Once again, I made the round of calls, but this time Miranda's nanny picked up on the second ring.
"Cara, hey, it's me."
"Hey, what's up? Are you on the street? It sounds so loud."
"Yeah, you could say that. I had to pick up Miranda's Porsche from the dealership. Only, I can't really drive stick. But now she called and wants me to pick up someone named Madelaine and drop her off at the apartment. Who the hell is Madelaine and where might she be?"
Cara laughed for what felt like ten minutes before she said, "Madelaine's their French bulldog puppy and she's at the vet. Just got spayed. I was supposed to pick her up, but Miranda just called and told me to pick the twins up early from school so they can all head out to the Hamptons."
"You're joking. I have to pick up a fucking dog with this Porsche? Without crashing? It's never going to happen."
"She's at the East Side Animal Hospital, on Fifty-second between First and Second. Sorry, Andy, I have to get the girls now, but call if there's anything I can do, OK?"
Maneuvering the green beast to head uptown sapped my last reserves of concentration, and by the time I reached Second Avenue, the stress sent my body into meltdown. It couldn't possibly get worse than this, I thought as yet another cab came within a quarter-inch of the back bumper. A nick anywhere on the car would guarantee I lose my job--that much was obvious--but it just might cost me my life as well. Since there was obviously not a parking spot, legal or otherwise, in the middle of the day, I called the vet's office from outside and asked them to bring Madelaine to me. A kindly woman emerged a few minutes later (just enough time for me to field another call from Miranda, this one asking why I wasn't back at the office yet) with a whimpering, sniffling puppy. The woman showed me Madelaine's stitched-up belly and told me to drive very, very carefully because the dog was "experiencing some discomfort." Right, lady. I'm driving very, very carefully solely to save my job and possibly my life--if the dog benefits from this, it's just a bonus.
With Madelaine curled up on the passenger seat, I lit another cigarette and rubbed my freezing bare feet so my toes could resume gripping the clutch and brake pedal. Clutch, gas, shift, release clutch, I chanted, trying to ignore the dog's pitiful howls every time I accelerated. She alternated between crying, whining, and snorting. By the time we reached Miranda's building, the pup was nearly hysterical. I tried to soothe her, but she could sense my insincerity--and besides, I had no free hands with which to offer a reassuring pat or nuzzle. So this was what four years of diagramming and deconstructing books, plays, short stories, and poems were for: a chance to comfort a small, white, batlike bulldog while trying not to demolish someone else's really, really expensive car. Sweet life. Just as I had always dreamed.
I managed to dump the car at the garage and the dog with Miranda's doorman without further incident, but my hands were still shaking when I climbed into the chauffeured Town Car that had been following me all over town. The driver looked at me sympathetically and made some supportive comment about the difficulty of stick shifts, but I didn't feel much like chatting.
"Just heading back to the Elias-Clark building," I said with a long sigh as the driver pulled around the block and headed south on Park Avenue. Since I rode the route every day--sometimes twice--I knew I had exactly eight minutes to breathe and collect myself and possibly even figure out a way to disguise the ash and sweat stains that had become permanent features on the Gucci suede. The shoes--well, those were beyond hope, at least until they could be fixed by the fleet of shoemakers Runway kept for such emergencies. The ride was actually over in six and a half minutes, and I had no choice but to hobble like an off-balance giraffe on my one flat, one four-inch heel arrangement. A quick stop in the Closet turned up a brand-new pair of knee-high maroon-colored Jimmy Choos that looked great with the leather skirt I grabbed, tossing the suede pants in the "Couture Cleaning" pile (where the basic prices for dry cleaning started at seventy-five dollars per item). The only stop left was a quick visit to the Beauty Closet, where one of the editors there took one look at my sweat-streaked makeup and whipped out a trunk full of fixers.
Excerpted from The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger Copyright© 2003 by Lauren Weisberger. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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