I swore at the traffic snarl I could see up the street. I was going to miss my flight! Unless… I took the next right, and drove through the backstreets with one eye on the road and the other on the dashboard clock.
About ten minutes from the airport, I loosened my tie. I wouldn’t be fired for missing a meeting with a key client after all. The car in front of me swerved to avoid something in the road. I slowed down and squinted. A cat, lying on its side.
As I drove around it, I thought I saw movement. The cat might still be alive, but if I stopped, I’d miss my plane. I wasn’t certain the cat had moved. Something else might have caught my eye. If the cat was breathing, what would I do? Scoop it off the road and rush it to a vet? I wasn’t familiar with this area. I had no idea where the nearest vet was located, and it was 7:20 in the morning. Only emergency clinics would be open.
Oh, hell. I couldn’t just leave the poor thing. Maybe it could be saved. With one hand on the wheel, I slid my phone from my pocket. I looked down and punched in 311, the number for the city’s 24-hour service line.
“Yeah, hi,” I said, when someone picked up. “I just passed a cat that’s been run over. I think it’s still alive. Can you send animal services?”
“Where are you?” a bored voice said.
I looked up — no! I jerked the wheel to the right to avoid the girl running across the street. Tires squealed. I jumped the curb. The car clipped a streetlight. Bam!
The air bag deployed. I sat in shocked silence, then coughed and waved away the dust from the bag. The trunk of an old oak tree had won the competition with my car’s hood. I wasn’t going anywhere. At least I was alive. I flexed my fingers and toes, then pushed the door open and staggered from the car. I reached into my pocket. No phone. I peered into the car but couldn’t see it.
A woman barged from the oak tree’s house and marched over to me. “You moron,” she shrieked. “That tree is over one hundred years old. Now it’ll have to be cut down.”
The tree still looked solid to me. “I was trying to help a cat,” I said, hoping for sympathy points.
“Do you have a phone I can use?” I had two calls to make: one to a towing company, and the other to my boss. Maybe the cat story would go over better with her, but with a multimillion-dollar contract on the line, I figured I was screwed. Unemployment, here I come. But at least I’d tried to do right by the cat.
The woman dug into her housecoat’s pocket. “You’d better be calling your lawyer.” She handed me her phone.
Who first? I dialed my boss’s cell. “Hello,” her familiar voice said.
“Ellen? It’s Dan. I — ”
“Dan? Oh, thank god you’re okay.”
Huh? She couldn’t possibly know about my accident. “What do you mean?”
“It’s all over the news. The shooting at the airport. In your terminal, too. I just called you. Why didn’t you pick up? Why are you using someone else’s phone?”
I cleared my throat. “I forgot mine. That’s, uh, why I was calling you. To let you know I’d pick up a burner when I got to the other end. Someone let me borrow their phone.”
“I’d imagine everyone’s calling home,” Ellen breathed. “I take it you’re outside? I know they evacuated everyone.”
“Yeah, I’m outside.” I forced a chuckle. “Look, I’m a little shaken up. Can we delay the meeting with Ed until tomorrow?”
“Sure, no problem. You were going to be late for it, anyway. Don’t worry, I’ll deal with it. Go home. Call me later.” She disconnected.
I stared down at the phone. Suddenly my wrecked car didn’t matter. I could have been shot! Those poor people at the airport.
Someone tugged at my jacket. “Mister,” a child’s voice said.
I turned and looked down at the girl I’d almost hit.
“Thank you for not running over Tyler.”
I blinked at the stuffed toy cat she hugged to her chest. The ribbon around its neck billowed in the breeze.
Sarah Ettritch lives in Toronto, Ontario with her partner and four cats.
This story is sponsored by
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