Cat Man Do (continued)

Continuation/Conclusion of Cat Man Do
Inside, the room was completely dark except for a single bulb whose glare was cut by a thick haze of fragrant smoke. I couldn’t identify either the smell or its source, but it left me feeling simultaneously buoyant and anchored. As if I were made of lead, supported by nothing more substantial than a puffy cloud. The kind unimaginative kids draw with white crayon beside a smiling yellow sun.
I turned to look at the DOG and Shana, but could only make out their faint outlines. No details. No colors. No eyes, no mouths. No facial expressions. No one spoke. Or mewed.
Eventually my eyes adjusted to the strange darkness, and a slight man about my size appeared from behind a set of soundless swinging doors beyond which there was only thick, impenetrable darkness.
“You have cat,” the man said, entirely too loudly given that he was standing not two feet away from us. It was not a question.
“Yes,” I said. “I want you to —”
“I fix cat,” he said.
“But wait. I just want to make sure you know —”
But he was already gone.
And so was Shana and her carrier.
“Did you feel him take her?” I asked the DOG, who was rubbing the arm that for so long had been lugging Shana around town.
“No! All of a sudden I felt my arm retract to its original length, and then …”
“I don’t know about this,” I said. “I mean, how well do we really know L? Can he really be trusted?”
“He’s a good guy,” the DOG said. “What would he have to gain by leading us astray?”
“I’m not so sure. All this hocus pocus. Ancient magical mystical Chinese herbs. Maybe we should’ve stuck to tradition …”
Just then the little man rematerialized. He put the carrier on the floor beside the DOG.
“Is everything OK?” I asked.
“She better now,” he said.
“So what did you — ?”
“Everything OK now,” he said.
I was not satisfied with his answer, but I wasn’t in the mood to deal with this. I just wanted to get away from the smoky haze that by this time lost any sort of minimal charm it may have originally held.
“How much do I owe you?” the DOG asked.
“Is free. First time always free. Is good business.”
He turned and disappeared through the swinging doors.
“What the — ?” I said.
“I don’t know,” the DOG said. “Let’s just get out of here.”
Apparently Shana was fine, because she didn’t mew at all on the way down the four flights of ill-lit, rickety stairs.
Outside on the deserted side street, it was almost as dark as the interior of the strange vet’s office. We walked to the corner to hail a taxi, and oddly enough, had no trouble getting one. We were home in less than 15 minutes.
Once inside the apartment, the DOG placed the carrier on the floor. I turned to wash my hands at the kitchen sink.
“Oh no,” he said. “No! NO! NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!”
“What? What?” I said, turning around. “What’s wrong?”
The DOG was bent over the kitchen table, peering into two large white takeout containers with their flaps undone. He was poking at their contents with a chopstick.
“I knew I had a bad feeling about that place! He gave us two quarts of mew goo gai pan! Two quarts!”
“Damn it!” I said. “I specifically asked for mew shoo! ‘Good business’, my ass!”
“Well, it was free, so I guess we can’t really complain,” he said.
“Fuckin’ L,” I muttered.
“Yeah, he can’t always be trusted,” Taxi said over his shoulder as he tiptoed past us to his water bowl. “But don’t let the cat outta the bag, OK?”