Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Process of Moving (Part 2)

I'm not going to make this post about cats, because no matter how hilarious their hijinks may be, no one thinks they're funny. Unless the person on the receiving end of the story also has cats - in which case, go right ahead and explain in epic detail how your cat once got stuck on the roof of your college house in a torrential rainstorm, and the only way to save her was to slide a giant wooden board out the second story window and hope to god that the force of her jumping down and landing on the unsteady board wouldn't see-saw launch you out the window and crashing to the ground 2 stories below.

Oh no wait, that wasn't you, that was me. And look, I went ahead and made this post about cats.

Please feel free to not read this post if you suspect that it will be boring for you. To entice you, I'll give away the end of the forthcoming story: I end up covered in urine. If THAT doesn't draw you in, then you should probably get out now, because it only gets worse from here.

Mike and I have two cats that we have owned for the past four years. One is very smart. One is very dumb. I will show you just these two pictures of them, and you can decide for yourself which one is which. The brown one is Captain Malcolm Reynolds, and the orange one is Harley Quinn.

We knew that at our new apartment, we would not be able to have cats. Additionally, we can't have cats on the trail. Though I relish the idea of strapping little saddle bags to them and having them hike 2000 miles with us, I suspect that's bordering on inhumane, as the only thing my cats want to do is sleep for 20 hours a day and plot murder for the other 4. So, the cats will be living with my parents in their farmhouse up in the foothills of the White Mountains in rural Maine until we're done with the trail. They get to move from a one-bedroom apartment in the heights of NYC to a gigantic farm house straight out of a Van Gogh painting, so I don't really feel bad about it.

In May we had let our landlord company know that we would not be renewing our lease, and they immediately told us that within a few days brokers would be coming to our apartment to show the space to prospective renters. This was a problem, as per the stipulations of our lease, we were not allowed to have cats. And yet, there were our cats, lounging around our apartment doing nefariously catlike things like meowing and shedding hair all over everything I've ever owned. Something had to be done. So we rented a car last minute, wrestled the cats into their travel carriers, and put them in a rental car for the 8 hour drive up to Maine.

After about 45 minutes of Malcolm crying nonstop from the backseat, the guilt began to set in. Mike was driving, and I was starting to get a neck cramp from how often I would look over my shoulder into the backseat and make eye contact with the saddest looking creature on the planet. His eyes were like bottomless black pits of despair, staring our mournfully at me from behind the mesh prison window of his fabric travel carrier.

So I let him out.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes your vision comes into focus right at the moment when the terrible thing is happening, and that's even more awful. As soon as the front of the carrier was unzipped, I was slapped in the face by the smell of cat pee. Immediately I put my hand up as a block, trying to shove him back into the carrier as gently as possible. However, if you'll remember, I was buckled into the front seat of a car, reaching into the backseat, and I didn't have much leverage.

I'd like for you to imagine that you have been zipped into a sleeping bag. At some point, you pee all over yourself. Maybe you're an idiot. Or maybe you're unaware of how terrible it might be to have to lay in a puddle of your own stuff. Or maybe you're a 10-year-old me at sleep-away girl scout camp and the other campers pulled that evil prank on you where they put your hand in a bowl of water while you're sleeping and you wake up in the morning in the cabin, soaking wet, mortified, incapable of speech or movement, and surrounded by laughing terrible little girls. Anyway, you have to lay there for an hour until someone comes along an unzips your sleeping bag, freeing you from your self-induced prison. Then, after unzipping you, the person places their hand firmly on your forehead, and says "Wait! No! Stay in there!" Do you think that you could possibly be restrained?

Absolutely not.

Malcolm exploded out of that carrier like he had been sitting on a bottle rocket. The car, which was hurtling down the highway at 70 mph, instantly filled with the unmistakable smell of cat pee. I started screaming, which induced Mike to start screaming, which only further delighted Malcolm, who was prancing all over the back seat, rubbing his urine-soaked body all over our borrowed property.

Mal settled happily on top of Quinn's fabric carrier, sinking the roof of the carrier down and squashing her underneath his heavy body. Quinn remained silent, but made eye contact with me from underneath Mal's soaking fur. I will not describe to you in detail the anthropomorphic emotions I layered into her stoic cat expression, but in short, it was something like "For this, you will pay dearly."

I tried to push Malcolm off of Quinn, and he eventually obliged, but then felt compelled to come up into the front seat. I tried to stop him. I swear I did. But I was powerless. He climbed up over the arm rest and into my lap, rubbing his body all over me. I grimaced and held my hands in the air as Mal's wet rat tail flicked all over my neck. I glanced over at Mike, whose face was set in a determined scowl, one of his eyes twitching slightly. We passed a signed that said "Next Rest Stop 10 Miles." And for 10 minutes we endured.

When we finally pulled into the rest area, we were actually at a loss for what to do. First we threw away the urine-soaked cat carrier, but after that, we weren't sure what to do next. Mike went into the little store and came out with two big bottles of water and some napkins. We stood there outside the car, looking in the windows at Malcolm rolling all over everything.

"We can't take him out to wash him, he could escape," said Mike, shrugging.

"Well. I'll hold him down in the foot well of the backseat, and we can pour water all over him."

"Got it."

Mike and I both climbed into the backseat and closed the door behind us. Now, I haven't yet shown you a photo of Mike, but he is 6'2" and all legs, so the situation in the backseat was a bit like a clown car. I crouched in the seat and leaned down into the foot well, gently holding Malcolm in place. He looked up at me, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen to him.

The instant the water poured onto his legs, he became hysterical, trying to get up and run away. Malcolm is very strong, I have weak little noodle arms (a thing I should probably rectify before heading out onto the trail), and more to the point, at the end of all of his feet are scary slice-y claws. Malcolm shot out from under my hands and flew up into the backseat. Mike and I kept flinging water on him as he scrambled around, getting everything in the backseat completely soaking wet, including us and all the upholstery of the rental car. I can't imagine what we looked like from the outside, but it was probably something like that scene in Jurassic Park when Wayne Knight got eaten in his Jeep by those poison-spitting Dilophosauruses.

Quinn remained in her carrier, silent and stoic in her rage.

After Malcolm was thoroughly wet down, we dried him as best we could with napkins, but he still wasn't totally devoid of pee smell. We knew when we got to Maine he would need a real bath. When I went back into the front seat and we set off back down the highway, Malcolm curled up my arms, shivering and skinny.

When we arrived at my parents house, I scooped him up and carried him inside. This is what I think his thought process was probably like:

Trees! New Place! Outdoors! New smells! Big house! DOG. DOG. DOG WTF DOG. STAIRS?! BATHROOM. TUB. WATER. MURDER MURDER MURDER.

But he survived. He and Quinn have settled into the new place and are very happy there. Malcolm and Quinn actually love the dog, who is very kind and cat-accommodating. We miss them a lot, but we know they're happy. They'll be fostered at my parents' house until we're done with the trail, and then we will take them to whatever new home we make.

Congratulations, you made it through a whole story about cats. You now have a new badge of honor that can be cashed in when talking to grandmothers everywhere.

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