Phineas McGirk looked at Captain Whiskers and sighed deeply. The bald, pink cat hissed at him from behind the cage bars. Phineas didn't blame the Captain one bit.
Captain Whiskers was the only client currently at McGirk's Pet Grooming and Supplies. It occurred to Phineas that the captain might very well be his last client.
Geraldine, Phineas's fifteen year old assistant, sniffled. She was staring at the cement floor, her long, brown locks hiding her face from view.
Between them was the steel grooming table, covered with more fur than had any right to be there.
Phineas closed his eyes and rubbed the side of his temples, trying to find the right words to say. Finally he asked, "At what point did you realize shaving the cat was wrong?"
Geraldine mumbled something.
"When there wasn't any fur left."
Phineas reminded himself that it had been his idea to leave Geraldine to run the shop while he ran an errand to the bank. He looked at the to do list he had left for her. His hand writing was cramped and a little sloppy, but he still couldn't figure out how she had interpreted "Groom Cat" as "Shave Captain Whiskers."
The bell on the front door jangled and old Mrs. Whithers made her slow, deliberate way to the front counter. Her wig was askew and her thick glasses magnified her eyes, making her look like a bullfrog.
Phineas brought the captain out and placed him on the counter. "Um, great news Mrs. Whithers, we conducted a full body tick check and I'm pleased to tell you that he came through with flying colors. You can stop worrying about Captain Whiskers having Lyme disease."
Mrs. Whithers looked from her bald cat to Phineas and back. It was like watching his eight year old son, Robby, trying to do multiplication in his head. Phineas held his breath.
"He doesn't have any fur," she said in a quavering voice.
"Best way to be sure to find all the ticks," Phineas replied.
"Oh," Mrs. Whithers replied. Then a worried look crept on her face. "Oh dear, I thought I only ordered a grooming. How much does a full body tic check cost? Is it expensive?" She started digging around in her purse for her checkbook.
Phineas held up his hands. "Don't worry Mrs. Whithers, it's on the house. In fact, I'd like to give you a complimentary pet sweater so the Captain doesn't catch a chill."
Phineas took a cheery red knit sweater covered with white snowflakes off the wall behind him. Captain Whiskers took a swipe at him, but years of pet experience allowed Phineas to get the sweater on without a single scratch.
"Oh, thank you, that's very kind," Mrs. Whither's dentures slipped back and forth as she smiled.
"It's the least I could do for one of my best customers."
Tucking Captain Whiskers under her arm, Mrs. Whithers ambled out of the shop. Phineas let out a slow sigh of relief. "Crisis averted," he congratulated himself.
Phineas looked down at the next item on Geraldine's the to do list and called out, "Geraldine, did you feed the fish?"
"That said feed?" Geraldine replied from the back of the store.
Copyright 2012 John Lance