These extra long holidays are not designed for the teacher's salary. Which is why I get irritated when people respond to my poverty with, "Ah. But the holidays.". Yes. The holidays are great. But the highlight of one which does not coincide with bonus month, is a day with three meals. Truly. (Don't even get me started on the cost of groceries. The other day I bought a few items from Woolies, and when time came to pay, I almost offered the cashier a scalpel to remove a vital organ to sell on the black market in lieu of actual cash.)
So after our soujourn to Precious Jo'burg Friend, The Daughter and I decamped at The Parental Unit's abode. Not only out of need to keep body and soul in tact, but also because The Incubator finds herself on long leave. And people in poverty shouldn't be alone.
So, in order to decamp properly at my childhood home (not strictly true, since after my brothers flew the nest, The Parental Unit deposited me directly into boarding school because it was their "time to live" thus my childhood home was an institutional building with mouldy blue carpets in the bathroom), I had to bring Cat along. I could have put Cat in a cattery, but, again, this would have defeated my attempt to steer clear of that large margin below the breadline. Also, Cat is integral to my little family. The Daughter and I don't work so well without him. And that's in spite of his penchant for dragging in small carcasses of a reptilic nature.
Now, those of you who have owned cats will know that relocating them is something of an operation that requires steely determination, commitment and the grotesque return to the cat box. (Mock charge.). Cat expulsion - both urine and faeces - are possibly two of the most god-awful stinks known to mankind. Made even worse by the fact that cat box and Cat require the obligatory four-day lock-down in a space which will allow Cat access to his people, The Daughter and me. The space - our bedroom. I cannot begin to explain the nausea I have felt in the wee hours of the morning, when Cat has found it necessary to defecate in room with tightly sealed windows and doors.
And for the first three days, we coped through gritted teeth and an excess of thin saliva. Until The Daughter and I took a day trip. We descended on The Daughter's Best Friend's house for a play date. One which ran very close to dinner time. (The Daughter's Best Friend's parents are good friends, and they're wont to enjoy an odd tipple, which makes play dates an outing for the whole family.). In fact, we'd returned home to collect pyjamas and more wine and our intention was to return and see play date off in style.
But as I rounded the house, I caught sight of the bedroom window, gaping like the mouth of a tired dog.
The Pant: Cat's gone!
The Daughter: Don't worry, Mommy. Cat's just tired of pooing in that yucky toilet. He'll come back.
I didn't have it within me to explain to The Daughter that, actually, the whole lock-down scenario was not a sneaky way to keep Cat at hand to a) force him to do ballet, b) dress him up in clothes belonging to dolls and c) tie his ears in pigtails and attempt to make him up with the mother's MAC to improve his masculine appearance.
The sun was setting. My heart felt heavy. The troops of monkeys that hung languidly from the vast trees, mocked me with what I believe was fresh Cat blood dripping from their rabid mouths. I cancelled part two of play date in an hysterical manner:
The Pant: Can't come!
The Daughter's Best Friend's Mother: If you're out of wine, we can drink tea. It's not a huge problem.
TP: No! It's not the wine! (Gulp gulp.). It's Cat. He's gone! (Breath into brown paper bag with such fury that I feel dizzy).
TDBFM: Pant, he'll come back.
TP: No, he won't! He's hightailed it back to Durban and he has probably bonded with road and tyre of truck.
TDBFM: No, he hasn't! He's probably stuck in a tree or something. How's The Daughter.
I looked around the house and found The Daughter in a totally unconcerned state; lying on the couch, nibbling on choccies, watching Charlie and Lola.
TP: Upset. She's just hiding it well.
TDBFM: Well, when you find Cat, come back to ours and we'll have that glass of wine, okay?
Cat's disappearance lasted a full 12 hours. When I awoke the following morning, I expected Cat to be perched on face, clawing rhythmically on neck while violently suckling on earlobe. The peaceful awakening only made my heart sink further in despair.
I shot up (a manner of rousing which is most foreign to me) and raced outdoors.
TP: Cat! Cat! CAT!
Until I saw him, perched high in ogre-ish tree. I ascended said tree with such alacrity that I gave little consideration to unsuitable tree climbing attire. Knickerless and pyjama bottomed (the elastic of which is as effective as, say, The Department of Home Affairs), I climbed like a 12 year old boy with my Precious Cat in sight. Eventually with pyjama bottoms snuggled around ankles, and my bottom greeting the neighbours with a most rude fashion, I had Cat close to my person, with his claws deeply imbedded in fresh morning skin.
Cat is back. After attempting to keep him in lock-down for a further day, I interpreted his aloof, and sometimes bordering on violent, behaviour to mean, "Let me the fuck out of here, Bitch. Or else I'll claw your eyes out while you sleep."
And Cat has conquered The Parental Unit's pets like the little stallion he is. In fact, I think I saw him mating the Lab.