Corona Princess Diaries Day 9
Hello, everybody! I hope you’re all staying safe and healthy during this difficult time.
Entries from Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia’s diary* have fallen into my hands, and as the princess’s royal biographer, it’s my duty to share them with you!
*Please keep in mind that as with any diary, the princess is only recording her thoughts at the given moment, and has had no copy editing. Also, both the princess and I are aware that this is a serious and rapidly developing crisis.
I would like to thank health care workers, first responders, and everyone else out there working to keep us healthy, safe, and fed right now. If you’d like to help people who are in need during this crisis, I suggest supporting your local food bank. Find one here.
And if you like to read, please support your local indie bookstore (many will deliver books to your home during this crazy time) by ordering them here at BookStoreLink.
I hope you enjoy this ninth FREE installment of The Princess Diaries – Quarantine Edition.
– Royal Bedroom –
We were all eating lunch (Grandmere seated a socially distant six feet away because she’s still refusing to self-isolate even though she was caught on film partying with Chad, Genovia’s only positive patient – so far) when we heard a blood curdling scream from the Grand Staircase.
It sounded inhuman, and we soon saw – when we all ran in there to see where the sound was coming from – that it was inhuman. Fat Louie, my nearly twenty year old cat, was sitting at the top of the staircase, yowling.
“Louie!” I breathed a sigh of relief that it was only him and not some ghost who lives in the palace that none of us had ever noticed before (not that I believe in ghosts. Much). “What’s wrong with you?”
“That cat is getting dotty in his old age,” Grandmere said, which is ironic, coming from her.
“He doesn’t look right,” my mother said.
That’s when Fat Louie let another scream, then opened his mouth and let loose a stream of vomit the likes of which I have never seen (and I have twin toddlers).
All cats vomit. It’s what they do, the way dogs – like Grandmere’s dog Rommel, who is now completely hairless and also mostly blind – lift their legs and pee on every tree and fire hydrant they pass.
Only cats mosly only vomit up hairballs and the occasional meal they’ve scarfed down too quickly.
That is not what Fat Louie did upon this occasion. On this occasion, Fat Louie vomited up a river of what appeared to be pool water and undigested cat food, all of which came streaming down the steps of the Grand Staircase towards us, gaining more and more momentum the closer it came, like something out of The Shining.
“Look out!” Rocky cried, diving for cover behind a suit of armor. “It’s a gusher!”
“Dear Lord, the babies!” My mother rushed to protect my twins, who were gazing upon the wave of liquid cascading toward them in wonder.
“Oh, my God!” shouted my father. “That carpet is five hundred years old!”
“This is fantastic.” Lilly had her cell phone out and was filming. “Can you get him to do it again?”
“The poor cat.” Only my sister Olivia had the appropriate reaction. “What did he eat?”
It was difficult to get up the staircase to check on Louie because the steps were so slippery, and there were so many flecks of chicken giblets coating them.
But when I did finally reach the beleaguered feline, he was thoughtfully licking a paw, looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
“Oh my God, Louie,” I said. “What did you do?”
“He’s got it!” Rocky cried, from behind the suit of armor. “He’s got The Rona!”
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Cats can’t get it.”
“They can,” Olivia assured us, reading from her phone. “But it’s a different kind of virus, not contractable by humans. And vomiting is not a symptom. There must be something else wrong with Fat Louie. Judging by the fact that most of this food appears to be undigested, I suspect an intestinal blockage.”
My mother gasped. “Could he have eaten a sock?”
We all turned to stare at the cat, who had now started licking his other paw, looking extremely pleased with himself. Fat Louie had, in his youth, been famous for eating entire socks, resulting in expensive surgeries at the vet’s office to remove them.
But he seemed to have learned a lesson and given up the practice later in life. We’d all also become much better about leaving our socks lying around. Some members of my family – like Grandmere, for instance – no longer even wore socks, because they considered their feet so attractive, and wore only open toe shoes whenever they could get away with it.
“No,” I said. “No, he wouldn’t have done that.”
What I meant was, “He wouldn’t have done that NOW, during a global crisis. What kind of cat would be so thoughtless as to eat a sock NOW, when the world is in such total disarray and we all have so many other things to worry about, and I personally have an entire country to worry about, not to mention a family that is bonkers and a husband I haven’t been able to touch in days, after not having eaten socks for years?”
Then it hit me. Of course. Of COURSE Fat Louie had chosen this exact moment to go back to eating socks.
Because cats don’t care what is going on in your world, the world, any world. To cats, everything is about them. Not caring about anything but themselves is what cats do. It’s why we love them (well, that and the cute way they snuggle up to us, when they choose to).
“Order the limo,” I said, scooping up my very satisfied looking cat. “And call the vet’s office! I’m taking Louie in.”
My mother gasped. “But, Mia, you can’t! You yourself issued a shelter-in-place order!”
“For all but non-essential travel.This is essential!”
“I’ll say so.” My dad was still gazing glumly down at the floor. “This carpet is ruined.”
“Oh, Dad, who cares about the carpet?” I was making my way back down the stairs while cradling a purring Fat Louie like a baby. It was very hard to see over his enormous belly and not slip on the bits of food and pool water that he’d so skillfully expelled from it. “A life is at stake!”
“I’m aware of that,” Dad said. “But I’m not even sure this carpet is insured. It’s from the sixteenth century. It’s probably a historic piece, and priceless.”
“Dad, shut up about the carpet! Did anyone call the vet?”
“Yes.” As usual, Olivia was the voice of calm. “They’re open and between surgeries, and can squeeze him in. But apparently they do not consider a cat vomiting one time an emergency.”
I was appalled. “Did you tell them it was projectile vomiting? Down a staircase?”
My dad was even more appalled. “In the royal palace? And that most of it landed on a priceless heirloom of historic importance?”
Olivia regarded us both calmly. “I said he has a history of sock eating and might have an intestinal blockage. I didn’t say the part about the historic heirloom. They said due to COVID-19, you’re to wait in the car. They’ll come out and take Louie in his carrier into their office and run tests on him.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s fine.”
Fat Louie remained relaxed and purring in my arms, not seeming at all sick . . . right up until the moment I attempted to place him in his pet carrier. Then he suddenly realized what was happening, stiffened, and began to yowl, resisting with all of his might.
“No,” I said, grunted as I peeled each one of his claws from my chest. “You . . . must . . . go . . . to . . . the . . . animal . . . hospital.”
Finally he gave up and relented to being stuffed into his carrier, perhaps realizing that there were consequences to his actions – or perhaps not, since he is a cat.
“Who is going to clean this mess up?” my father demanded as I was going out the door, with Serena, Olivia’s bodyguard – Lars, my own bodyguard, is still out looking for Derek, Chad’s friend and possible co-infector. It’s extremely unlikely that during a pandemic anyone will try to assassinate me, but you never know. My cat has already most likely eaten a sock, and no one was expecting that.
“I don’t know, Dad,” I said. Most of the palace staff has left to be home with their own families, which is perfectly understandable. We are down to only a few footmen, the major domo, the chef (thank God) and a skeleton crew of the Royal Genovian Guard. If another country wanted to attack us, now would be the perfect time. Fortunately, no one seems to be in the mood for an invasion. “I have slightly more important things to worry about right now. Why don’t you clean it up yourself, since you’re the one who’s so worried about it?”
Dad did not like this answer at all. “Me? Clean it myself? It’s not MY cat!”
“Well, it’s not your palace anymore either, is it?” I snapped at him. “So it shouldn’t bother you, then.”
“Ho ho!” Lilly cried, and even my grandmother looked impressed. She raised her Sidecar and said, “Cheers to that.”
But I don’t know what she’s toasting, since she was supposed to move out ages ago, as well.
During the drive to the vet’s office, I felt a bit guilty over being so short with Dad – in between dreading what I was going to find out when I got to the animal hospital. Louie really is too old to risk going under anesthesia. So I texted with Michael to tell him what happened (I’d have FaceTimed, but I didn’t want Serena and the chauffeur to overhear).
Fortunately, Michael was on my side (as a decent spouse should be).
It’s time your parents moved out, anyway, he texted. I love them, but they really need a palace of their own.
Me: I know. Of course this pandemic is only going to further delay the construction on the summer palace.
Michael: Of course. Did Louie really vomit pool water down the stairs?
Me: I’m pretty sure it was regurgitated pool water. You know how much he’s been drinking from the pool lately. It could have been moat water, of course, but it seemed cleaner.
Michael: Which carpet did it land on again?
Me: The one with the snakes and virginal maidens.
Michael: Oh, good. I always hated that carpet.
Me: Me, too. Louie actually has very good aim for a cat, it turns out.
Michael: As much as I’ve always hated that carpet, I’ve always loved that cat.
Me: And I’ve always loved you. I can’t wait until you’re out of quarantine.
Michael: You can’t even imagine the things I’m going to do to you when I get out of quarantine –
Unfortunately at that moment the limo pulled up to the animal hospital. I called to let them know we’d arrived, and they told me that the vet would be out to discuss Louie’s case with me – or that if I wished, I could come in, but they preferred that only a single person entered at a time, to minimize everyone’s risk of infection.
I turned to Serena. “I’m sorry,” I said. “You have to stay in the car.”
She looked extremely alarmed. “But Your Highness – “
“It can’t be helped. Fat Louie is my first born and as much a part of my family as any of its human members. I can’t let him face this alone. But I can’t let you risk becoming infected. I’m going in without you.”
Then, before she could stop me, I leapt from the limo and, Fat Louie yowling in his bag beside me, raced into the animal hospital.
They could not have treated me – or Louie – with more kindness. And I don’t think it’s because I’m the princess of the land in which they live and work, either. I think that people who go into the medical profession – whether to treat people or animals – are just kind, nice people. That is certainly true of my friend Tina Hakim Baba, who is working on the front lines of the battle against this infection in New York City.
The veterinarian at the animal hospital in Genovia checked Fat Louie out all over. Fat Louie behaved disgracefully the entire time, hissing, growling, and generally acting the opposite of the way he does at home. There was no sign of the sweet, loving cat who lets me hold him like a baby, rub his belly, and sing him lullabies.
When the doctor was finished with his exam, he said, “Well, I don’t see any signs of a blockage, but he has lost some weight, which in any other cat would be worrying, but in a cat Louie’s size – “
I wanted to say, “How dare you?” like Grandmere, but I knew what he meant, so instead I said, “Maybe you should take full body X-rays, as well as a full blood panel.” I got all of these fancy medical terms from a lifetime of watching television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, ER, and Chicago Med, and also from looking up diseases I could possibly have on Web MD.
“Um, yes,” the veterinarian said. “I was going to say I won’t be able to tell for sure without an X-ray. I don’t think full body X-rays will be necessary – I’m not even sure what that is. But we can also take some blood and run some tests. If you’d like to wait in the comfort of your vehicle, Your Highness, while I take Louie back and do those things –“
I decided it wouldn’t be strictly necessary or wise for me to escort Fat Louie into the X-ray lab, so I agreed to wait in the limo for him.
Serena was still fuming when I got there.
“Princess,” she said. “You put me in a very bad position just now by going off your own! How did we not know there was someone in there who wished ill of you?”
“Ill of me? You mean to like assassinate me?”
“Well, there wasn’t,” I said. “They were all very, very kind. Don’t you find that people in the medical field are always very kind? It’s just like on Grey’s Anatomy – “
“I’m not speaking of people in the medical field! I’m speaking of someone outside the medical field who could have learned that you were going to be there, and plotted to come at the same time and cause you harm!”
I used some hand sanitizer that we had in the limo, not even for this particular pandemic, but for use after I’d been shaking hands with the populace in general. I didn’t want Serena to become infected if I had, in fact, run into some virus.
“Serena,” I said. “It’s okay to worry. But maybe don’t worry so much. It’s going to be all right.”
“How?” she demanded fiercely. “How is it going to be all right?”
“Because of what I just told you. We have amazing, incredibly kind and smart medical personnel who are working round the clock to keep us safe. We have scientists who are doing the same thing, only they’re working to find vaccines and maybe a cure. All we have to do is give them the support they need, and do our best to stay home and not get sick ourselves if we can possibly help it. I believe I spoke about this in my national address.” I tried not to sound irritated that I had to remind her of this. “It’s okay if you missed it.”
“I did not miss it. It’s just that, begging your pardon, Your Highness, but you did not stay home and do your best not to get sick just now.”
“Well, this was essential business.”
“Because your cat vomited?”
“Yes! Life still has to go on, Serena. People are going to have to walk their dogs, or take their cats to the vet, or go to the store to buy toilet paper, or gin for their gin and tonics. They’re just going to have to do it carefully, like we did just now.” I glanced out the window. “Oh, look, here he comes!”
The vet was coming out with Fat Louie in his carrying bag. Serena wouldn’t let me pop out to get him. She did the popping, placing a much more subdued Fat Louie inside the limo on my lap.
“Well, the X-ray was clear,” the veterinarian said to me through his mask. “No blockages of any kind.”
I sagged with relief. “Oh, thank goodness. But then why he did throw up like that?”
“His thyroid levels are off since the last time we measured them. That would explain the weight loss. You said he was drinking a lot of water?”
“Obsessively, from the pool.”
“Cats experiencing hyperthyroidism can behave in manic ways.”
Hmmm. I wonder if hyperthyroidism could explain my grandmother’s behavior, too? My whole family’s, actually.
The vet gave me some medicine for Fat Louie’s hyperthyroidism and some special food for his sensitive stomach, and also explained that he’d given the cat some anti-nausea meds and sub-cutaneous fluids, just to make sure he was okay.
“Fat Louie,” he said kindly, “should be feeling better soon.”
“Thank you so much. I hope we’re all feeling better soon, Doctor,” I replied.
You could tell Fat Louie was sorry for the trouble he’d caused by the way he stuck his head out of his carrier and looked curiously at the deserted streets of Genovia as we drove home. Everyone was observing my shelter-at-home order – everyone except for me – which was heartening to see.
When we got back to the palace, the first thing I noticed was that all of Fat Louie’s vomit had been cleaned up.
“Who did that?” I asked, as Fat Louie leapt from his carrier and headed immediately out to the pool – not to drink from it, but to sit by it in the sun and lick himself all over, disgusted by the indignity I had put him through.
“Dad,” Olivia informed me. “He cleaned up the whole thing himself. Well, Grandmere helped a little by telling him what to do and pointing out all the spots he’d missed.”
“Aw,” I said, touched. “What a lovely mother-son activity.”
My dad, as far as I knew, had never cleaned up anything before in his life. This was definitely a first.
“He thinks the carpet can be saved,” Lilly told me, “since most of what came out of Fat Louie was water. Your dad’s going to put it in his own house, if it ever gets finished.”
“Good,” I said. “And good riddance!” I wasn’t sure if I meant the carpet or my dad. On the whole I think I meant the carpet. Of course I did!
Then I went upstairs to wash my hands for 20 seconds while singing the Genovian national anthem, and to tell Michael the good news about the cat via the balcony (since I couldn’t tell him up close).
Only five more days . . . !
Stay tuned for more of THE CORONA PRINCESS DIARIES next week (Meg Cabot has to take the weekend off to translate the princess’s handwriting)