Once Upon A Wild Fling
Some things in life are easy, like getting lost in a book, finishing off the entire bag of sea-salt popcorn while binge-watching your favorite TV show, and trying fabulous new restaurants with your best girlfriends.
And some things in life are opening-a-pickle-jar hard, like assembling any kind of furniture that arrives in a box, finding a good man when you’re over thirty in New York City, and also, giving a cat a bath.
Actually, that’s almost universally recognized as one of the most difficult feats in the world, even harder than the man thing, and quite possibly more challenging than sending a man, woman, or monkey into outer space.
Fortunately, it’s something I’ve mastered.
The scratch marks on the little old lady’s arms indicate she hasn’t.
My potential customer at Fluffy & Fabulous fiddles with her pearls, sighing sadly, even for a Monday. “I have to tell you something. Celine scratches. I don’t know why. She’s not a bad cat.”
I nod sympathetically from across the salon’s pink counter. “Of course she’s not a bad kitty. It’s not personal, and it says nothing of her heart or her love for you.”
“Are you sure?”
I raise my chin. “One hundred percent. She’s simply being a cat, but we know exactly how to handle girls like her.” I lean closer, whispering conspiratorially, “Ever heard of mittens for kittens?”
The woman shakes her head.
Reaching under the counter, I grab a pair of the tiny claw covers that help make it possible for my employees and me to keep the skin on our arms when handling ornery cats.
Which is to say, all cats.
Harnesses help too, and sometimes, a stiff glass of bourbon for the bather.
The lady wiggles her fingers in delight, picking up a mitten delicately. “They’re so darling.”
“They are. Just like Celine is,” I say, and though I haven’t seen the feline in person—or in animal, rather—her mistress has shown me a wallet full of photos of the fluffy Himalayan. She’s magnificent AF.
The woman raises a finger. “One more thing. What about escapes? Have you had any?”
I shake my head. “We have a spotless record.” That’s a point of pride for me and my business, and I point to the chalkboard on the wall behind me. One of my artistic employees drew a pink pastel cartoon of a kitty and a puppy, and beneath them it says:
Four years running and zero runners! No escapes from the premises—not even a single breakout from a tub!
“Celine will be in good hands. Plus, my top stylist does the best cat blowouts in the entire city, bar none.”
The lady hums. “Maybe a bow too?” She mimes tying a bow around her neck.
“Absolutely. I’d recommend royal blue for Celine.”
But the lady taps her fingers on the counter, a sign she’s not quite ready to commit. I know that look, and I know the way around it. I worked on Wall Street for five years, and they didn’t call me The Closer for nothing. It’s time to break out the big guns.
“Listen, I have an idea I think might help you and Celine. Are you aware that we do house calls?”
Her eyes light up. “You do?”
“In-home stylings are a tad more expensive, but if you’d like, we can arrange for a pet stylist to come to your home, and I can send my top people-stylist for you too. A tandem blowout.” We offer those additional services for clients who want to be pampered right alongside their pets.
The woman clasps her hands to her chest. “Yes. That sounds absolutely delightful.” She pats her bobbed hair, adding, “I do love a good blow j— I mean, blowout.”
Her cheeks go pink, and I simply smile and whisper, “Me too.”
I swipe on the tablet screen and open the calendar. “Let’s get you scheduled . . .” I look up so she can supply her name.
“You and Celine are going to enjoy this. Celine will look paws-itively meow-velous this weekend.”
“She already has plans to spend her time sitting in my lap purring.”
I smile, glad she doesn’t take her feline’s schedule that seriously. I don’t come across too many funny bones in the heart of the Upper East Side, the land of pampered pets and even more pampered people.
But that’s why my flagship full-service pet salon is located smack dab in the heart of this pooch-and-pussycat-loving neighborhood.
I wave to Ellie as she leaves.
Once she’s gone, my manager sweeps to the front counter, her doe eyes somehow even bigger than usual, as if she’s seen a ghost. “Roxy, you’re needed in the portrait studio. We have a dog waiting with a guy.”
“How did I miss them?”
“They came in five minutes ago, and, well, I think you were . . .” Tara trails off.
“It’s okay. I’m not ashamed for you to know I have a bladder. I was peeing,” I say, patting her on the arm.
She laughs nervously, tucking her platinum-blonde hair behind her ears.
“Who’s the pup? Do I know it?”
That name tickles my brain as I head to my office to grab my camera. Tara follows, rattling the details of the sitting.
I sling my camera around my neck, then something clicks. “Wait. Is Harriet a Weimaraner?”
Tara says yes, and I picture a stunning, silky gray beast scampering through the park. “I know this dog,” I say heavily.
The trouble is, I know the guy too.