Author: Mark Thomas
It was Monday, June 18th and three sets of new customers carrying identical “cosmic pet shuttles” were lined up waiting for the “Hubble Bubble” pet boarding facility to open. Each carrier happened to contain an over-sized Maine Coon cat.
Edwin naturally assumed the three couples were friends, but that wasn’t the case. As the young proprietor unlocked his door the customers were busy introducing themselves and laughing at the multiple coincidences defining their visit. Not only did they all own male, grey, slightly obese cats, but they were all thirty-ish Space Geeks about to drive to the same resort on Clear Lake to witness the arrival of the Mrkos-Pajdusakova comet.
The laughter was flowing and Edwin did his best to share their good humour, but he found the whole situation slightly weird. First of all, he rarely boarded cats, because the animals generally don’t give a shit when their owners disappear for extended periods of time, and the owners generally reciprocate by not providing particularly good care during their absences. As far as Edwin knew, when cat owners went on vacation they just left the toilet lid up and spilled an entire bag of kibble into a shoe box. Edwin’s business model was based on a team of slightly stoned high school co-op students pampering neurotic King Charles Spaniels and Labradoodles. Other pets weren’t really on his radar, despite the outlandish promises on his website.
But Edwin put on his work smile, determined to take advantage of the unexpected windfall, and showed everyone his “cat quarters.” He had mostly copied the local Humane Society’s design, but his cubicles were modified with pet doors that opened onto little fenced outdoor areas.
Everyone was suitably impressed with the facilities so they trooped back to the office area to complete their paperwork. The three humans registered valid credit cards, and the three cats had up-to-date information attached to their microchips.
The customers were bubbly with excitement, so it seemed appropriate to end the meeting with a little joke. Edwin waved the microchip scanner over the neck of one of the women, feigning disappointment when he couldn’t locate her own embedded transponder. But the smile froze on his face when the instrument emitted a loud beep.
“That’s too funny,” one of the women laughed. “Cassie, you’ve been chipped!”
“Look her up in the database!” everyone squealed, so Edwin had to enter the sixteen-digit number into the ISO program on his laptop. They all crowded around the screen to see what secrets would be revealed.
A company name appeared, Proxima L, but when Edwin tried to open a specific file he got the standard “access denied” message that seemed to accompany all wand reading errors, regardless of the cause.
“It’s my dental implants,” Cassie said. “You should see what happens when I walk through security at the airport!” There was more laughter.
“Do me! Do me!” the woman named Carina shouted. But her husband, Leo, said they all should really get in their cars and start the drive north. Traffic was always unpredictable near Vulpecula.
There was a lot of friendly waving and honking as the three cars pulled out of the parking lot.
Edwin placed each pet shuttle in separate quarters and watched the animals as they hopped out of the carriers and tentatively sniffed around. Soon, they had all been seduced by the cat-nip-infused scratching posts and had all selected good spots to recline. The animals happily stretched out their claws and licked the interstices between their toes.
Within minutes, Edwin noticed, they were thoroughly acclimated to the modest pleasures of their new environments, as if they had never, ever lived anywhere else.