This is a story from my bachelor days, back in the early 'eighties. I always figured it to be a good contender for the "Life In These United States" section of Reader's Digest. Maybe I'm wrong about that.
(Note that I have changed the names of the people and pets in this anecdote to placate my friend, Barnard Keegle, which, of course, is not his real name.)
One day, my friend Shirley called me up to invite me to a roast beef dinner with her friends Charles and Pauline.
It seems that she, Charles and Pauline were roommates once-upon-a-time, but C & P had since moved across town to a brownstone near the Peace Bridge. To celebrate, they decided to make up a big roast and invite Shirley over for Sunday dinner.
"They're great cooks," explained Shirley. "And I think you'd really enjoy meeting them."
These were code words for "I need someone to drive me there and it might as well be you."
Being the socially-inept twenty-something that I was, this sounded like an amazing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I accepted the invitation.
That weekend, at the appointed time, I picked up Shirley at her apartment and set off for Busti Avenue.
"Oh, these people were the best roommates, ever," she enthused. "In addition to my (three) cats, they have three cats. And two dogs!"
"Oh, really?" I replied.
Now this was 'way, 'way before I was married and came to own a dog or the four cats I now have. In those days I was deathly allergic to cats wherein my eyes would swell shut and my sneeze relex would kick into tommy-gun mode.
But what the heck. It was a free Sunday dinner.
We arrived at Charles and Pauline's apartment amid a certain amount of commontion.
"Oh, hi, Shirley!" Pauline bubbled. "And you must be Craig. Don't worry, Charles is locking Crusher in one of the bedrooms."
From the sounds of it, Crusher didn't particularly cotton to this idea. I heard much scuffling followed by a door slam. This was followed by an insistent "bark-bark-barking" that would remain the constant drumbeat for the remainder of our visit.
A John Sebastian look-alike came into the living room with his hand extended.
"Hi, I'm Charles! You must be Craig," he said.
While shaking his hand, I noticed the second dog came skittering into the room.
"Oh, that's Casey." Charles explained. "He's really friendly. Don't worry; I locked Crusher in the bedroom!"
"Uh, so I hear," I said with as straight a face as possible.
While Shirley and Pauline retreated to the kitchen, Charles showed me around their apartment.
It was obviously once a very ritzy neighborhood and this had once been a high-ticket domicile. The rag-tag furniture was in stark contrast to the woodwork, fireplace and leaded glass windows. The tumble-weed-sized cat fur balls that blew around the hardwood floors added a unique accent.
"Oh, hey, here come the cats!" Paul exclaimed as I seated myself on sofa. "That's Pinkie, that Lindburg and that's Lucky!"
Lucky, I noticed, had no tail. I was able to observe this up close as he decided to jump up on my lap and push his tail stump in my face.
"Yeah, Lucky got his tail cut-off in a car door. He' really friendly though!"
Lucky crwaled off my lap and settled next to me on th couch while Paul and I continued to make strained small-talk as a prelude to dinner.
Shirley popped in from the kitchen to see how we were doing.
My eyes were tearing and my throat was rapidly constricting as I squeaked, "Paul's been introducing me to the cats."
"Oh, there's Mister Lucky!" Shirley cooed. "Come here, boy!"
Lucky jumped off the sofa.
Sitting next to me were several fresh (for lack of a better phrase) cat turds. Did I mention how squeamish I am about these sort of things? Well, let me mention it now, dear readers.
"Uh, Shirley," I stammered. "Lucky seems to have,uh, left me a 'present'."
"Oh, ha ha!" she laughed. "He can't control his bowels after that car door thing. Don't worry, though. Casey will take care of it!"
"...meaning?" I asked.
"Oh, that was the greatest thing about us being roommates," she enthused. "We never had to empty a cat pan! Casey would always eat everything in them."
WARNING: HEART-WARMING PUNCHLINE AHEAD!
"Well," I replied with a wry smile crossing my allergy-wracked visage. "I don't think Casey is up to the taskjust right now."
Yes, our hero Casey was at that moment engaged in licking up a pool of his own vomit from the hardwood floor.
"Dinner is served!" Pauline chirped from the dining room.