You’ve made up your mind to return Mia to the shelter after she relentlessly clawed Bo, our two-year-old son, leaving a long deep slash on the bridge of his nose. A wad of cotton is applied to stop the bleed. Mia has been Bo’s closest friend, the one who unconditionally listens to his constant babbling. But this incident casts our home under a gloomy spell. A narrow miss by micrometers from gashing Bo’s eye, you say. As I dial the shelter number, you over my shoulder, I see my phone smeared with the drops of tears, your tears.
Pet Nana is the shelter lady we know well. She greets us with her usual grin, and starts her prepared questionnaire:
So what’s the reason for the return? Pet Nana asks.
She’s been an adorable pet, but this time she clawed my son and almost took his eye out, is your answer, and I notice you shiver despite the deep summer heat.
Oh? Does she use claws often on people? Pet Nana asks, her gaze showing empathy.
I would say once in a while. She does bond with us and purr, but then would scratch you for no reason, you say between the sobs. She’d caused minor injuries till this time.
What was the most memorable moment about Mia?
We can walk Mia the way others walk their dogs. I hear you say. As we busy ourselves with a million daily chores trying to keep our family afloat, Mia is Bo’s only uncomplaining friend besides our nanny.
Oh, that’s epic, says Pet Nana, taking notes on a scratch paper.
Here is what I will do, says Pet Nana, Mia will stay with me till she finds a new home. If she cannot find a new home in thirty days, we may have to put her to sleep. You understand?
We nod. Your tears stream down your cheeks.
You may check back on Mia anytime; your pet’s number is 44.
Mia, my dear Mia, now ends up being just a number, you say, your eyes are red, have been since the incident happened.
Pet Nana calls. Mia now has a new home. We pray that she will behave and love the new home.
Pet Nana calls. Mia is returned because she hurt a newborn in that new home.
Pet Nana calls. Mia now has another new home.
Pet Nana calls. Mia is again returned.
Bo has been fussy these days; indifferent to anything including his favorite TV programs, and keeps looking down on the floor for something. Maybe Mia, you say. My heart gives a jolt, at a loss what to do next. The countdown on the thirty days is around the corner. You look fazed, and start drinking, first time in life. Drunk with beer, then with vodka, then throw yourself into the pullout couch or the backyard hammock strung between the trees, lolling there propping your head in the palm of your hand before drifting off into slumber. First time I see you in such deep dejection, and first time the alcohol smell permeates our home, a sharp turn from your usual mien of high energy and joie de vivre known to all. Such monotony puts our life in topsy-turvy, but I won’t blame you. Life does not always end in tragedy, and tragedy does not always land with somebody’s fault.
I return from work, and am open-mouthed to spot Mia in Bo’s room. You tell me that you called earlier today, the thirtieth day on the countdown, just moments before Pet Nana was going to put Mia to sleep. You mark today a family reunion day, seeing Bo suffused with the regained joy. Mia keeps a stare on Bo, and Bo alone, her gaze touches on every part of Bo’s face. She gives a soft meow, as if to say I’m sorry, and starts rubbing her head against Bo’s sausage-like hands.
A switch of my eyes back to you leaves me stunned. You stand two feet down from us on the kitchen floor that’s dappled with sunlight, your head buried in your hands, shoulders shaking. I try to discern the cause of the mood shift; excitement for the family reunion, or anticipated anxiety about Bo getting hurt again. Or both.
Ahming Zee (pen name) is a Chinese immigrant living in Boston. He works as an IT professional during the day, and writes at night. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is currently working on his debut novel. You can find him on Twitter @ahmingzee.