Scaredy Cat

October 7, 2011
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School was awful.

Homework was awful.

Teachers were awful.

I hate seventh grade.

They give you so much homework every night. You just never get a break with these people. It didn’t help that TCAPS, the torturous yet incredibly easy state test you take every year until you’re out of middle school, was in three weeks.

I needed a break. It was only 4 o’clock on Tuesday and I’d spent six hours on homework this week. I texted one of my friends -- the one who lived closest and could get here the fastest -- Vanessa Jenkins and asked her to come over.

We walked around the block that surrounded about ten houses, including both of ours, a few times. We talked about boys, school, friends, parents, boys. After the third or so lap, we stopped at her house for Poptarts and strawberry soda, the snack we ate every time we hung out.

Before we left the house to return to our walking, Vanessa, not being the brightest crayon in the box, exclaimed, “Hey! We should take Emily with us!” She pointed down at the sulking black and white cat lying next to me on the couch.

I looked at Emily, then back at Vanessa. “She’s an inside cat, and you scare her. She’d run away,” I told her, shaking my head slowly.

“Hmm…” she thought, tapping her finger on her chin dramatically. “Good point.”

She walked off with a determined look on her face. “Vanessa! What are you doing?!” I yelled, too lazy to get up. Nothing. “Vanessa!”

Five minutes later, Vanessa emerged from the hallway with a blue collar and leash in hand and an evil look on her face. “Come here, Emily!”

“Vanessa,” I groaned, standing up. “Don’t kill the cat.”

“I’m not killing the cat! She needs exercise. Cats shouldn’t be fat.”

“Unless you’re Fat Cat,” I said, referring to one of her five billion other cats.

“Unless you’re Fat Cat,” she agreed, with a single nod.

Emily didn’t like her collar. Or her leash, for that matter. In fact, she almost refused to walk. Despite me telling her otherwise, Vanessa drug Emily two houses down to my front yard, where we sat on the front porch talking. Emily laid in the grass, sulking some more, swatting at the occasional mosquito that passed in front of her face.

Bingo, my eight-year-old tail-less golden retriever, pushed her way through the open front door a while after we’d sat down. She heard us laughing and talking, and, being the attention and love-seeking dog she was, she needed to be where everything was going on. She also didn’t like being alone, and no one else was home except for us.

To say that Emily is afraid of dogs is an understatement.

Emily jumped and pulled against the least; you could hear her gagging and choking on the collar as she yanked away. Vanessa jerked her in, trying to undo the collar. No matter how irrational or stupid, Vanessa follows her heart.

I didn’t see any of that, however; Bingo was trotting towards the road. She turned and smiled, then stopped and fell down in the middle of the yard. I ran to her, laughing at Emily’s spaz moment, thinking it was harmless. “Bingo!” I giggled, lying next to her on the ground. I tried to calm down, but I just kept laughing.

I looked at the sky and saw Vanessa leap over me, blood dripping from her arms and Emily in her hands. I jumped up. She was screaming. I was screaming. We ran down to her house. She threw Emily in the back door, yelled, “It’s my blood, not the cat’s!” to her sisters that were inside with friends, then we ran back to my house.

I’d sprinted ahead of her. I was in the downstairs bathroom right off the living room with the hot water running in the bathtub, with two washcloths, a towel, a cup, and alcohol wipes sitting on the counter by the sink.

First, I poured hot water on her arms despite her screams. “I have to rinse off some blood,” I told her in a shaky voice. I hated blood -- it made me faint and lightheaded -- and there were at least fifteen gallons pouring from the massive, gruesome cuts on her arms. Then I told her to take a washcloth, wet it, and rub the dried blood off her arms while I went to breathe un-bloody air.

I walked back in the bathroom to Vanessa on her phone. “Dad, it’s my blood. I’m at ‘Laura the Palmer’s’ house. I’ll be home as soon as I’m cleaned up. See ya when you’re home from work. Dad? Helllllllo?” She looked at the phone, then at me. “Great, my phone died. Wonder how much he heard.” She shrugged.

I ignored her and warned her, “This will hurt. Like heck.” I rubbed alcohol wipes on each cut and bite, then on my hands to get off any trace of blood. “Get the clean washcloth, wet it, and rub down your arms again. I’ll go get paper towels to hold on the cuts till they stop bleeding.”

On the way to the kitchen, I jumped out of my socks. There was a loud, single knock on my open front door, and then Vanessa’s dad, Mr. Bob, ran in, asking where Vanessa was.

“Sorry, Dad. My phone died,” Vanessa said through clenched teeth.

“I don’t care about that.” He had a panicky, wild look in his eyes. “We’re going to the hospital,” he told her, grabbing one of her hands lightly and pulling her out the front door to his Jeep, still running and in the middle of the street in front of my house.

“I’ll call you later!” Vanessa yelled out the window as her dad sped to Children’s Hospital in Knoxville. The houses across the street’s occupants -- an old lady in one house and a family of four in the other -- looked at me in question and disbelief. Wonder how much they’d seen.

An hour later, Mom came home from work, asking the typical mom-question. “How was your day?” When I told her my tale, her face was frozen in shock. It was almost humorous how shocked she was. “Is she okay?” she asked.

“No clue. She hasn’t called me. Or texted me. Neither has Mr. Bob. I’ve been a nervous, pacing wreck since though,” I told her.

“Hope she’s okay. You were kinda a hero tonight.”

I thought about that as I walked to the dining room to kill time and finish homework. I couldn’t honestly think of a better way to get a best friend.

An hour after that, at 7:38 that night, I got a text from Vanessa saying, “Three shots, seventy-two bites, sixteen scratches, one ten minute soak in betadine, four tubes of topical ointment a night, plus fresh bandages covering my arms every day. I will never walk a cat on a leash again.”

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