The ending to Bob’s story is anticlimactic. We found UT Veterinary Hospital without any trouble and carried the box containing Bob inside.
Patrick filled out some paperwork while Caroline, Michael, and I watched a few vet techs in white lab coats come and go, their faces full of purpose. The receptionist chatted with us, but seemed unimpressed, or just uninterested, in the dramatic rescue that we had staged on Bob’s behalf.
We had taken on the airs of proud parents at this point. You know the ones.
When it comes to building bridges between two completely unrelated subjects, these parents are engineering geniuses. They can hijack any conversation and point its nose toward their precious child’s latest achievement.
Anonymous Proud Mother seizes your attention with a disarming remark: “Congratulations on your engagement!”
Once she’s got you hooked, and saying, “Thanks! We’re really excited,” she executes the bait and switch:
“Which reminds me, we’ve also got some big news….”
She talks your ear off with a fifteen-minute soliloquy—I use the word “soliloquy” because it doesn’t even matter if you, or anyone else, is on stage listening—about how Billy is planning to go on a special trip to Philmont with his Boy Scouts troop.
He sold seventeen more candy bars for the really important fundraiser and Mr. Phelps the Scoutmaster, who goes to church at Berry’s Chapel, thinks 97 has to be the highest numbers of candy bars that anyone in any troop that he knows of has ever sold. Billy will receive a special commemorative plaque with his name and the number of chocolate bars, and Mr. Phelps sent an email to The Tennessean and thinks they’re considering running a story on it. How exciting!
You employ exaggerated body language in order to express your stultifying boredom, hoping to escape the conversation before your cerebral cortex turns to brain butter:
· Don’t make eye contact. Unsuccessful.
· Look over her shoulder. Unsuccessful.
· Wave at other people. Unsuccessful.
· Watch to see who enters the room every time the door opens. Unsuccessful.
And, finally, the Ace of Spades: Check the time on my watch. Unsuccessful.
To your chagrin, Anonymous Proud Mother disregards every cue and the lack of interest that they signify.
Socially adept people can discern when a conversation is like an overstuffed closet and asking a single question, like pulling out a single shoebox, will start a cascade of ski sweaters, photo albums, and unfashionable luggage. You’ll spend the rest of the afternoon learning about Little Billy’s merit badges and trombone concerts.
The receptionist must have known better than to ask people all hopped up on their acts of mercy what happened.
She was the fiercely competent, heavyset type of woman who might have worked in a tavern two hundred years ago, in Hampstead, England, serving frothy mugs of ale to the wealthy, landed Londoners who came to take some of the sweet country air.
The receiving room was strangely quiet. At the handful of veterinarians I have visited, a cacophony of barks, the brassy clanging of cages like cymbals, and other sounds of animal panic and fear provided raucous background music to the receptionist asking her questions about the “patient.” Where were the woofs and anguished screeches of cats? Their absence was more disturbing than their presence. Imagine going into a butcher shop and seeing no blood. You’d think to yourself, “What happens here?”
There were no seats. We obviously weren’t going receive invitations to hang out until one of the vets could give us an update about Bob’s status, so we left. After all, it was Saturday, and dirty clothes were calling.
Outside, Patrick made a confession: on the form he had filled out, he had seen a box to checkmark—“Do you want to be notified with updates about the animal’s condition?”—and he’d left the box empty.
Thanks to Patrick’s cold, cold heart, we wouldn’t hear about what happened to Bob, and after all we’d been through together! For payback, we made jokes about his “father wounds” for several minutes.
Bob’s tale ends in mystery. Perhaps, he ended up like Smoky, the stuffed Yorkshire terrier in a glass box in the UT Veterinary Hospital lobby who played some role in World War II. I love animals, but taxidermy still sometimes gives me that feeling of the uncanny, like sleeping in a guest room full of dolls.
I hope he’s eating bream in a single gulp on the Tennessee River, but thanks to my friend Patrick, I’ll never know.
Friendship—Spicing up life with mystery since 4000 B.C.