My neighbors, Carrie and Justin, are summering at a beautiful east coast location, so they asked me to look in on their pets while away. No problem; I've done this before and finished the job with no animals dying and all my fingers intact, so Easy-breezy, right?
Typical routine every night after work: walk over, feed the cat, attempt to befriend the cat, snatch fingers away from cat's mouth, feed the bird, stroke bird's head until it makes that I'm-happy-but-sounds-like-I'm-performing-a-farmer's-handkerchief, feed the fish, feed the iguana, hang out for a bit listening to music, and then go back to my own apartment. Simple up-to-an-hour procedure, no? Did it okay last time, and this time the first few days are equally fine.
Then the fucking heat wave hit. I thought my apartment in the Complex burned like the sun, but they're one floor up from me. Last night, I opened all my pores nicely in the 45 minutes or so there.
Ah, expensive spas and saunas, eat your heart out!
It's the 6th Level of Hell (Level of Swamp Humid Alligator Devils and Crotch Rot) in there. I run around and turn all the fans on high, and I quickly fill the cat and bird bowls with cold water. The poor cat is panting faster than a hummingbird in the clutches of a Meth Binge, tongue lolling out and sides pumping up and down. I watched for a bit, waiting for the Alien scene recreation, but he calmed down in front of the window fan. I turn to the iguana cage and the trap door is open.
AND IT"S FUCKING EMPTY!!!
"Holyshitholyshitholyshit!" I'm now sneaking creeping around the apartment with all the sweaty hair on the back of my neck sticking up. "holyshitholyshitholyshit," I'm whispering in a tiny sing-song voice, "don't scare the mini-dinosaur, it'll slice your Achilles heel."
That little lock-picking prehistoric thief escaped!
Their lived-in looking apartment now resembles every horror movie with an ancient monster I've ever seen. "What the hell is that?!? Oh, bungy cord. Sweet Mother of Mary (Dina)! Ah, green socks..." etc. There are so many hiding places for this green scaly killer, it'll take me all night to flush him out...and then what?
I break Pet Sitting Rule #13: Never smoke in a non-smoker's apartment. I'm shaking, leaning over the sink, blowing Camel Light smoke out the window like it's 1990 and I'm pulling tubes in the dorm again. I'm just thankful the bird is in it's cage (chirping) and the cat isn't ripped to shreds/half eaten/strewn across three rooms.
And then I remember one of them saying, "yeah, he usually walks the same route when we let him out: straight to the bedroom and back again when he's hungry."
Entering The Bedroom. I now break Pet Sitting Rule #3.
Since it's dark and evil-looking, I refuse to rummage through the bedroom closet. Last resort as the beast will have all advantages holed up in there. Instead, I head for The Art Studio section of the bedroom just to see if....
Oh God, there he is. Sitting on a box of canvas frames, staring out the window...claws digging into the cardboard. Did I mention the lethal claws?
Back to the kitchen for a smoke.
"Okay, he's mellow. I'll just scoop him into that Crate and Barrel box I saw next to him (#5 for you employed there)."
I go back in with a bowl of his food, place it oh-so-gingerly into the box. "Yeah, I'll just lure him in there, scoop it up, run like a madman to the cage, and dump him in."
He doesn't take the bait. I wait in the living room for ten minutes, then sneak back in, "Iguana, " I whisper. Still no movement, like a freaking tongue licking statue.
Except now he's waving his head around, flapping that throat flap thing at me. Is that like a cat winking (good) or like an attack-mode thing (bad)? I run away.
"Aargh! Why couldn't you be a cat?"
I tip-toe back in like Elmer Fud and remove the bowl and box (which, upon further reflection and eyeball sizing, would not fit him). I pace the apartment and eat two of the iguana's green beans and lima beans before I realize what I am eating, gag, and stand in front of a fan.
My shirt is a sponge and the sponge is fully saturated. My brow is cartoonishly covered in beads of sweat.
I consider the 12 year old Scotch in the cabinet. Another Pet-sitting Rule to break. I refuse to drink another man's fine Scotch; besides, booze will thin the blood and if I grab the beast, I'd probably bleed out before I made it home (besides ruining their wood floor).
I screw up all my heat-stroked courage. I grab a mug. What? I put the mug down. I wrap my left arm up in a small area rug and go into the breach again. I won't pick him up, I'll just "suggest" through his fear that he should move into the other room and then the cage.
I nudge him with a thin board.
Damn it, man! Like an immovable, squishy eighty pound beanbag.
I remove the rug, my arm is now covered in sweat and kitty litter. I feel like a total tool.
And that's when I see the white buckets. My white knight.
Slowly edge the bucket toward his face, scoop, scoop, scoop. "Come on little guy" Tap, ever so gently, his tail. "Easy buddy, it's okay." My legs are shaking quiver about to give out in panic.
He crawls into the bucket. Runrunrunrunrunrun through the bedroom into the living room, straight to the cage trap door, and sloooooowly pour him into his cage. Slam (and lock) trap door.
The cat is lying on top of the cage, panting; however, I am sure he is just overcome by laughing at me. The bird chirps (cheers). I sit on the back of the sofa, panting as well. I stare at the iguana. He crawls up to the third level of the cage and comes right up the the metal, staring me in the eye (this is odd because he usually only naps on his "security rock" when I am around). He cocks his head back and forth, his orange beady eyes probing into mine; and, sticks his tongue out at me. I move to the other side of the cage and he follows, again moving right up to the metal and sticks his tongue out many times at me. No flapping of the flap or nodding of the head.
What is this?
I feel a sort of bond. Was he actual lost, and is now thanking me for bringing him "home"?
I move back to the sofa edge, and he follows again. He licks his lips (?), flashes his tongue at me, and starts to eat. The cat yawns, the bird chirps, and I go home.
So, guys, if you're reading this: Enjoy the rest of your vacation!
Only 6 more days to go. :-)