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Monday, Apr. 08, 2002
Being a regular at the local Watering Hole has some advantages not easily discerned by those who merely pop in for a refreshing after work beverage. It is, of course, a frothing cauldron of human interaction punctuated occasionally by upheavals and drama. Not unlike every other Watering Hole in the world.

The long time head bartender there has had her share of the misfortunes of life, which she reluctantly shares with a few of us from time to time. Not prone to the more public, screeching fits of agony which befall some of her colleagues, Annie let us know last week that she was splitting up with her husband. She did so in a quiet, roundabout way that let us know that she and her cute 1 year old boy had had enough and were getting the hell out of Dodge.

Now, this being the girl who occasionally winks at the extra beer you forgot to pay for, makes sandwiches for us at odd hours, banters and jokes and generally maintains her sanity amongst the geriatrics who frequent the place, we felt like she was due for a break. I think it was Chief Mo who first suggested that we help her move her stuff from one apartment to the next. And she was all for it.

Stu and I were the first to volunteer, as we had the big corporate box truck appropriate to the cause. Two others came forward with smaller trucks, Chief Mo brought up the rear and we were in business. Saturday morning dawned sunny and clear and the work party assembled, stretched and yawned. And it was easy! We literally formed a conga line from apartment to truck and threw household goods from one set of arms to the next until the deed was done. Elapsed time, maybe an hour. I think Annie was a little astonished at the speed, having previously seen her work party only in sloth mode while perched precariously, yet determinedly, at reserved and strategically positioned bar stools.

We were all feeling pretty good about ourselves, standing outside the front door and waiting for her to lock up and make the trek to the new place. The five of us shuffled and sipped coffee and talked of gas prices and deadbeat husbands.

And froze in place when Annie emerged. She only had two more items but nobody was exactly jumping forward to take them from her.

Cats. She was carrying one, a big 12 pounder which hissed and clung to his mistress, tail swishing and eyes narrowed to slits as it regarded the scene. And another one, which must have been aggravated to the point that Annie felt it prudent to carry it in a kitty cage. Judging by the sounds emanating from within, this cat had two things going for it: it was angry and it was large.

Now amongst said work party were two Vietnam veterans, two veterans of the rough and tumble world of commercial construction, and one football player. I don't think it's inaccurate to say that we all took a step backwards.

Annie donned sunglasses and fumbled keys out of purse. "Okay, I need the cats in somebody's car. Who's got room?"

Stu and I were backpedaling toward the box truck. "Uh, nope, full to the brim here darlin'."

Apparently one of the Vets had more issues with cats than with a regiment of North Vietnamese. And the football player had already dived into his truck. Which left Chief Mo to claim the prize. Ex-SEAL, Command Master Chief, you-wanna-piece-of-me Mo.

He blanched. Annie didn't seem to notice.

The convoy of vehicles streamed away with Mo sharing the front seat of his small truck with the felines. I think he actually gave thought to applying seatbelts to the unfettered one but gave it up after a short tussle. Stu and I had a fine view of the action from directly behind him as we motored down the road. The big male was surprisingly agile in the close quarters and began taking liberties with Mo's dashboard, seat, windows and ultimately, Mo himself. After a lurching right hand turn the male dived straight for the back of Mo's head.

Even with windows closed I could hear the string of oaths. Mo flailed, missed, and with truck swerving dangerously, finally nabbed the male by the scruff of the neck and held him up. Holding him securely, he proceeded to scream in that unique Master Chief way, as if addressing a wayward sailor on the finer points of Navy life, while the cat swiped feebly away with one paw.

By this time Stu and I were howling. The increasingly animated Mo tossed the cat to the floor, shook a finger warningly and continued the verbal barrage.

Stu was gasping for air as he reached for the cell phone and dialed up the Chief. "Hey Mo, didn't you realize that you're haulin' pussy in that truck?"

We got a finger of an entirely different sort for that one.

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