PICASSO VANISHED! Copyright 2003, Michael LaRocca
After we moved, Picasso went AWOL!
Lemme start at beginning.
Lunar New Year, 2003. Jan and I had finished our second semester of teaching. We'd lived in Hangzhou for just over a year, and our home was being destroyed to widen road.
We had a paid holiday of perhaps a month. Right in middle of it, we were moving. About 10 minutes up road by bicycle, but of course we weren't moving on a bicycle.
At 12:30, we'd been told, movers would arrive to haul our stuff to our new home. So I'd guess at about 8, maybe earlier, we were packing stuff. When doorbell rang at 11:30, we were ready.
Whenever we have a Chinese visitor who can't speak English, and no translator, it's always interesting. I'll just cut to chase and say that, once again, Jan figured out what he was talking about. He'd come to take away our air conditioners. We let him. Picasso supervised from cupboards over bed. Jan called Harry (Huang Haijun, our fantastic Foreign Affairs Officer) so he could be sure they were taking them to right place, which was not our new apartment.
Harry arrived about 12:00 and thought he heard movers downstairs. So I retrieved hidden cat carrier, scooped up Miss Picasso, and loaded her gently into box. But nope, it wasn't movers. It was guy who was taking away water heater. While Picasso yowled and howled nonstop, guy efficiently took away water heater.
Harry rang movers several times after 12:30, and I heard a side of him I rarely hear. He was chewing butt. Their other job had run long, he calmly explained to us. Then he rang them five minutes later to chew some more butt.
At 1:00, doorbell rang again. That silenced Picasso. She listened to all Chinese being spoken. One guy came in and talked to Harry. Then another guy came in. Then another. Then another. Some saw Picasso in kitchen and said "Meow!"
In end, we had five movers. Shorter than me, but stockier. Lifelong workers. I suppose that could've been me if I'd never left that first hog farm. Or second. Or third. Or fourth.
Moving was a rather rapid whirlwind of activity. Picture a big box filled with books. It's so heavy that you can barely lift it without screwing up your back. Okay, now double weight because I'm stronger than you. Now, picture some dude throwing a strap around five of them, slinging them across his back, and walking down stairs. Wow!
In midst of all this, Picasso's incessant protests led her to knock water from her cage door and spill it all over floor of her carrier. I was tempted to attempt opening door, scooping her out with a towel, drying cat and cage, and returning her. Jan reminded me that was impossible, so I settled for shoving socks and underwear between bars. Picasso helped by pulling them in. She dried her floor, settled onto them, and began bathing. Ah yes, 30 minutes of silence. Then howling resumed.
Soon after, I carried her outside. Dead silence. Obsessive curiosity. The three of us got in a taxi. Her first time ever riding with Jan. She had to look at oncoming traffic wide-eyed, then duck her head as it blew past window. Yeah, they drive fast and crazy here. But, she knew she wasn't being abandoned again. That cage has always meant trouble before. But now, all three of us were riding together. Purr!
The taxi got us to right complex but wrong building. Our language skills are limited, it's a big place, and we didn't even know our address yet. So, we walked along street. Picasso drank in sights and sounds and smells and was quite thrilled. Jan's memory got us to our new home, where five guys were hauling boxes and desks and a sofa on their backs.