"Actually, this isn't half as bad as I thought it would be," I said, staring out of the window at the empty road the stretched out before us. Then, I shivered.
Corb smiled, behind the wheel. "You'll have to excuse Ted, Linda. He's a bit of a nervous passenger."
"Especially during blizzards," I added.
"I can understand that," replied Linda, in the back seat, as the cat in her arms and wrapped up in blankets meowed every five seconds. "I'm a bit of a nervous passenger, too."
Linda is our next door neighbor. Her cat, Earl, is an 18-year-old tabby. It was Saturday at noontime, the day after the blizzard in New England that stole our lives this week-end. Three feet of snow, the fifth worst in Massachusetts history. And after a morning at the apartment complex pitching together to undig our cars out from underneath, as we were all walking up the stairs to our apartment and I was looking forward to doing nothing for the next three hours, we learned Linda had a bit of a dilemma.
"Last week I learned from the doctor that Earl has a problem with his kidneys. He says they're functioning at fifty percent. He put him on some special medicine and told me to keep an eye on him. But Earl's been getting worse, not better. He's not eating at all and hasn't moved in a day. I need to take him to the animal hospital."
"But there's a driving ban in effect," said Corb, concerned.
"I called the police," said Linda. "You can drive for emergency sitiations. Earl's dying, The animal hospital said to bring him in."
"So you're driving alone?" I asked. "Without a cat carrier?" Corb and I looked at each other, concerned. "You can't do that, Linda. You'll end up killing yourself." Corb and I looked at each other again. I knew she wasn't going to ask, but... "Why don't you let us go with you?" I suggested.
Which is why, one hour later, we were headed out of the apartment, onto the roads, and in defiance of the driving ban in effect until four in the afternoon. The fine for disobeying: One year in prison and $500. I doubt they'd enforce such a thing, but I did hope that what Linda had said about calling the police was actually true.
We were taking her car, a small, older vehicles with brakes that sqeaked. We didn't know about the squeaking brakes things until we had traveled down the road a bit. Linda is in her fifties, with owl-like glasses and a round face. Kind eyes. I could tell from her vehicle that she was an anxious driver...her casette tape recorder (yes, tape recorder) had in it a tape on overcoming stress . And there she was in the back, rocking Earl back and forth, as he cried and looked up at her, terrified.
Luckily, the highway was surprisingly clear. And even better, we ended up behind a vehicle spreading salt onto the highway. We thanked our lucky stars and followed the truck for five exits, until we had to get off.
"Now I think this is the right one," said Linda, after we had gotten off the highway and drove for about two more miles, ending up on a windy backstreet road. "At least, these are the directions they gave me..."
"Maybe we can ask that person shoveling?" I suggested, pointing out a woman down the road.
"Sure Ted," said Corb, cheerily. "Sure you can!"
He pulled over. I got her attention. She stopped shoveling and walked over. She was a heavyset lady, with a huge mat of graying hair. And it wasn't until she walked over that I realized she had a huge long snot dangling out from one side of her nose.
"Can I help you?" she asked, as the snot dangling back and forth in the breeze.
I ignored the obvious distraction. "Are we on the right road for Tuft's Animal Hospital?"
She nodded, and her swaying snot nodded with her. "Sure are." Then she made a snorting noise, and like a puppet on a string, sucked most of the snot back in. "About a mile down the road. That way." She pointed. The snot started making its way back out.
We drove off before it could start waving around again. For a minute, all three of us were quiet.
And then... "Was that--?"
Corb grinned. "Did she just have...?"
Linda was more direct. "Was that a mile long snot hanging out of her nose?"
The three of us burst in hysterical, gut-hurting laughter.
Fast forward, it's Sunday. About two hours ago, we hear a knock on our apartment door. Corb goes to answer it.
It was Linda. "I just wanted to let you know. Earl died this morning."
"Ohhhhhh...Linda..." Corb said. "I'm so sorry."
"I am, too," It was obvious she had been crying.
"Are you okay?"
"I am. But I just wanted to thank both of you for going along with me yesterday. It made a hard thing a lot easier, and I really appreciate it. I was really touched that you helped me out like that, and I just wanted to say thank you."
After the door was closed, Corb walked back into the living room. "Did you hug her?" I asked.
"No, I wasn't sure what to do." A pause. "Should I have?"
I can't believe I have to say this. "YES. Of course you should have."
"Well, go knock on her door right now, Ted. You can hug her!" He started to run toward me.
I escaped his clutches. But I will hug her, next time I see her. Honestly.
I guess it was Earl's time to go, and I hope that his death wasn't too painful. From what Linda told us, he had cancer. The look on his eyes as we sat in the waiting room was wide-eyed and terrified. He never did stop meowing the entire three hours that we were with him. It must have been a frightening ride, even if he spent the time wrapped in Linda's arms.
Even so, I'm glad we defied the elements and got him to where he needed to be. Even if Earl had to die, it makes me feel good to know that Linda got him there safely, and it did feel kind of badass to be defying the ban on driving for a good reason.
I kind of think we earned a few gold stars yesterday afternoon. Well, at least, that's my take on things.