Where did we leave off in the last installment?
We had just left the warm comforting bosom of our hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, I believe.
It was a morning full of promise. The sun was out and it was a lapis sky (which only exists in the mind’s eye and on Kodak prints), the birds were chirping gaily (or so it was reported to me by Cruel Wife since I couldn’t and cannot hear a bird unaided if my life were to depend upon it), and in the distance, masked by the scent of trepidation from our near-prescient kitty, was the future-stench of bowels as-yet unloosed.
Stretching out before us was a crossroads of sorts. Had we smelt our kitty more closely we might have turned south and kept going, stopping only when we hit the Gulf of Mexico. Or, we might have turned north and fled to Canada, home of watery Canadian Bacon Beer, which should be called “ham beer”. Had we fled to Canada the odds are quite high that we’d have turned around and come back for lack of interesting things to do there, but we might have gone the scenic route before fleeing towards the southern border.
But we did not smell our kitty more closely, and this changed our lives.
New Rule #8: Always, always, always smell your kitty before embarking on a journey.
Because we did not smell our kitty and thus missed the prescient miasma about his furry personage, we chose the eastern, i.e. towards Michigan, road.
I would love to tell you the following: That the Goose Lake State Wildlife area was beautiful, that Rock Lake was pristine and unsullied, that parts of Waukesha were quaint and that I had found a great hot dog joint there. But I can’t tell you any of that because I’ve never been to those places. I told a little white fib for theatrics earlier, because we did turn south at the crossroads in Madison but we only went as far as we needed to go in order to follow I-90 into Chicago.
What is sad about the route that we took is that I remember absolutely nothing about it beyond the intense fear we experienced.
They say that it is not uncommon to lose the memory of events leading up to an accident or a traumatic event. It is here that things get a bit hazy beyond a 100 foot radius (the distance in which you just barely have time to say “OhJesusMaryMotherofGodIdon’twanttodielikethisandpleasekeepfromscreamingandshutthecatup” if you say it really really fast like I did, fifty or sixty times)
New Rule #9: Drug the cat before entering Chicago unless it is in a crate in the back of the truck.
New Rule #10: Drug the wife before entering Chicago unless she is in a crate in the back of the truck. Drugging the wife and putting her in a crate in the back of the truck is not an option that should be left unexplored.
New Rule #11: Double up on Drixoral™ before entering Chicago so the Shadow People that you hallucinate can read maps and navigate for you.
We came southward on I-90/94 with the intent of driving through Chicago in a straight-shot. I didn’t see a single piece of Chicago since we were coming through it at A Very Bad Time. By “A Very Bad Time” I mean during a busy period combined with lots of road work. It was a reasonably hot day and we were doing a lot of necessary but tedious stop-and-go but then the highway opened up for us. The cat was restless, we were restless, and also restless were many many other cranky drivers. It wasn’t very long before I found myself behind a semi – and we were all driving very fast at this point.
The cat started to get fluffy. I glanced down just long enough to see his eyes and pupils were the size of dinner plates at the Hungry Heifer. Cruel Wife was making a strange noise that fell between strangling and keening.
I embraced (frantically clutched at) my inner child, got in tune with my feminine side, and got way more in tune with my surroundings. I was at maximal situational awareness because we were now in “heightened circumstances” that were quite beyond our control, viz, we were now boxed in by four enormous trucks and traveling well beyond the speed limit while going around a fairly noteworthy curve. Silver d’Cat was trying to be helpful, pointing out things that I could do as safety measures but all that was really getting through to me was something that sounded like “Mrrreooowww, hisss, mreeeow, fttttt, hisss, mrrrreowwwrr” but I can’t really be sure. He repeated himself several times and got louder each time but I couldn’t really hear him over Cruel Wife speaking to me in tongues. It seemed that she was speaking not only in several voices at once but also in at least two additional languages (most alarmingly, they seemed to be dead languages). It was exceedingly difficult to please her in this instance (more so than usual) because all of her hand instructions were contradictory – slow down, speed up, turn on your blinker, don’t move, stop, use your vertical thrusters (huh?), build a campfire, lay a new course of tiles, and (my favorite) invent something *quick*.
Ever smelled the combination of cat fear, sour gym sock sweat, diesel exhaust, and particulates from truly leviathan† truck tires that are near immolation? It is nauseating. It’s worse than the combined scent of wildflowers and shame. If you were to roll all those scents and materials into little balls it would make a hell of an herbicide.
† A quick note here. I am referring to “Leviathan” in the sense used by Hobbes, not a sea creature but the concept of something so much bigger than one’s self, a construct of great enormity. Otherwise in the context of a truck-as-sea-monster it just sounds silly unless it is a truck full of fish-sticks or octupi, not that those two things aren’t rather silly in their own right.
Smells are just not something you need to add to your sensory overload at a time like this.
New Rule #12: Utilize something like Mentholatum™ as a prophylactic when entering into a situation that is going to involve Odors of Amply Sufficient Vileness.
Let us step outside of events briefly, shall we, Constant Reader?
If we were to freeze the moment, we could walk up and survey the scene in a relaxed and objective fashion, so we’ll do just that. We might learn something, and we might learn nothing – life is sometimes like that but at least we will be able to say that we made the attempt. What would we see? Would it touch us on some deeper level? Would we be amused? Disgusted? Fearful? Let us see…
We would see a cramped truck cab with two fearful young adults, one male (sweaty, driving), one female (clawed, shrieking), one feline (felis domesticus, yowling), and no fewer than twelve Shadow People that only existed in the mind of the young man behind the wheel of the vehicle because of his cold medicine. We could stand with our backs to the doors of the truck and reach out and touch the dusty trailers of the semi-trucks to either side. Four or five healthy strides forwards or backwards would bring us to the trailer doors or grille of the trucks fore and aft. Sad, endearing, and perfectly understandable would be the small fluffy cat with large panicky eyes as he is frozen in the act of burying his head under the young woman’s arm. A violent localized squall may be seen through the bug-spattered windshield as a mass of papers and junk food wrappers swirling around the cab and out the half-open windows. Neither the young man or woman looks happy and the small fluffy cat is clearly beyond help at this moment in time, having taken leave of his senses. The young man is chewing on his lip hard enough to bleed and he has a large set of veins throbbing at his temples and forehead.
And suddenly it was over. The roaring of the trucks receded in this distance. The sound of a mortally terrified Silver d’Cat died off slowly. The sounds of Cruel Wife choking on self-contradictory instructions ceased. All that remained was the panting of three exhausted souls.
Note: If you were thinking that the loosed-bowel remark at the beginning of this story was a literal placeholder for events to come I am pleased to disappoint you – no bowels were voided on that day except in a completely voluntary fashion.
What did we learn?
New Rule #13: Never drive a small truck through Chicago with a cat of any breed.
And then the details of the journey got fuzzy again. We were all dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in varying degrees and would be for some months to come (cat psychologists are rare and almost prohibitively expensive, by the way). The next thing I personally recall was passing Kalamazoo. It was then that I either started humming Hoyt Axton’s Cat from Kalamazoo or I started running it through my head over and over.
It was Della and the Dealer and a dog named Jake
And a cat named Kalamazoo
Left the city in a pick-up truck
Gonna make some dreams come true
Of course then our story deviates wildly from Axton’s song because we were heading east, neither Cruel Wife nor I have ever had or ever will have a dog named Jake, Silver d’Cat wasn’t from Kalamazoo, our cat didn’t stay cool, and I’m not evil, just a sociopath. But the tune was catchy and stuck with me.
Two hours later I got out of the truck, kissed the ground with emotion, even to the point of slipping it the tongue (and got a phone number from it – don’t tell Cruel Wife). We threw the cat in the apartment, and we took off in search of some cheap comfort food.
Thus concludes the three-part story Driving to Michigan with a Drugged Cat in the Truck.
The fate of the Dramatis Personae: Silver d’Cat lived another twelve years, Cruel Wife has not killed me in my sleep yet in spite of the fact that I snore like an asthmatic donkey (her words), and we continue to live in Michigan.
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