the old man walked out with the big nineteen-year-old cat going—Carl… Carl! For a moment, the setting sun came in over the doormat of the veterinarian’s office before it was beheaded by the knife of the warm breezed door. The veterinarian stuck a thermometer up her arse and gently pinched the stitched wound as if admiring his own handiwork; ambidextrous and wornout. ‘It is healing perfectly,’ he said, not quite as one who loved animals but as someone who delighted in the success stories of delicate operations. It was no time at all that the cat was back in her carrier and we walked home side-by-side, me by foot and her floating just above the pavement—‘That was quick,’ says I, over the sound of traffic. ‘Always thought that if you spent longer getting somewhere than being there, it wasn’t worth it, but that was worth it, I guess. And just five days until we can take that fucking cone off.’ She probably meowed back at me, for she is chatty—in English and French—but I could not determine it over the sound of the passing cars and the steam that glistened off their hot metal.
    There was a lot [ed.: are], a lot, many things, all piling up, heavy, burdensome, ready to overwhelm if I gave them the chance. Leaning on my refrigerator, I listed them out to a woman on the other end of the telephone—‘Work is shit, deadline after deadline, and everyone’s fucking useless; Fr—ny’s virus already cost me two-hundred-quid and fuck knows how much more once they find out what it is, and poor thing isn’t eating properly; turning up to job interviews and researching all these companies, trying not to confuse them; covid and tiredness, isolation; dating and the fact I ain’t seen her in nearly three weeks.’ Sixes and sevens. Sleep, though. There was a filo pastry of black and eyelids’ insides that wrapped me up every night, and, lo, I slept deeply. The cat came to drift between my legs, and would snap at my ankles—‘Oi! little cunt!’ She awoke before me and tiptoed about the flat, disrupting what she could, scratching the rim of the duvet, where my naked arms twined, her claws ran across the thread count.
    I was overjoyed when the second red line faded. Fucking my own skull with a probe and the four drops like majestic sorrow on medicinal snow. I peered beside the boston fern at becoming pronounced or going silent. It was before we visited the veterinarian, and I felt as though I were finally permitted to join the rest of the human race, as though I had paid some kind of debt to society, and she scarpered, meowing a tease for me to chase her.
    And after it all, half the letters of veterinarian, its tangled consonants and foreign portions, were not pronounced by me or any of the mayflies that busied themselves about the roadside drain, but left to pepper and salt the silences of speech between me in my nervousness with two men.
    I made myself a coffee and locked her out of the living room. After the interview she was there, in the crows’ nest erected next to my bed, her eyes just over the top. It went—and I told her. Damn, her claws were sharp. She was so beautiful and so perfect, it amused me into laughter. She did not understand the words I said, but they made sense to me.