What a long, strange and amazing day this was, capped off by quite a surprise. Two surprises actually. The first was a feline surprise, the second a human one. Actually, a very human one. Maybe even the most human.
Today’s ride included:
The medieval and fortified town of Granville, a really cool town up on a hill, overlooking the sea. From Granville, you can look across the bay, and see, off in the distance, the amazing Mont St. Michel. Wish I’d been stuck here for two days instead of Coutances. This is a way cooler town.
Saw a statue of George C. Scott, I mean of George S. Patton, in Avranches, which he liberated during WWII.
Once past Avranches, rode west and along the coast, toward Mont St. Michel. So, here’s the deal: Back in 708, the Bishop of Avranches was visited in his dreams by the Archangel Michael. Mike told the bishop to build a giant church/cathedral on this barren and tiny little rocky island just off the coast. And so, he did. As if you have a choice when you’re the Bishop of Avranches and an Archangel takes over your dreams and tells you to build a church/cathedral on a tiny, rocky island. Mont St. Michel kept getting bigger and bigger, and is a now a pilgrimmage – and tourist – destination.
There’s a little road from the coast out to the base/entrance of the Mont St. Michel. Rode to the entrance, looked around for a while. And then turned around and kept riding. Just wasn’t in the mood to spend hours at and in a giant, religious cathedral island. Needed to keep moving and riding. Maybe I’ll make a day trip here tomorrow. Or maybe not.
From Mont St. Michel, had two options: St. Malo to the west and north, or to the youth hostel in Dinan that Mat told me about. It’s west and a little south.
Decided on Dinan.
St. Malo sounds great. What’s not to like about an ancient (at this point, is it even necessary to point out that a town/church is ancient?) and fortified town on the coast, with a beach. But a beach town sounded extra lonely without Maddie. And Mat, who seemed to know what he was talking about, said Dinan and the youth hostel were great. And now that I’ve stayed at a youth hostel and have started talking to people, kind of want to have people to hang out and talk with at night. Have to admit: Have been a little lonely, what with being all by myself all the time over here. Plus, Dinan is more in the direction of the Loire than St. Malo and I need to get to the Loire soon. Our anniversary is in 10 days and I have to be in the Loire – either Villandry or Chenonceaux – on our anniversary.
That’s etched in stone. Ancient stone.
Stopped about five miles from Dinan, in a little park to read my map and have a snack. Went to throw out the wrapper from my biscuits and … heard this strange noise coming from inside the trashcan. A whimpering, crying, sad sound.
Pulled up the lid of the trash can and … wrapped up in a dirty, old towel were two kittens. Someone had put two kittens in the trash and left them there to die. Was so stunned, just stood there for a couple of seconds, not believing what I was seeing. And hearing. Snapped out of it, dug a clean T- shirt out of my panniers, pulled the kitties out of the trashcan and wrapped them up in my T-shirt.
One was orange with stripes and a white nose and the other was gray with white feet. They must have been about three weeks old, although my kitten-age-guessing abilities are limited.
How the hell could someone do such a thing?
Held the two kitties up against my chest and talked to them, hoping they understood English. Told them everything would be OK and I wouldn’t leave them in the trash can. They seemed to calm down a little, so maybe they understand English. They also seemed hungry. Cupped up my left hand, poured some water into it, and they both started lapping up the water. Kept filling up my hand with water and they kept lapping it up. They must have sucked down half a water bottle of water. It kind of tickled when their rough little kitten tongues rubbed against my palm.
The only food I had was an apple and some nuts and raisins, which didn’t seem like something kittens should eat.
“Now what do I do?”
No way was I going to leave them. The only problem was: How the hell do you ride a bike with two kittens? Couldn’t hold them in my hands/arms and putting them into my panniers didn’t seem like a good option.
Would they fit and be OK in the back pockets of my bike shirt?
Nah, that won’t work. They had tiny, but sharp little claws, and would have made mincemeat out of my back after a few kilometers.
My bike bag! The front one. Maybe they could fit inside.
Emptied out as much as I could from the handlebar bag and stuffed all that stuff into my knapsack and panniers. Gently put the kitties into the handlebar bag, zipped it up just enough so they couldn’t jump out, but could still get some air. They cuddled up against one another and seemed content.
Off we went.
The kitties purred for a while and fell asleep. Peeked into the bag every few minutes. They seemed OK.
“Please, please, please don’t pee or poop in my handlebar bag.”
Dinan is way up on a hill, has a giant castle and is totally surrounded by ramparts. The views down to the river are fantastic.
Turns out the Dinan youth hostel isn’t actually in Dinan. Darn. Why didn’t Mat tell me? It’s down below, by the river. So, the kittens and I headed back down the hill and finally found the youth hostel – a big, rambling farmhouse surrounded by flowers and a field.
And guess who was there, hanging out in the front yard?
Emma and Sophie. My Dutch friends.
My first thought was that Emma was stalking me, but there’s no way she could have known I would be in Dinan tonight because I didn’t know I’d be in Dinan tonight until a couple of hours ago. The girls had spent the past couple of nights in St. Malo and were headed back to Amsterdam tomorrow.
Emma seemed excited to see me and gave me a big hug.
“Look what I found,” I said, and opened up my bike bag.
They gasped … and immediately fell in love with the kittens.
Told the girls all about how I’d found them in the trash and they thought
I was quite the hero.
“They’re really hungry,” I said.
Emma and Sophie’s maternal – and nursing – instincts took over and they sprang into action. They had a car and insisted on going to the supermarket to get milk and other kitten supplies. Wasn’t about to argue with them. While they were gone, went inside to get a room in the hostel. Showed the lady at the desk the kittens, told her all about how I’d found them in the trash … and she instantly fell in love with them. And thought I was quite the hero. She got some milk for the kitties. Guess it’s pretty much impossible not to immediately fall in love with two little kittens, especially ones with a backstory like these little guys.
And yes, they’re both guys. I think. And I’ve decided to name them Gus and Woodrow, after the heroes of Lonesome Dove.
Gus (the orange kitty) and Woodrow (the gray one) really went to town on the milk and slurped up every last drop in like 40 seconds. The woman said she would get more, but told her Emma and Sophie had gone to the grocery store to get milk and kitten supplies and would be right back.
The woman said I could keep the kittens in my room and that she and her husband, who ran the youth hostel, would help me figure out what to do with them.
“I think perhaps a bicyclette trip is not so good for them,” she said with a smile.
Reluctantly agreed with her.
“Maybe the two Dutch girls will love them,” she said. “I think they might already.”
Emma and Sophie returned with milk, kitten food and cat litter, and the woman at the desk gave us a cardboard box for the litter. There were a few other people staying at the youth hostel, and they gathered around to hear the story of the kittens and to fall in love with them.
Gus and Woodrow must have slurped up their body weight in milk in like five minutes. And then they ate their body weight in kitten food.
And then they took care of business in the cardboard box.
“Isn’t that adorable,” Sophie said, as Gus pooped out a series of poops equal to his body weight. Woodrow did the same a minute or two later. They were both diligent about covering over their poop with the kitty litter. Good kitties.
Then they did all sorts of adorable kitten stuff: chasing a little ball we found outside the youth hostel, rolling around and wrestling each other, stalking Emma’s leg and jumping onto it as if to attack her.
They pretty much exhausted themselves, and were soon asleep. Gus nestled in Emma’s lap, Woodrow on my lap. They were even more adorable asleep than awake.
“We must take them home with us, please,” Emma said. “Surely you can not take them with you on your trip on a bicycle.”
“Yes please, we will give them a good home,” Sophie said.
The possibility of taking them with me on my bike trip had crossed my mind. I mean, come on, everywhere I’d go, I’d be the kitten hero. I’d be famous throughout all the youth hostels in France. Maybe in all of Europe. I’d do a blog and post youtube videos that would go viral. Plus, I really liked the little guys. Then again, what if one of them jumped out of my bike bag and got lost in the woods? Or got run over. I’d be crushed.
“I guess it would be the best thing for them, if you’re sure you want them.”
They were sure.
“I’ve already named them, Gus and Woodrow,” I said and explained all about the Lonesome Dove guy on the airplane and how great the book was, and they agreed to call them Gus and Woodrow.
The girls had also bought several bottles of wine and bread and cheese and fruit & some cake at the supermarket.
“We thought it would be better to stay here for dinner with the kittens rather than go into town for dinner,” Sophie said.
After a while, Emma noticed my wedding band.
“Are you married?” she said, looking a little surprised and a little sad. She tried to hide her surprised – and sad – expression. But you can’t fool a newspaper reporter.
Thought about lying, about saying my wife was in Paris, studying art at the Sorbonne, and that I was going to meet here there in a few days. But, what the hell? It was a nice night, we were on our second bottle of wine and we had two kittens.
Decided to tell the girls the truth.
And it wasn’t as horrible or as hard as I thought it would be. Was kind of nice to talk about Maddie. Sad, but nice, and the story just spilled out of me. This was the first time I’ve talked with anyone about Maddie since I’ve been in France.
The girls got quiet and sad, but sometimes it’s OK to be quiet and sad. And this was one of those times. So, told them some more about Maddie, how we met, fell in love and got married. Showed them a photo or two on my phone.
By the time it hit 11PM, was totally exhausted. Told the girls I had to go to sleep and asked if I could keep Gus and Woodrow with me.
“We will have breakfast with you and the kittens on the morning,” Emma said. “And then we must leave for Amsterdam.”
My room had a couple of cubbies. Put a few of my clothes on the bottom and the kitties on top, and they was asleep in like 12 seconds. Gus sure is a loud purrer.
A little while later there was a knock on my door. A quiet, but persistent tapping. It took me a while to realize I wasn’t dreaming.
“Yes,” I said.
“It’s me,” said Emma, who opened the door and came and sat on the edge of my bed.
“I can’t sleep, your story was very sad and I kept thinking about it. And how lonely you are. Are you OK?”
“It’s OK,” I said. “I’ll be OK.”
“Can I sit here with you for a while?”
What happened next is still all hazy and dream like, but I’m pretty sure it happened.
Emma moved closer and then closer, and pretty soon she was cuddled up against me, spooning me from behind. She eventually started kissing the back of my neck and her hands began to wander around, lower and lower, until they reached their final destination. Like I said, everything down there works, and seemed to enjoy what Emma was doing.
Nature just sort of took over. I rolled over and faced Emma, and we started kissing and rubbing and fondling each other. It felt nice to be with someone again. Really nice. I missed this, the feeling of someone warm prssed against my body. Holding someone so tight I could feel the in-and-out of her breathing. The anticipation of what was next. I was with Maddie. We were back together. The nightmare was over. The bastard never hit us. Took a deep breath, breathing in some more of Maddie. Opened my eyes and realized it wasn’t Maddie. It was Emma. Someone I barely knew.
“Are you OK?” Emma asked.
“Yes, it’s just that … (wasn’t sure what to say, if I should tell Emma that I had been imagining Maddie was alive and was here with me, lying next to me, holding me) … “I don’t have anything, any protection.”
“I do,” Emma said, and reached into her pocket and pulled out a condom. “And I am on the pill, we are safe.
BTW: I wrote this last part much later (on June 15), as it would have been quite rude to have pulled out my laptop after we were done doing what we just did to write about what we just did. Plus, pretty much passed out after we did what we did, and had my best night of sleep since I’ve been here. Hmmm … sex as a sleeping pill? And yes, it’s really difficult and quite embarrassing to write about sex. It’s definitely not something I did as a newspaper reporter.
Hey, wait a minute. Was this pity sex? Is that why Emma did what she did? Am I such a sad and pathetic shell of a man that women take pity on me and want to cheer me up with sex? Oh well, that the hell. I’ll take it.
Holy crap, what a day. Kittens. And sex.
That’s it, the final chapter/day on this blog. Click here to order the printed Numbskull. Lots more interesting and funny stuff happens, and Marc tells more and more lies and does indeed try and climb the damn Ventoux three times in one day. It’s almost as good as Lonesome Dove.