Paternal Experiment (Short Story)

My mad scientist is not like all the others. I drew from real-life events to write this story. Years back, as a veterinary assistant, we were pressured to perform a cat abortion and that experience will remain a stain in my memory forever.

“I wanna record this.” She pushed him into her chair and knelt between his legs.

“Kinky.” His clear gaze locked on hers.

She slid her tongue over her lips. Her phone sat propped up on the desk. She clicked record and giggled. “You have no idea.”

He grabbed the back of her hair and pulled. “I wanna destroy your throat.” He leaned forward and grunted in her ear.

She batted her eyelashes at him and tugged at his pants. “I’ll suck you all the way down.”

He gripped her hair like a harness and she unzipped his jeans. Her fingers slid under his boxers. His hard cock pocked the fabric. She pulled his pants and boxers back together as if peeling a banana, and left them lying around his ankles.

No amount of rehearsing prepared her for this. She needed to move fast. She sucked in a deep breath and leaned her forehead against the tip. Smooth vulnerable skin warmed. “I love the way you feel on my face.”

He loosened his grip.

That’s all she needed. She felt down. Eyes useless, she blinked hard and searched about the back of the chair pedestal. Her hand found the syringe, she sighed as she plucked it from the double sided tape.

“What are you waiting for?” he asked.

“This.” She shoved the needle into his spine. The soft skin where his tailbone and back met tensed.

“You stupid bitch! What the fuck are you doing?” He stood and tripped over his pants.

She got off her knees and kicked him in the face. “Foreplay, baby.” She rolled her eyes and laughed.

She pulled out her laptop and began the real documentation.

Dr. Vasquez August 5th 2020:

I can’t believe Delilah’s owner thought I’d blow him in my office. He’d follow his dick anywhere. Doesn’t give a shit about anything but a nut.

That son of a bastard strode into my office like he owned the place. The heavy stench of musky cologne made my eyes water. Slicked back hair and a perfect shave didn’t fool me. I am a doctor.

People take vets for granted. Yeah, I’d rather save an animal than a human. That doesn’t make me any less of a professional. My patients can’t tell me what they’re feeling. I work twice as hard as any physician to figure out what’s wrong and heal it.

By the way he dumped his cat carrier on the counter at our front desk when he first came in, I half imagined he nabbed some stray off the street as a prelude to getting into my pants. I could hear his whiny tone talking to himself, “She loves animals, this has gotta work.”

Too many assholes think they gotta wedge themselves into a woman’s view. Slide onto their radar as if we have nothing better to think about. It’s not like I have lives to save, or a business to run…

I’m going to have to clean this up for the articles I publish. Whatever. Right now I have him the same as he had her.

“Delilah’s her name,” he said when I rushed by the desk to grab a chart from my vet tech, John. He rolled his eyes and shot me an I-can-shut-him-up-before-he-starts look.

“Nice.” I gave John the I-can-handle-myself smirk and he tugged at his scrubs fighting to hold in a chuckle.

“I’m, Todd.” The douche dared to follow me into the back area.

John stomped after him.

I turned on my heal, grit my teeth, and held up my hands. “Only patients follow me.”

He cocked his head. “But I bet you could sew me up if I were bleeding out.”

John tapped Todd’s shoulder and he resumed his position at the front desk, checking in his cat for a routine spay.

Everything about him screamed slime ball: weasel, douche waffle. Maybe that’s why this came together. Or maybe I’ve lost it. I don’t care.

John brought Delilah back and got her situated in a surgery prep cage. “You’re too sweet for that asshole.”

Her purrs echoed through the hall and followed me into every appointment. Routine checkups took up the morning. A biopsy here, a deworming there. I went out to lunch and returned ready to dive into the surgeries when John stopped me the second I set my purse on my desk.

“You need to call, Todd.”

“Please don’t make me enter another conversation with that “bro” again. The less I have to hear his voice the safer we all are from projectile vomit.”

John pushed his glassed up his hook nose. His sense of humor grew stale and I blinked hard.

“What’s wrong with the cat?” I asked.

“Nothing. She’s here for a simple spay.”

“Okay.” I wrinkled my brow and gawked at him. “I think I can handle that.”

Before I could laugh him off, John sighed. “She’s pregnant. And not like, kind of maybe. There’s plenty of movement in there.”

“Gotcha.”

He handed me the chart before I could ask for Todd’s shitty number. Thank you I mouthed as I dialed and waited.

“You missed me already?”

Who the hell answers the phone like that? I gagged. “Charming, Mr. Sanders, but I was actually calling to discuss your cat. Delilah is pregnant. You’re quite a few weeks late on the spaying.”

“I know.”

The arrogance in his tone stiffened my spine. “Then I’ll expect you’re prepared to come pick her up unchanged.”

I’d never had a problem with abortion in theory. Any woman who considered it didn’t seem maternal enough to do much good for future generations in my eyes, but people had a choice. This guy just expected me to put his cat under and rob her of her young. She would wake up confused and in pain. She didn’t ask for this. She definitely didn’t ask for an owner who would purposefully do it.

The longer he held silent, the deeper my ire grew.

“Look Doc, there are plenty of other vets I could take her to. Or I can deal with the kittens myself once they’re born.”

“Or I could revoke ownership on animal abuse grounds.” I clenched my fist around the phone.

“Delilah is well cared for. I’d hate to have to litigate over something so trivial.”

“Maybe trivial to you,” I fought to keep my voice down when the front bell rang to announce another patient arrival.

“I’m just trying to do the right thing. I expect a woman of your intelligence to understand.” Todd shifted into every condescending piece of shit I’d ever deal with and I had just met the guy. “I could always take care of them myself once they’re born.”

Images of helpless newborn animals being shoved into a sink of cold water to gasp, gag, and suffocate infected my mind. Guys like him treated everything like a rigged game. I had to play. “No. I think I can help you.”

“Good. And maybe later I can take you out as a thank you for the favor.”

“You’re paying me. That’s thanks enough.” I could have strangled him through the phone.

“Damn, I didn’t think I could buy you.” He chuckled.

“I meant for the spay, Mr. Sanders.”

“Right.” His nasal laugh sounded as charming as a bloated pit bull’s high pitched fart and stunk worse. “But still.”

“I’ll be working.” I hung up before he could parry a retort. “John?”

His sneakers squeaked on the linoleum floor. He walked up hugging Delilah to him, rubbing her belly and kissing her like she was his. “We won’t let that terrible man take your kittens─no we won’t.”

I raised my eyebrows at him. “Getting a little too attached?”

“Never.” He rubbed Delilah and she pressed her face against his neck.

I paced the length of floor between my desk and the filing cabinets that lined the wall behind it. “He threatened to take her elsewhere if we refuse.”

“But we can’t.” John held Delilah out to me. “Look at her. She’s beaming with motherly love.”

She did have a regal air about her, but I shook my head. “He also mentioned suing us if we try to take her from him. So that’s a no-go.”

“What about a switch? We find a cat that looks like Delilah and give her to him instead.”

I giggled and found comfort in his dimples as they deepened with his smile. “I could stage a break-in and become the first cat cat-burglar.”

“You’d scare all our other customers away.” I slumped to my chair and slowly resigned myself to sit and ponder a better way.

After work, I decided to test out the nearest bar and see if their tenders could offer some advice. Maybe I watched too many movies. Maybe that’s why this is no medical journal but a diary of sorts in this early stage.

Either way I slunk to a hole-in-the wall joint. It didn’t even have tables or booths. This dive defined the word “bar.” Smoke curled in the air. It laughed at my lungs, but I was fully committed to test a new method.

A couple of guys sat watching a baseball game. I didn’t recognize any of the teams and I didn’t care. Shiny bottles sat in rows behind the bar. Each pulled my attention to the bartender. Her long curly black hair swept down to her low cut top and I wondered if she got more tips displaying her breasts like they were for sale.

She smiled at me when I took up the nearest stool.

“Whatcha’ need doll?” She winked at me.

Solutions, I thought. I imagined laying it out for her, but I hadn’t even ordered a drink. A fat drunk stumbled in and she glared at him, gripping the bar.

“It’s too early for you to be swaying like that.” She waved him out but he sat down next to me.

“Who are you, my mother?” He laughed at his own joke. The veins in his nose branched down the cartilage like they were tattooed on his face and I rolled my eyes.

“Water it is.” She sprayed some aqua into a tall glass and splashed it on the bar in front of him.

He slapped a ten dollar bill in front of her. “You throw in an appetizer and maybe I’ll sober up a bit.

She took the money and glanced back at me. “You decided what you want yet, hun?”

I sighed at her crystal eyes. “Rum and coke?”

She nodded. “Any preference on the rum?”

“Whatever you think.” I rubbed my eyes.

She poured the alcohol like a champ. Once she slid me my drink, she walked back to the baseball fans, shaking her head with a smirk.

So much for bar-tender therapy. I stared into the glass.

“You have a rough day?” The fat drunk grunted. His voice reminded me of a pig’s. His neck rolls bubbled. His enormous belly pressed into the bar. He was the last person I imagined talking to, but behind the sweat and addiction his face held sincerity.

“I guess you could say that.” I sat back and rubbed my hands together.

“This is a good place to get away, or maybe a bad one. Some of us enjoy it too much.” He gulped his water and wiped his brow.

I sipped my rum and coke. My throat jolted at the potency. “I don’t usually go to bars.”

“As you shouldn’t.” He poked a rolley poly finger at me. “You’re young and healthy. Probably a doctor or a lawyer. Right?”

I cocked my head at him.

“I knew it.” He laughed louder than the TV and music playing in the background.

“Actually I’m a veterinarian.” I sipped more of my drink.

He scratched his bumpy chin. “An animal lover, huh? My daughter wants to be a vet when she grows up. But then again, don’t most kids?”

I laughed. “I guess so.” Despite his grotesque exterior and his brazen approach to conversation, I grew to appreciate this odd drunk. He reminded me of my grandpa.

“Did you put down a dog or something today?” He held his empty water glass up at the bar tender and she jogged over to refill it.

“No.” I slid my fingers over the smooth surface of the bar. “Some asshole wants me to spay his pregnant cat.”

“What?” He and the bar tender both gaped at me.

“Like a cat abortion?” She wrinkled her nose.

“That’s weird as shit.” The drunk laughed. “You gonna do it?”

“It’s not something I’ve ever considered.” I slammed my drink down. It refreshed my senses after confessing the dilemma.

“You want another?” The bar tender flashed me sympathetic eyes. Her lips twitched.

“Yes, please.”

The drunk stopped my hand before I could pull money from my wallet. “I got this for you. Lord knows I don’t need it.” He stared up at the ceiling as if some Juedo/Christian God were calling him out from the cheap lighting.

The bar tender set me up.

“So do your job and move on?” The drunk glanced at me over his water glass.

“I don’t know.” I sipped more rum and coke. “The owner is an asshole. One of those shitty people who expects everyone to bow down to them. He threatened to sue me if I don’t do it and then tried to get me to go out with him.”

The drunk spit his water back into his glass. “If someone did that to my daughter I’d abort him.”

I laughed. “How old is your daughter?”

His broad frame curled into itself. Shame and despair took hold and made him recoil in a way that made him shrink to one third of his size before my eyes. He counted on his fingers─stared up as if trying to look into his brain. “She should be about eight come June.”

“You don’t sound so sure,” I tested my own therapy voice.

“Her mom and I aren’t on so great of terms. Haven’t seen her in a bit.” He drank the rest of his water.

“I’m sorry.” I pulled my hands onto my lap and slumped.

“Anyway.” He coughed his emotions back. “We were talking about you and your dilemma.”

“Right.” I raised my glass to my lips and breathed in the bitter warmth before chugging the last of it. “It just doesn’t seem right. Plus I wouldn’t know what to do with the kittens.”

“Maybe they’ll survive.” He dipped his finger in his water then licked it.

I shrugged. “Then I’ll be responsible for them and we have enough strays running around.”

The bar tender slid back over to us. She tapped the surface of the bar and pulled a bottle of beer out for the drunk. “You get one. Just one since you’re back at it again, Doc.”

“Doc?” I glanced at the drunk. His disheveled hair and stained clothes draped over slumped shoulders. In them I sensed a story. Everyone always has a story. I imagined maybe mine wasn’t so bad.

“I used to work in psychiatric care. Til’ this was the only cure for the responsibility that comes with helping everyone else.” He took a swig and waved at the bar tender. “Thanks, Lydie.”

“That’s Bartender to you.” She went back to the sports fans.

He leaned forward and fidgeted with his bottle.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“What does it matter? You’re not coming back here. Too classy for this place. Plus, you’ve got Mr. Cat Abortion to deal with.”

“True, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care.” I downed the rest of my drink and tapped the bar for Lydie to get me another. I was off the clock and sick of everything. If the drunk beside me was once a successful doctor, how much hope was there for the rest of us?

“Just call me, Doc. The irony makes me happy.” He studied my face with a hazel gaze.

“Okay, Doc.” The words barely slipped off my tongue before I caught a case of the giggles. He was right, the irony was hilarious and my laughter infected him until we both swayed on our stools.

I almost fell off mine and he steadied my shoulder. “Don’t let the few assholes out there ruin your faith in humanity. Even the worst of us have consciences at times. Trust me, I treated them.”

“Aww. You should put that on a plaque or something.” I laughed with a hiccup. Finishing another drink, I decided to cut myself off.

Lydie cashed me out. “Don’t let this guy influence you too much.”

I handed her my card and stood up as tall as I could. “He was getting a bit too inspirational for my tastes.” I smoothed out my blouse and combed my fingers through my hair to make sure I was still presentable.

“You’re not driving are you?” Doc asked.

“Nah, I like walking. It’s good for the body and mind. “I signed the slip, left Lydie a fifty-percent tip and headed for the door.

“Take care,” he called out, and I waved over my shoulder.

The sticky air clung to my skin. Humid enough to emulate a breathable swimming pool, alcohol sweat through each pore. I knew I reeked of it. I could smell myself.

I walked away from the bar and stopped at the sidewalk to rifle through my purse for perfume. Working with animals had its rewards, but it also often left me covered in the blood, puss, vomit, piss, shit, and the worst smell of all─death. I constantly spritzed myself before and after work. Even after scrubbing in the shower sometimes I felt the residue of illness surround me.

Maybe I need a psychiatrist, I thought.

Doc’s drunken face remained in my memory. Poor guy. I misjudged him upon first impression. Maybe he’s right. Most people aren’t so bad. I thought of John and the rest of my crew. Even the cleaning lady who helped maintain the clinic gave a damn about our patients.

I grasped my perfume, spritzed myself, and breathed deep. Nothing like artificial floral scents to revive a sense of self.

I watched the cars driving by and started my walk home. The sidewalk slabs had cracks along the way, but the weeds growing in them reminded me of the resilience of life. Maybe the kittens could survive. I thought about the procedure. How to cut them from the uterus. I could do a C-section instead of an abortion and feed them kitten formula.

John would help care for them; he’d probably adopt at least one. Although his menagerie of strays and discarded pets was growing a bit too vast to maintain, even with the help of his fiancé and their daughter.

Solutions beamed at me as the sun set. Rays of sherbet clouds reminded me of the dreams I had achieved. Doc’s daughter wanted to be a vet. He laughed at the idea as if she would grow out of it like people did when I first announced my aspirations, but there I was able to do something with my skills. I couldn’t change people like Todd, but I could mitigate their ignorance with my cunning.

A faint meow stopped my thoughts.

I glanced around. Another scratchy cry sounded from behind a strip mall up ahead.

I meowed back, a short strong call like that of a healthy older cat. The young cries grew louder and more frequent. I followed them to a storm drain in the back alley of the strip mall. Huddled just inside the opening sat the tiniest malnourished kitten I’d ever seen.

“Come here little guy.” I dropped my purse and got down on all fours.

It meowed again, shivering.

I meowed back and slowly extended my hand. My fingers inched closer.

The kitten glanced around looking for an escape, but there was nothing. “It’s okay,” I whispered. “I’m here to help you.”

One scraggly paw stepped further and I smiled.

I was just about to pull the kitten to me when someone scuffled nearby. “Hello?” I scooted around.

A short round woman scratched her arms and twitched. She held a brick in one hand and a fist full of trash in the other.

“Are you okay?”

She wheezed at me. “No, I’m not fuckin’ okay. Give me yo goddamn purse.”

I sat up and grasped my belongings. “If you need some food or a place to stay I can help you.”

She cackled at me. “Ain’t nobody gonna help me. I don’t need nothin’ but to get lit!” She screamed with blood-shot eyes. He ragged hair was as matted as the stray cat’s fur. I stared down her figure to the bulge of her stomach. Perfectly round, the new life inside didn’t seem to matter to her.

This is why I treat animals. People think they’re better, but we’re not. We’re just as wild and ten times more dangerous.

“You’re strung out. You need food and medical care.” I got up and forced air into my lungs trying not to shake. Feral animals never scared me, why should a pregnant drug addict? “I’m Nikki. What’s your name?”

She growled and lunged at me. She grabbed for my purse and slammed the brick on my head. The edge tore into my skin. Cracked away layers.

Blood poured.

I stumbled, sinking under her unpredictable weight.

My pulse drummed in my ears as if I were underwater. The surge of throbbing pain gave way to numbness. She bashed the brick against my face again and again.

My vision blurred. I thought it would never end. I fell to the pavement with a hard thud.

She kicked me, but all I could do was lay there breathing in the stench of cat piss and my own blood.

The warm pavement turned cold. Sunset turned to night and a street light buzzed at the end of the alleyway. My ears rang. I moaned and struggled to open my eyes. Swollen and sore, they barely lifted enough to blind me with the dim light nearby.

A soft purr awakened my senses. I felt around my neck and my fingers touched a soft body pawing at my shoulders.

The numbness wore off inch by inch revealing severe bruising and potential muscle damage. I feared my attacker remained.

The kitten licked my hand with its sandpaper tongue and I determined we were alone. “Hey there,” I whispered.

It pushed its face against my neck and I cringed. A pinching jolt struck from my vertebra all the way through the base of my brain. No. I sat up out of sheer will. I need my faculties.

My chest tightened. It rose and fell faster and faster. Tears took up the corner of my eyes but refused to fall.

“She didn’t hurt you, did she?” I grit my teeth.

Instead of fearing brain damage, I focused on the kitten. I rolled onto my side, clamping my eyes shut as the movement sent a ripple of agony through my head and down my neck.

The kitten got up and walked back and forth, rubbing its frail body against my face. I blew out a mouthful of air. Wisps of fur mixed with drying blood. It caked my face. I dared to gently pat my forehead.

Bad idea. A gaping wound sat at my left temple. It made the pain intensify just knowing the flesh was open.

Black spots blinked before my eyes. They scattered then returned to rest on the kitten’s orange striped fur. I breathed in deep and coughed. “Come on.” I sat up crossed legged. The kitten swatted at my pants. It climbed up the fabric and turned around on my thigh, then perched with a curious look.

“I know,” I said. “You’ve seen a lot.”

I picked her up and nuzzled her much to the displeasure of my neck and cuts. But she purred and reached her front paws out to press them on my nose.

She revived me. Her desperation meant more than my needs. Focusing on her got me off the ground.

My missing purse held my phone. I didn’t want to stumble into the laundry mat or the shops in the strip mall causing a scene. My practice held everything I needed to patch myself up. It would be easier that way.

I clutched the kitten close. She cozied up in my hands. Her tail wrapped against my wrist.

I swayed, staring at the pool of blood before me. It trickled through cracks and crevices marring the smooth surface. “Heads bleed a lot,” I reminded myself.

The kitten shrugged.

I smirked at her just enough to irritate my eyes. We followed the dark back to the clinic. Each step made me nauseous.

My eyes fixated on every shadow. I imagined people jumping out from every corner. Arms reached for me from tree tops. Brick buildings glared at me.

I shook. Flashes of the attack struck my mind. I tightened my grip on the kitten, but she didn’t struggle. She massaged my hand with her tiny feet reassuring me of our safety.

The second I spotted the clinic I sped up. Walking faster, my legs faltered and we spilled onto the ground. The sidewalk gashed my chin, but I crawled to my kitten. She twitched before me. Her tiny body kicked at the air, then collapsed.

I scooped her up in my hands. “No.” My lips trembled. “You’re all the hope I have.”

I put my mouth against her and listened. I needed my bag. My stethoscope. Something.

Careful to steady myself, I rose again and carried her to sanctuary. At least my keys were still secured in my back pocket. I unlocked the door and stepped in. I flicked on the lights and took my new kitten to the surgery room. Everything there waited to help.

I grabbed a heating pad and set it under her on the table. Pulling my big light down over her, I grabbed my stethoscope and listened to her breathing. Fluid. She was already sick and starving, then I had dropped her. Who knows what that woman did to her.

We were helpless, doctor and patient. I couldn’t find a vein to run an IV. Injecting fluids under the skin stressed her out.

She meowed one last time and released her bowels.

Hope, was gone.

My body went so numb I might as well have died too. I grabbed a towel from the surgery supplies and draped it over the dead kitten. I placed my hands at the edge of the surgical table and bent over my failure. No tears came. Something else took over my senses. I didn’t care about cleaning myself up, or how I would work the next day.

A scratchy meow lured me from self-hatred. I straightened myself up and went to tend the patient. Delilah’s emerald eyes glowed in the dim light pouring into her cage. I opened the door and stroked her soft fur. She grumbled when my hand reached too close to her womb.

“You’re a good mother. You obviously care enough to protect yourself and your litter.” I sighed. “I should have finished my genetic engineering studies in school. You know, I thought it could maybe save us from starvation. It’s a great idea.”

Delilah sniffed my fingers and licked one with her rough tongue.

“But world hunger is more about greed than need.” I shifted my weight and rested my chin in the cage with the cat. “People don’t deserve half the comforts they have. Like your owner. That…” My eyes narrowed to slits. I fantasized about kicking him in the nuts, or bashing his head on pavement like my attacker had done. It made me hungry for revenge.

Delilah pressed her forehead to my raw knuckles.

“You know I researched the artificial womb not so long ago. It seemed like a long shot, and I doubt it will do much for humanity. We’re overpopulated and disconnected from our better instincts as it is, but maybe I was meant to use it for other purposes.” I smiled as a new idea struck me.

The more I talked to my patient the more clear things seemed. I needed to use my knowledge for a greater purpose. No one was going to teach that bastard a lesson. But I had the know-how. Between biology, genetic engineering, and robotics classes I could practically build a human from scratch.

Images of the human body came to mind. Male verses female. Genitalia. Reproductive abilities.

What say we do a little experiment?” I asked Delilah.

She kneaded her arm with soft paws.

I gathered the materials. Bought an epidural off of a nurse friend of mine under the table, and here we are. Todd’s dick is so gullible it led him straight into the procedure. He would be the first man to carry a litter of kittens.

Delilah will sleep peacefully as I cut her uterus out and fuse it with Todd’s stomach lining and the stem cells I harvested. When he wakes he will be pumped full of so much estrogen he’ll have to understand how important this litter is.

It will be a medical breakthrough, really.

I’ll save Delilah’s kittens and Todd will be a new man. Improved. More empathetic, more caring. He’ll give birth and understand the world through new eyes.

It’ll work.

It has to.

If not, what did I go through this all for?

4 thoughts on “Paternal Experiment (Short Story)

  1. bethcusack says:

    Thank you for writing this story. It took me to uncomfortable places but that’s what draws me to writing and reading. I want to understand different and difficult points of view. I knew from recent news that veterinarians have one of the most stressful jobs out there. I hope that this awareness increases and we realize the critical and heart-wrenching work they do for their non-verbal patients.

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