My obsession with the mail has never hurt me. I suppose it’s one of those slightly compulsive behaviors that doesn’t have any ill effect. All my bills are paid in a timely manner as a result and I’m doing my part to keep the USPS afloat even though no one else is. I like getting more than getting, even junk mail makes me smile, and that’s why I decided to drive to my mailbox at 11pm Halloween before last. I use one of those private mailbox places for reasons my wife scoffs at, but I find them valid so whatever. There’s an exterior door to the room with all the mailboxes that’s locked afterhours, but for a ten dollar deposit, they’ll give you a VIP key. And no, they don’t call it a “VIP” key because they’re not absolute weirdos that feel special when they’re checking their mail near midnight in a cozy room lined floor to ceiling with little boxes bedecked with black filigree that hold all sorts of unknown treasures. The end result will be the same, but please wait until the end of this little dissertation before you judge me.

As I said, I went to check my mail at about 11pm. I was dressed in active wear because I had just finished a workout but it didn’t matter; I wasn’t going to have any interpersonal dealings because after all, the mail is a private matter. It was dark, and thanks to an October rain, the asphalt around the strip mall where I get my mail was reflecting the sickly yellow glow coming from all the sodium streetlights on Main. I was about to put my VIP key in that exterior door when I heard the most pathetic little hiss of warning. I looked to my left, and there, skulking in the faded light of a flood lamp, was a brindled kitten that looked as if it was just coughed up from a garbage disposal. Moths were defining insanity by repetitively ramming their heads into the flood light and their odd little shadows were distracting which caused me to look away and give the little kitten a chance to escape. It made it about three feet and fell over still pawing the air as if running. Its little claws couldn’t find purchase so it just lay there on its side on the darkly reflective asphalt slowly losing strength. That’s when I saw the blood.

I went back to my truck and sat in the driver seat so I could talk myself out of what I knew I was about to do. I should’ve just left, especially with the clarity that hindsight provides, but I kept picturing a little murder scene complete with a tiny chalk outline in the shape of a kitty. I had a cardboard box in my truck so my folly was inevitable. Besides, I hadn’t officially checked the mail yet and leaving without doing so surely would’ve led to one of those OCD induced periods of dysfunction when you curl up in the fetal position on the floor and hum to yourself. Come on, you know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I got the box and put on a pair of gloves so I’d be protected from rabies or feline AIDS or whatever that feral little creature might try to infect me with. It was pretty easy to catch the thing because it was closer to death than it was willing to admit. I let it ride shotgun on the way home so it could be closer to the heater and I called my wife from my cell so I could preemptively warn her of my stupidity. I think her hands were literally on her hips when I walked through the front door and she was slowly shaking her head back and forth with pursed lips. She had one of those “what the shit are you doing you’re supposed to be a grown man not a crazy cat lady but I guess I shouldn’t expect anything different because you’re half retarded” expressions painted on her face.

I kept the kitten in the box and put it on the counter to keep it quarantined from our four other animals, and as I watched it from above, I realized it wasn’t going to live much longer. So I did the only rational thing I could think of. I called the emergency number listed in the yellow pages for our local veterinary hospital around midnight knowing full well that I was about to blow all sorts of cash on this bloody little shit covered stray kitten. I went right back to my truck with my gloves and cardboard box and drove to the vet’s office and waited for the on-call physician. She ended up to be a grandmotherly Mary Poppins type with perfectly parted hair and two thick braids draped over her shoulders. She led me into the reception area before reaching into the box and pulling out the kitten. The harsh light from all the fluorescents gave me my first really good look at the thing and I remember shaking my head in disbelief. Seriously, what type of person would invest any sort of time or hope into something that was obviously a lost cause? Actually, let’s not psychoanalyze that. It’d probably highlight some sort of rescue based dysfunction in my psyche that stems from one of those cliché childhood scars that we all ignore as adults. The vet looked at me with her best concerned mother look and told me that the kitten probably wouldn’t make it through the night, and that we could either euthanize the thing, which would cost sixty bucks, or we could “give it a chance.” If Mary Poppins looks at you and asks if you’d like to kill a kitten or “give it a chance”, you’d do the same damn thing I did. Looking back, I now realize that I had a third chance, but for some reason, the vet never mentioned that I could’ve easily out run her and made it back to my truck before she got my credit card number (especially since I was still wearing my workout gear).

As it turns out, a “chance” translates into kitty ICU and antibiotics via IV and heart monitoring and all sorts of things traditionally reserved for humans. We all thought it was going to die, but three days later, I picked it up during regular business hours. As it turns out, the kitten had been mauled by a considerably larger animal of some sort, and the story of my late-night rescue had spread throughout the vet’s office. The receptionist gave me a simpering “you’re my hero” look as I checked out, but it did little to dull the pain radiating from the bill she slid across the counter.

I’m not the religious type, but I’m pretty sure that there was some sort of higher power that wasn’t done trying to prove that Jesse Anderson is an idiot because the kitten had stick fleas that the vet missed and were subsequently passed on to my other pets. If you don’t know what a stick flea is, google it. They’re creepy little aliens posing as terrestrial parasites that burrow into an animal’s flesh and breed like crack smoking rabbits. The vet gave me a discount on all the poison I had to buy to eradicate the little bastards from my house which was the least that she could do. I could’ve gotten it for free by throwing a tantrum where everyone could see but I didn’t want to ruin my “hero” image because frankly, it was all I had left.

We ended up giving the kitten to my mother-in-law because after you spend that much money on something it becomes family. She named it Kismet. Not many of my friends agree with what I did that night; most of my guy friends say that I should’ve put it out of its misery the cheap way (a boot to the head) which makes me shiver, and even my female friends think it was cute but stupid. Hell, considering the fact that Kismet was never spayed and it took her a whole six months to get knocked up by an orange tomcat, PETA would probably disagree with what I did judging by their “spay and neuter your animals” campaign. My mother-in-law is keeping one of the kittens (she plans on naming it Karma) but the rest will be given away so they can breed and breed and spread the proof of my idiocy all over this shitty little town in the form of stray cats. You’re welcome Farmington.

I’m not going to say that lots of people ask me where I get the ideas for my short stories, because if I did, I’d be pretending that lots of people know I’m an author. But a few do ask, and believe it or not, some of them are complete strangers that have bought my book. The bloody little kitten I just told you about was the basis for the short story “Kismet” that comes somewhere in the middle of Trailer Park Juggernauts. There’s no landlocked angel or murderous midget in the real life version of events, but you get the idea.

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