Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Pet Sitter’s Letter

“Dear Sir or Madam”

Thus began the pet sitter’s letter, which my wife and I found taped to the back door when we arrived at our Southeastern Pennsylvania home late one evening after a five-day trip to New England. The oddly formal salutation–and the fact that the letter was in an envelope addressed to “Occupants”–did not strike me as good omens.

The pile of fur just inside the back door of the sun porch was not a good omen either. I assumed that Jack, one of our four indoor cats, had slipped through the door between the kitchen and the sun porch while the pet sitter was entering or leaving the house. Jack loves to make his craven way onto the sun porch and into the basement, where he antagonizes our two indoor-outdoor cats, Skippy and Chirp.

“Oh well,” I thought, “at least Jack didn’t escape through the back door of the sun porch, and he isn’t running loose in the neighborhood.”

I was wrong. “I’m truly sorry about your cat Zack,” the letter began. At first I was amused by the misspelling, but my amusement soon faded.

“He got out the second day I was here, I think. That was the day my boyfriend came over to help me carry the smoking love seat out of the living room … and somehow Zack got out the living room door.

“I don’t know how he got into the living room to start the smoke fire. I thought I had closed the Frenched door between the kitchen and the living room, like you said to do, and I could have sworn I remembered to turn off the light on the windowsill near the love seat … but I guess I didn’t because when I got here one morning, I smelled smoke, the lamp was burning a hole in the love seat and Zack was clawing at the Frenched door, trying to get back into the kitchen. Judging by the damage he did to the door, he must of been stuck out there for a while.

“I didn’t know WHAT to do about the love seat. Luckily my boyfriend had just finished serving the majority of his sentence, and he’s on work release now, so I was able to catch him before he left the group home to go to his job. He came right over and helped me move the love seat.

“Anyway, we made up a few lost-cat posters to put around the village with your name, address, phone number and REWARD writen on them. Several people called already to say they’ve seen Zack.

Some guy who says his name is Mole started calling and saying if you want to see Zack again you should leave $500 in an envelope taped to a grave marked Stoltzfus in the cemetery up the street. Like that really narrows it down around here! I told him you couldn’t leave any money because you weren’t going to be home for a few days anyway. I was just the pet sitter.  He didn’t call back after that.

“You’re probably going to notice sooner or later, so I might as well tell you–those are all new fish in your tank in the bedroom. I must have forgotten to put the heater/water-filter plug back in after I had taken it out to plug in the vacuum cleaner so I could go over the spot on the bedroom rug where one of the cats threw up. I think he ate one of your plants.

“I felt just terrible about the fish. I didn’t know you had so MANY until they were all floating around the top of the tank and I had to fish them out, so to speak. I went to the pet store thinking I would at least get you a couple of fish so the tank wouldn’t look so empty. When I told the man there what had happened, he was so nice. He said he knew you and that I could take all the fish I wanted, and he would just put them on your tab. You had about 20, right?

“There’s a bill from the plumber mixed in with the mail. I had to call him after my boyfriend tried to fix the toilet that was running in the upstairs bathroom he used. He just made everything worse. It was REALLY overflowing when he got through fixing it.

“I apologize about the stains on the hallway carpet. It’s not your cats blood, though, it’s the plumber’s. I tried to clean the stains, but I just  made them bigger. I think the cat that scratched and bit the plumber was Ginger. She’s the  one who doesn’t like people, right? She was sleeping behind the toilet and the plumber must have  frightened her, I guess. I TOLD him that she’s an indoor-only cat, but he was [in a foul mood] about being scratched and bitten, and he insisted I take Ginger to the vet’s to be quarantined for 10 days to make sure she doesn’t have rabies. I know you said not to let her get out of her room upstairs, but my boyfriend wanted …”

I was beginning to dislike this yob intensely when I realized that I had reached the second (and last) page of the letter. That’s when I noticed the letter had been notarized.

I sank into a chair in the kitchen and suddenly began to cackle. The clammy, oozing, shit-your-pants feeling produced by whatever it was that I had just sat in was the final indignity.

“What the hell,” I thought after I had regained the use of my senses. “It was a great vacation. The house is still standing, and Bowser will be glad to see me.”

As I took solace in that train of thought, my wife said, “Hon, where’s the dog?” That’s when I noticed the arrow and the word over in the lower-right corner of the second (and last) page of the pet sitter’s letter.

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