Situational Flexibility

excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Discovery at Sunrise

 

David Allen Crockett was sitting on the couch, contemplating the infinite through closed eyelids, when Ruby surged through the closet connecting door between their apartments. Catching Crockett off guard was one of her missions in life.

“Up and at ‘em, Sweetie. Things to do.”

The mid-afternoon sun streaming through the living room windows made Crockett’s eyes water.

“I am up,” he said.

“I heard you snoring from my side,” she said, walking to stand in front of him.

Ruby was carrying a shopping bag and wearing a dark blue silk jumpsuit, belted at the waist, with an abundance of pockets, elastic around the ankles, and a neckline that left her cleavage behind as it journeyed halfway to her navel. All that was bottomed off by strappy black sandals with two-inch light wood soles and six-inch heels. She looked down at him from her well over six-foot altitude, pushed cobalt sunglasses up on top of her heavy black mane, and grinned through perfectly penciled lips. As usual, Crockett’s toes curled.

“You like?” she said, thrusting out a hip and posing, arms akimbo.

“Not bad for an old broad.”

“And that’s just what’s on the outside,” Ruby said, ignoring his attitude. “Underneath it gets even better. I’ve been to Vicky’s.”

Vicky’s is what Ruby called Victoria’s Secrets. She went to Vicky’s a lot. Ever the appreciative voyeur, Crockett never complained.

“And, I have some gifts for you, Crockett. Your birthday is coming up next week. The Taurus ages.”

“Don’t make a big deal outa anything, okay? I know I’m getting old.”

“I’ve known you for almost twenty years,” she said, tossing him a thin package wrapped in white paper with a bow the color of her jumpsuit. “You’ve been a crotchety old bastard the whole time. It’s part of your charm.”

Crockett smiled as he ripped off the paper and opened the small box. Inside was a pair of soft leather gloves perforated with dozens of small holes and open spots for knuckles.

“For driving?” he said.

“Firm grasp on the obvious.”

Crockett slipped on the right glove.

“Thanks. I don’t wanna seem ungrateful, and these are great gloves; but I hardly ever drive more than ten miles at a stretch.”

“It’s only part of your gift. All will be made clear.”

She tossed a large white rag in his lap. Crockett looked at it.

“It’s a chef’s hat. Try it on.”

“A chef’s hat?”

Ruby put the bag down and squatted in front of him to apply the rag to his head. She poked and prodded for a while, arranging the thing like Paul Bunyan’s beret.

“Perfect,” she said with a final pat. “God, that’s so manly. Is it warm in here, or is it just me?”

“Jesus,” Crockett said as she returned her attention to the bag. “Is there more?”

“Of course,” she said, and handed him a little laundro-mat size box of Bounce. “That’s it. See? I told you all would be made clear.”

“Driving gloves, a chef’s hat, and fabric softener?”

“If only you would remember your promises,” Ruby said, flopping beside him on the couch. “Typical man. Give their word one minute, forget about it the next.”

“You would be totally knowledgeable about such things from your years of extensive experience with the opposite gender, I suppose,” Crockett said.

He removed the pillowcase draped over his bald spot. Ruby slipped an arm around his neck.

“Will you never let me forget my past life of deviance and shame?” she said.

“It’s my only defense.”

Ruby’s slow grin took over half her face, and she kissed him. It was one of her patented LaCost accosts, warm and wet and wonderful.

“Not bad for a bristle-butted bull dagger, huh, Crockett?”

“More,” he said.

“Lots, but later. Right now, let’s get back to your forgotten promise.”

“What forgotten promise?”

“Before we got sidetracked by the Amazing Disappearing Woman and all the rest of that, you said that you wouldn’t go to Europe with me, but if I’d go on a camping vacation with you, you would do all the driving, all the cooking, and help with the laundry.”

The light came on. “Hence the gloves, hat, and fabric softener.”

“God, you’re quick.”

“You’ll go?”

“Happy birthday, Crockett.”

“Camping? You? Ruby ‘room service’ LaCost?”

“If you’ll drive us in one of those big bus things. Another promise you’ve probably conveniently forgotten. I gotta have a shower and a vanity and stuff. A chandelier would be nice.”

“Of course,” Crockett said. “Can’t have you tramping around in the woods in six-inch heels, looking for a place to potty. Why, you could break a nail trying to open a canteen. And if the smoke from a campfire caused your mascara to run, I don’t think I could go on!”

“Finished, Shecky?”

“That oughta ‘bout do it.”

“Fine. Get out of those grubby sweats, put on some decent clothes, and make ready. We’re going out.”

“We are? Where?”

“To Sunrise RV on I-70 out by Grain Valley. Just this morning I spoke to a helpful young man there named Adam. He awaits our arrival this afternoon to discuss the rental of a very nice, very expensive, traveling estate. He assures me that he has several choices available, and he will be more than able to satisfy my discriminating tastes.”

“Oh,” Crockett said, the world whizzing by at an alarming rate.

“Plus, we must visit a rent-a-car place and secure a dinghy.”

“A dinghy?”

“A small car, Crockett. Those who pilot large motor homes usually tow an automobile that they refer to as a dinghy. We will need one. We certainly cannot tow that testosterone riddled truck of yours, and I would never expose my Jag to such indignity. Therefore‒”

“Therefore we need a dinghy,” Crockett said.

Ruby gave him a pity rub on the leg and rose to her feet.

“I have cleared my calendar, found a substitute for my patients who need one, and we leave day after tomorrow. Twenty minutes, Crockett. Shake your leg.”

“What about the yard and garden?”

“I have a very nice patient whose son will be more than happy to attend to it while we are gone.”

“I thought we were going to have the living room wall removed this month so we’d actually be living together.”

“Marvin will look it over while we’re gone and draw up the plans. He’ll find a contractor and take care of all the details. As soon as we return home, work will start. It won’t take long. Marvin says it will be lovely.”

“Marvin?”

“Another patient. Excellent taste and color sense.”

“Aw, geeze.”

“He will not touch any of your part except the living room wall. Everything’s taken care of. You can call your agent tomorrow and explain that you’ll be out of town.”

Crockett stared at the floor. “Okay,” he said.

“Seventeen minutes,” Ruby said, and vanished into the closet.

Crockett rubbed his face and tried to find the motivation to get up.

“Jesus,” he said. “Here we go.”

 

Sunrise RV offered around a quarter mile of rolling real estate perched behind an eight-foot chain link fence overlooking scenic I-70, about thirty minutes from downtown Kansas City. Ruby, now wearing a pale yellow cotton sundress with spaghetti straps and one of those necklines that folded over itself and gave the illusion that if the onlooker waited patiently and didn’t blink, something wonderful might happen, thrashed the Jag to their destination at her usual alarming velocity. Crockett fought his way back from the near-death experience, kissed the tarmac, lit a Sherman, and waited for the earth to stop moving. Ruby, perched on very tall cork-soled sandals, slipped on a pair of sunglasses with frames that matched her dress, ignited her most dazzling smile, and made for the nearest individual of authority. The poor devil saw her coming and froze like a field mouse in front of a hawk.

“Hello,” she said. “I’m here for Adam.”

 

Ruby charmed young Adam out of his unused college fund as she rejected a series of half-a-dozen motor homes he displayed for her. Crockett stayed out of the coaches, preferring to not watch the carnage, and looked at some pop-up campers, any of which would have met his meager needs exactly. At some length Ruby and Adam exited a massive unit in several shades of blue that he would soon learn was the Discovery T-Rex. Adam headed for the office, and Ruby walked to Crockett.

“We’ll take that one,” she said. “It’s certainly not the biggest or nicest, but I went with something smaller and more economical.”

Crockett looked at the aircraft carrier she’d chosen and wondered how the hell he’d ever manage to herd it down the road.

“How economical?” he said.

“One point six percent of the purchase price per week.”

“How much is that thing?”

“I don’t know. Around 200 hundred thousand dollars.”

“What!”

“It has four slide-outs, a side by side fridge, two air conditioners, two furnaces, a seven-point-five kay-double-you diesel generator–”

Crockett smiled. “Seven point five, huh?”

“Seven point five kay-double-you,” Ruby said.

“And do you have any idea what that means?”

“Not one. But I do know what a washer and dryer are, and it has those.”

“This is gonna cost a fortune,” Crockett said.

Ruby pointed to an office building on wheels about fifty yards away.

“That one costs nearly a million bucks,” she said. “It was my favorite.”

“I like this one.”

“I thought you would. The rental includes a dinghy and everything to tow it and make its brakes work.”

“Oh! Well, that’s different.”

“Of course, there’s also insurance and mileage charges.”

“Mileage charges? They charge you all that rental money and mileage?”

“And there’s even a TV camera that shows you what’s behind you.”

“I’d rather look at what’s behind you,” Crockett said.

“Thank you. Plus satellite TV, surround sound DVD, a skylight over the shower, a computer station, and a really nice kitchen.”

“Galley.”

“And a really nice galley.”

Crockett looked at her for a moment and shook his head.

“I don’t have a chance here, do I?”

Ruby grinned, and slugged him lightly on the arm.

“Naw,” she said.

“Okay.”

“Oh, and one other thing,” Ruby said. “It’s on me. Happy birthday, Crockett.”

What a woman.


CHAPTER TWO

Launching the Pequod

 

At Sunrise RV, Ruby presented Adam with a large payment and an oversize smile. The poor guy wiggled like a beagle pup, and Crockett could see spittle at the corners of his mouth. Tough kid. That much money, in combination with a LaCost grin, could put a Hell’s Angel in the fetal position. The lad promised he’d have the Discovery in pristine order, complete with a Toyota Yaris 2-door dinghy attached firmly to the rear hitch, at ten the following morning. Crockett had not the slightest idea what any Yaris 2-door was, and the only reason he could identify a Discovery Quad-Slide was because when he stood beside it, it looked like somebody had covered The Great Wall of China with blue graffiti. Its wheels were bigger than his first apartment. On the drive home, Ruby caught him contemplating his fate.

“Whatzamatter, Crockey?” she said. “Reality catchin’ up to ya?”

“Yeah,” he sniffed in his best Barney Fife. “Me’n the missus got us a 87 foot Discovery Mega Slide. Ninety-seven tons of rollin’ thunder. On the way to Bumfuck, Idaho to see the world’s largest ball of mud. This mornin’, we already crushed us a road grader, a tollbooth, two park rangers, and a Baptist minister’s daughter ridin’ a little red Vespa. Hell of a trip. Havin’ a great time!”

Ruby grinned. “You’ll do fine. Did you know there are actually men out there who drive Greyhounds for a living?”

“Yeah, but they get those snappy bus driver suits.”

“Clothes do not make the man, Crockett. Are you less than they?”

“Probably.” He said.

Ruby smiled. “God, I love a man in uniform,” she said.

 

Ruby went to the store that evening, leaving Crockett alone to study a Discovery owner/operator manual slightly larger than the Manhattan telephone directory. How to slide the slides, how to start the generator, how to operate the septic system, fill the water tanks, empty the water tanks, hook up the utilities, monitor the propane, turn on the entertainment center, fill the gas tank, use the GPS system, activate the TV monitor, extend the awnings, fire up the furnaces, check the batteries, use the information center, access the “basement” storage areas, level the coach, raise the satellite dish, go to the john, open the windows, close the drapes, and bring peace and harmony to Korea, North and South.

Ruby came breezing in around 8:30 carrying half a dozen shopping bags.

“The Jag’s full of groceries and stuff, Crockett,” she said, eyeballing the abundance of information he’d spread across the coffee table and over the couch. “Learning anything?”

“Could you show me where the steering wheel is?”

“Someplace near the big windows in the front, I think.” She tossed him a small package. “Happy birthday, again. I got you some sunglasses for our excursion.”

“Thanks.”

“C’mon. Help me unload the car,” she said, dropping her bags to the floor.

Crockett noticed that two of them were from Vicky’s.

Hell, he could drive that big blue bus.

 

When Crockett arrived at Sunrise RV a little before ten the next morning, the aircraft carrier, freshly washed and fluffed, was posed majestically in the center of the parking area. Attached to the rear, a small white car appeared to have its nose up the bus’s butt. A smiling Adam trotted out to greet him, but seemed disappointed that Ruby was not on hand. He resisted the urge to gnash his teeth and sulk and they spent about two hours touring the motor home inside and out, going over what Crockett had read in the manual the night before. Ruby was right. The steering wheel was up near the front windows. After the extensive hands-on instruction, things actually did make some sense and, with the front opposing slide-outs slid out, the living area was nearly thirteen feet wide. In spite of himself, Crockett was impressed. He wondered what the million-dollar monster might be like.

A little after noon, Adam urging him on, Crockett took the wheel and piloted the thing out I-70 to an Odessa truck stop where the lad bought him lunch. While the bus had all the acceleration of a glacier and lateral response of a freight train, its long wheelbase made it track like a dream. The immense windows, windshield, and height offered great vision, the mirrors were wonderful, even giving him a view of how close the tires would be to curbs, and the rear-view TV monitor was a godsend. They tacked majestically down the off-ramp, jibed their way into the truck stop lot, dropped sail in the big truck parking area and moored beside a Peterbuilt powered semi, the dinghy trailing obediently in their wake. Crockett’s confidence soared.

After lunch, he noticed there was only a quarter of a tank of fuel and stopped by the diesel pumps to fill up. Seventy-three gallons to top off. In spite of the pump shock, he did not abandon the vehicle but piloted it back to Sunrise, signed the necessary insurance papers, left the keys to his truck with Adam upon his promise to store it safely in their small, lock-up lot, climbed back up to the flying bridge and set sail, somewhat confidently, for town. What fools we mortals be.

By the time Crockett had negotiated the Kansas City traffic and narrow brick streets of the Hyde Park area to within a few blocks of his 42nd and Locust destination, he was a wreck. Soaked with sweat to the beltline, he phoned Ruby.

“Crockett! I love you. Havin’ fun?”

“Compared to this, fun would be a kidney stone. Look out the window and tell me what the parking situation is on the street.”

“The street? Can’t you park in our lot?”

Because they lived in a converted apartment building, they had a twelve-car lot behind the place.

“Christ, Ruby. You couldn’t get this pig’s gas tank in that lot!”

“You’re in luck!” she nearly shouted. “If you come in exactly at the corner, you’ve got at least four open spaces! Hurry!”

“Hurry?” Crockett said, lights dancing in his vision due to spiking blood pressure. “Get outside and guard those spots. If anybody tries to pull in, throw yourself in front of the vehicle! I’ll be there in five minutes if I don’t sideswipe anything.”

“Gotcha!” she said and disconnected.

With all the finesse of the Queen Mary navigating a sewage canal, he maneuvered the coach carefully to their building and coasted to a stop six inches behind a parked Honda, the body of the bus actually overhanging the curb, the rear bumper of the dinghy less than a foot from the corner. Ruby entered before he could find the strength to lever himself out of the seat. She peered at him.

“You look beat.”

He shook his fist at the interior of the cabin.

“Ye dam-med whale!” he shouted, Ahab incarnate.

Ruby dropped into the co-pilot seat and laughed.

Crockett went inside, took off his leg, sank into a hot tub, and drank three fingers of single malt. Christ. At this rate, he’d be an alcoholic before they got out of Missouri.

 

Ruby woke him up with a kiss, a hot cup of coffee, and a Sherman.

“Pretty waterlogged, Crockett,” she said. “You’ve been in the tub for nearly two hours. How’s your back?”

“Nonexistent. Whacha up to?”

“I’ve been out. Got you a small espresso maker for the bus, a couple of lawn chairs, a cute little grill, and some camping things. I’ve already got the kitchen packed up except for the cold stuff, bedding put away, clothes stashed. We’ll finish loading the basement tonight, top off the fridge and things bright and early tomorrow, and we are off! I’ll start dinner while you get outa the tub.”

“You’re gonna cook?”

“My typical trauma, slash, comfort food. Big ol’ Angus burgers, homemade fries, chocolate shakes made with Bailey’s. Even got some Vidalia onions. Suit ya?”

“Terrific. Exactly what I need.”

“I got a traveling kennel for Nudge, too.”

Nudge was Crockett’s cat. Over thirty-five pounds of one-fanged, buff-colored tomcat. Although probably by accident, he saved Ruby’s life when the Columbians came to kidnap the Amazing Disappearing Woman’s granddaughter.

“A kennel for Nudge?”

“Yeah.”

“I already called Charlene about talking care of him while we’re gone.”

Charlene was the gal who rented the top floor of Crockett’s house, then bought the whole thing when Ruby and he decided to cohabitate even though Ruby was gay at the time.

“I called Charlene and told her to forget about it,” Ruby said. “He’ll be fine on the road. Every damn motor home you pass on the highway has a couple of little foo-foo dogs smearing up the windows. We can’t let ‘em get away with that. Nudge makes a statement!”

“Well, I remember how important pussy can be to you,” he said.

“Yes,” Ruby said, “but that was B.C.”

“Before Crockett?”

“Bleak choices.”

She grinned and patted her butt on the way out the door.

 

By nine the next morning, they had the basement loaded and lashed, the fridge filled and towels wrapped around the couple of glass containers, a litter pan and spill proof water dish on board for Nudge, and a disgruntled tomcat peering at them from his position in a cat carrier that would have easily housed an Airedale. After Crockett loaded the cat and carrier, deciding to keep Nudge locked up for a few miles, he watched Ruby exit the building, lock the door, and activate the alarm. She was carrying something large, flat, and floppy, and headed to the back of the coach. He arrived in time to watch her install a silver magnetic sign on the rear of the bus. Its blue lettering read simply, “The Pequod.”

They weren’t more than three blocks from home before Nudge began to yowl.


CHAPTER THREE

Vet Met

 

Next to his childhood dog who had died when he was fourteen, Crockett was closer to Nudge than he had been to almost any other living entity. By the time he’d wrestled the Pequod to eastbound I-70, he was ready to kill the feline rat bastard. Not only did Nudge yowl, he screeched, he screamed, he moaned, he yodeled, and he never seemed to even pause for breath. The interior of the coach, and Crockett’s sinuses, vibrated with the cat’s auditory passion. As they passed Blue Springs, Crockett’s vision was beginning to blur.

“It’s probably the motion of the bus!” Ruby shouted through the din, causing white shafts of pain to ricochet through Crockett’s temples. “Maybe he’ll settle down when he gets used to it!”

“My gun is in the top dresser drawer!” Crockett bellowed. “If you love me, you’ll get it and shoot either me or that fucking cat! At this point I really don’t care which. One of us has got to have relief!”

Her laughter did little to relieve Crockett’s angst and nothing at all to help Nudge. When they reached the Odessa exit, Crockett took it, drove over a curb, and stopped at a Texaco.

“Find out if there’s a Vet’s office in this burg!” Crockett yelled, and Ruby bolted out the door. She barely hit the drive when Nudge shut up. The silence was huge. Crockett walked back to the couch and peered into the carrier. Nudge looked balefully at him, his chin and chest covered with drool, a comforting rumble issuing from deep within his body. Cats purr at the damnedest times.

“You okay, big guy?”

“Myrphhhh,” Nudge said, lisping because of the missing fang.

“Don’t like riding much, huh?”

The cat slow blinked at Crockett and flexed a coaster-size paw.

“Hang in there, pard. We’ll get ya some relief.”

Crockett sat beside him and lit a Sherman. Ruby opened the door.

“Vet’s office just...Oh! Second corner on the right. He’s quieted down, huh?”

“Yeah. Got anything for a headache?”

Nudge was vocalizing again before they got out of the drive.

 

The Vet’s office was mercifully close, and almost the instant they rolled to a stop Nudge shut up. Ruby took three aspirins and Crockett took four. Together, they reeled into the Vet’s waiting room. Behind the counter was a young lovely chewing on a Tootsie Roll Pop. Obviously an ex second runner-up in the local Junior Miss pageant. Her nametag read “Sissy.”

“Hi!” she grinned around her sucker. “Can I, like, help you guys?”

Crockett felt Ruby bristle, shouldered her discreetly aside, and explained their dilemma to the young lady. She laid a concerned pout on him and twirled the Pop by the stick protruding from the side of her mouth.

“Wow. Lemme get Andy. He’ll, like, fix you guys right up, okay?” she replied, and vanished into the rear of the establishment.

Andy was 5’8”, slightly built, and wearing a black tie, white shirt, black slacks, and a white lab coat. His blond hair was very short, his glasses rimless, his complexion pale, and his Adam’s apple in constant motion. He had the cleanest fingernails Crockett had ever seen on a human being of either gender. When Andy saw Ruby, he gave a small start. She shifted her position and smiled. Crockett could feel the poor man resisting the urge to chew on his tie.

“Just bring the cat in,” Andy said, after Crockett explained the situation. “Probably only motion shock. I have an oral medication that works well for just such problems. I call them doggie downers, but they work well for felines, too. For cats, they must be taken on a partial pill basis, however. Body mass you see. Don’t want an overdose. They remove the anxiety and let the animal relax while the middle and inner ear adjusts to the repetitive motion of travel. Your cat screams because he feels as if he is falling. Once the animal becomes accustomed to the motion, everything will be fine. Usually takes no more than just a couple of days. You say the cat’s never been on a trip before?”

“Only a few blocks,” Crockett said. “He’s never even been to a Vet before.”

“What?”

“Nope. Showed up in my yard as a half-starved kitten ten or eleven years ago. I took him in and fed him. He’s never been sick that I know of.”

“Every cat needs regular veterinary care,” Andy said.

“Great. When we get back, I’ll bring him in for a full check up. Whatever he needs. Nothing’s too good for Nudge.”

“Nudge?”

“Yeah.”

“Unusual name.”

“Nudge is an unusual cat,” Crockett said. “I’ll go get him.”

 

When Crockett returned to the waiting area with Nudge in the carrier, Sissy was holding open the door to the exam rooms in the rear of the building.

“It’s, like, the third room on the left,” she said. “Just, you know, go right in.”

Waiting on the other side of a stainless steel exam table were Ruby and Andy. They seemed to be getting along well. Crockett put the carrier down, its rear facing them.

“Well,” Andy said, a definite tone of disapproval in his voice, “that could be part of your problem. Felines need a secure, enclosed environment in times of stress. Your carrier is quite large for a cat.”

He moved to Crockett’s side of the table, opened the carrier door, and peeked inside. Peering back at him, out of the gloom, was a cantaloupe with yellow eyes.

“Myrphhh?” Nudge asked.

“Jesus Christ!” Andy said, taking a quick step backwards.

“That size carrier works pretty well for him,” Crockett said, as Ruby stifled a snort.

“H-how much does that cat weigh?”

“I dunno. I’ve never weighed him. Over thirty pounds for sure.”

“I’ll be right back,” the vet said, and bolted from the room.

Crockett grinned at Ruby. “Looks like Nudge impressed him even more than you did,” he said.

Ruby chuckled. “Wait’ll I stretch out on the table, purr, and start licking my tummy,” she said. “He’ll fold.”

Nudge stuck his head out of the carrier and looked around, then stepped out onto the table and did that back-hump thing cats do to get the kinks out. Andy came back in the room lugging a flat scale about two by three feet. He placed it on a countertop, and Crockett lifted the unresisting cat aboard. The digital read-out beeped and settled on 37.8 pounds.

“My lord,” Andy said. “Almost thirty-eight pounds! A common housecat. Oh, there are heavier cats, but they’re hugely fat. Nudge doesn’t seem to be overweight. What do you feed him?”

“Any of the better cat-kibble brands that are on sale at the grocery, a can of tuna from time to time, and a bite of whatever I’m having if he begs for it. A little cappuccino now and then. He loves the foam.”

“Do you mind if I get a photo of the two of you? I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“When we come back for the check-up, you can do whatever you like,” Crockett said, lifting Nudge back to the exam table. “Right now we really need to get back on the road as soon as possible.”

“Of course,” Andy said. “How is he at taking pills?”

“Got me. As far as I know, he’s never taken one.”

A worried look flickered across the pale man’s face.

“I see,” he said. “Sissy!” he shouted into the hall, “would you bring the medication please?”

Andy stroked Nudge on the cheek, a familiarity Nudge tolerated surprisingly well, and turned to Crockett.

“Usually,” he said, “we give a cat a quarter of one of these pills. This cat, however, will require the whole thing.”

At that moment, Sissy entered the small room with the medication and saw Nudge.

“Awesome,” she said.

 

It didn’t go well. The first encounter consisted of the doctor attempting to both stretch and restrain Nudge, as Sissy forced his jaw open to place the pill well down his throat with the aid of a hemostat. Nudge ripped the instrument from the girl’s trembling hand with his teeth, spit it and the pill it held on the floor, and sank his fang to the bone in the poor vet’s forearm, just above the wrist.

“Goddammit!” Andy shrieked, releasing the cat and hopping about the room, flinging droplets of blood on the walls.

Nudge sat quietly, slowly lashing his tail and blinking at Crockett. Andy and Sissy both left the room to attend to his wound.

Ruby smiled. “Cats one, people nothing,” she said, scratching Nudge behind his full-sized ear.

Crockett shook his head. “This could get ugly.”

Ruby chuckled. “Just a little light relief,” she said.

 

Round two began with Sissy and a freshly bandaged Andy returning to the room, sporting two large towels. Andy looked at Crockett.

“We need to wrap him,” he said. “Perhaps you’d help.”

Nudge offered no resistance whatsoever, allowing the vet and Crockett to bind him in the towels from neck to tail.

Andy looked a little smug. “That’ll do it,” he said

Crockett looked skeptical. “If I were you,” he said, “I’d put another towel or two around him.”

“This is fine,” Andy said, partially laying down on the cat and grasping him firmly across the chest.

As Sissy, with a freshly loaded hemostat in hand, approached the pair, the vet forced Nudge’s mouth open and held his head rock steady. When Sissy began to insert the pill, Nudge, sounding a great deal like a bobcat, rotated his body inside the towels, ripped the covering out of the way, and shredded the vet’s left forearm with three or four rips extending from the inside of the wrist almost to the elbow.

“Rat Bastard!” Andy keened, flinging himself off the cat and into the counter, knocking the heavy scale to the floor.

“Sonofabitch!” he went on, hopping about the room as he frantically attempted to bind his bleeding member in one of the now discarded towels.

“Motherfucker!” he continued, careening through the door and down the hall out of sight, a blood trail splattering in his wake.

“Uh…I got to, like, uh…you know,” Sissy said, and pursued the bleeding man from the room.

Ruby smiled serenely. “That went well,” she said, looking at Nudge where he sat, cleaning his claws.

“I think we’ve probably worn out our welcome,” Crockett said.

Ruby picked up the bottle of pills and dropped three twenties on the exam table. “Load the cat,” she said. “Let’s get outa here before they form a posse.”

 

By the time they’d traveled two more blocks, Nudge was in full voice and Ruby asked Crockett to stop. She gave Nudge a minute to settle down, then opened the carrier. He walked out on the couch and looked at her.

“How’s my wittle Nudgie-man?” she cooed, sitting on the floor and leaning on the seat of the couch. “Did him not like that nasty, nasty doctor? Wrapping my Nudgie-Wudgie up in a bunch of old towels. C’mere, Nudgie.”

Nudge, doing that swishy kind of walk that cats do when they’re sensually enthralled, head-bumped her chin. His purr reverberated throughout the entire coach.

“But my wittle Nudgie has to take him’s pills,” Ruby said, wallowing in baby-talk, and opening the bottle. “’Cause if him doesn’t take him’s pills, him’s gonna be sick!”

Nudge fell to his side on the couch and began to pat her face with his paws.

“So, Aunt Ruby’s gonna put this wittle pill in Nudgie-Wudgie’s wittle mouth and push it down his sweet wittle throat, and him’s just gonna swallow it right down, isn’t him, baby? And if the Nudge-man should be a bad baby boy and bite Aunt Ruby, Aunt Ruby will rip his wittle-kittle head off and throw it right out into the fucking middle of the nasty old street. Yes, she will! Okay, Nudgie-Wudgie? Is that all right wif you, my baby Nudge-Man?”

There was a quick flash of movement, Nudge flinched and sat up, then shook his head and fell back on his side for more attention from Ruby.

“Damn!” Crockett said. “Beautiful. He’d de-bone me if I tried something like that.”

Ruby stood up, walked to Crockett, and kissed him gently on the cheek.

“I still got it, Crocket. It’s like I’ve always said. A woman can get a pussy to do things it would be folly for a man to even attempt.”


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