Everyone at the Caboose knew Teddy’s weekend had gone badly the moment he came in on Tuesday for happy hour. He was a regular at the Caboose, but his appearance made everyone forget about watching the Dodgers vs Giants game to eye him. Some with concern, others with amusement. Even Sam the bartender paused in the middle of drying a martini glass to stare with raised eyebrows.
Teddy, a self-described graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, had a saturnine expression on his moon face at the best of times. Now, poorly shaved, he shuffled over to the bar running across the back of the small room looking as defeated as if his previous week’s tax audit had gone very much against him. But a tax audit didn’t usually leave flesh wounds. Everyone wondered what the explanation would be for the thick white hospital bandage wrapped around Teddy’s right hand from the base of his fingers to his wrist, leaving the thumb exposed, or the three parallel diagonal scratches on his forehead above Ted’s left eye. He also carried an unfamiliar knapsack over his left shoulder which he set down on the green leather bar stool, working the zipper awkwardly with his injured hand.
“Scotch today, Sam. Top shelf stuff, please. Light on the soda.”
“Sure Teddy.” Sam turned and selected a dusty bottle from the high shelf, jostling the TV just as Lincecum stepped onto the mound to pitch.
“Hey! Watch it, Sam! Didja get mugged or something, Teddy?” Pete asked, his attention divided between the TV and Ted’s face.
“Or something,” Teddy answered with a heavy sigh, fumbling about in his knapsack and finally producing his wallet. “This fucking hand!”
“Those are some scratches, too,” Sam added, sliding a tumbler with three fingers’ of amber whiskey toward Teddy. “Did Elsa have to fend you off, wild man?”
“Elsa’s history with me, Sam,” Teddy grunted, struggling to pull money out of the wallet. “Man, the trick she played on me this weekend!” He slapped a ten dollar bill on the formica counter and slid it over to Sam. “She must’ve been laughing clear to New York.”
“I warned you, Teddy,” Sam sighed shaking his head as he stowed the money in the till. He refilled a beer mug with Heineken and slid it down the bar back to its owner. “Beautiful rich woman, too young for you—that’s what I call living beyond your means.”
“I know, I know, I’m old enough to be her dad,” Teddy replied taking his seat on the stool. “This wasn’t a date, though. Late last Thursday night, Elsa calls me in this big panic. Said she had to be in New York all weekend because of her job—last minute thing they sprang on her that afternoon, telling her he flight to New York was booked as of noon Friday, and she was in desperate need of a pet sitter for her Siamang. I could have sworn she said ‘Siamese.”
“Anyhow, I agreed—figuring it was my chance to be her big hero—I can put on my man pants to feed a cat and clean a cat box in Pacifica for three days. I should’ve been more suspicious when she thanked me forty-five times in ten minutes.
“I didn’t realize how totally I’d been had until I went over to her place on Friday morning to pick up the keys.”
Pete sighed as the Dodgers’ batter struck out for the second time before turning back to Teddy. “Why?” He snickered. “Scared of a spoiled little house cat, or is Elsa keeping wild cats at her place?”
“It took more than a house cat to do this, didn’t it?” Teddy lifted his bandaged hand and giving Pete and the three listening men to Pete's left who were listening in and smirking at him in a sour look. “You guys got any idea how hard it is to shave left-handed when you’re not used to it? I can’t even put my wallet in my hip pocket ‘cause it hurts too much.” He took a long, appreciative pull on his Scotch.
“So….what did do all that?” a man asked from down the bar to Teddy’s right.
“A baboon, Chuck.”
“Elsa has a baboon?”
“She called it a Siamang—I still thought she was talking about cats. Evidently after college she was interned at some wildlife preserve in Asia, saving the world like a good trust fund baby. She was entrusted with bringing up an orphaned baby baboon, and got too attatched to him. He was too tame to survive in the wild, so she’s kept him. That thing ain’t tame though—you can take that to the bank—it was jumping around screeching at me the whole time.”
“Whew. Well no wonder she was panicked at having to find a last minute pet sitter for a baboon,” Sam chuckled filling a jigger with rum for the Mojito he was constructing. “Does she just let it run around loose?”
“Did he fling his doodie at you, Teddy?” a jocular young drunk shouted down from the left end of the bar.
“Naw. Thank goodness he has a big enclosed pen in her yard—I didn’t want to call animal control with a story about a loose Siamang in Pacifica, or have to recapture him myself—he’s almost as tall as I am.
“After she brought him up from a baby, the monkey seems to think of Elsa as a cross between his mother and his mate. Suddenly I was the competition, Elsa was gone and the baboon decides he hates me. Problem was in order to feed him, I had to reach into the pen to put his food down. So when I go over to feed him on Saturday evening, the bastard bites me when I stick his food dish in there. “Baboons have serious teeth, too. Fangs about an inch long! My hand looked like a purple and green baseball by the time I got to Emergency. Had to get four stitches and it’s incredibly sore.”
“Is Elsa going to pay your bill?”
“I didn’t ask,” Teddy grunted. “Never had the chance, really. Yesterday afternoon when she got back from New York, Elsa calls me all huffy to tell me her baboon was very agitated and had no food or water left when she’d checked on him after getting home. I’d also left the pen door unlocked—it was lucky the baboon didn’t get away. Said she was sorry to learn she couldn’t trust me to take care of a dependent living creature, and that she knew better to ever ask me again.”
“Hunh?” Pete took his eye off the baseball game to stare at Teddy. “Didja tell her he bit you?”
“Nope.” Teddy took a sip of his Scotch. “I kept it simple, Pete. When she finished telling me off and said she’d never ask me to take care of her Siamang again, I just said ‘good.’
"And then I hung up.”