Vet on call equals night-time adventures

2010-08-26 00:00

IT is Saturday night, 10.56 pm. Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Have just turned in on a crisp winter’s night, weary, pink cheek embedded in the warm pillow and the brain comfortably turned off for the night. Cellphone rings. Cat mauled by dog. Waiting at clinic gate.

It takes a while to activate the body, which is doing its best to resist and return to that most comfortable Land of Nod. Eventually feet emerge from the bed covers and reach for something warm to wear. Tracksuit pants circa 1990 — waist worn out, crotch around knees. Yesterday’s shirt inside out. Comfortable fleece-lined coat, might have been used as a puppy blanket some time ago.

Wash face (neglect hair, which resembles a tuft of grass that has survived a veld fire), collect car keys, lock house doors from outside. Parked in by Family Friend who is spending the night.

Unlock house, go back inside, collect keys to Family Friend’s car, reverse out.

Down the road, around two corners, through set of traffic lights. All hell breaks loose. Dashboard lights start flashing madly, anti-hijacking alarm starts screaming. Pull off the road outside a block of flats. Swich ignition off. Push every conceivable knob, button and switch. No reprieve. Lights go on in some flats above. Pretend I don’t notice.

Eventually alarm goes off by itself. Stare vacantly at dashboard for a while, trying to look intelligent. Blissful peace. Lights in flats above eventually go off.

Pluck up courage and try again.

Again chaos. Lights flashing, alarm wailing like a vuvuzela on steroids­. Lights in flats go on again. This time some movement on the balconies. Can’t catch the expletives above the alarm sounds.

Finally quiet again. This time don’t dare try the ignition. Phone home. Sleepy wife answers­. Sleepy Family Friend to bring wife’s car. Get out of my car and wait. Trying to be invisible. Don’t dare glance up at the flats above. Look like a shop-worn gigolo standing under the street light. Or a second- rate car thief. Phone the cat owner. Cat still alive

Wait some more.

Midnight streets are not quiet. There is the ever present nocturnal rumble of the city. Fruit bats cry, cars come and go, flat owners grumble, occasional TV sounds.

A black VW Polo with tinted windows slows down in front of me, then speeds away again. I must be too shabby even to mug, no great appeal as a gigolo. Feel unloved and unwanted­.

Eventually Family Friend materialises, pink pyjamas and pale face, eyes wide like an insomiac owl. We swop cars. She climbs in behind the wheel of the offending vehicle and starts the ignition.

As I speed off I notice the lights in her cab flicker out of control and the alarm scream its manic tune. The Bhangra Bash is quiet in comparison. Panic on Family Friend’s face as she frantically pushes buttons, knobs and things. Lots of lights now appearing in the flats.

And as I approach Burger Street, I wave at the ladies of the night and offer a conspiratorial­ smile. I feel a bond with them, a kinship, an understanding.

Oh, and the cat survived.

• The writer is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.

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