It took both of us to lift Bessie into my old wagon. I hoped it could bear her weight without breaking. It was like she’d turned a corner. Suddenly, she seemed to be getting bigger by the minute. Her tentacles flopped this way and that. “This is no good,” I told Frank. “They’re going to get caught under the wheels. Then we’ll have an injured Kraken-Cow on our hands.”
“Can’t we sedate her or something?” Frank asked as he tried to peel Bessie’s tentacles off his legs. “We won’t be able to pass her off as normal if she’s grabbing at everything in sight.”
“What could we give her that would sedate her?” I asked. “Look, I’ll just feed her a bunch right now so that she goes to sleep. Then we just have to get her down to the river before she wakes up. Frank had run to the IGA before he came to my house. We had a flat of 24 cans of salmon. I hoped it would be enough.
“You’re going to pay me back for those, right?” Frank glared at me as I opened the first can and dumped the contents into Bessie’s mouth.
“Of course I will,” I said. “I’ll mow lawns and make the money in no time.” I opened and dumped 8 cans before my hand started aching. I passed the can opener to Frank and had him do a couple while I stretched my fingers. Then I got back to work.
At can 22, Bessie belched loudly. She only ate half of can 23 before she yawned, stretched out her tentacles, and closed her eyes. She whuffled and snored as she slept, her warm breath surrounded her in a cloud of fishy air. “Great,” I said. “She should nap for at least an hour.”
“You owe me for the unopened can too,” Frank grumbled. Carefully, I picked up Bessie’s tentacles and curled them on top of her back. I wrapped elastic bandages around them to keep them in place. Then I covered her with a blanket so only her face was showing.
“Just keep sleeping,” I whispered in her ear. “We’ll be down to the river in no time.”
The wagon groaned as we pulled it out my back door, down the wheelchair ramp next to the deck (Mom had bought the house from an old couple who’d added the ramp), and out onto the sidewalk. As I tried to turn, the axles squealed. I winced. “Please let it hold together until we get to the river,” I prayed. Frank was walking too fast. “Slow down,” I hissed. “It will be easier if we stay together.”
He fell into step next to me as we rounded the corner and passed the salon. I moved so that the people inside wouldn’t be able to see Bessie. The family who owned the place had a kid in my class. Kara hung out at the salon all summer long. If she saw me pulling a cow through the streets of Tell City in a wagon, she’d come out and ask us all sorts of unpleasant questions.
I smiled and waved at the people inside. That way, they wouldn’t suspect anything. Frank and I were just two totally normal guys, out for a stroll with our wagon.
The blanket started slipping as we passed the mayor’s office. Frank held it in place while I walked in front of the wagon to keep it from speeding up as it went down the hill. Bessie’s sleeping face smushed against my back. I could feel her drool soaking through my shirt. I was going to stink by the time we got to the river. I’d have to come up with a way to explain the salmon-laundry to my mom.
The streets were pretty empty. It was lunchtime on a hot day. People weren’t out shopping or walking. Some of the stores were closed until 1. It looked like we might be able to make it to the river without any problems. We probably could have made it, if we had cut across the railroad tracks early and walked along the flood wall. Unfortunately, I was on auto-pilot, and we happened to walk by the newspaper office.