If you ever wondered if sometimes we have doubts about modding, the answer is yeah, sometimes we do. Not because we think what we’re doing is unethical or immoral or any of the other things that get said about our work in the press, but because we all love animals and sometimes it’s really hard to let them go. Or just to not play with them, especially if they’re cute – or if it’s Dave, even if they aren’t cute because he’s one of those people who thinks spiders can be a pet. But anyway, it’s hard sometimes not to fall in love with our subjects. Take Fred, for example…
Fred was a puppy I brought to the lab after a long search for just the right one, and after half a dozen attempts to co-opt my puppy, I just started keeping him on my lap while I worked. That didn’t stop the guys and Hana from playing with him, but it did stop all four of them from trying to hide him from me. “I’m not going to do anything weird to him!” I insisted the last time I had to go retrieve him. “Geez, guys, just trust me, okay? He’ll be even cuter once I’m done.”
“Are we keeping him?” Pete wanted to know; he’d been the most frequent puppy-hider.
“Maybe, depends on how big he gets and how much exercise he needs. We don’t want Fred to be an unhappy doggie.” That got me licked in the face. “Yes, Fred, I love you too.”
Fred wasn’t actually part of a commission job, Fred was an attempt to get us a new type of client. He was a really adorable roly-poly German Shepherd puppy, and I was going to mod him to make a species even better suited to being a guard dog and/or possibly a sniffing dog. I’d deliberately picked the cutest fucking puppy I could find, too, because I wanted him to be world-ending adorable when I got done – that would make the one really terrifying trait he was going to possess even scarier.
Fred’s mod went off without a hitch, and he woke up happy and yipping for food, wiggling his little tail. He was plushy now, but that would grow out into a longer coat as he matured. His muzzle was a little longer, as were his currently still-stubby little legs, and his grin was just a little wider and meaner-looking in spite of the puppy teeth he still had. And I could see the pigment in his follicles darkening already, especially on the tips of his ears and his legs. Once he’d filled his round little belly full of food and then napped on my lap for a bit at the desk, he was up and ready to play. I joined the guys and Hana on the floor with all of the toys Fred had mysteriously acquired over the few days he’d been with us, and he bounced and chased and yipped…and then he sat back on his little haunches, threw back his head and let out a cackling laugh that was still almost hair-raising in spite of all the cuteness. And which surprised Fred so much he toppled over – puppies, you know – and then he got up and did it again and bounced over to Joey to gobble up a treat.
We named his new breed a Laughing Dog, of course, and worked with our lawyer to very quietly get ready to formally register the breed once we were positive it would breed true. Fred had a while before he was ready for that, though, and in the meantime we just kept him happy and regular-dog trained around the lab – in other words, he was spoiled as fuck – until he was old enough for obedience training. And then Joey signed him up as a Shepherd mix, requesting that he go into the tighter class potential police dogs went into because he was going to be so big. Hyenas are not small, you know, and Fred had started out as a purebred Shepherd, so Fred the Laughing Dog was going to be just shy of a small pony.
We all went to his first obedience class, although everyone but Joey was banished to the viewing room so we wouldn’t confuse Fred or the other dogs. Fred got some looks, but that was mainly because he looked way cuter than the other dogs in the room and he was bouncy. The trainer showed Joey the Treat Dispenser how to effectively use the treats to settle that down, and Fred pouted at her because again, he was spoiled as fuck. But he was a smart dog, and he figured out really quickly that giving the daddy what he was asking for meant more treats…so he gave the daddy what he was asking for. Bouncily, but he did it. And then he gobbled up his treat, sat back on his haunches and let one of those cackling laughs rip.
One dog actually peed on the floor; I thought the owner was going to join him. Dude recovered and tried to smack his dog for peeing, and that got the trainer and one of the other owners in his face. Which let his dog go, and Fred immediately went to make friends; he’d been to the dog park, he knew that other dogs were for playing. So Fred bounced and yipped and then got a ball and nosed it over to the other dog, and pretty soon he and that dog were having a whole lot of fun and the remaining three dogs in the room were jealous and everyone except the people had forgotten about the peeing incident because dogs only have shame if humans teach them to.
The owner had to go talk to an animal cop afterwards, and then the cop and the trainer wanted to see Fred by himself. The cop fell in love with him, of course, and we explained to her about his breed. Fred was still genetically a dog in spite of the mod, and his breed registration was submitted but pending because we still had to verify that he’d breed true before the breed could be official. The hyena in him gave him more control, not less, because brown hyenas don’t really hunt, are pretty social, and have a much more stable pack setup than a lot of other animals. And they won’t usually breed within their own pack, so as long as we kept them out of the hands of stupid breeders inbreeding wouldn’t be a problem. She liked that a lot, and so did the trainer, and she gave Joey her card after she managed to disentangle herself from all of the Fred-love she was getting. “I’m satisfied,” she said. “Keep me in the loop about how his training is going; once he’s done here, I’d like to see how he does in our K-9 class. And call me if you run into any problems.”
I was pretty sure he’d be calling her anyway – I’ve seen that look on him before, you know – but we waited to tease him about it until we were back home with Fred.
Fred grew pretty quickly and became a big, furry dog. He was still friendly and playful – spoiled as fuck, remember? – but we did get to the point where we knew we couldn’t keep him in the lab, so he went to live with the ASPCA cop and became her K-9 partner. Her husband and kids loved him – sadly for Joey, she didn’t wear her wedding ring to work because she was afraid she’d lose it – and we ended up creating an exclusive contract with the ASPCA for Laughing Dogs because Fred worked out so well. They were also able to guarantee, as an organization, that Laughing Dog breeding would be strictly controlled to prevent inbreeding and other breeding stupidity, because their approved breeders knew better – not to mention, under the terms of the contract they’d get the living shit sued out of them for force-breeding a Laughing Dog within family lines, or for letting a non-approved breeder have access to one. Even the one flaw in the dogs turned out to be a bonus for them: Hyenas like to chase cats up trees, and in the wild they do it to leopards just for fun. The ASPCA in Vegas ended up commissioning four Laughing Dogs specifically to handle exotic animal calls, because people in Vegas like their big cats when they’re little fuzzy cats but don’t always manage to keep them under control very well once they get bigger. Coincidentally, the K-9 Tiger Squad got so popular in Vegas that they had their own web series and made public appearances for charity.
Which led us to a different project. The ASPCA, at least in our city, was the overseer for a program that takes animals to hospitals to be therapy animals; problem was, some people are allergic. We discussed that, and then discussed it with Betty, Fred’s partner, and came up with an animal we called a catopeet. It looked like a big kitten, had plushy fur like Fred as a puppy, but had no dander to trigger allergies and was not a shedder. It also had small non-retractable claws which were easily kept trimmed and capped so no one would get scratched…oh, and it was an insectivore, so no carnivore stench. It made a cooing noise when it was happy and even full grown could easily fit in a shoebox. We’d all agreed when we started the business that custom-made pets were not a road we wanted to go down…but this was different.
We made four catopeets and kept them in the lab, taking three of them around to the hospitals when the other volunteers went so the allergic kids and adults wouldn’t get left out. And it was while I was there one day that one of the nurses pulled me aside. “Could you…would you mind taking one of the kitties in to talk to one of our other patients?” she asked, looking kind of embarrassed when my confused look let her know I didn’t understand why I’d mind. “He just turned eighteen, and he has some…attitude problems so we can’t put him in with the younger children. I just thought…I asked Dr. Cristal, and he said you’d be the best one to talk to Theo. The two of you have…something in common.”
Oh dear god, really? She couldn’t even say the word? “Because I’m gay?” She blushed even harder, and I just barely managed not to roll my eyes. It’s the twenty-first fucking century, I mean really. “I can take Kitty One in to visit him, yeah. Cancer?” She nodded. “Is he going home?”
She shook her head. “He’ll go from here to the hospice.” She pointed down the hall. “He’s in Room 451.”
I went down to the room, shoving down my irritation because it was making Kitty One grumble – catopeets don’t growl, but they will grumble at you from the back of their throat. I knocked on the door – something I’d noticed the nurses don’t do – and called out, “Room Service!”
“The fuck?” came from the other side, so I pushed the door open. The boy I assumed had to be Theo was sitting up in bed, and he’d probably been scowling at the TV but he was fine shifting some of it to me. “Don’t want none, man. Just go away.”
“Fine, but let me calm Kitty One down first,” I told him, coming the rest of the way in and shutting the door. “I was pissed, so she’s unhappy right now.”
That got his attention. “You didn’t want to come down here?”
“I didn’t even know there was a down here; one of the nurses cornered me and blushed all over herself trying to ask if I’d come be the floor’s token gay animal wrangler.” I plopped Kitty One down on the bed, where she immediately decided that Theo was much more to her liking than I was – probably because he was warmer. “I’ll have a word with my coworker later for telling her.”
Ooh, I’d gotten it right. “You ain’t out?”
I shrugged. “I don’t noise it around. We get enough shit from people because of the work we do, and I figure my sex life is none of their fucking business.” Kitty One started licking his fingers. “Were you eating candy? Because catopeets have a thing for that.”
“Yeah, I had some.” He let her have the rest of his hand, and she settled in and started to coo for him. “Well shit. She’s a what?”
“A catopeet – the name doesn’t actually mean anything, except for the cat part. We made these just for bringing to the hospital.”
“They asked you to?” I shook my head. “Someone must have asked you to, man.”
“No one asked us,” I told him. “We’d been working with the ASPCA – the animal cops – because they have a contract with us for Laughing Dogs to work in their K-9 units. Our contact mentioned that they oversee this hospital thing, and that it kind of sucked for the people who couldn’t be exposed to animal dander or potential scratches or bites. So we talked it over and made a few of these little sweethearts to see if that would solve the problem.”
A suspicious eyebrow went up. “You writin’ it off?”
I shook my head again. “We can’t, because we kept ownership. There are four of them, they live in our lab. They eat bugs, we feed them crickets and those big-ass ants from Mexico – hence the candy fetish.”
Theo actually smiled. “I’ve heard about those. A buddy of mine was a wetback – like, a for real wetback, I’m not dissing him – and he said he loved those fucking ants. I told him he was fucking nuts.”
“Yeah, I’d have agreed with you. So why did they want a gay guy to come talk to you? Or is that just more stupid shit by ignorant people?”
He snorted. “It’s probably because of the bitch that keeps comin’ around, wantin’ me to go talk about what happened to me when my folks found out I liked guys, wantin’ me to have my picture taken for a poster or make a statement they can use for other kids.” He shrugged tightly. “I don’t want to play her fucking games, you know?”
“Oh shit yes, do I ever. And I guess I don’t need to kick Joey’s ass after all. I’m Danny, by the way,” I said. “My folks threw me out for that during my senior year. I haven’t seen or heard from them since.”
“No shit. I slept on someone’s couch until I graduated, and he was an ass about it. I was just damn lucky I’d already been accepted to college…but my folks claimed me as a dependent anyway, and so did the asshole’s parents, so I had a whole year of having my financial aid fucked up.”
He was nodding. “What do you do now?”
“I’m a geneticist. Three of my buddies from college and I founded a company called GenoMod, we make modified animals. You’ve seen the Jersey Devil? That was us.”
That got some fresh interest. “Yeah, I’ve heard about you guys. They said you made the werewolf in New York.”
“Yeah, no, they’re fucking liars. That’s another guy, he’s kind of nuts and he only does mods on humans. I personally think he’s got designs on being a comic-book supervillain, but he doesn’t have any superheroes to play off of.” I cocked my head. “So what were you doing before this?”
He snorted, which made him cough and Kitty One cuddled up to him and cooed louder. “Aw, you’re sweet, kitty. Nothin’,” he said. “I couldn’t find a couch, at least not one that didn’t want somethin’ I wasn’t willing to give up for the privilege, anyway. I stuck it out at school for a while – free food, someplace to be – but then the nurse copped to me bein’ sick and called my folks…well, the shit hit the fan and the school called all these fuckin’ cops and people, and first they stuck me in a group home and then I ended up here.” A scowl; he felt cheated, and with good reason. “From here it’s to the place they send you to die. And bitch keeps comin’ around, tryin’ to tell me I owe it to people to ‘tell my story’. I don’t owe nobody nothin’.”
He was giving me side-eye – he probably thought I was going to disagree with him – so he was really surprised when I nodded. “My sentiments exactly. Someone at the university found out about me after I’d been there for a while, and they started coming around, wanting me to be in this group, wanting me to go do this or that for them – I told them fuck no. I may like guys instead of girls, my life may have gone to shit when my folks found out…but fuck that, you know? I wanted to move past what happened and get my shit back together, not make my life all about it because that’s what other people – who hadn’t given a shit about me before they thought they could use me – thought I needed to do for them.” I looked him right in the eye. “Theo…it’s your life, no matter how long or short that’s going to be at this point. You don’t owe anyone anything, except yourself. Do what’s right for you, man, and say fuck off to anyone who says otherwise…just not to the kids down the hall, okay?”
He laughed. “I wouldn’t. I don’t mind the kids, they just don’t want me talkin’ to ‘em because I swear all the time and I don’t have a ‘positive attitude’.” A shrug. “I get that. My little brother, I wouldn’t have wanted him to be around some foul-mouthed negative bastard if he was sick either.”
I grinned. “Yeah, point.” I offered my hand, and he shook it, and then I got out one of my cards and gave it to him. “That’s my cell. I know they’re about to move you over to the hospice, so if you want a visitor who’ll swear with you give me a call and Kitty One and I will come over.”
“Thanks man, I…I might just take you up on that.” He raised an eyebrow. “Are the other kitties all called Kitty too, are they all like clones or somethin’?”
“Yeah and no,” I told him. “Kitty Four ended up with a lizard tail, we’re not sure why.”
I left him laughing and changing the channel on the television…and outside in the hall I found a blonde woman in a white lab coat who was apparently waiting for me. She was frowning. “You know, we want these children to be positive. That language you were using is inappropriate.”
“ ‘That language’ is how he talks, lady,” I told her. Listening at the door, huh? No wonder Theo didn’t like her. “And it’s also how my friends and I talk. Not to mention, why should he be positive about being eighteen and dying? That’s not positive, that sucks. He’s got a right to be mad.”
She sighed. “Were you able to convince him to work with us, at least?”
I stroked Kitty One, who was starting to grumble again. “That wasn’t why I came down here, and I agreed with his reasons not to.” I drew myself up. “Lady, I’ve met people like you – you guys came after me in college, saying I owed it to ‘the community’ to stand up and tell my story and support the cause. And even back then I knew that was bullshit. Nobody, no gay person or cancer patient or victim or sufferer or anything else, has a responsibility to anyone but themselves and their life. Some people want to stand up and that’s great, more power to them. But some of us just want to be left alone to do our thing, we don’t want to dwell and keep digging it up over and over and over again. And you don’t have the right to try to guilt us into it, because that’s just you being selfish and saying our lives aren’t our own because you have a use for us. And that is bullshit, and it always will be.”
She was about to get a little hot about that, and then she looked over my shoulder and went a funny color. I guessed what it was – I hadn’t been yelling, but I hadn’t been whispering either – and I turned around and jerked my head at Theo. “Hey, Theo. Are you supposed to be up?”
“Yeah, I get up – no reason not to, I just usually don’t see why I should.” He walked over to me, stroked Kitty One’s head when she stretched out a paw. “Damn, Danny, you’re short.”
“Always have been, always will be,” I told him, and then accepted the hug he wrapped around me. “What, you thought I was bullshitting you?”
“Wasn’t sure – the rest of them do. Sorry I doubted you, man.” He straightened back up, raised an eyebrow at the blonde, who had retreated sniffling. “Hmph, look at that.”
“People get caught up their own shit,” I told him, slapping him on the back. “I decided early on that it wasn’t worth the effort and stopped getting pissed at most of them for it.”
“Yeah. I can do that – as long as she leaves me alone about it.” She blinked at him, then nodded tearfully, and he sighed and stroked Kitty One again. “See ya later, Kitty One,” he told her. “You too, Danny.”
“Call me once you get moved,” I reminded him. “I’d offer to bring Joey with me too, but between the two of us we’d get banned from the place for life.”
Theo grinned. It was a damned shame he’d never get the chance to grow up and make a life for himself. “You can bring him when I get close, then it won’t matter,” he told me with a wink, and sauntered back to his room. I went back down the hall to collect Joey and Pete. It was time for us to go home…before the blonde bitch stopped sniffling and tried to talk to me again.
Theo called me about a week later. “Hey Danny, Theo. Is it a bad time?”
“No, not at all – I was just running sims on a mod. What’s up?”
“Not much, this place is boring as fuck. Nice people and all, but it’s dull.”
That was probably as close as he was going to get to asking for a visitor. “Want some company? Kitty One is bored too, and this sim isn’t going anywhere. I was just sitting here waiting for it to finish, but it’s gonna be a while.”
‘A while’ being about five more minutes, but semantics. He still hesitated. “You sure?”
“Wouldn’t have said so if I wasn’t.” Which was true, I wouldn’t have. “You’re at the place on Ninth, right? Do I just ask for you at the front?”
“I’ll come out and wait so you don’t have to.”
“Even better. See you in twenty – thirty if Kitty One is chasing crickets.”
He was good with that, so I let him go and rounded up Kitty One and headed off to the hospice. It was an older building with nicely landscaped grounds, and Theo was waiting in the lobby. He had on sweatpants and a t-shirt and he looked a lot more comfortable than he had in the hospital – but not too comfortable, because the lady behind the reception desk didn’t seem too happy about something. She relaxed a little when he came over to meet me at the door, but made a face when she saw the cat carrier. “I’m sorry, unless that’s a service animal or a therapy animal…”
“It’s a therapy animal,” I cut her off. Politely. “Kitty One met Theo while he was in the hospital, we came to see how he was settling in here.”
She relaxed again. She even smiled. “That’s fine, then. If you’d come sign in, Mr….”
“Dr. Darling – not that kind of doctor,” I corrected before she could get all the way there thinking I was medical. “I’m a geneticist.” I signed in, and she gave me a sticker. “Any rules Kitty One and I need to be aware of?” I checked her nametag. “Nancy?”
“Just don’t let her run around loose,” she told me. “Some of the residents have allergies.”
“I won’t let her run around,” I assured her. “Kitty One was specially bred not to have dander or shed, though – that’s why we take she and her siblings to the hospital.” I went back to Theo – who had looked kind of worried – and grinned at him. “Okay, I’m officially here now. Where are we going?”
He took me back to his room, which was small but had a fairly large window that looked out. He sat down on his bed and I got Kitty One out and gave her to him; she crawled right up on him, licked his fingers a few times to check for candy, and then curled up to coo. He smiled, petting her. “Aw, she remembered me.”
“She remembers people she likes,” I told him. “And she remembers you had candy.” I pulled out a little baggie with a few Big Ass Ants in it – yes, that really is what they’re called – and handed one to him. “Here, she hasn’t had any today.”
He made a face, but he took the ant and held it for her; she sniffed, made a chirruping noise, and then her long, thin tongue flicked out and she sucked in the ant. After which she rolled over in his lap and wriggled, making him laugh. “Dude, is she…”
“Shhh, it’s a secret,” I told him. “She’s a whole bunch of things, actually – but yes, that is one of them.” I let him have the rest of the ants and she sucked them all down, licking his fingers lazily once they were all gone. “So, tell me about it.”
He did. They’d given him six weeks at the outside. Right now he was feeling pretty good, but he’d been warned that the downhill slide was coming and to enjoy feeling good while it lasted. The hospice had video games and things, but not the kind he liked – he understood their reasoning for not having the violent, bloody games on hand, but what they had was still boring to him. He’d been playing some of them anyway, though. Then he wanted to know what we were doing in the lab, so I described our latest mod project to him. And after that he wanted to know how it worked, so I explained zipper theory and he was fascinated. “So you unzip and rezip and then the animal changes? Doesn’t it hurt?”
“We tranquilize them,” I assured him. “It would hurt like hell, and that would traumatize them or possibly even kill them. I know Doc knocked out Hana when he did her mod, but the wolfman in New York made it sound like he toughed it out so I don’t know if Doc just tranqs people he likes or what.”
That made Theo snicker. “I could see not doin’ it if someone came in with a ‘tude,” he said. “I’ve heard tattoo guys say they drag it out to make ‘em cry when that happens.”
“I’ve heard a tattoo girl say that,” I told him. “She said the guys who oogle get five extra minutes in the chair – and if they proposition her it’s ten. The guy she finally hooked up with got twenty extra minutes and still wanted to go out with her, so she figured he must be serious and gave him a shot.”
“Yeah. They’re still together, too.”
He cocked his head. “What about you, got a boyfriend?”
I shook my head. “Can’t have one, honestly. The lab gets harassed so much, I don’t dare get involved with anyone – and I doubt anyone would stay involved with me once they started getting it too. Eventually that’ll get straightened out, but until then I just work. And we’re pretty busy, and getting busier every day, so I’m not missing it or anything right now.”
“Man, that sucks – not that you guys are doing good, but that they’re buggin’ you that much. They doin’ it to that little girl of yours too?”
It was probably a good sign that he’d done some research. “They’ve tried, but that’s why she lives in the lab – so we can protect her.” I had an idea. “That computer in the corner have internet?”
“Yeah, it’s loaded. Even has a camera and a mic so we can talk to people.” He made a face. “I just don’t got anyone to talk to that way.”
“No computers, or you lost touch after the social workers got hold of you?”
“Well that sucks ass.” I knew someone who could probably make it stop sucking, though. “I’ve got a buddy who might be able to help you rectify that. First, though…” I got Skype open and called Hana, waving to her when she took the call. “Hey Hana, I wanted you to meet Theo.”
Hana knew who Theo was already, of course, and she chittered at me. Theo’s eyes were as round as ping pong balls. “Wait, she’s really…”
She chittered again, and typed. I’m a bunnygirl, yes. Her typing showed up on the bottom of the video window, like a subtitle – Pete had made that adaption for her. Hi Theo! Nice to meet you. She squinted at the screen, nose twitching. Your room is all white and blue, how boring.
Theo laughed. “I think so too. They say it’s supposed to make us feel calm and relaxed, it just makes me feel like goin’ to sleep.”
Bo-ring, Hana repeated. You’ll have plenty of time to sleep later.
And Theo smiled. “Yeah, yeah I will.” I traded places with him, and he made a show of looking around her room where it could be seen in the window. “Damn, girl, that is the girliest room I think I’ve ever seen. They let you have that in their lab? Danny ain’t that gay.”
Hana can’t really laugh, of course, but she goes through the motions, and once she was done they settled in to chat. Theo asked her about herself and she typed at him and shared videos of her singing before the mod, and then she asked him about himself and took the camera out to show him the rest of the lab and introduce him to Pete. Who was playing a video game, so the two of them talked about that for a few minutes and then I leaned in to ask Pete if he could maybe help Theo track down some of his friends because they didn’t know where he was. Pete was more than happy to do that, and within about ten minutes he had one of Theo’s buddies on the phone. Who lived next door to another buddy, one who could use his mother’s computer as long as he wasn’t using it to watch porn, so after a little bit of running back and forth Theo had a phone number and the mother’s Skype name and a time to call them later that night so they could catch up.
No, of course Theo didn’t tell him right then – I wouldn’t have either. Hana took the camera back and asked Theo some very pointed questions about colors, meaning there was probably an afghan and possibly some curtains or a poster somewhere in his near future, and then she had to go because it was almost time for her livestream and she had to finish putting a flower on a hat. Theo got to see the hat first, sans flower, and his suggestion that adding a couple of little leaves would look nice made her squeal and clap. She made kissy noises at us and then waved and disconnected, and Theo went back to sit on his bed with a somewhat shell-shocked expression on his face. “Wow, she’s somethin’. And those bastards want to hurt her? They must be fuckin’ monsters, man.”
“We’re not sure what they are,” I told him. “But yeah, Hana was pretty special before she became a bunnygirl. Her boyfriend wanted to join her, but we won’t let him until we’re sure we can reverse it.”
“Does she want…”
“Nope, she loves it – he does too, but for obvious reasons they can’t…express that.”
That made him giggle. “Oh hell yeah, she’d kill him in bed, wouldn’t she? Rabbits, I hadn’t thought of that.”
We talked for a little bit longer, I helped him set up his own Skype account so he could talk to his buddies later, and then Kitty One and I left so he could get ready for that conversation. I did not leave him my Skype name, though. We keep getting bugged, remember? No way was I opening up a dying kid for that kind of media attention. Or our lab either, for that matter – not like Dave’s girlfriend wasn’t on him all the time about me being bad for his career as it was, if a rumor about me and an eighteen-year-old got started she’d go ballistic and so would his parents.
I reflected as I drove back to the lab that it sort of sucked the world worked that way, but I put that thought aside. The world works the way it works, me being pissed about it doesn’t do anything but make me pissed. Which is a waste of my time and energy.
Time and energy I could be using to make more mods, and maybe help Hana pick out a poster Theo would actually like to hang in the room he was only going to be in for maybe six more weeks.
It ended up being four weeks, six days. One of his buddies was there with him, and another buddy’s mother had gotten involved a couple of weeks earlier and brought his little brother in on the q.t. to say goodbye. The hospice called me to let me know when it was all over, because Theo had asked them to, and we sent flowers to his funeral in Kitty One’s name so there wouldn’t be any media involvement after the fact. He’d apparently told his buddies all about that, though, because one of them showed up at the lab a week later with a bag full of Big Ass Ants for Kitty One…and a box of tamales his mother had made for the rest of us. “I don’t care what no one else says,” he told us. “You’re the good guys in our book.”
It was really, really nice to hear someone say that.