The day began like any other: The human pet was sipping her coffee and browsing the internet, Isis was watching the backyard with a keen eye, and I was laying on the back of the couch, stretched out to my fullest. However, the calm was breeched with a knock on the door, and I knew full well it was my friend, Phil.
The human pet opened the door, and she nearly took a step back when she saw it was Phil.
"I thought this Amazing Zeus campaign was over!" she said with a huff.
"Hardly. He has four more stops to go, and we're also considering having him go to one bonus city," replied Phil.
"Bonus city? What does that mean?" asked the human pet.
"We've been throwing the idea back and forth about having him visit a secret location - one which does not have any of his feline friends there, but where he can do some interesting things nonetheless. What do you think?" said Phil.
"I think this is silly is what I think! He's a c-a-t, CAT! Just who watches this show anyhow? I haven't seen it on any of the networks," stated the human pet.
"Then you must not be watching Animal Planet, BBC, BBC America, Bravo, The Discovery Channel, The Fine Living Network, or The Travel Channel," answered Phil curtly.
"Oh you're full of it, Phil! I watch nearly all of those regularly, and Zeus is never on!" said the human pet angrily with a wave of her hand. She turned to look at me on the couch, and I shuddered as I saw her eyes. "Zeus, get over here so Phil can leave!"
"Marina, why do you have to be so cold to me every time we see one another? You weren't always this way," said Phil softly.
Turning her attention back to Phil, the human pet replied, "Phil, put yourself in my shoes. Sure, I was a bit star-struck in the beginning when you would come to pick up Zeus, but now, you've been here nearly a dozen or more times! It just drains on someone to expect company at such early hours without notice. It's hardly, dare I say, 'amazing' if you ask me."
Phil picked me up from the tile floor and held me close. He lowered his voice slightly and said, "I'm sorry for annoying you, Marina. We'll be out of your way now."
Phil looked rather sad in my opinion, and I felt torn between my human pet and my friend. I didn't like being in the middle at all, but I knew I was probably going to forget about it as soon as I got onboard my flight to Gainesville, Florida. I was off to see The Feline Oligarchy!
The flight was completely smooth, and traveling to the Oligarchy's house was a breeze. Ever since the production crew learned to arrange for taxis in advance, I have never had a problem. The weather in Florida was just as delightful as it had been when I had visited the first time. Lush and green, the palm trees lined the highway, darting the verdant landscape. When I arrived at the house, I walked up the beautiful pathway and knocked on the front door.
A very nice human lady pet answered and said, "Zeus, we are so thrilled to have you here with us! The whole gang is going to be super excited to meet you finally! Come on in!" She opened the door for me, and I entered into the wonderful house. I noticed the Oligarchy's indoor playground with its holes and perches, and I was in awe. I didn't have anything like that at my house!
"Zeus, you're here! Well, this is great!" said Alberta as she approached to greet me.
"We're all so happy you could make it. We've been looking forward to this for a long time," stated Blackie as he gave me a headbutt.
"Do you have any idea what we'll be doing today, Zeus?" asked Charlie as she came up to say hello.
"I don't know yet, but I think it will be fun," I said. "It's always fun!"
"That's so true," said Sky as he too gave me a headbutt. "I think we've all had fun just reading your adventures!"
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, and we all knew instinctively that it must be Phil! The Oligarchy's human lady pet opened the door, and sure enough, we were all right!
"Alberta, Blackie, Charlie, Sky, and Zeus. You have $200.00 for this leg of the race. Here is your first clue. Make sure to read it carefully, and be safe on your travels."
We tore open the clue and read it together:
Make your way to the Gainesville Ballet Theatre. Once there, search for your next clue.
Sky raised a curious eyebrow. "Is this serious? I mean, you can't really expect us to go to a ballet theatre and dance! We're guys," he said, but then Sky saw the look on Alberta's and Charlie's faces. Coughing suddenly, he said, "Well, almost all of us."
"Perhaps we just have to search for the clue, and there won't be any dancing involved. I heard those ballet slippers crunch your paws, and I'm not into having my toesies crunches," replied Alberta.
The Oligarchy's human lady pet was kind enough to drive us to the Theatre. When we arrived, we discovered that this theatre was unlike other theatres in that the dancers never received pay. Apparently, homo sapiens call this "nonprofit", and for the life of us, we couldn't understand why someone would come to work and not be paid for it. The homo sapiens there told us that they got paid, but not in money. (This just made the whole thing even more vastly confusing than it had been in the first place.) The entire theatre is supported by businesses in the community, and for little homo sapiens (a.k.a. children), the theatre serves as a great place for cultural development.
Alberta padded off to look for the clue among the black curtains that lined either end of the stage. Blackie decided to look for the clue at the top of the theatre, crawling along the bar that held the huge canisters of lights. Charlie hopped off to speak to the choreographer of the dancers, and Sky had a long talk with the company manager. Both of them thought maybe the homo sapiens might have seen the clue, but all of the humans gave us very confused and baffled looks. I don't think they thought felines belonged in ballet.
After a few minutes had passed, Alberta cheered loudly: "I found it! I found it! It was stuck here in the folds of the curtains!" We all ran onto the stage to read the clue together:
Make your way to the Sante Fe River Canoe Outpost. Once there, rent a canoe and travel to Ginnie Springs.
"This is really exciting! We're going to travel down the river," exclaimed Sky.
"Yes, but the river means water. If I get wet, you will never hear the end of it!" said Alberta firmly.
"Well, let's not do anything then to tip the boat so we all stay dry!" I said. I have to admit: I was a bit nervous as well about the canoe trip. Felines and water do not mix!
We made our way back to the Oligarchy's human lady pet. With a smile, she helped us all into the car, and we drove a short distance to the Outpost. At first, I had thought we would be traveling down the infamous Suwannee River, but I found out that this was the Santa Fe River. Though it had no songs about it like the Suwannee, it was still gorgeous enough to warrant a tune or two in its honor!
At first, we thought we were going to have difficulties obtaining a canoe like the clue had instructed. There was to be no pets allowed in the park. I attempted to explain to the people of the Outpost that we had left the Oligarchy's human pet in the car, but they kept stating that it was the five of us which were the problem. I was so annoyed that I almost hissed, but thank goodness the production crew intervened and explained the situation to the Outpost crew in a language they understood!
Traveling down the Santa Fe was an amazing experience. Though the five of us could not very well paddle, our guide more than made up for our lack of opposable thumbs. We saw beautiful trees of every variety: pine, cypress, and oak. We also saw several alligators and some very large birds. We had been told we might see a turtle or two, and so I kept a keen eye out for my friend, Shellie, but we had no luck.
When we arrived in Ginnie Springs, we searched for the clue in every spring and hollow tree. Homo sapiens that were milling about shot us weird glances and whispered about us (as if we could not hear their comments with our sharp sense of hearing!), but that did not deter us! We found the clue inside the Gift Shop, and so the five of us huddled together once more to read:
Make your way to Kanapaha Botantical Gardens.
"WOOHOO!" screamed Blackie. "We wanted to take you there, Zeus! How awesome that Phil read our minds!"
"More likely our postcard," snickered Alberta.
"I have been wanting to go too. The picture you sent me was amazing! I think it just looks spectacular!" I said.
We made our way to the parking lot for Ginnie Springs, and surprisingly enough, the Oligarchy's lady pet was waiting for us. She gave us all scritchins and checked our fur to make sure we had no fleas, flies, mites, or chiggers that hopped along for a free ride! Once more, she helped us into the car, and we made the drive back towards their house for they do not live far from the gardens.
When we arrived at Kanapaha Botantical Gardens, we all climbed out and made our way through the entrance. I hadn't known this, but the name, Kanapaha, is actually the name of the lake which the gardens surround. Kanapaha is a word which comes from the Timucua Indian words for "palmetto leaf" and "house". The reason that was the name of the lake is because long ago, Timucua Indians used to build thatched dwellings along the banks of the Lake Kanapaha. How very interesting it was to be so close to history!
We walked along lush pathways that were filled with some of the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. The Crinum and Rose Gardens were simply spectacular! Most of the flowers in those two gardens were species that did well in the climate of Florida. We spent some time examining the Butterfly Garden as well which was filled with foliage that was meant to both be food for baby caterpillars and flowering for adult butterflies. (I immediately recognized this place as the picture which the Oligarchy had sent to me!)
We made our way past Lake Kanapaha and were led by our noses to the Herb Garden. There, in large brick beds, were some of the finest culinary herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, and of course, catnip!
"Oh, do you smell it? I know you smell it," said Blackie to Charlie.
"Do you think we could just swipe some of it for ourselves? It's not like they will miss just a wee bit of it," asked Charlie.
"Are you two nuts?! We could get in serious trouble over that!" said Alberta.
"You know you want some nip." Sky looked at Alberta as if to say that he knew her real intentions. "You can't pretend to be good all the time!"
"Umm, well if the four of you want some for yourselves, I can just watch guard over here. I'll let you know if anyone is coming," I said.
"Wow, Zeus! You're the best!" said Blackie. The Oligarchy ripped bits and pieces of the catnip plants while I watched the nearby pathways for any sign we might be spotted. Soon, the four kitties were meowing and rolling about in the herbs! I turned around to find the four of them, eyes glazed, on their backs, admiring the sunlight.
"I think we need to get going. You can't poop out here in the Herb Garden," I said.
"But this is heavenly! I don't think I ever want to leave," said Charlie.
With a long sigh, Alberta said, "He's right, he's right, darn it, he's right! We need to go home, yes we do, we do, do, do!"
I tried not to giggle at my friends in their stupor, but it was sort of funny. We made our way back to the parking lot where the Oligarchy's human pet met us with a bizarre look. "The four of you snuck some catnip, didn't you?" she asked with some concern.
Blackie waved his paw at her as he said, "Nonsense, woman. I don't know what you're talking about."
"Mmm-hmm," said the human lady pet. "I think it's time we get the four of you home then just as soon as we drop off Zeus at the airport!"
I want to thank The Feline Oligarchy for inviting me to Gainesville, Florida! I had such a very special time with the four of you, and I really feel I got to face my fear of water head-on! I may actually think about letting my human pet give me a bath now. I would also like to give a special thanks to the Oligarchy's human lady pet for driving us to every place we visited. I hope you were not too terribly upset concerning the catnip!