The phone call came from my mother the night before St. Augustine evacuated for Hurricane Irma: “Brian! I don’t have any dry cat food to leave Missy Daisy and Little Joe! I only bought wet food in cans! What was I thinking?!? They don’t know how to use the can opener yet!”
I’m not sure where the mix-up occurred. The cats weren’t going with my mother when she left for the hotel. The stacks of cat food cans would be worthless. Even worse, when she finally realized this, there was no Friskies to be found anywhere. The kitty food shelves were bare.
These was desperate straits!
Now I was being dispatched on a secret commando mission to find cat food: “CVS HAS SOME! I JUST CALLED! REMEMBER … MISSY DAISY DOESN’T LIKE SEAFOOD … ONLY BEEF!!!” It sounded like something from a war movie. Some frantic soldier on the front line calling in artillery fire to keep the swarming enemy at bay.
I pointed at my daughter: “You’re coming with me. I want sanity on my side.”
I wasn’t hopeful. Either that we would find cat food, or that we would survive the experience. That morning I had stood in line at Publix waiting for them to open so I could get bottles of water.
“This is what it means to be Floridian,” I remember thinking, and then wondered if it would be like a gladiator arena once we all got in.
This night there were no lines at stores. Nor were there people. All the people had already stripped the shelves bare. They were sitting at home watching The Weather Channel while eating canned peaches and feeding their cats freshly-bought Friskies.
As we drove to the store on quiet streets, I remember thinking, “This is what it means to be my mother’s son.”
You learn a lot about what is and what isn’t considered emergency provisions by what’s left on the shelves. Purple Gatorade never sells. Vienna Sausages never go out of style. And kitties? Well, they love them some Friskies.
There were only two packages left: Surfin’ & Turfin’ Favorites and Tender & Crunchy Combo. Tender & Crunchy looked like it had carrots in it. CARROTS! Missy Daisy definitely wouldn’t eat that.
We stood in line at the cash register while my daughter called her grandmother. She tried to be as quiet and inconspicuous as she could. But my mother wouldn’t hear a meteor if it landed in her backyard.
My daughter sounded like a soldier on the front line: “GRANDMA EVIE … THEY ONLY HAVE SURFIN’ & TURFIN’ … OR TENDER & CRUNCHY COMBO … NO BEEF!!! … CAN YOU HEAR ME?!?”
She repeated this 17 times. I finally cursed and said we were getting them both. “If it’s good enough for the cat on the bag, then it’s good enough for Missy Daisy.”
Embarrassed, we both smiled at the cashier. We worried he would ask us something like, “So, you have a cat, huh?” and I would answer, “Um … actually … no” leaving his imagination to run wild. He would forever tell the story of the cat-less man and his daughter who came for hurricane provisions and left with two bags of Friskies. The last two in all of St. Augustine.