After my classes on Tuesday I bike over to Paws n Claws, the vet clinic I’ve been volunteering at for the past year. The vet, Dr. Ransom, loves to have students help out, mostly because then he doesn’t have to pay anyone to clean up the kennels for the boarding animals. But he’s also a great mentor. I love working at the clinic, and can feel myself getting excited as I get closer.
I let myself in through the back door, and find myself face to face with Jeff, the young-William-Shatner look-alike. He’s tossing a ball for the two black Labs that are staying at the clinic while their owners are on vacation. He smiles at me as I walk in.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he says.
I raise my eyebrows. “Did you forget my name? Let me remind you. It’s Lis.” My no-nonsense tone does nothing to erase his cocky grin. He tosses the ball again, the Labs thundering after it, drool flying in the air.
“Where’s Dr. Ransom?”
Jeff inclines his head toward the break room. “In there. He’s taking a nap. Had a surgery this morning, it wiped him out.”
“Want to play?” He offers the ball to me. It’s covered in drool and teeth marks.
“Nope. You’re on your own.” He shrugs, and resumes throwing for the dogs. It looks like all three of them are having fun. I smile. It’s nice to work with fellow animal lovers.
Dr. Ransom has his head on the break room table. He’s awake, and tapping on his phone. Looking over his shoulder, I can see that he’s playing a game. Nice. He turns his head at the sound of my footsteps.
“Lis! Have I got a job for you.”
I perk up at this. “Great! What is it?” I get excited any time I have a chance to do something more than menial labor.
“Bob Samhain is in the lobby. Go see what he’s brought in today, and get him to go home.”
I groan, not even bothering to hide my displeasure. “Can’t Jeff do it?”
“Jeff is new. Bob would walk all over him. He’ll listen to you, though. Think about it! You can incorporate your interactions with him into your applications!”
“I finished them yesterday.”
“Oh. Well, you still need to go talk to him. These angry birds aren’t going to kill any pigs by themselves.”
I shamble out into the lobby. Bob is the only person there, except for Annette, Dr. Ransom’s receptionist. Her lips are pursed tightly, and she is glaring at Bob, who is leaning over a cage and whispering to it.
“How long this time?” I ask Annette.
“Thirty minutes.” I don’t know how she talks without moving her lips out of their disapproving expression. It’s impressive. I don’t think I could have made it through thirty minutes of that stare. But, Bob is persistent. Or obsessive. Take your pick.
“Lis is short for Lisette, actually.” It’s not the first time he’s heard this.
“Take a look at this little guy.” He holds the carrier up to my face. “I think he might have eaten a cigarette butt on campus.”
It takes a lot of self-restraint to hold in a sigh. Bob comes in every couple of weeks with some wild animal who needs “saving.” It is frequently not legal to be in possession of these animals. Today, it’s a squirrel, one of the hundreds that roam the CSU campus. It may be legal to have a squirrel, but it is certainly not smart.
Bob hitches up his pants. He’s wearing his usual ensemble of a pair of overalls over a wifebeater tank top. His hair is thin, awkwardly combed over the top of his head. He looks down on his luck, and my heart hurts a little. It’s sweet how much Bob loves these animals, even if his love is a little… misguided. So today I decide to humor him.
“Hmm. He’s not being as active as I would expect for a squirrel of his… size,” I say, making it up as I go along. “Let me take him to Dr. Ransom.”
“Oh, thank you, Elizabeth, thank you!” Bob is practically glowing. I take the cage from him gingerly and head to the back room. Annette’s look of disgust is now aimed at me. I’m okay with that.
Dr. Ransom sits up abruptly in his chair when I walk in with the cage. “Darn it, Lis. Really?”
“Sorry. He was so upset.”
“Now I’m upset,” Dr. Ransom mumbles. “Do you have a plan?”
I take the cage out back, where Jeff is now brushing the black Labs. He looks up at me from where he’s sitting.
“What is that?”
“Okay.” He resumes brushing. “Why?”
“Bob Samhain brought him in.”
Jeff nods. “Oh yeah. Annette told me about him. What are you going to do with the squirrel?”
I look out into the alley behind the clinic. Not exactly prime squirrel territory. “I was thinking of letting him out and pretending he had so much vim and vigor that he escaped.”
Jeff brightens. “I have an even better idea.” He takes the cage from me. “Allow me, mademoiselle.” He leads me back into the clinic, and starts poking through his backpack. “Voila!” He holds up a pack of SweetTarts.
“I don’t get it.”
“Wait for it, ma cherie.”
I roll my eyes. I never should have told him that my mother is French.
He also digs out a prescription pill bottle and dumps the pills into a pocket of his bag. “Those are souped up ibuprofen. I don’t have any weird diseases, if you were wondering.”
Jeff begins to peel the label with his name on it off, using his fingernail to unstick it from the bottle. When it finally comes off, he dumps the SweetTarts in the bottle.
“What are you doing?”
Jeff grabs a Sharpie off of Dr. Ransom’s desk and writes NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION on the bottle. He picks up the squirrel and heads out toward the lobby. I follow him, not sure what’s going to happen or if I should stop it.
“Mr. Samhain?” he asks when he sees Bob. Bob springs to his feet more easily than I would have expected for a man of his size. Jeff holds his free hand out to shake with Bob, who looks dazed at Jeff’s enthusiasm. “My name is Scott Simpson, and I have just the thing for your squirrel.”
“Yes?” Bob leans forward eagerly. “Scott” hands him the pill bottle filled with candy.
“Now, I can’t write you an official prescription, as this is a wild animal, but I can give you these. Feed one to the squirrel every thirty minutes, and when the bottle is empty, let the squirrel go. Sound good?”
Bob nods. “Oh yes, Dr. Simpson, I can handle that. I’ll take good care of the little guy.”
“I’m sure you will. Bye bye now.”
We stand in the lobby and watch as Bob practically runs out the door with the squirrel and his “medicine.” Once he’s safely gone, I turn to Jeff and hit him in the shoulder.
“What is wrong with you?”
Jeff rubs his arm. “What is wrong with you? I just made Bob’s day.”
“By telling him to feed a squirrel SweetTarts! That is so wrong!”
Jeff shrugs. “So we’ll fire Dr. Simpson. The guy’s a dick, anyway.”
I roll my eyes at him and head back to the break room. Jeff hurries after me. Thankfully, Dr. Ransom is back in his office.
I whirl around to face him, arms folded over my chest. “What?”
“What are you doing Saturday night?”
My jaw drops open. “Are you asking me out?”
“No, I’m taking a survey.” It’s Jeff’s turn to roll his eyes now. “Yes, I’m asking you out. What, do you have a boyfriend?”
“So?”My cheeks are burning. “Actually, I have plans with my friends that night. Sorry.” A work meeting to see if I want to investigate cheating boyfriends is kind of the same thing.