10 Meows

“No more than 5 people
in the waiting room at a time,”
a sign taped to the door of the veterinary clinic says.

I walk in with three children.
We are bringing in our cat Frankie for surgery.

The kids argued over who would carry him to the car,
who would put him on their lap.

Frankie looks terrified but doesn’t make a sound
until I stop at a red light
and our eyes meet through the black mesh

“He just meowed four times!” Luke says.

In the waiting room there is a woman
carrying a Persian cat
and wearing blue surgical gloves.

On the counter are two cups of pens for signing forms:
one labeled ‘dirty’, one labeled ‘clean.’

When they tell us it’s time to leave Frankie,
I pick up the carrier, he mews,
and we all say, “10 meows.”
The lady with the Persian cat smiles.

We smile back,
and as we walk toward the door,
keeping our distance.