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Bitch Sitter 

Avoiding a cat-tastrophe

Get ready, Daniel is going into business for himself. He is, as of now, the official proprietor of an official pet-sitting service, sorta -- even though the only pets I've ever known him to have are two goldfish that he "accidentally" ground up in the garbage disposal. But those days are gone, Daniel swears. He's been reborn a pussy-ass, pet-loving angel on Earth, converted by Jenny, the rotund feline who found her way into his heart on the heels of her owner, Daniel's longtime boyfriend Mitch. "Daniel Troppy's Bitch-Sitting Service," he plans for his business cards to read, "and artist."

"Bitch, you travel a lot," he said to me. "Let me feed those mangy-ass hair mats you call cats while you're gone."

"Like hell," I shriek at him. Not that I'm unconvinced of Daniel's conversion, but I had to make a show of reticence because I don't want him to know my normal practice regarding my pets when I'm away, which is to say they do just fine with nothing but each other and an open bag of food on the floor. Occasionally, if I'm gone too long, they tend to get back at me by using my bed as a litter box, but other than that it's great. If I tell this to Daniel, though -- Daniel the newly converted critter advocate -- he'd probably report me to the pet police.

But still I'm glad he started his pet-sitting service. He, of anyone I know, needs to occupy his mind (even if it's with mundane physical toiling) because he's a true artist who has finally let go of the paycheck-spitting safety net that's been suffocating him. Yes, he struck out on his own, and it's no tea party out here. Money comes or it doesn't, and when it doesn't you have to fill the gaps or else the empty hours will corrode you like kryptonite. Recently Daniel remodeled his and Mitch's kitchen, which is now so modern they can shoot it into space to inspire the awe of aliens -- because everyone here has already been awed by it.

The flooring, for example, is authentic bamboo that does not look at all like bamboo, because bamboo that is too-bamboo is too tacky to be a permanent accent. So the goal was to take the fun-ness of bamboo, extract all but two molecules of the tackiness to retain the tiki factor, chop, press and form it into lacquered floorboards and, viola!, you have flooring that looks every bit like high-quality coffin siding until you peer closely and, whaddaya know, it's bamboo. Genius.

The same technique went for his kitchen counter, which is marble that looks like slate, or slate that looks like marble, one or the other. But the fact that it appears to be one thing while actually being another is an incredibly desirable design feature, one that excites wonder and envy from your friends.

"Just look at this, can you believe this? Even the supplier didn't know this existed," Daniel whispered conspiratorially as he presented a section of the yet-to-be installed counter material for inspection. Building materials were strewn about, and the kitchen, at present, looked like it had been bombed, but still Daniel made cappuccinos for me and all the workmen. The process entailed a microwave on the living room floor and a battery-operated "frother." Throughout, I could see the stout Jenny navigating the renovation trace material, dragging her dugs in search of her food bowl.

Now the kitchen is finished, so our friend Liz has stepped in and asked Daniel to help her paint her porch, which she knew was like asking Picasso to colorize classic movies. But Daniel was idle and you can't have him in that state for long. So Daniel painted Liz's porch, and I'm sure it is such a superbly painted porch that for years into the future people will be pointing at it, wonder-struck, from the windows of passing aircrafts.

Now the porch is done and Daniel is on to his next endeavor: the Daniel Troppy Bitch-Sitting Service, and I'm thinking I just might let him pamper my pets on occasion, after all. I can't forget it was Daniel I called when it was time to put down Lucy, the craggy, old toothless hellcat I'd had for 16 years. I loved that cat fiercely -- I held onto her like a life raft in my sleep every night -- but at 16 she suddenly withered down to a patchy sack of sticks and then took to hiding in my hamper for days at a stretch.

She was suffering and it was time to put her down, and Daniel is the one who held my hand when I had to do it. I just remember sobbing into his chest afterward, sobs so heavy and slobbery I thought I'd heave up whole organs onto his shirt. This stupid cat was the only constant I'd had in my life for 16 years. She'd outlasted five addresses, a dozen loves and my own mother, and now she was gone and I had nothing to take her place. Or so I thought.

"Nothing," I bawled to Daniel, and he held me until I was empty and then helped me get to my feet. That's why I know that no matter what road Daniel takes or wherever he finds himself, as long as I'm alive he will always have a job as a bitch sitter.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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