Each October I run a conference for physicians featuring educational speakers on topics specific to the region. It’s a nerve-wracking time with lots of details involved, so this year I enlisted the help of my friend Beth. This worked well because Beth also runs a conference, exactly three days after mine. I run interference for her; she runs interference for me; what could be better?
And God said, “HA!”
About a week before my conference, Jack went down with that horrible hacking cough thing the country’s been sharing. Let’s just count the germination time of germs, shall we, and admit that the day after my event (which went better than deserved thanks to Beth’s level-headed planning) I woke up clogged, coughing, and cotton-headed.
And headed for Beth’s. The plan was to stay at her house the Sunday between conferences, folding, spindling, and stapling documentation into packets and name badges and press releases, oh my.
But the road to Beth’s house is a back one, a two-lane twisty thing through woods and over mountains. It is no place for a small orange kitten to trot along the double yellow line. I pulled into the parking lot of the Old Regular Baptist Church, and the kitten disappeared under a pick-up.
Inside, the minister was leading one of those joyful dirge hymns people sing without instruments, something between soaring voices and keening. Outside, I was crawling under SUVs, praying no one had a car alarm. Kitten capture successful after a few indignities, we set off down the road–to Beth’s. Let’s just recap here. I am streaming fluid from every facial orifice, hauling a dirty, smelly kitten curled on my sweater in the front seat, and he is blissfully eating the goat cheese I intended as a house present for Jon and Beth. I pull into their drive, locate the key left for me, and install the kitten in their guest room, along with the supplies purchased at a nearby Family Dollar.
Beth took it well when she arrived home. Her best moment was explaining it to her super-stressed husband. Jon has a high-powered job in a busy industry, and it was at its peak time of year. When he got home she said, “Your guests have arrived.”
Jon blinked. “I didn’t think Jack was coming?”
Beth took her beloved by the hand and led him upstairs, while I waited, strategically, by the door. With the car keys in my hand in case a fast get-away was needed.
I heard Jon say, “Awwwww” and relaxed. Stephen Pinkerton (as we named him) had curled himself into an adorable ball of fur and was snoozing away on her guest bed duvet. We make a plan to take the kitten to her vet tomorrow for boarding, then set to inventorying stuff for the conference.
That night, the kitten took not one but two dumps on her duvet.
Yes, I was under it at the time.
The next morning bright and early I sneaked downstairs to the basement laundry carrying the offended item–to be met by Beth, who had seen her super-stressed husband off to his high-powered job at 5 a.m. She eyed the duvet in my arms, sighed, and gave me a plastic bag.
“The cover has to be dry cleaned.”
Beth led me to the vet on the way to her office, pointed to where I should turn, and headed on to the dry cleaners. The vet wouldn’t keep the kitten. I arrived at Beth’s office with Stephen Pinkerton (don’t ask) in tow.
Beth sighed, bunched a sweater on her desk to make him a bed, and gave him a lanyard to play with. We began stuffing stuff into boxes. We may or may not have stopped now and then to play with the kitten.
A colleague came by, saw little Stevie, and saved our lives. “Why not call PetSmart? They know lots of cat rescuers who might help.”
Back at Beth’s office, I sneezed myself into blindness, periodically having to wipe my eyes, recollect my thoughts, and basically gather the will to live while Beth opened all the windows, sprayed Lysol, and applied hand cleanser to all surfaces.
At the conference, we smiled, staffed, and gave our presentations with dignity, grace and sneezes on my part, smiles on Beth’s. Her conference got one of its highest ratings ever for participant satisfaction.
The duvet came clean. Beth did not catch the plague. Jon is still stressed but the end is in sight. Stephen Pinkerton is doing well at the bookstore, awaiting his forever family.
We get by with a little help from our friends…..