We’re all happily ensconced in our place now, but the getting here was not without its perils. The Ronnie James kitty almost got abducted by a UFO the second we stepped over the threshold into our new apartment.
To begin with, it had been a long journey for the little guy. First, the morning we left France, he fell terribly ill as a result of the vet-prescribed sedative – NEVER AGAIN, by the way – we gave him and his brother, Nounours, in preparation for travel. (Thankfully, Nounours did not have this adverse reaction.) Next, there was the cramped, cold and damp taxi ride to the airport in Lyon two hours away, where we boarded a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
At the Frankfurt airport, kitties sat patiently in their pet carriers while Mommy and Daddy sucked down beers, waiting to board our next plane. (What. It was Germany! Having lived there for two years, I’m incapable of stepping foot in that formidable country without imbibing their ambrosiatique – there, I just invented a word – brews.) Then there was the long flight to Houston, Texas… trans-Atlantic, halfway across America, non-stop. It was a 10-hour flight, but we were actually on the plane for 12 hours, since bad weather in Frankfurt caused a two-hour departure delay. Two hours sitting on the plane on the ground, 10 hours in the air. Our boys were beautifully behaved the entire time. No one even knew they were there. We were so proud!
We spent the night in a motel in Houston. Ronnie James and Nounours knew exactly what to do… I opened the kitty suitcase to bust out their litter box, and they used it immediately after I set it up. They drank water and gobbled down their crunchies and the canned food we set out for them. They raced around the room, took flying leaps through the air onto the sofa, bounced around on pillows and cushions, got more cuddles and kisses and praise than they knew what to do with, and slept. The next morning, we packed them back up in their carriers, buckled them into the back seat of the rental car (being the responsible parents that we are – “BABIES ON BOARD!”) and hit the road for the three-hour drive to Austin.
In Austin, our final stop was supposed to be our new home, but there was an unforeseen problem with the apartment. We found ourselves pulling a fast Plan B out of our ass and checking into another motel room, where we stayed for four days; thankfully, that was as long as it took to find and move into our ideal new place.
By the time we’d secured that new place, though, Ronnie James and Nounours had already decided that they were home. In the motel room. They had a double bed all to themselves, courtesy of the large, gruff-looking man behind the counter who’d kindly insisted that we take a free upgrade since kitties “might be more comfortable in a larger room.” They might enjoy a bed to themselves, he reasoned. (It turned out that the motel staff loved cats. We were told the story of how the night shift guy’s cat followed him to work every night, lording over the front counter with Daddy.)
How right he was! Kitties did, indeed, adore having their own bed.
They also enjoyed the maid service. We straightened up the room every morning and always made sure to leave the “Do Not Disturb” hanger on the doorknob before going out (me being paranoid that kitties would slip out and get lost if someone went in), but at the end of each day, the room would be immaculate, and there kitties would be, lounging like little princes on their bed, looking suspiciously as if someone had brought in silver platters of caviar and sea-brine champagne while we were gone. They probably got smothered with complimentary kisses and attention while we were gone, too. They were as content and purring as kitties could be. Ronnie James looked particularly blissful.
So when the time came to check out, Ronnie James balked. Because, you see, not only were kitties being treated like royalty by the motel staff, but there was an armchair in the room. As far as Ronnie James is concerned, home is where the armchair is… especially if said armchair gets daily catnip treatments, as that one apparently did. Throwing everything back in the suitcases and approaching Ronnie James with his empty kitty carrier earned me this expression:
For the first time in the whole five-day ordeal, he resisted us. He cried all the way to the new apartment. And when we brought him inside and released him, his world blew apart in a mist of terror when he stepped out, looked up, and spotted the Unidentified Flying Object from hell:
It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Adding to the problem was the fact that, being in his carrier, he’d seen nothing between his cozy motel room and this.
He did not get to see our harmless-looking apartment from the outside.
He did not get to see our completely innocuous front door.
And he did not get to see the benign view from our breezeway.
He only saw this:
His level of alarm took me by surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me that the sights and sounds specific to a warm-weather place would concern the kitties, but of course… duh! In France, kitties never knew the low-grade hum of an air conditioner, and they certainly did not know ceiling fans.
It took almost a week for Ronnie James to adapt. The first two days, he huddled alternately under the bathroom sink (having quickly learned how to open the cabinets) and in the corner of the kitchen counter, where we brought him food and water. (Meanwhile, Nounours was fine. As Callaghan put it, you could drop a piano in front of him, and he wouldn’t blink an eye. He is, however, terrified of garbage bags.) On Day Three, Ronnie James ventured out to use the litter box. I picked him up and held him close in his favorite cuddly position. His eyes widened to the size of CDs and he shook violently with fear in my arms as he watched the flickering of shadow caused by the ceiling fan in the next room. My heart broke.
Finally, he realized that the rest of us were still alive after four days of normal life activity under the ceiling fans, and he started to gradually lower his guard. This process was helped by his discovery of the beat-up old armchair we’d found just for him on Craigslist:
He’s all fine now, our little Wrah Wrah James, wandering around and making his little “wrah wrah” happy noises.
And Nounours (AKA “Mr. Sheds-a-Lot” – no need for the year-round winter coat here!) has been enjoying the company of his brother again, whom he’d missed during his week of hiding.