Pet Repair

Originally published in Weird Year in October 2014 (offine)

Jack returned from the vet around 4pm and his son started crying as
soon as he walked in. He expected the reaction, but he underestimated
the child’s ability to tuck, roll, and cry at the same time. It was
heartbreaking to see Danny miserable like that, but there was nothing
Jack could’ve done differently; he had no option but listen to the vet.

The boy didn’t even glance at the poor animal; he just cried as though it
was the end of civilization.

“Just give him a hug,” Jack said.

The animal was running through the house in complete confusion, wearing
that look of horror that chickens have when someone is chasing them.

“I understand you want the cat back,” Jack said softly, kneeling by his
son, “you want everything as it was before, but that’s the best they were
able to do. This was available today, and they had to do it fast because
there was no time– kitty was hurt badly and they had to make a quick

The boy continued to whimper. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to remind him
of the accident. Jack bit his lower lip. It wasn’t the boy’s fault,
really– that frame was way too close to the edge of the furniture; on the
other hand, the child did climb the shelves, reaching for his cookies.
Those cookies that Jack hid on the highest shelf.

“Look,” Jack said, “just give it a chance, huh? What do you say?” He looked
at the disturbed animal, running around in circles on its unsteady four
feet, smashing into furniture, jumping up and down, trying to understand
what has happened.

“It’s ugly, dad,” the boy screamed between tears, “I don’t like the pigeon
head and I hate it, I hate it because it’s not my cat, dad! And I don’t
like birds!”

Jack sighed. This is going to be a long evening.

He spent the next hour trying to convince the boy that the pigeon head was
the only replacement that worked in that moment to save the cat’s life.
There was no reason to attempt explaining the insurance plan– Daniel
wouldn’t get it. He’d also not understand the reason behind the scarcity of
cats, dogs, and all other animals. How do you explain to a four year old
that animals can only be bred in labs and they die if humans don’t feed
them the special artificial concoction that keeps their immune system

On the other hand, the animal was ugly, Jack had to admit it. And pecking
at its own tail didn’t make it look smart either. “Damn,” he whispered and
picked up the phone.

He dialed the clinic and yelled at whoever was on the other end for about
thirty minutes, insisting the situation was utterly unacceptable and they
had to do something about it right away. After being passed around a few
times, he eventually got through a manager from the Miami branch; at least
the man seemed to understand what he was going through.

“Sir,” the manager said, “we’ll do our best, but you’ll have to bring the
animal here within 24 hours.”

“I can do that,” Jack said, with a glimpse of hope in his heart.

After he hung up, Jack exhaled in relief. “Danny, come’ere!”

The boy came, his face all puffy and eyes red with tears.

“Hey, buddy,” Jack said and took the boys hand, “I’ve got good news. We are
going to another clinic and they’ll change the pigeon head with a white
hamster head. They just got it in stock–” Magically the boy’s tears began
to dry up and his mouth turned into a smile.

Jack saw the wheels turning inside the child’s head– he knew the
hamster-head cat would play nicely with the other two hamsters, especially
the white one with rabbit feet.

The boy chuckled and his face lit up.

“That was a close one,” Jack whispered to himself.

A bark came from the backyard. Jack looked out the window and saw Feodor
hopping on his kangaroo feet. “Let’s take the dog out for a walk.”

“Sure, daddy,” the boy said, and ran out skipping. “Feodor, Feodor, we’re
getting a new hamster!”

Jack smiled. Crisis averted.