I stood up from my painting... Put my brushes in their cleaning solution... then followed the boy to the back room of the Reptile cages. As he opened the door I could see the problem right away. All I could say was... "Good heavens boy... WHAT have you done?"
The room was in a shambles. HOW could it have gotten so messy in such a short time? I had JUST helped John less than 10 minutes ago. I surveyed the room... Cages were overturned... reptiles were out of their cages and crawling all over the room... and the reptile food was spilled all over the floor.
"I'm sorry professor... I cut up some food for Boa, and I had the food in one hand, and the live mouse for her in the other. I'm not sure WHAT happened but the mouse got loose and I must have trip and fell on Boa's cage, and that started an avalanche of cages falling. I've been trying to round up all the animals, but there are just too many for me to do it alone." The boy sighed waiting for the scolding he was sure he was going to get.
I quickly closed the door. It wouldn't do to have the animals get out and scare the guests. At least they were contained in this one room. (Or so I thought) I looked at John and started barking orders...
"o.k... Let's start with putting the cages back where they belong. Be careful not to slip on the food or on any of the animals. Most of them are rare breeds and we don't want to kill them. The shock of this incident will be hard enough on their little frail bodies," I said. John helped me turn over the cages one by one, and when we had them back where they belonged we started collecting the reptiles themselves. John would show me the animal and I would tell him what cage to put it in, if he didn't know. Lastly we cleaned up the spilled food on the floor. I made him do most of that work.
"I think we have everyone where they belong... crisis averted," John said as he put away the mop. I gave him a stern look. He knew I was not a happy curator. The whole event had taken the rest of the day and half the night to clean up. It was late and I was hungry and tired. I sent John home without a word... I just glared at him and pointed to the door. He got the message and left in a flash. "Thank you professor... see you tomorrow," he yelled, as he slammed the door shut behind him. I cringed... "Great... NOW I have a headache too," I muttered to myself through the pain.
I yawned and turned off the light. I was so tired I never even checked to make sure all the animals WERE in their cages. I took John at his word... THAT was MY mistake.
The drive home was a blur... I had even forgotten to clean up my paints in my office. And the back seat was empty of the artwork that usually occupied it. I never even noticed. My dinner that night was quick and sparse. I skipped washing the dishes and went right to bed.