cats, giraffes and panda wooha

Jul 08 2002 Kelly Norton
The holiday weekend started strangely enough with an impromptu cat adoption. I was heaving the last of the luggage into the trunk of Das Auto when I heard the distressed cries of a kitten somewhere nearby. I shut the trunk and scanned the low limbs in all the surrounding trees thinking that I might see one of the indigent cats of the area clinging helplessly to a limb, presumably after one of the many dogs of the area had made it the object of a leash restricted chase. When nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the trees, I tried instead to follow the wails thinking it might instead be some newly birthed kittens pleading their mother to return. But, as I peered around the circle of bushes that cleverly hide a power transformer, there was a single dark kitten lying on the sidewalk leading back to my apartment. I should have known right away that this was a scam; I had, less than 2 minutes prior, come down the sidewalk without the slightest sign of a cat. Not really thinking much of the situation now that I had unraveled the mystery of the cries, I headed back to the apartment and made the mistake of casually mentioning the peculiar kitten spotting. Well, some time before I had finished the first two syllables in the sentence, “There's a kitten out on the sidewalk,” Kristen was in full stride going out the door and around the building. By the time I reached the word “kitten,” I knew I would be paying the pet deposit soon enough. Oh, I tried to put up a fight. I argued that with our going out of town there would be no way to take on a kitten tonight and in 2 minutes she had secured feline lodging for the weekend down in Cordele. And as if I would risk dying in my sleep, she then put the dreaded question to me: “Can we keep her?” So on the brink of an eight hour drive down to Florida, we now had a new family member.
I guess I should also add that we had already been pushed for time, and weren't expected in Port St. Lucie, Florida until around 3am. And on top of that, we had just added a trip to the grocery store and a trip to Kristen's parents' house in Cordele onto our travel time. When we finally hit the road, I was chauffeur and Kristen was the kitten's back seat entertainment. In the backseat, there was now a pile of whatever kitten supplies Kristen had been able to find on the Save-Rite shelves while I had my back aerated in the car “watching” the kitten and up in the rear window the new member of the family was checking out the new Audi she had just conned her way into.
Two hours later we made a hasty drop off with two less-than-thrilled hosts, who were a little concerned that a long weekend of reflection might convince us to bypass Cordele on return and that they might be stuck with a cat that was climbing under the dishwasher even as Kristen explained how well behaved she had been on the trip down.
With the little one safe, we were on the road again heading south into torrents of blowing rain and throngs of weaving bleary eyed travelers. We drove the night through literally with a Tom Clancy book cranked up in the stereo and a pile of coke bottles and Pringles cans climbing in the back floor board. The 5:30am sunrise found us still on the Turnpike cruising along at 80MPH. When we pulled into my Aunt and Uncle's driveway at 6am, we had only enough energy to say our hellos and fall into bed. Little did we know that, the unreality of sleeplessness would set the mood for the entire weekend and that seeing a drunken giraffe dancing with a panda and the zookeeper would not surprise us in the least …