“Are you a cat person or a dog person?” a friend asked one day. “Yes,” I answered. I like pets. I haven’t had a cat or dog for some years now because I travel a lot.
So why was I driving home from Seattle in the middle of winter with Fat Louie and Penguina perched on a chair in the back of my van giving me the evil eye? I’m a sucker. I am easily had. I have known these two critters since they were pliant kittens, dragged around in doll clothes by my granddaughter. I was there when she gave them a bath in the toilet bowl. I went to bed many a night in the guest room with one draped over my head and the other anchoring my legs. We have history.
Why indeed? Plain and simple. There was no room at the inn. My daughter, Dee, and her family have a new living situation. No cats allowed. “Mom?” my daughter asked. “Grandma?” my granddaughter pleaded. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Gulp.
Chris, my son-in-law, loaded the potty station, bowls, a sack of food and the large travel cage into my van. “Did you talk to them; do they understand they are going home with Grandma?” I asked. Fat Louie rubbed against my ankles; his tail whipped around my legs. Penguina was nowhere to be found. I looked around the room. If I were a cat, where would ... I leaned down to look into the space between the wall and the couch. She hunched in the dark, her eyes flickered like candles. Dee pulled Penguina from her hidey-hole and put her in my arms.
By the time I headed up into the Cascades, I realized these two fur balls might not like one another. I could hear them spatting in the cage. I opened the door so they could roam if they wished. Fat Louie stepped right out, howling all the way. Guina hunkered down and glared. Over the next few hours both cats registered extreme dissatisfaction with their transition to a new life. Long before Spokane, Wash., I decided to high-ball it home, no snugging down in a warm motel bed. I fortified myself with power naps and caffeine. I computed the hours and figured I could make it by 3 a.m. Roads were clear and dry.
I rolled into Missoula in light snow with intermittent snow pack. Added an hour to my ETA. Ten miles out of Missoula the wind and snow amped up to a full-blown storm. I mentally added two more hours.
Thoroughly snow blasted, I finally reached Lincoln. I ditched my plan and pulled into the first motel. I have friends in Lincoln. I usually stay with them, but I had two cats and a nasty cold, and I couldn’t knock on their door at 1:30 in the morning. I don’t even remember getting in bed.
I slept later than I’d intended, skipped the shower, filled the food and water dishes, brushed six inches of snow from my windshield and prepared to sneak out of town. My van would not start. Not a click or grunt. Nothing. I went back into the motel and called my friends. Ten minutes later Gary and Linda showed up. Linda ignored my excuses and chewed me out for not staying with them. Gary called the repair shop and the tow truck. We put the cats in their garage for the day.
Linda put a chicken in the pot to simmer for soup. Their friends Barney and Rosie came over. They all taught me to play Hand and Foot, a complex card game similar to Canasta. The shop called. The van was ready. I picked it up. We ate soup and played cards.
After Barney and Rosie went home, Gary and I went to the garage to transfer the “children” to the sun room for the night. They’d disappeared. We called, cussed, pleaded, shivered with cold and searched. Finally I snared Fat Louie from behind a stack of boards. Gary found Penguina stuck under the back wheel well of the jeep. “Pull,” I said. He ripped her out in two pieces and screwed her back together. By that time, the fat solstice moon was starting its eclipse. So we stayed up to watch the rare spectacle.
At noon the next day I was again ready to leave Lincoln. I loaded the cats, hugged my friends and turned the key. I couldn’t believe it. The van would not start. Not a click. I unloaded cats and suitcase. Prepared for a repeat of the previous day. Tow to shop, etc. All that for a $10 relay.
We finally did make it home. Now I can’t sit down without a feline Velcro-ed to my lap. At night Penguina wraps herself around my head. Fat Louie anchors my legs to the bed. Today I heard myself talking baby talk to them. I’m considering counseling.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after recently returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)