“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” ~ Rudyard Kipling
It isn’t my idea to travel. One minute I’m happily returning home from my morning constitutional around the property and the next I’m being stuffed unceremoniously into the horrid cat carrier. And on the way out the door, this exchange takes place between my providers:
Miranda: I hate doing this to Cato. I feel like a traitor or something.
Jacob: It’s better this way. You know what happened last time.
I imagine he’s referring to the day they planned to take me to the vet, a place where no good thing ever happens. When I caught sight of the cat carrier sitting in the hallway that morning, I high-tailed it to the basement and hid in a dark recess under the stairs. Result: A nice long nap and one missed vet appointment.
My stomach lurches as Jacob swings my carrier out the door and belts it securely in the back seat of their automobile. Of course I complain bitterly – and for quite a long time – but to no avail. We are off on our journey to who-knows-where. Miranda tries to talk to me in soothing tones but I’m having none of it. “Take me home now! Let me out of here! Cat abuse!”
Eventually, the monotony of traffic sounds lulls me to sleep and I wake up to find that the car is no longer moving. From what I can see through the mesh door of my carrier, we are parked near a large body of water. My nose picks up a tangy, rather pleasing scent and I can hear birds squealing. Where are we?
Miranda opens her window and inhales deeply. “Don’t you love the smell of the ocean?”
Jacob agrees. “I’m glad we’ll be near the coast in Africa. I wonder if the seagulls are different there?”
Africa. Suddenly all the activity and talk I’ve heard over the last couple of weeks seems to coalesce in my mind and I realize something big is happening. The suitcases ought to have been my first clue. There were three of them sitting open in the spare room for days on end. Miranda would add things to them from time to time and I quite enjoyed napping on some of the more pleasing fabrics.
And then there were the after-dinner discussions about this place called “Africa”. Here’s an example:
Jacob, rubbing his arm: That last injection was the worst. It still hurts a bit.
Miranda: Mine isn’t too bad. They say slight swelling is normal. It’ll go away soon. She sips her tea. It’ll all be worth it just to spend six whole weeks there this time. I like the thought of helping to build a children’s shelter.
Jacob: I’m excited about that too. It’s hard to believe we’re leaving tomorrow. My only concern is Cato. How will he cope in Victoria, in a strange house? Does your sister even know how to care for a cat?
Miranda: Of course she does – we grew up with cats. Cato seems quite taken with Cassie when she visits us, so I’m sure he’ll be fine once he settles in and marks his new territory.
The conversation continued, but you get the idea. They are going to take me to a strange land called Victoria and desert me for a very long time. How Africa figures into the picture I have yet to find out. Miranda leans over the seat to stroke my nose through the mesh, but I turn around and present her with my rear aspect.
A muffled voice floats through the window. “All passengers please return to your cars. The ferry to Schwartz Bay is about to commence boarding.” Ferry – what’s that? The car inches forward and I resign myself to whatever fate awaits me. A whiff of that tangy odour tickles my nose and I realize that this must be the smell of the ocean. As I lift my head to breathe in the rather pleasant aroma, a strange tingle of excitement stirs in my breast. I turn and peek through the mesh again. A large white boat – the ferry, I presume – looms in front of us and we travel up a winding ramp toward it. A woman in a bright coloured vest waves us through a cavernous opening and we proceed into a dim and mysterious place.
And so my seafaring journey begins.
To be continued…
Next time: The Seafaring Cat
Photo credits: Cat in car –http://www.flickr.com/photos/pirhan/7484802480/;