Natural Cat-astrophe

cat storm In honor of Hurricane Joaquin "churning” his way toward the mainland, I thought I'd post a column from 12 years ago when Hurricane Isabel churned her way through RVA and made a monstrous mess, and humiliated one of our cats in the process. (Hurricanes always churn toward places, don't they? They never saunter. Even Katrina churned toward New Orleans, a city made for sauntering if there ever were one.)

Home Style - October 2003

I was on a mission to find water, along with the rest of metropolitan Richmond, which suddenly had found itself in the path of Hurricane Isabel.

It was an interesting situation, actually. Used to be, in the days prior to a snow storm, milk was the commodity in demand for Richmond residents.

Now the populace had switched to water. When I returned home triumphantly with my prize, my wife, Stacy, suggested that I had purchased several dozen cases too many. Then she proudly held up the spoils of her own provisioning: a coffee maker that plugs into the car.

“Are you kidding me?!” I immediately snorted. “We’re not going camping!  It’s a hurricane!  And you thought buying all this water didn’t make sense??”

Needless to say, in the Isabel’s powerless wake, I have paid a high price for each cup of Joe.

Humiliating? Of course, but over 41 years my ego had dulled to that emotion. Not so, though, with our cats, Abbott and Costello. After all, they don’t call groups of felines prides for nothing.

It all began as Isabel’s winds were building. My wife half-filled our bathtub in case post-storm water shortages left us unable to flush, and I closed the door to keep Abbott and Costello out of mischief. At least, I thought I closed that door.

Anyway, in Friday’s wee hours, as we all slept fitfully in the family room in the midst of the storm, I slid pleasantly into a dream that involved a scantily clad Cheryl Tiegs (I was 41) playing the bongo drums. Even in my sleep I stumbled over the dream’s odd premise, but rolled with it in high hopes of getting the 1970s-era girl.

Through the rhythmic bumpity-bump of Cheryl’s drumming, though, I soon heard Stacy frantically calling my name. Strange — even after I pushed myself to groggy consciousness, I could still hear the bongos.

“One of the cats fell in the tub!” she yelled in a whisper over our sleeping children’s heads.

That explained the bongos — the cat was flailing crazily, trying to climb out of the six inches of water, and his frantic paw falls on the slick tub walls were echoing through the house. I sprang to my feet (neglecting to pick up a flashlight) and dashed to the rescue.

If we’d had lights, I would have looked like a continuous, fast-forwarded video loop of Dick Van Dyke coming home from work — tripping and falling over every piece of furniture and storm-survival tool on the floor between me and the stairs.

After stumbling up the stairs, crashing into the wall short of our bedroom door, and bursting blindly into the bathroom, I leaned into what I hoped was the tub and reached for the sound of the splashing. After grabbing and discarding the potted plant and the nightshirt that the cat had drug in with him, I finally felt matted fur and yanked out a completely soaked and thoroughly humiliated Costello.

By this time, Stacy had reached us with towels. Poor Costello — he spent the entire next day in embarrassed seclusion, meekly re-fluffing his fur and refusing to emerge for food, water or consolation. Five days later, he still hadn’t gone near the bathroom door.

Luckily for me, my pride does not get in the way of my day-to-day needs. As thousands of Richmonders lined up for coffee at the few convenience stores and fast-food joints that had power, I had no problem taking my morning java with a heaping spoonful of crow.