Old Cats Home, by Bo Keely

November 6, 2006 |

I thought I was a lion tamer taking on the volunteer job of counseling in an old folks home. Armed with a veterinary degree and psych tech certificate, I made my daily rounds. The first room belonged to Gloria, bedridden with a bad bowel for two decades, who always screamed as I entered, ‘Read to me of the coming of the Lord!’ Dutifully I took up the King James Version from the bed stand and, holding it upside down as is my habit, read from Revelation 6, ‘And I looked, and behold a pale horse and his name that sat on him was_’ Through the narrow passages Gloria gradually calmed, turned her face to the sunny window, and fell asleep every time. I put the bible back and continued down the hall.

The next challenge was Mildred, fit to be tied to a hard stool, staring vacantly and silently for as long as any memory in the home. The general staff dare not broach a three-foot radius about her chair but each shift I spent ten minutes sitting closer and closer and staring off in her same way. After two weeks, I imagined a rapport and cautiously scooted my chair until our knees touched. A hand snaked out with claws that raked my face! In bloody retreat I speculated that that one required more training.

Down at the day room, Crying Annie presented a special peril of disheartening the entire population with sequential tearful outbursts. No one knew why she cried but it was said that she had never laughed. My single afternoon’s ledger of her one minute mean bawl six times per hour related to various stimuli yielded zero correlation, however, it sparked an idea. ‘Annie,’ I opened cheerily, and as she burst into crocodile tears I yanked my curls and blurt, ‘I will make you laugh or eat my hat!’ Miraculously she subsided looking over my head. I explained how in school I had bent and picked a horse’s hoof to clean and the animal had chomped my hair thinking it hay. ‘Ever since, when I need a haircut_’ Annie’s explosive laughter shook all the old cats out of their rooms to ring us and laugh themselves silly until they cried. It was a circus and, ahead of the act, I bowed out.

Six months passed until the day I was rotated to the geriatric psychiatric ward where a codger stalked me to counsel, ‘Get out of here; this ain’t a dress rehearsal!’ I lay the whip down and walked out.





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