community service

As a sorority member and a senior who didn’t plan her last semester quite right, I’ve had to do 30 hours of community service this semester. However, my sorority does community service for a local cage-free no-kill animal shelter, so essentially that service has consisted of petting cats. This is pretty awesome. The shelter always has chairs full of cats, some of which are happy to curl up with you, and some of which will glare if you get within five feet of them, because they are cats and they do whatever they want.

The shelter also has an isolation room for new arrivals who haven’t been immunized, or for kittens who are too small to join the rest of the cats.

Guess what my favorite part is.

Last week the shelter got five new kittens. I think the sign said they were eight weeks old. They are very tiny and very excited to see everything, especially string and fingers. Currently they’re named things like Male #4 and Female #1. Jessica and I took them out one at a time, letting them climb on our shoulders and chew on our fingers and poke Amos, who is a twenty-pound orange cat who just wants to sit in your lap and purr. Life was good.

Well, the isolation room developed a gap in the roof. It’s under the roofline so it doesn’t leak, but it is wide enough to allow in bees. No, not bees – wasps and yellow-jackets. Bugs that will kill you, or at least make you wish you were dead.

Jessica hates bees, and since I hate bees a little less, I was left behind to deal with this weekend’s yellow-jacket. My theory was to open the window and herd it away, but, well, it’s a bee, and bees are sort of challenging to herd. So I stood in the isolation room for about ten minutes, gripping a broom and trying to guide this yellow-jacket towards the window. Amos watched sleepily from his bed and the kittens sat in a row in their kennel, watching me poke tentatively at this little flying thing. They thought this was Very Interesting, even more interesting than their siblings’ tails.

Eventually this got boring and I decided to just kill the stupid thing. My theory was to wait until it landed on the window and then squish it with the plastic head. I waited two minutes for it to land, then –

WHACK. Amos shoots out of his bed and under the kennels. The kittens tilt their heads curiously. The yellow-jacket is still alive, trapped in the bristles. I shake it out and hit it again. I can’t actually make contact with the plastic because of my angle, but no way am I going to get into any position that brings me closer to the yellow-jacket.

Jessica calls me from the other room. “How’s it going?”

“Swell. The kittens think this is fascinating.”

“Do you need help?”

“I don’t really know. Give me a minute.”

I release the broom and the yellow-jacket falls into the window track behind a cabinet, buzzing irritably. I jab at it randomly, but I can’t see over the cabinet, and once again I refuse to move any closer, because obviously it could suddenly recover and sting me in the eye.

Jessica comes in. “Is it dead?”

“Not yet. It’s down here somewhere – ”

BZZZ. The yellow-jacket jumps up and clings to the window. Jessica flees and I poke at it with the bristles. It flies in a few circles and miraculously heads for the open window.

“Yes! Go! Finally!”

It catches itself on the screen and pauses.

“No! You *(!@$, you are totally big enough to fit through there. @&#$ing GO.”

I poke it again and finally it wriggles through the quarter-inch grille. I slam the window and open the door triumphantly.

“The bee is gone!”

A young mother and her three-year-old daughter are standing in the doorway. Jessica is smiling pleasantly and washing the windows. All I can think of is did they hear me swearing at the bee?

I lower my broom. “So. The cats are safe now. Bee’s gone.”

At the end of our shift, we patched the gap with duct tape. Amos hid under the kennels for another five minutes until we lured him out with food. The kittens had already forgotten anything had ever happened.


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