It sat at the crotch, so to speak, of the spread-eagled strip mall. Out front was a cramped rhombus of fake grass tamped into a depression of concrete which – inch for inch – must’ve been one of the more pissed-upon places of the Earth.
Behind the reception desk there’d be some odorous soupy dish or goopy dip in a takeout tray, two or three half-drunk plastic cups of melted iced coffee, and several ripped sacks of scattered snacks. The receptionist was a young woman in a hoodie with unwashed hair and one perpetually red, infected eye.
The office cat was a fat gray stray with a missing leg. It sat in its basket of dirty towels next to the credit-card machine and rubbed its cold, wet nose on your hand while you signed your receipt. The cat liked to be patted firmly on the back, in the dander-powdered crook of the tail.
On the walls were garish paintings and boring photographs of pets, hung salon-style in big gaudy gold frames. Tall patrons knocked their heads against a low-slung plastic chandelier. Others sat on hot-pink padded chairs with their ill, anxious companions and spoke to them in squeaky baby voices or the booming, condescending theatrics of people performing parenthood in public.
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