chapter 1:
we leave late . . . which puts us driving on the mountainous roads of western nc through the dense, opaque clouds. 2 cats fight the entire time (loudly and physically) while 1 cat practices his carsickness in my lap. and on my arms. and, when all other appendates seem to be covered, on my chest.

chapter 2:
we arrive at the house only to find ourselves locked out. my key that always lives in the car console is m.i.a., and the fella’ doing work on the outside of the house has apparently taken the (singular, as in the only) spare key home with him. or something.

chapter 3:
the garage door opens, thanks to the cooperation of that programmable thingie in my car, so we shepherd dog and cats into the garage and position a big box in front of the cat door because, at the risk of sounding inhospitable, i’m thinking i don’t want the cats to be inside without canine or human supervision. (surely you’ve heard what the cats will do when the mice are away.)

chapter 4:
we head into town where we are delighted to find the dollar store open and a rack of clothes for sale on the sidewalk. alison and mother have their clothes, but i have nothing save the ones that now smell of eau de cat vomit. i pick up clothes, deodorant, and a toothbrush . . . plus a couple of christmas trees for the front door, 31 reindeer ears, a few presents, holiday greeting cards, dog food, a gallon of water (since the water is turned off at the house), a blanket large enough for all the cats and then some, a bed for the dog, and some dog food (already have cat food). just the essentials, you know.

chapter 5:
we walk to the restaurant and inhale food while they mop the floor under our feed, refill condiments and wish we would eat faster.

chapter 6:
back to the dollar store where i purchase some black thermal pants and a mini-dress to wear over them as pajamas since both mother and alison draw the line at me sleeping naked.

chapter 7:
back to the house to feed the animals and tuck them into bed. as alison and i unload the car, mother slips behind the wheel, prepared to honk and flash (the lights) should cats even look like they’re thinking of running out of the garage. they don’t – just the sound of the door is enough to send them into cabinets, thank goodness. we put out the food and water, spread out the blanks, fluff up the dog’s bed, and leave.

chapter 8:
when mother exits the car at the front door to the hotel that we hope has one more empty room, out falls the fork that she “lost” at the waffle house where we stopped for a bite on the way to n.c. eons ago. don’t ask.

chapter 9:
we turn on television in time to see donnie osmond announced the winner of dancing with the stars then showers and smirnoffs all around (with me in pole position) followed by soft snoring and sweet dreams.

chapter 10:
after the free breakfast, we load the car and head back to the house. seeing the neighbor’s car, we stop and i ask if he knows the whereabouts of his friend who did some work on our house. turns out it’s a case of EX-friends due to the unfortunate fact that workerbee stopped paying rent to neighbor (a.k.a. landlord) which led to the eviction of workerbee. so, no, neighbor doesn’t know whereabouts of workerbee but grabs his tools and vows that he won’t leave till we’re inside our house.

chapter 11:
neighbor can’t find a spare key in keybox open either. doors all locked. windows all locked. he’s checking the last door when i notice that workerbee left a trapdoor open that leads to under the house (i immediately picture me trying to wake a family of bears and ask them to pretty please find another place to hibernate) and i hatch a hail-mary idea: “what if we can get inside by going under the house?” i explain that there are 2 closetesque doors in j’underneath (my n.c. studio) that open to – surprise – the big rock on which our house sits. (it’s eerie and captivating all at once.) the way i figure it, he’s just got to take the hinge off the smaller trapdoor (the larger, open door is a deadend – i already know that), crawl in, and find his way over to one of the 2 surprise doors. it works, and before you know it, i’m standing inside asking how can i ever repay him for breaking and entering.

chapter 12:
the key is now permanently attached to my person, and 4 duplicates are on their way up with hubbie. the animals roam contentedly (if not always peaceably). groceries are put up. yesterday’s clothes are washed, and now – at 3:11 a.m. on thanksgiving day – i prop my eyelids open waiting for hubbie and son to arrive and make the dinner table complete. let the overeating begin . . .