“What? Yes, I can hold.” Steve put his hand over the mouthpiece and muttered, “Some more.”
He’d thought there was nothing more annoying than being on hold, until he’d discovered being on hold on a fricking landline of all the yellowing antiquated things, and not even a cordless one at that. He could see three open half-full boxes in the room, but tethered by the phone’s grungy twisted cord (like a giant’s frizzed dental floss, he thought distastefully) he couldn’t reach any of them, or anything to put in them for that matter, without putting the phone’s huge headpiece down.
As if sensing his helplessness, in came the lumpy mottled feline of the house, as lame and ugly and yellow as the phone, with her belly almost brushing the ground as she limped in. Each of her four feet lifted in ponderous turn from the floor, just as if breaking free from a sticky film, as she stalked in an inexorable beeline right for Steve’s calves.
“Yes, this is he. I want to confirm the appointment.” The creature smarmed against his trouser leg, leaving tracks of shed yellow hair against the dark blue fabric.
“No, no, confirm not cancel.” Steve wasn’t a cat hater, but he couldn’t honestly say he liked them much either, and this one was among the least prepossessing he knew. He reached down to push it away, and she rubbed her bristly head against his hand as if he were petting her.
“Well I’m sorry you hoped that,” he said, letting some of his irritation seep into his voice. “Of course we’ve thought it through. We’re going to be traveling too much now to look after her, no one’s going to take her in at her age, and we can’t afford to put her in professional care between trips.”
He realized the cat had actually drooled on his hand. He straightened with a grimace, wiping it off on his trousers. They’d have to be washed anyway, he wasn’t getting on a plane covered in dander. “It isn’t as if her quality of life is that great anyway. She’s very old and lame, her digestion is shot, she’s incontinent most of the time. It’ll be a mercy to just put her out of her misery.” And mine, he thought.
“Good. Great. Ten o’clock tomorrow then.” He hung up with satisfaction, and gave the cat a mirthless smile. She chirruped at him, and as if in response the phone did too.
“Hello? Oh, hi honey… No, still working on the boxes. Have you spoken to Mother? Well, tell her it’s set for tomorrow morning. No, you should tell her, you’re better at that stuff, and you know she’ll be upset.”
The cat nudged him again. He pushed it away again, with his foot this time. “Oh, and do you have the vet’s number? We need to take care of her cat as well.”