Sunday, April 27, 2008

Marcie's kitty heartaches

Seamus is not in the best of health, but he is doing well enough. It was not always so, and Marcie and I both had serious scares over his condition. The first once came early on.

"Frank! FRANK!" she screamed from the passage between the buildings. "Frank, please come help me! Seamus is under the main house and his paw is huge. I think he's hurt!"

Seamus was just out of reach under the house, avoiding us because he knew it was a no-no. He walked, limping on his left front paw, then holding it up.

It looked like he was wearing a big pink catcher's mitt with claws. He wandered just close enough that I was able to catch him and drag him out, complaining in low growls. Marcie snatched him away immediately.

"Oh, my god, he got bitten by something," she said. "Look at how red his little paw is. I can see his skin it's so swollen."

I had seen this before, at the egg ranch my grandfather owned in Campo. Cats would get bitten by spiders, stung by bees, even bitten by rattlesnakes. Whatever part was hit, if they lived, would swell up.

But this looked bad, and I knew we had everything from wasps to widows under the rickety old house in front of us. We also had no idea what his allergies were yet.

"God, this is why you should have let me buy a car," I said. "How are we going to get him to a vet, honey?"

Marcie looked up at me and handed Seamus, who was either enjoying the attention and had begun to relax, or was falling more ill as we spoke. He was almost limp and only murmured as I took him.

"I'll call my mom, she can come pick me up," she said. "You'll have to help me get him in his little cardboard carrier then hide until we leave."

I was still hiding my presence from Marcie's parents. I nodded. I put Seamus in the house while she made the call. It was Saturday. The ritual day-long shopping had already begun.

"Honey, what are we going to do?" she asked.

I looked at Seamus closely, searching for a stinger or bite mark."He seems fine," I said.

Just then, he chose to retch and vomit his entire breakfast onto my arm. Marcie covered her mouth as i went to get a towel. Seamus sat, his eyes looking a little glazed.

"Oh my god, he's going to die," she said. "Honey, should we ask the neighbors?"

I nodded, more worried about her than the cat. I knocked on doors, checking with the neighbors one by one. No one was home.

I was about to give up and call cab we could ill afford when an unlikely savior arrived. Andy, a cheerful gay man whose late-night romps in the apartment above us sounded more like fights than anything else, was walking down the stairs.

"Oh, god, pleeease," he said. "I'll give you two a ride, just stop pounding on everyone's doors and making such a fuss!"

And he did. Marcie clutched Seamus in her arms the whole way, I later learned, refusing to let me take him in the carrier and piling into the little Miata before I could offer to go.

She came home an hour later, having been dismissed from the veterinary hospital with a cursory exam, a shot of benadryl and a $50 bill from Dr. Dixon, which included a cardboard carrier.

"Oh, my god, what a production," Andy said. "It's a bee sting or a spider bite, and he'll be fine, the doctor said. Stop already, Marcie."

"I know, I know, I know," she said, carrying Seamus in her arms, squeezed against her until his little cries were muffled by her envelopment.

Andy followed behind, and I thanked him.

"Oh, you're welcome, but next time let's call the vet first so we can be calm and let our neighbor's guests sleep in peace, okay?" he said.

I nodded and Marcie brushed past wordlessly. Marcie was still upset and fawned over Seamus the whole night.

When the next day came and the swelling was gone, she alternated between castigating him and scooping him up in her arms near tears.

It was to be the mildest scare and only the first of a few heartaches for both of us.