Indoor Wildlife of the Suburbs
You learn a lot of things working in retail. This should’ve been a given, but I never expected how much was truly possible. Human beings are unique at best, and that was one thing, but something I never expected was the non-human part of the clientele. And no, I’m not talking about the local werewolf population, although my manager swears that’s a thing and-
“Lexie, please call 5184. Lexie, 5184,” a panicked voice says over the intercom.
Instead of actually calling the number, I wander up to the front desk. I’m close enough that it’s easier to just go there and see what they want than find a phone, and I’m really curious what’s going on. Hopefully not anything too big…
“How do you feel about small animals?” Callie asks as soon as she sees me. Callie is one of my primary allies around here, and one of the best people to have around on what feels like a strangely quiet Sunday night.
“What kind are we talking?”
“Small dog? Cat? Large rodent?” Callie looks lost. “I don’t actually know, but some lady just came up here and apparently it’s loose and hanging out in seasonal.”
“How’d it get there and not get trampled?”
“Good question! I don’t know!”
“And it’s my problem because…”
“Fine, grab one of the teenage gorillas for backup, whatever. Just get it out of the store and make sure management doesn’t see it.”
I detour to the supply closet and grab a broom before picking my minion. At this time of day, I have options, and I settle on Joey 3 because he looks easily talked into stuff. Also because I’m pretty sure that out of all of tonight’s baggers, he’s most likely to be able to out-run a cat. We’ve had felines in the store before, but usually they just hang out in the back until somebody traps them in a box and takes them to a shelter. They don’t tend to be in the store, but apparently today’s my lucky day.
“You, with me,” I say. I have at least five years and a few inches on this kid, so he’s smart enough to just follow and not question. “We’re hunting wildlife.”
“What kind?” Joey 3 asks. Smart kid.
“Callie thinks it’s a cat, and it’s in seasonal.”
“And you have a broom?”
“Go get a cart and meet me there, okay?”
That buys me like a minute to work out a plan. Not a good plan, I’m pretty sure, but enough of a plan to work. I wonder if corporate will pay for a rabies shot if this goes bad.
“Okay, I need you to tackle the cat,” I say when my companion and I are in the right space.
“Won’t that kill it?” Joey 3 asks me, making puppy-eyes at me.
“Don’t care. Just catch it. Somehow.”
“And what are you gonna do?”
“Run outside like hell once the wildlife is in the shopping cart,” I explain.
“Then what’s the broom for?”
“Damage control. If I need it. Now shut up and do what I want.”
The cat – it is definitely a cat from this distance, all fur and unhappy meows – is perched dangerously on top of a candy display. Joey 3 lunges for it and it goes airborne, taking half of the display down with it. Ah well, I’ll clean that up later. For now, watching a teenage boy do a football tackle on nine pounds of unhappy fluff is probably the highlight of my month.
“Bring the cart!” Joey 3 yells.
I dart over and stand back as the kid throws the cat into the cart.
I do not need to be told things twice.
I take off as fast as I can, charging across the store and out the main exit, oblivious to the variety of confused looks I get from customers and fellow employees alike. I don’t stop moving until I reach the far end of the parking lot, and I’m almost surprised the cat is still in the cart but apparently the little beastie is rather traumatized from the whole ordeal. Good, I think, grabbing it and gently setting it down on the ground before trooping back inside with the now-empty shopping cart.
Once that’s put away, I march back up to the front desk and look behind the counter for a bandage. Turns out the cat had front claws, and-
Callie is looking at me like she’s about to ask me for another favor. Bad sign.
“Turns out Joey 3 is allergic to cats. He’s sorta… not doing well.”
“Not my problem,” I reply, applying the bandage to my bleeding wrist. “Not my freaking problem.”