Of course I did not have any say about selling our house and living in a big box on wheels. What was I to do? Become a common alley cat and live out of garbage cans? We sold the house in Pennsylvania and moved to Florida. Now, as I was saying, Florida is an odd place. I rarely needed the fur coat I was born with, there were critters called alligators living in the water and bugs big as mice living in the house. Native Floridians called them palmetto bugs but, I knew better. They were overfed cockroaches or, maybe, God’s cruel idea of a joke.
Most of the time we lived on the truck. My favorite spot was up on the dashboard. I just laid there and wiled away the hours watching the world go by. Another favorite place was the topside bunk with two side windows as it was a perfect spot to escape, watch traffic and snooze. I had to share my bed with Jim. This was OK because he thought he was quite a ferocious fighter. We spent hours batting, spitting and hissing at each other. Hard as he tried to be a better feline than I was, he always retreated with bloodied arms. To this day I don’t believe he realized that his nails were simply no contest for my honed instruments of battle. Much to Larry’s chagrin, Jim and I became inseparable buddies.
Under the bottom bunk, Larry’s bed, was a separate storage compartment accessible only by lifting up the bed or from an exterior door. This is where my litter box was kept. It was such an ingenious idea to have my private space out of the way under the bunk. Jim cut a passageway through the wall supporting the bottom bunk and separating this storage area from the rest of the truck’s interior. It was large enough for me to crawl through until I gained weight living the good life. So then, he had to enlarge the hole. Like I was saying, that litter box compartment kept prying eyes from watching me do my duties. Of course, my aim was sometimes less than perfect when cruising down a highway with bumps and curves.
Many times when we entered the gates of a military installation, the sentries performed an inspection of the truck and the trailer. Those who were more gung-ho did a thorough interior check snooping into cabinets and closets and other storage areas. I laughed my butt off when an especially obnoxious guard demanded to see into my space under the bunk. He was standing outside by the exterior side door waiting for Jim to unlock it. I had just relieved myself of an extraordinary dinner of tuna and ice cream. Jim warned the young soldier that a litter box was in there, that he should take precautions. Either hearing impaired or unfamiliar with the odors cats can generate, he poked his nose straight into the loaded litter box. Only my escape from the laundry monster hurling down the stairway was more instantaneous than his embarrassed retreat back to the sentry shack.
As I was saying, I met lots of interesting people from the hood of our truck and saw the most awesome sights from my dashboard perch. We especially enjoyed west coast runs that allowed us to spend a weekend off in Las Vegas. Nellis Air Force Base was nestled in the desert just northeast of the city. We often delivered munitions there and stayed at a Flying J truckstop in North Las Vegas. It was always crowded so that finding a good mousing spot was impossible. Besides, Jim was fearful of coyotes and other wild prowling desert animals and didn’t allow me to get off the truck. But, the view of downtown Las Vegas was spectacular.
While lounging on my hood one Sunday afternoon, the nicest middle-aged lady came strolling by. She wore a long, pleated, flowered skirt, a floppy straw hat and carried a parasol. How unique for a working girl I thought to myself. And she certainly is one of the oldest women I’ve ever seen working the lot, and in the middle of the afternoon. How brave of her.
Of course, she spoke kindly to me before walking to the side of the truck where she had spied Larry sitting in the driver’s seat reading. Now, Larry, having become immune to the beggings and pleas of working girls and panhandlers ignored the poor soul at first. But, as I tuned in to the conversation I ascertained that this was not some common lot tramp. By her speech and proper manner I could tell immediately that this was a lady of some refinement in need of assistance. She and her traveling companion, they were from Los Angeles, became embroiled in a fierce argument and she was abandoned by the scoundrel at the truckstop with little money and no means of returning to Los Angeles. She went on to lament her situation and nightfall was approaching and what was she to do alone with no money in a city as heartless as Las Vegas? Fearful for her virtue and her life she asked for just enough to rent a motel room for the night while she attempted to contact family to come fetch her.
I was never prouder of Larry as he reached into his wallet and handed the lady a $20 bill, wished her well and apologized for not being able to give more. Having thanked him very graciously the nice lady went on to the next occupied truck.
As the sun began to set I looked across the parking lot to the Mickey D lot next door when lo and behold I saw a lady of the very same description climb into a waiting van and they drove happily and much richer into the Las Vegas sunset. Larry found out later over the CB radio that this panhandler was a regular on Sunday afternoon and gave a standing ovation performance always.
As I was saying, my life was never dull riding with Larry and Jim. Once at a truck stop in Yuma, Arizona, I was snoozing on the dashboard just around sunrise. Even at this early hour it was 102 degrees outside and definitely too hot for a fur coat like I always had to wear so I was just too happy to stay on the truck with the AC cranked up.
Jim was doing his log book when he yelled to Larry in the sleeper, “Hey, come check this out.” Going from door to door of the occupied trucks, the lady spoke briefly to the driver and then proceeded to the next truck. She was the oldest working girl I had ever seen. Jim guffawed that she had to be at least 70 years old, times must be really tough in Yuma. Larry agreed and just shook his head in disbelief. Jim obligingly rolled down his window when the lady approached.
“I live next door and have lost my dog. He’s a little poodle, have you seen him?”
Jim burst out laughing much to the woman’s dismay.
“What, did you think I was soliciting?”
Red-faced and much embarrassed by his presumption, Jim befriended the woman and later in the day spent a sizable sum of money at her gift shop which was next door to the parking lot. Only after returning to the truck with his purchase of authentic native American pottery did he think to check the bottom of the statue.
“Made in China.”
Now it was Larry who burst out laughing. Honestly, I just don’t understand human humor.