Lesson One: If traveling more than three miles, do not transport your 15-pound cat(s) in a cardboard pet carrier.
The first morning of my two 500-mile legs from Louisville to Austin began with force-feeding Kandahar and Steeve each a vet-prescribed pill: acepromazine. Steeve ate his pill whole with breakfast. I had to break Kandahar’s in half, and the full dosage of that pill hit his bloodstream within minutes. Woooooouw, he said, and fell over.
Kandahar was fast asleep in his box on the rear floorboard, and Steeve was being vociferous as usual, even in spite of the tranquilizer. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Reaaouuu…
I wasn’t even outside of the city limits, tooling along with all four windows down when I heard an alarming pop, and looked over my shoulder to find Steeve’s head emerging from the box. How? These boxes are constructed by some fantastic engineer of cardboard origami to lock from upward pressure; in addition, I’d laced a bungee cord through the top handles, hooked to the bottom airholes. Still, there was Steeve’s head, then his paws… and me pulling up all four window buttons so the bastard wouldn’t jump out of one of them at 75 MPH.
Steeve, a little glassy-eyed but otherwise unfazed by the drug, decided it was his duty to explore the entire vehicle and berate me with feline invectives on how unacceptable it was that 1) I’d put him in a box, and 2) that the wallpaper of this compact vehicle was continually changing in a blurred marquee of green and blue. Reaaaoouuuu!
Fuck! I exited 65 South and, in spite of Steeve’s fierce protestations, I managed to get him back in the box. Bungee cord re-secured.
Not ten minutes later he was out of the box again. People on the interstate passed me, pointing at and ogling the huge, cream-colored cat rubbernecking through the rear windshield. I drove with my southpaw, and used my right to continually push his fat head back into the rear when he tried to infiltrate the center console. He explored the backseat like Magellan, planting himself on the rear dash, cursing me in the rearview mirror. Meowww--ef you, he said.
Eventually he calmed the hell down; he sat down to doze on top of the pillow in the back seat. This is the pillow I’d intended to sleep on in my empty apartment in Austin before the furniture arrived. This would be perfect, if only I’d overcome my ENT’s 4+ diagnosis of allergy to cat hair…
Before I departed Louisville, some preservative instinct told me to put packing tape in the glove box, which I did. My aim was to make it past Nashville and take a leak somewhere along the way, and then figure out what to do about this loose cat who could, at any moment, jump into my lap and cause serious problems. Get him back in that damned box is what I’d do.
I pulled over near Upton, Kentucky, and put Steeve back in the box, this time taping it up with half a roll of clear sticky packing tape. For preventative measures, I taped up Kandahar’s box too. The boxes looked like something from a fantasy movie with a gigantic spider who spun cellophane webs around its quarry.
…Fifteen minutes later Steeve was out of the box. At this point, I wasn’t even surprised, and hardly dismayed. What a badass, I thought. How could he get out of there? …So, windows up. This was just something I’d have to live with, I realized. A cat wandering around the rear cabin as I hurtled south, and me occasionally pushing his big face into the backseat with my right hand.
Again he settled down on the pillow. For a long time Steeve was listless, not a problem. I told myself I would find a Wal-Mart and buy some actual carriers. And take a leak. What I didn’t know is that there is about a 90-mile gap between Dickson and Jackson, Tennessee, in which there isn’t one goddamn functioning gas station…
I have always regarded myself as someone with an above-average threshold for the initial “breaking of the seal,” as they say. My PTR is finely tuned by years of Kegel exercise on long trips, but this urge was indomitable. No choice now. I grabbed the empty 16-ounce bottle of Ice Mountain spring water, and did what I had to.
And now, somewhere around Wildersville, Kandahar awakens like the Kraken and bursts through the one-inch window slot I’d cut for the boys to look at each other on the ride. His head comes out first like Hey Kool-Aid bursting through a wall. Then, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, he drags the rest of his body through that decimated fissure.
Goddamnit! I can’t have two cats roving around this area while I drive. What the fuck is cardboard made of these days? And I just want to finish taking a successful piss, so badly.
Kandahar is insistent on coming into the front seats. At this moment, I am peeing into a bottle and noticing it fill far too rapidly, and while I stave off Kandahar from the center console access, Steeve roars with excitement from the backseat, throttling the window with two paws like a boxer on a speed-bag. Kandahar now decides to climb under my seat and is suddenly beneath my legs, looking up at me, whilst I empty my bladder into this container which has no hopes of competing with my delivery.
Son of a bitch. Having already begun the urination process—and now barreling at 85 MPH—I look down at my gorgeous cat of many former lives staring back at me betwixt my legs. The bottle is full and, against all personal conviction regarding the environment, I cut off the drainage, lower my window, and hurl out the decanter. I see it dash against the shoulder in my rearview. I grab the empty 15-ounce bottle of Green Machine Superfood to finish the deed, and almost overflood that one. But it was that or hose down poor Kandahar, giving him a face-full.
At this moment, Steeve decides to climb in the front seat and I have to elbow him away through the console. I realize that I would actually be safer flying a small aircraft right now. The situation has eclipsed absurdity. I might as well eat a handful of acepromazine tablets and see what happens...
But lo, there is an exit for Jackson. I take it and find a Wal-Mart. This was actually my second detour; the first was a failure because I went to a Sam’s Club many miles to the north… and they don’t sell the same shit there as they do at Wal-Mart.
For the second time today, I park illegally in the shade of the only tree in the car lot, far from the store’s entrance. I turn on my hazard lights and run in. Thirty-six dollars later I’m constructing these animal carriers that aren’t made of cardboard. They are sturdy, made of metal and plastic. I’ve turned the car on for the AC whilst Kandahar and Steeve have buried themselves beneath the seats. I throw the piece-of-shit cardboard carriers into the parking lot. Tennessee sweat drips in a stream off my nose while I attempt to build these things in front of my much-belabored Civic.
I extract Steeve from beneath the passenger seat; I have to pull him out like a fluke from some poor Amazonian's anus. He looks dazed, finally. I put him in a carrier. Then the same with Kandahar.
Now only four-hundred more miles to go. The cats shut the hell up for the entire remainder until Little Rock, in their new little huts…
Lesson Two: Hotel beds are not what they seem.
Four-hundred miles later, we make it to the Super 8. I release the groggy bastards and watch them army-crawl around this strange space. I have long held the belief that hotel beds are constructed with baseboards that prevent people from, say, hiding under them. They are made so that occupants can’t lose their wallets, cell phones, handbags, handguns, cats, etc. But after I return from dinner at a nearby TGIF, Kandahar is nowhere to be seen. Steeve has become a lump under the comforter, but in this confined area there is no Kandahar, and no place for him to hide. The only possible explanation is that someone came in and stole him. Yes, someone came in and stole the Pretty One in karmic retribution of my weird departure from Louisville.
Well, I figure, I’m one cat less. What can I do?
…At midnight I am pacing the room, now and then peeping outside for Kandahar, asking Steeve why he isn’t destroyed by the mysterious disappearance of his brother. It’s because he knows Kandahar is in the vicinity—the fuckhole—and suddenly Kandahar manifests.
“Hey! You son of a fucking bastard!” I say to him, scooping him up. I’m still not clear where he was hiding. I feed them both and give them a place to take a shit.
…In the morning, I need to clear out of the Super 8 as soon as possible, but again there is a missing Kandahar. I have to look deeper, and under the bed I will go. I lift the king-sized mattress—both the box springs and the top cushion—off its baseboard and see nothing. There is, however, a huge bulge drooping from beneath the mattress and, as I lift it up, I hear a shredding sound and Kandahar comes spilling out of the black undercloth, like the mattress is giving birth to a small panther. Was it his weight, or his claws that did the shredding? No one can say…
“There you are, you son of a bitch,” I say and grapple him, the weight of the mattress bearing down on my head and shoulders. At this moment, Steeve climbs into the undercarriage of the bed, like that’s where he belongs. Goddamnit! I drop the mattress and shove Kandahar into one of the carriers, fur flying like straw in an Oklahoman tornado. I lift the mattress again. Steeve has positioned himself in the corner of the undercarriage, lying leisurely on his back, looking at me languorously. His eyes say, "What the hell do you want, asshole?"
The only way I can extract him is to deconstruct the bed entirely. Sweating like a bastard, I manhandle each part of the get-up. My adrenaline anguish allows me to set these bed parts on their ends against the wall. Jeeeezus. I grab Steeve and cram him into the other carrier.
Man that sucked, I tell myself. …Only 500 miles left to go…
 Acepromazine, when taken in high doses by humans, may induce tardive dyskinesia (TD). TD is a well-known side effect of the phenothiazine class of major tranquilizers. Worst case scenarios find the drug eating a permanent hole in the brainstem of people. This results in shuffling of the feet while walking, drooling, and flailing of the arms, as well as other symptoms resembling Parkinson's disease.
 (PTR) Piss-to-Toilet-Ratio (sometimes known as Poop-to-Toilet-Ratio), which, by the laws of psychophysiology, decreases exponentially for a person as they become geographically closer to a toilet.
 Which includes broccoli, spinach, wheatgrass, and blue-green algae.