Shelby didn’t want to move to Portland, but that’s the thing about humans. They’re always on the move, always looking for more. Of what she’s not sure. Personally, she’s content with a saucer of soymilk, cats are allergic to dairy, and some tuna biskets. Okay yes, she also loved a warm lap to sleep on and a comfortable home to explore. But that wasn’t enough for her mistress.
Mistress worked at a local coffee shop. She was hired for her amazing smile and ability to anticipate customers needs – whatever that may mean. She had a handful of friends and enjoyed the conversations there, but at the end of the night, she came home to Shelby, sat down in front of the computer and got lost in weird anime. Sometimes she would cry, sometimes she would laugh, sometimes she just sat still with the numb faded look in her hair mirrored in her eyes.
People began to talk. Say that she was wasting her life. “You’re young, you should travel! Man, I would give anything to be 23 again.” Men seemed peeved that she was so young. They got that look of nostalgic regret on their face of wishing so many years hadn’t passed them by. She saw this and it made her sad. Because she knew she would either die first or be old someday too.
Shelby looked out as the miles past by. Sometimes Mistress would talk to her, in her usual nonsense, “I just don’t get life, Shelby. And life just don’t get me.” Then she would laugh at her intentional slang talking. But mostly the silence filled the car. She played music and would sometimes sing out. But Mistress drove in the silence.
Fiona Apple plays on the radio. It’s odd and soothing. Shelby isn’t a huge fan but it does seem to make Mistress happy and that’s what’s important to her. Shelby had tried to make a run for it when Mistress loaded her into the car. She had seen the end coming for weeks. Things trickling out of the apartment until it was bare as strangers came and took things away. For awhile Shelby thought someone would come for her too. But no, she won the prize of spending 72 hours in a car bound to Portland, Oregon.
“It will be alright Shelby. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? I mean the worst, of course, would be that I can’t find any work have to sell my soul. I guess there’s always dancing. I mean I don’t want to, but technically I could be a sex worker. I don’t know how long that would last. I guess until either my face or my ass drops, whichever comes first.”
Together they drive to Colorado, then back to Texas out of sheer fear of the unknown and the cold, then to Pheonix, then Elk Gove, and then – finally – Portland. The drive was hard on both of them. Shelby struggled to not throw up every hour while still managing to eat. She tried to make a run for it at one of the gas stations in the middle of New Mexico but froze up when she realized she was a strange cat in a strange land. The blue Subaru has become their home. What’s left of it, like the last seed dropped from a tree, to take root and thrive, or be crushed beneath an unknown boot.
They stop at homes along the way, where the owners have opened up their doors to the general public to apply for lodging. It’s a bit of a predicament with Shelby along as cats are not the usual traveling companion. Thank the Lord, Shelby’s stomach aches stopped after 48 hours, could just be because she’s empty now.