When Donnie’s wife and children left to visit some distant relatives earlier this week, she asked if he could do a few things while she was gone. Could he keep an eye on the dog, and the cat? Water the plants? Donnie thought these were pretty reasonable requests. He nodded vigorously, swore with his hand over his heart- he even said he would take out the trash. His wife kissed his cheek while his children hugged his legs, and they all waved goodbye as they went their separate ways.
As he heard his wife back out of the driveway in her car, Donnie started to get nervous. He hadn’t just said he would do those things- he’d promised. A promise was really different from a shrug, or the casual nods he would usually give his family when they asked him to do something. And he hadn’t just promised. They’d heard him promise. They saw him promise, with his hand over his heart. His heart.
Donnie began to sweat. He stood a little taller. That made him feel a little better. He closed his eyes, he took a breath, and then he went to find the dog and the cat.
He chased the furry pair for three hours before he managed to corral them into a single room. It was his youngest daughter’s room, Sophie, and the cat had a fondness for the mess in her closet. Donnie had thought to put the dog on a leash after he had stumbled into the boot room and taken down the coat rack. The leash had wrapped around his ankles and the dog had started to think this was a game after Donnie took the bathroom door off its hinges on the second floor. The cat was fast. Corners were sharp. Doors were there until they weren’t.
He considered putting the cat on a leash. The cat didn’t listen. The dog did. But his daughters had tried this before, and the cat would just end up being dragged on the floor, so he settled for getting her into one of those reusable grocery bags. She yowled and he tied the top of the bag. Yes she had air holes. Yes she was mad.
But it was done. He was keeping an eye on both the dog and the cat.
Feeling less nervous now that he had a handle on at least one of the promises he had made, Donnie went to settle down and watch some TV. The cat continued to yowl, and the dog, who had assumed he would be going for a walk, quickly became depressed. Donnie was able to ignore the depression, but the yowling made it hard to hear. He put in headphones. The boot room was destroyed, the bathroom had no door, and in all the excitement the dog had peed on his daughter’s room’s floor. But his wife and children would be so proud.
After a while, Donnie started to get hungry. His wife had left him instructions for spaghetti and a whole frozen lasagna in the freezer. With the cat still expressing a large amount of civil unrest, he decided the less moving around in the kitchen, they better. Lasagna it was.
The dog trotted at his heels and the cat hissed when he peeked in the bag.
He preheated the oven and with one hand, he delicately slid the lasagna onto the pan. He closed the oven door and leaned back on the counter, waiting.
15 minutes. 20. What time of day did his wife usually water the plants? Was there enough garbage to take out yet? What day did the garbage truck come? Donnie didn’t know the answer to these things, but he put on a brave face as he tried to think through the problem. The dog was watching him, he didn’t want to show any signs of weakness.
Another 5 minutes and he decided now was the time to water the plants. He would do it in the evening, and just be sure to do it every evening. That was the trick. Develop a routine. Normalize things. He grabbed the green water pitcher used by his wife and the tap hadn’t been running for a second when the grocery bag on his arm erupted. The sound of running water so close to her ears had convinced her that this whole ordeal meant bath time. She hated bath time. Her thrashing and claws had Donnie crashing around the kitchen. The Mix Master met the floor and shattered. She tore at his arm and he fell across the stove, his hand sweeping across the dials, the elements bending under his weight.
He managed to shrug the bag off his shoulder and place it on the floor, still tied as tight as a bow. He backed away from it slowly and went to look for the dog who had run away in the madness. He came back and turned off the tap. He mopped up the water that had run over the sink and onto the kitchen floor, wringing the sodden fabric over his wife’s plant pots along the kitchen window. He had completely and utterly burned the lasagna. He could smell the grit. He ordered a pizza while he papertoweled the counter and the floor, nudging the bag to see if the cat was okay. She hissed. He put the Mix Master in a garbage bag and feeling as though he should stick to keeping his promises, as a balancer to the disaster, Donnie made a dash for the curb with the dog, so as to return quickly to the cat. He tripped over the hose and pulled the entire reel into the driveway. The dog knocked over the recycling bin, but the trash sat on the curb. His wife and children would be so proud.
He had hardly made it back to the front door when he heard the tell tale brake squeal of the pizza guy. Donnie sighed happily. He was finally catching a little break in all of this. Early pizza, and his wallet was exactly where he’d last left it. His back pocket. He grinned as he grabbed hold of the pizza, doing what he could to hide the scratches on his arms. He had just handed over his card when he felt the dog’s leash go taunt. He heard a whimper. A hiss.
He turned slowly. The cat, half drenched, had gotten out of the bag. She had a look in her eye that said she’d rather be in Mexico. She didn’t know where Mexico was, or what it was for that matter, but she knew what the front door meant, and the front door looked a lot like Mexico. She made a dash for the left and the pizza came crashing down, a fiery wall of cheese. She dodged right, the dog snapped at her tail and Donnie over-committed. She faked him out and ran between his legs.
He ran after her with pizza sauce on his jeans and the dog yanking him back every 4 or 5 feet to pee on a hydrant. He chased her all night, and all morning. She wandered into the neighbors shed and he slid on some garden gloves. He managed to get her in a rusting ferret cage. He didn’t ask if he could take it, and they didn’t stop him. He seemed in need of charity.
At this time, the lasagna had been in the oven, at 400 degrees fahrenheit, for 14 hours and ten minutes. The oven had been running for 8 of those hours and the house hadn’t caught fire until the 7th hour. The ashes of the house were still smoking when he made his way to the front yard.
He sat on the curb. Keep an eye on the dog. Keep an eye on the cat. Water the plants. Take out the trash.
His wife and children would be so proud.