After twelve hours in a car with two cats and a parakeet that I’m still able to speak in moderately coherent and complete sentences is a testament to the pioneering spirit of the American people. Our ability to endure adversity abides! But why would anyone put themselves through that? Especially after having spent the last four weeks getting rid of furniture, assembling Ikea (anyone need a few dozen Allen wrenches?) and making about fifteen trips to donation sites getting rid of things not to mention the various organizations that came and picked stuff up? Family. My grandmother used to say “if you want to have family you have to be family”. In this case it means spending a few months in North Carolina as my mother completes her hundred year plus residence on planet earth. So I loaded up my car with baking equipment (Christmas baking!) including my kitchen aid mixer, computers, Firestick, speakers, clothes and, oh yes, two cats and a parakeet.
Those of us who share our lives with cats know that the true song of their people is “The car is the instrument of the devil.” Now I’m pretty fluent in contemporary cat but it took Heather Campbell to give me the more accurate translation from the original feline. I’d always known it as “this sucks and I hate it.” My cats, however, took it in through their DNA. Just one of those mystery cat things that are clearly genetic. One assumes that the original feline for “cart” became “car” mid to late 19th century.
My kitty boy did his usual warmup including running scales to stretch the top and bottom of his vocal range and ripping a new seam in my arm as we discussed the carrier, then he started the prelude as the car hatch closed. As Heather says, the song has something like 1,200 verses. There as never been a really accurate count because of regional variations–note to graduate students, there’s a dissertation topic just waiting to be taken on. (can you imagine the orals?) He was a bit sluggish, it being 4 am, so it took him the full drive from South Bend to Indianapolis to get through the full song. Just as I was hoping that he might call for an intermission Sarah (my tortie) called out ONE MORE TIME.
The second rendition got us south of Cincinnati where upon they tried it as a duet with Sarah improvising a descant at least an octave higher than the melody. As the finished off the final verse around Knoxville with a sforzando that was positively Homeric. I was hoping that they’d made their point. Sadly, no. Those of you familiar with torties will be shaking your head at my naiveté. How could I have underestimated her creativity so completely? After a short discussion they dug deep and sang it backwards. I don’t mean in reverse order, I mean backwards.
I’ll be damned if I didn’t start to recognize some familiar passages. The entire White album of the Beatles, the alternate lyrics to Louie Louie and I’m pretty sure I heard the Die Walkuerie with references to other passages from Der Ring des Nibelungen. And who could fail to gasp when learning that Haffner ripped off the Katzen of Koenigsberg for the libretto of Die Fledermaus? In retrospect that really should have been obvious.
The real surprise of the day turned out to be Richard Henry Lee. With exception of my first parakeet I’ve named them all after signers of the Declaration of Independence. (The first was female and Abigail Adams) Richard Henry follows Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Josiah Bartlett. Richard Henry Lee, unlike his namesake, is a bird of very little brain. In fact, he’s never yet figured out that there’s millet on both side of the sprig and, that by leaning over just a bit he could get the seeds on the bottom of the sprig. Keets.
There must be some discrepancy in his heritage because rather than being alarmed at two cats yowling, pardon, singing, directly under his claws he kept time with rhythmic sways of his body and even joined in on occasion. His emphatic CHIRP chastised them when they failed to enunciate the consonants and his more encouraging chirps to help them through the difficult transition when the time signature jumps from a nice comfortable 2/2 to 9/8 without warning. Heck, I have problems with that myself. We really do have to remember that “The car is the instrument of the devil” predates our customary chromatic scale and standard notation.
After arriving at Mom’s house both cats decided to use the litter box and then dematerialize into their component atoms. About midnight they began their exploration with much of that exploration involving walking over my head and sniffing my mouth. I’m guessing that sometime in the next three months they’ll have adjusted to their new digs and will even come to love the screened in porch. My bet is their acclimation will occur shortly before I load them back in the carriers for their encore performance.