5

A Kitten of Great Price – Part 2

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By archy cockroach and mehitabel cat, City Desk

Recipients of a Bullitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting for their three-part story Bedlam in New York (part one here, part two here and part three here)

They hung around the harbor, waiting for the next truck. In the meantime, mehitabel talked to some of the local cats to seen what they knew.

Every cat told the same story. Early the morning of the delivery, the truck would arrive with the kittens. The men would disappear for a few hours, leaving the kittens alone in the locked truck. When the men returned they would put up a nice display, fluff up the kittens, place each of them in a nice cage with water and toys, and wait for the buyers. When the people arrived, the men would match them with the kittens and the kittens went home with their new human parents.

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The cats had never seen the kittens or the truck anywhere near the water. In fact, they came from the opposite direction. So the kitten was right!

Finally a truck arrived with kittens. They set up in the same place as before. mehitabel could hear the kittens crying while the men went off to eat. He’d never had a mate or kittens but thought that he should do something.

mehitabel jumped up into the truck. It was filthy. Even archy was appalled. The kittens were together in one cage. They looked terrified and wanted their mothers. When they saw mehitabel, one of them asked if he was going to eat them. He was somewhat offended.

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mehitabel assured them that they were perfectly safe with him; he was there to make sure they were OK. They were hungry and tired, but otherwise fine. They wanted to know what was going to happen to them. mehitabel told them that they would each go to their forever home where humans would love them and treat them well. He didn’t tell them that because they were so expensive, they would be living in some of the nicest places in the city.

mehitabel heard the men and hid in a dark corner. He watched as they brushed the kittens and put each one into a spacious cage with food and water. The kittens ate ravenously. The name of the human parent was attached to the appropriate cage.

We watched as the humans came for their kittens. They all looked like they would make good parents. They cuddled the kittens and told them about their new homes. The kittens snuggled and purred. Then they were put in carriers and on their way home.

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But where had they come from? Since the humans had lied about where the kittens came from, what else had they lied about? We decided to take a trip with the truck drivers. We returned to the dark corner until the truck started to move.

It wasn’t a very long ride. And it definitely wasn’t anywhere near the water. In less than an hour, we smelled the unmistakable aroma of cows. Lots of cows. Then we were on a very bumpy road. Finally the truck stopped and the men got out. We could hear several voices.

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Man 1: How’d it go?

Man 2: Same as always. They just loved their “exotic” kitty.

(They all laughed.)

Man 3: How do you think they’d feel if they knew those cats came from here and aren’t even purebred?

Man 1: They better not ever find out. Do you know how much we’re making off of those little furballs?

Man 3: Sure beats working for a living.

(They all laughed as they walked away.)

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We looked at each other. We definitely had to get to the bottom of this. These men were taking advantage of cats!

Unfortunately we couldn’t do anything until someone came back so we could get out. Finally someone came for the cages. We heard him before he got to the truck and were waiting. As soon as he opened the back end, mehitabel jumped out with archy holding tight. Luckily it was dark, and the man was busy with his work.

We took a walk around the place and couldn’t believe what we saw.

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Conclusion coming.

6

Who Taught You How to Drive?

I learned something very important Monday night. If a semi (truck) “bumps” your car straight on from behind, and you are going more or less the same speed (obviously he would be going a little faster), it may not really hurt your car.

I take a class Monday nights at a town that is about 30 miles from here. I use a freeway to get there. All was good until I needed to exit. The freeway was full of semis. They travel in the right lane, which is also where the exits are (go figure).

Trying to not create too much havoc, I found a spot between a car and a semi. I moved over then checked my rearview mirror to make sure I hadn’t cut him off. I could see the entire front end. I thought the rule was if you can see the driver, he can see you. Once again, all was well. Emphasis on “I thought”.

I am really bad about using my mirrors unless I am going to turn or change lanes or whatever. (Do they really expect you to scan them every 30 seconds? I’d run into something in front of me.)

For some reason I looked again, and he was closer. I thought that he must have been one of those jerk drivers who try to intimidate small cars. (I drive an Elantra).

Semi drivers are usually pretty good drivers and I was almost to my exit, so I figured it was just an annoyance. Silly me. I looked again. He was almost on top of me.

Something hit me from behind. Yep. The exit was about 200 yards too far away. It’s amazing how hard a semi can hit even at a low speed. I guess they really are the ones destroying our roads.

I was extremely annoyed. I need the car for work, and I’m sharing it with my son. I didn’t have time to take it to the shop. And apparently cars don’t have frames anymore. It’s all magic and fiberglass. Besides it’s only seven months old. And I was going to be late for class.

So I stopped on the side of the exit. I stomped to the back of my car. It was a little dirty (my fault), but I didn’t see anything wrong. Then I realized I hadn’t heard any crunch or breaking plastic (or glass or whatever they use). Maybe they really do use magic.

The truck driver came over to see if I was OK. He said he hadn’t seen me and bumped into me. Ummmm, OK. You’re a professional driver. Don’t they train you to look for merging traffic? But he was very nice, and I sent him on his way. Then he was very relieved.

If you look at where we live, you would see that it’s difficult to get anywhere without using a freeway. Many lakes mean no major roads. So I have a lot of experience with semis. I realized that this wasn’t my most annoying encounter. At least it was a one-time occurrence.

To get to several of the places I frequent, I have to take a four-lane freeway. That’s four lanes in the sense of two lanes going in each direction. It’s not really a bad drive, even in rush hour. In comparison with rush hour on other freeways around here.

However, it is the major north-south freeway in this part of the state. Which means a lot of trucks hauling a lot of stuff during the morning rush hour. A lot of heavy stuff. Trucks carrying heavy stuff aren’t supposed to go really fast. The speed limit theoretically is 55 mph on the 70 mph freeway. So they’re in the right lane.

Every once in a while, a large heavy truck wants to go 60 mph. So he has to pull into the “fast lane”. Which is no longer the “fast lane”. Once the driver gets out from behind the slow truck, he realizes that he can’t zip around another big truck like he does in his pick-up. So everyone goes slow for a while.

That is far more irritating than the semis that drive in Detroit during rush hour. I generally hold back for them which makes me very unpopular with the drivers behind me.

Some people don’t like to be behind semis. So they don’t let them in. Finally the truck driver gets frustrated and forces the truck between two cars. That really irks the drivers on the freeway. The cars behind the truck on the entry ramp are not so upset.

Some people hate being behind semis on snowy roads. Not me. They are usually excellent drivers. Full trucks are slow, but so am I. They very rarely swerve or skid. They pack down snow nicely, and it’s still warm when I go over it so I don’t have to worry about ice. And people don’t get mad at me for going slow. They blame the truck.

Moral of the story: Most truck drivers aren’t like the guy in ‘Duel’ (a surprisingly good 1971 TV movie about a psycho truck driver, directed by Steven Spielberg). However, if it looks like one is going to run you over, use your horn to make sure it’s not intentional.