A Man, His Wife, Her Neurotic Cat and His Tranquilizers Take a Road Trip

What could go wrong?

We’ve left the Lone Star State, our home for many years, moving East and I seem to be on a reverse trajectory through life, erasing all those miles my ancestors put between Virginia Colony and me, their distant descendant.

The move went as well as a move can go, with the exception of The Incident which was absolutely my fault and due, I argue, to the metric ton of over-the-counter medication I was on at the time.

The movers showed up on time and were careful, courteous, and pleasant; the movers I found to get a piece of borrowed

An order of Ornery Cat to go.
An order of Ornery Cat to go.

furniture back to a friend arrived on time and if a bit high, they were at least friendly and got the job done.

Sedated into relative amiability, Ivan the (recently)Terrible was tucked unhappily into his new, deluxe travel carrier and by 3:00 p.m. we were Louisiana-bound.

We were up and out early(ish) next day, beyond the muddy Mississippi and only stopping for gas in a dreary section of Jackson, which looked nothing like Johnny Cash made me think it would.


A bright, glarey haze over I-20 sharpened the edge of the dull pain in my sinuses, my constant companion of the previous few weeks. In Texas, allergies are simply a way of life and only wussies or the violently affected complain, but now even my tried and true cocktail of Mucinex, Advil, and aspirin wasn’t working.

Roll tide!
Roll tide!

The third and last day we put  Alabama and Georgia in the rear view, but not before The Incident, which I will confess here for the last time.

Prior to the trip I had hesitantly asked our veterinarian if there were any sort of kitteh downers I could give him? I felt like a bad parent; why couldn’t I handle one grumpy cat? But both vet techs were sporting healing scratches from Ivan’s last visit the week before and so heads nodded all around.

They gave me a choice of meds: one that would knock him out every day, all day, or one that would mildly sedate him, “sort of take the edge off” his anxiety. “It’s like a turkey sandwich and a warm glass of milk,” said one tech.

And here I did what I know I should never do, I put logic over gut instinct, ignoring my own truth that, given my druthers I would absolutely choose anesthesia on this or any other road trip, woken only to pee and munch a bag of potato chips every three hundred miles or so. Instead, because I am occasionally extremely stupid, I decided it wasn’t good for kitteh to be drugged out all day.

The first two days, he was good. Drugs or no, he wasn’t happy about going into the carrier, but after a few test meows to see if we’d let him out, he settled down and dozed the days away, accepting my peace offerings of treats when we stopped to eat.

The last day, Ivan began persistently meowing as soon as we got into the car. An hour down the road I asked Paul to stop. In my folly, I thought I had prepared for a kitteh bathroom emergency by purchasing a collar, tag, and leash, thinking that if he really needed to “go” he’d let us take him out and remain with us on the leash. This thinking completely omits consideration of Ivan’s fiercely independent, mercurial nature, extremely private toileting habits, and complete lack of familiarity with collars, tags, and leashes.

Duly collared and leashed, Ivan the (recently) Terrible took a few tentative steps, twisted his head around and out of the collar and took off for the trees on the hill behind us. Abandoning the car with three doors open, we flanked him in a pincer movement, I going up and around while Paul circled below. Paul nearly had him until a sudden, “DAMMIT! He’s headed toward you!” and Ivan popped through the brush directly in front of me, one stride too far. Gathering speed as I followed, Ivan deployed evasive maneuvers and headed for a thick stand of trees and brush into which, if he disappeared, I’d certainly lose him. Near tears, envisioning him some coyote’s indigestible dinner, I called frantically to Paul, “Get the treat bag!” hoping the tried and true method of appealing to Ivan’s stomach worked here, too.

Paul scrambled back to the car as I followed Ivan up the hill, clicking, trilling, and calling all the ridiculous love names I have for him, not that he cares. With a glance thrown over his shoulder, Ivan accurately assessed me for the out-of-shape, middle-aged woman with bad knees I am and kept going, but he slowed just enough when his head turned that with one swift lunge and my usual prayer of oh-dear-God-don’t-let-this-be-the-day-I-blow-out-my-knee I covered the distance between us and grabbed him firmly from behind. Stifling a victory cry, down the hill I went with baby steps on the loose gravel, with the growling, writhing, and unhappy Ivan held tightly but not closely enough to sustain injury. Paul, bleeding from four, 4″ long lacerations to his left wrist was ready with the carrier as I approached and thrust the still-grumbling Ivan in and zipped it closed. There was profanity from all parties, and all have further agreed We Shall Speak No More of This.

Back in the car I cleansed Paul’s wounds, he took us back onto the road and Ivan settled down into a sulk, occasionally shooting us filthy looks from his perch on top of Paul’s suitcase.

As we sprinted across Georgia I hit the proverbial wall, my face feeling like someone had spent considerable time hitting me directly in the nose with a sledgehammer. I am not good company; I do not help with the driving. I am pathetic, but seeing the

At Last!
At Last!

sign for South Carolina cheers me. I know at the end of the road there is a nice, clean Residence Inn awaiting us, and a doctor’s visit tomorrow.

Once we’ve hauled our luggage up to the room we free Ivan, set up his litter box and offer him water and food, and what passes for his good humor is restored. He investigates the room, carefully sniffing the closet and the funny dead space under the bathroom sink, finally ensconcing himself next to me on the small sofa, where we will both spend all of the next day after my clinic visit, watching hours of Law & Order: SVU.

“Zertec every day for the first 30 you’re here, then see how your allergies do. South Carolina is every bit as bad as Texas,” chirps the capable young Physicians Assistant I see the next day. “I’m giving you a dual antibiotic, very strong and excellent on respiratory infections.” She sends me on my way with antibiotics, Zertec, Mucinex DM, and directions to the natural foods store for local honey and pollen.

Ivan the (recently) Terrible Hotel Cat
Ivan the (recently) Terrible Hotel Cat

Our stuff arrived a day early and Paul had a long weekend we spent setting up and sleeping in. I began to feel human again and Ivan, recovered from his ordeal, now enjoys mornings on the screened patio, watching the mourning doves and dreaming of the day he will hunt again.

A chapter begins.

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