The Return Home

Flying for just over an hour with total sinus congestion is not, I’m sorry to report, nearly as fun as it sounds. There’s the pressure, the weird sounds as your eustachian tubes try to equalize the pressure inside and outside your head — something kind of like a squish, and something kind of like a pop — and the whining from the wife, who says she’s tired of listening to the whining when she’s done cross-country flights with her sinuses inflamed, infected, and pretty much packed solid, thank you very much.

But anyway, we left Dublin. More pictures are forthcoming, I promise, though they may not be particularly exciting. Coffee shops and bookstores, pretty much, and a line of strange sculptures that could be puka frolicking along the central divider along O’Connell street. I wanted to see more, to do more, but walking more than a few meters made me short of breath, so we just sat around. Around six we caught the bus to Dublin Airport, from whence we made the aforementioned flight of pain.

A fourteen hour layover in Heathrow Airport also sounds like a great deal of fun, I know, but in spite of the pending excitement we decided to spend the night at a nearby hotel. The cost of said hotel was 64 pounds, which works out to something like $140 at the current exchange rate (at least it felt like it). In the morning we took a shuttle back to Heathrow to catch our flight to San Francisco.

I have no pictures from Dublin Airport, not even of the giant stainless steel flying pig, nor of Heathrow, nor of the hotel we stayed in. Nor of my sinuses.

The flight from London to San Francisco took just over ten hours. Fortunately, I’d armed myself with decongestants before we left (which I’m not supposed to take, but damn the hypertension), so Jennifer didn’t whine at me as much. I caught a couple of inflight movies (Firewall and Failure to Launch) and started to watch the in-flight presentation of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but decided I did not want to see the emasculated version of it. From San Francisco we caught a twin propeller turboprop plane with room for the pilot, the steward, and a dozen or so passengers. I haven’t flown in one of those for decades, and that’s not an exaggeration. Puddle jumpers, we used to call them. Retro, they call them today.

Made it home safe and sound, looked around the house, and discovered that one of our cats, Azzie, had gone missing. We checked every single nook and crannie in the house, twice, every place where Azzie was known to have lurked in the past, but he wasn’t in any of them. We decided that we couldn’t do anything about it tonight, and resigned to not seeing him until later, if ever again.

We poked around, I attempted an fsck on my ever broken computer, played with one of the other cats, and then went out on the back patio to defy my manhood and cry about the missing cat. That’s when I heard his distinctive whine coming from somewhere in the back yard.

I opened the patio door and shouted up to Jennifer, “I hear him! I hear him!”

Jennifer came tearing downstairs, and we hunted around the back yard, not seeing the cat anywhere. We kept hearing occasional whines but the acoustics were deceitful. Finally, though, we tracked him to where he was hiding underneath the wooden steps that lead up to the patio. I poked at him through one side until he went out the other side, where Jennifer caught him. He struggled and squirmed, though, and before I could open the back door to let them in, Azzie had leapt out of her arms and scurried off to elsewhere in the back yard.

Against the far fence of our back yard is a hedge, one of those thick gnarly things. You can see a picture of it here, kind of along the right hand side of the photograph, though this picture was taken two years ago and the hedge has grown to roughly ten times that size. Another not exaggeration. Azzie had run behind the hedge and was lurking there, whining at us, daring us to come back there and grab him. Of course, the hedge was so thick that even with our powerful camp lantern, we couldn’t see him.

Finally I got down on my belly and peered through the hedges and found him. Jennifer told me to grab him by the scruff of his neck and pull him out.

Now, I know that lying on your belly on a gravel path at midnight while you have bronchitis, reaching through a thick, brambly hedge to grab a scared cat by the scruff of the neck sounds like a lot of fun, but it is my sad duty to report that it is, at best, annoying. Azzie wanted nothing to do with the idea. I reached in slowly, very slowly, and then shot my hand forward and grabbed his neck with an accuracy that can only be achieved when you aim for the scruff of a terrified cat behind a row of thick hedges. I mean, I got him, and pulled him out, knowing that both the cat and my arm would be covered in dirt and brambles and scratches and possibly insects, but that wasn’t the important thing. The important thing was getting the cat.

I shoved Azzie at Jennifer, who had a towel ready. She wrapped him in the towel, nearly swaddling him, and ran for the patio. I had had the foresight to leave the patio door unlatched, so that Jennifer could just shove through it without having to work the doorknob, and that’s what she did. She dropped cat and towel onto the breakfast nook floor, and he shot up the stairs faster than I’ve seen any cat go in years.

Me, I ran upstairs and made for my nebulizer.

So, we’re back from Ireland, and all the Crawford household, two-legged and four-, are accounted for. Azzie’s terrified of me now, and I guess I can’t say as I blame him. How would you feel if you were grabbed by the scruff of your neck and forcibly dragged from your hidey-hole by a giant creature? He’ll get over it, of course, because Azzie’s long term memory is only slighty better than that of your average turnip (though I may be giving the cat too much credit).

Until then, though, he’ll skitter and hide every time I go near him. But he’s inside, where it’s safe and warm and loving, and that’s what matters.

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