Value Proposition

Value, Tiny Wings, and a trip to the vet.

By: Jason Johnson

Filed Under: Editorial Humor Life Mobile


My cat––his name is Bob––has a shaved taint.

Now you’re possibly already questioning my ability to care for a living, breathing feline, and justifiably so, but in my defense, I didn’t give him the name, nor did I request what my neighbor has dubbed “the Brazilian wax.” It came to my attention in a moment of shock––picture Brad Pitt in the movie Seven levels of panic––after returning from a hasty rush to the vet before they closed for the day. I will go on record here and say that the decision was made without due cause or my consent. (Though I signed the obligatory pre-anesthesia “if your pet dies” paperwork, I doubt a taint-shaving clause was in the fine print.) He had been hissing in the litter box, so I rang up the office, and the secretary urged us to come in. Off we went.

Bob, a rather large, six-year-old Ragdoll, doesn’t seem to notice that his haunch is less insulated than a lean-to shed, and it wouldn’t be that bad for me either, if he wasn’t in the habit of kowtowing when I pet him, giving me a front row viewing of a pallid full moon. I will spare you the details, lest you are eating or otherwise would like to maintain a pure image of cat-kind, but will tell you this: his boys clearly aren’t what they used to be, and the rest of it looks worse than you might think. I have been averting my eyes for weeks.

It all happened pretty quickly in a cramped exam room, with Bob on the table, me standing behind him, and the doc and her assistant on the other side. The doc was well-seasoned and pushing forty, her wry auburn hair twining around her headband like a squirrel had nested in it the night previously, as if she had given up on making good impressions at the clinic a long time ago. She was looking at Bob with her head tilted sideway, and, so that you know, Bob hates going to the vet. He was already ticked.

I gave doc a word of advice. “Last time he was in here,” I said, “he was terrible. He wouldn’t let anyone touch him. Once at the emergency hospital, he was lying calmly on the table, and the vet on duty barely touched his stomach, and he had had it, biting her hard right here on the wrist, and she yelled ‘Shit!’ and went running through the door, grabbing her wrist with blood squirting out.”

“Well, we’ll have to knock him out, get in there, give him a light sedative, feel around in his abdomen, you can feel hard little balls if he’s clogged up, or it could be stones in his urethra, which is worse, because it’s so narrow,” she said with a half-laugh and a drawl I pegged for West Virginian, her voice doused with irony so that every word came off as jokey and less serious than it really was, which is a good trait for a doctor to have.

They took him to the back while I waited on a pleather cushion I suspected had been peed on, feeling pretty anxious about the whole thing. I took out my iPod and absentmindedly thumbed through the pages, nothing catching my eye, and randomly picked Tiny Wings, still a go-to distraction after over a year. I dig the newer chapter where you race the hatchlings, so I played that, watching the pathetic little chicks slide downhill and up––positive the doc would say nothing’s wrong, and we’d have to come back. I was too preoccupied to do very well, losing and losing again to the pesky green bird with its mocking kakaaw, so I gave up and turned it off and just sat there.

When doc came in, she was holding a long strand that she referred to as a hairball, seeming rather proud of herself. “I think this was the problem,” she said, extending her pointer finger, “but I could only go up that far, so there might be more.”

About that time the tech came in with Bob, halfway sedated, and laid him on the stainless steel counter, where his limp body hunched clumsily while doc ran through the procedure. It turned out the ailment was nothing more than a growl-inducing case of kitty constipation. For that, Bob had been drugged, palpated, violated with the worst possible violation of all, and if that wasn’t enough, had a catheter rammed up his member, like someone trying to pick a lock with a bobby pin, in her words, “just to be safe.”

She neglected to mention the shaved taint.

Disturbed by the whole situation, I loaded him into the plastic hamper I use for a cat carrier, thinking they could’ve just x-rayed him instead. I carried him out of the room and got in line behind a woman and her Schnauzer at the front desk. When it came my turn to pay, I was interrupted by the phone.

“The doctor who works with snakes is only here on Tuesdays,” the receptionist spoke into the receiver.

Then, a pause.

“Well, let me see if anyone would know, sir.” She put the guy on hold and paged doc.

“He wants to know if you’d be able to identify a snake. He says someone told him it was a rattlesnake,” she said, “but he doesn’t think so because of the marks.”

“Okay… okay… okay.” Then, switching back. “Sir, she said she hasn’t worked with reptiles in fifteen years and wouldn’t be able to identify it, but that you might want to try Oaks.”

She hung up and apologized, handing the bill to me. I gave her my card, she rung me up, and we left. This is a bad feeling, to realize you have just paid a hundred bucks for someone to stick their finger up your cat’s ass. Not that I think I was overcharged, you must realize, considering the indecency of the task.

Still, it makes for a strange value proposition. If you think about it, this means Tiny Wings, a game that only costs a dollar, which is arguably my favorite mobile game ever, when compared to the price of the services rendered, is worth about a hundredth. On the ride home, I imagined hypothetically I could still be playing it on my deathbed, struggling against the little green bird for the final time before growing frail and turning the iPod over to my future grand-kid, who would play it for a lifetime more before giving it to his kid’s kid, the game being passed in this manner through generations of posterity, the birds launching over the hills and through the clouds until the circuit board rotted to dust, never accumulating the value or monetary worth of that one moment when my cat had the worst experience of his life. I couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

It goes without saying that Bob wasn’t himself when he got home. He spent most of the night crouched under the recliner, his chatoyant eyes bulging out of his head like those novelty glasses with springs. He was alright after a day, and I’m happy to report he hasn’t had any more complications in the litter box. As for the hair on his hind legs, it can’t grow fast enough.

[art credit]

Filed Under: Editorial Humor Life Mobile

About the Author:
Jason Johnson is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in Kill Screen, Gamasutra, Unwinnable, GameSetWatch, FingerGaming, WSJ Speakeasy, and The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures. He owns 27 Sun Ra albums.

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