Yesterday, I was just about to leave for work when my phone rang. "Hi, is this the person with the lost cat?"
I've gotten a couple of these phone calls since Lily went missing, and they've always ended in disappointment. I tried not to get my hopes up, but of course I got my hopes up totally, for sure. "Yes! Do you have her!?" I always end up asking this, and the answer is always no. This time, the woman calling said, "No, but my husband works at the fire station on blaah de bloo road, and they found a gray cat in the bushes. I checked Craigslist for lost pets and saw you had a gray cat missing."
She gave me her husband's number (let's call him Bernie. Get it?) and I screamed out the door, hair half wet and no makeup on. It was only a few minutes later that it registered with me: fire station. I became one of those people who desperately applies makeup at each red light. Concealer--dammit, green light! vrooom! Screech! Good. Another red light. Eye shadow. Dammit! Rrrrrrrrmmmmm--screech. Eyeliner! Goddamn these fast-changing lights.
By the time I got there, I was painted up like I was ready to enter a todder beauty pageant. As I pulled in, I realized this was no regular fire station.
It was some kind of fireman training place. It was blocks long, and even had a fake tall building with ropes and ladders that I assume you'd climb. With your sinewy fireman arms. And your strong fireman back.
There were firemen everywhere, in their gray t-shirts. Many were running on a track, and it was just a little rainy out, so their shirts were stuck to their chests. Some were doing calisthenics on the lawn. Some were inside, washing their trucks, their strong forearms wet and glistening.
"Did I, like, die on the way over?" I wondered, then remembered if I were dead I was not going anywhere with rewards like this, although there would be fire. I redialed Bernie, and as it was ringing, a bald fireman of color leaned into my car. "Do you need help, ma'am?"
("Yes, I need a breast exam. Stat.")
"Yes, thank you. [smiles] Someone called to say they found a cat here, and I'm missing a cat. [tosses hair] Do you know who I'd contact? [points neon arrow to cervix]"
"Oh, yes, ma'am, yes I do. You just go right over there." He pointed his large, dark man-of-color arm to my left. I handed him my undergarments and headed over.
"Are you the woman who lost her cat?" asked a fireman with huge doe eyes and black eyelashes and blinding white teeth. "Yes!" I said, rolling a four-poster bed over for our convenience.
As I approached a group petting a cat, I could tell it wasn't Lily. It looked like Winston, and wouldn't THAT have been a story. It wasn't, but it was one of those awfully nice cats who flops and rolls and starfishes his paws and so on. I petted him and the firemen all tried to talk me into taking him even though he wasn't my cat, and I tried to convince everyone that a midmorning orgy at the firehouse was a fine idea. Finally I went to work.
Naturally, I told this story to TinaDoris, and did not at all embellish it with details about hot firemen. TinaDoris, who is normal, said, "Hmmm. You know what? There are posters in my neighborhood about a missing cat who is gray and striped. I wonder if it's the same cat?"
I called Bernie and told him this, and I said I'd go find the flyers after work and call the number on them.
I did just that, in fact, and left a message with the number on the flyer. The photo of the missing cat sure did look like the one at the station. Just then, my phone rang. It was Bernie.
"June, I just wanted you to know that once you called this morning, we drove out to that neighborhood ourselves and saw that poster. We called the number and sure enough, that cat had run off on the 4th of July, and the family was just sick about it. They came and got their kitty this afternoon, and they were all crying, the kids and everyone, they were so happy to get their cat back."
He assured me once again that no, they did not need me to come back and jump out of a cake, but thanks all the same. Before he hung up, he told me the cat's name was Garth.
So I did not get Lily back, but someone got their Garth. And I got several cheap thrills.