Another Children’s Book Chapter Sample

Kitten

 

CROSSROADS AND REVELATIONS

After my oath, and the passing of night into morning, they took me as far from the farm as I had ever been. We followed the road that the Man used for his Truck, and I was surprised to find that it led to yet more roads. Bigger roads. Longer roads. Roads that were so broad that they were marked to split them in two. There were more Trucks and Cars here than I had ever seen. They drove by at speeds that no Cat could outrun, nor any Dog or Bird. The Trucks screamed in fury as they passed.
“Look upon this road,” Claw told me. “What do you see?”
“I see Cars,” I said. “And Trucks. And bigger Trucks.” A gigantic Truck rushed by, slamming its winds against us as it pulled a rectangle nearly as large as a barn.
“What else do you see?” Claw asked.
The morning light was bright as the sun rose over the distant hills, spilling its golden broth into the valley. I saw dark heaps of shadow here and there upon the road. They looked like clumps of mud and grass at first, and then they looked like something else; something horrible. I looked away. Haggard, crimson-stained hair rustled in the wind.
“This is what the world of Man promises us,” Claw said. “This is what happens to us as Man conquers the earth, cutting down the woods and taming the fields and the animals and the plants. Man would make a lap-pet of all of us, pretending to be our ally, even as he slaughters us upon the bedrock of his civilization. Look at them,” he commanded me. “Bear witness to their sacrifice. Bear witness to their murders. They rot upon the roadside of Man’s kingdom! Do not misunderstand: Cats are at war with Man. Whether you wish to believe it or not, this is what Man’s truth entails. Even as he pets your head he plots your destruction.”
I trembled in horror. I could not bear the sights of the road, nor even the sounds. The hissing swoosh of the Cars and Trucks passing along that shadow-stained road were all threats against my life. The wind from their passage smacked at me, promising me death even as their wheels cut through the heaps of shadows that littered that path like a careless graveyard. They were indifferent about who they had ran over. They did not feel any sorrow for what they had done.
But the Man and the Woman I knew…they were not the same. Were they? I remembered that Jack had been ran over with the Tractor. It almost killed him, but he survived. That was why the Chickens called him the “Miracle Dog”. But the Man had not meant to do it. Jack had been overeager. He had ran out in front of the Tractor. That was all.
But these hopeful thoughts were blown away by the hissing wind that struck my face as each Car and Truck dashed along the road.
There were other animals besides Cats and Dogs.
“I see…I see Opossums, too,” I said. “And Deer…”
“There are many animals left in ruin here,” Zoe said, standing beside me. “Animals like opossums, raccoons, birds, rabbits, deer— nothing a Cat would not kill and eat. But here the humans waste blood and hearts. They let the sun and air eat of them, and flies and vultures and other lesser creatures.”
“Profligacy,” Pug-Nose said, snootily. “Unclean deaths. No grace. No skill. Only a wasteful mess.”
“And some not even dead,” Calico said, smirking, “but rolling about, tortured by an inexact death. Tactless and crude and thoughtless.”
“Whereas Cats are nothing but intent,” Zoe said. “When we kill we honor the dead with our full attention. When we spot prey we honor our prey with all of our heart and mind and whiskers and claws and teeth. Humans kill with their eyes on nothing but their own lives. Cats kill while seeing their prey’s lives. We see you. We acknowledge you in your death. Humans do not. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” I said.
“Good,” Zoe said.
I remembered the Truck that obeyed the Man and the Woman; the Truck very much like these Trucks and Cars that drove by. I thought of my conversation with Marion and Duke; of the thought that the Man created Dogs and Foxes and bid them fight for the world. Was it, then, the Man’s fault that Jack died? Was that why the Man said he had a mean heart and chose not to have children of his own? Perhaps moonshine revealed the truth of the Man, too, just like moonlight revealed the truth of Cats.
I looked upon the road one final time. So many animals whose bellies were pregnant with rotten shadows. I could not help but think of Claw’s shadowy eye as I looked upon the dead. When Claw spoke again, I thought I could see his shadowy eye peering at me from all of the shadowy dead.
“Man looks upon the other beasts and, in his hateful envy, he builds fences to contain them, pens to enslave them, caves to imprison them, and he thinks himself the ruler of the earth. But he is the worst beast of all. Sooner or later I will overthrow him. Cats are the superior beasts. We do not cage our prey— we catch them and we kill them, allowing our prey to die with honor. Man kills beasts slowly over a lifetime of years, their lap-pets dying as they live, and never truly living at all. It is a living-death. This is the greatest wrong, and it must be corrected.”

Author’s Note: Another sample chapter from “Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch”, my upcoming children’s novel for both children and adults which, honestly, is more akin to Watership Down than Charlotte’s Web.  Progress has been fast, so far, but that is because I did so much work on it before my long hiatus that I am merely coming in to lacquer the wood, so to speak, right now.

Children’s Novel Chapter Sample

Stormy

Fog Of War

The rains departed and a mist rose up from the warm grass, rolling out from the Big Water like a herd of Sheep in a quiet stampede. The clouds above cleared and the moon shone brightly. It was nearing midnight. I was in a mood for hunting. I wanted my blood to race and my mind to stop thinking. My nerves were anxious and my instincts were itchy. I needed to scratch something to stop that itch. I needed to kill something soon or my thoughts would kill me. I needed to kill the thoughts spiraling around inside me like bothersome flies with their sharp bites.
Out to the wheatfield I ran, slipping into that strange mix of thin stalks and thickly overlapping crowd. The full moon was covered in the paw prints of a giant beast prowling nearby, lurking in the shadow beyond its glow and ready to pounce upon the unsuspecting earth below. I heard tittering from the hill. My need to kill was replaced by curiosity. I followed the laughter until I came to the top of the hill, where the concrete foundation protruded from the grass like a gray scar through green fur.
Two foes faced off in front of the Fox den. A large male Fox was bounding around in the fog, leaping here and there while, between him and his den, there stood Claw; still and unmoving as an icy statue never to thaw. Even his tail lay still around him, like fallen snow on a frozen frond.
“I will give you the opportunity to leave,” the Fox said. “Go now and never return.”
Calico and Pug-Nose tittered. They sat at the edge of the foundation, below the oak tree that grew up between the concrete’s cracks. Zoe was in the tree, watching from a branch. All three of them watched Claw. Claw said nothing. He stood as still as before. His one good eye did not follow the Fox as the Fox continued leaping around in the fog. The Fox spoke in a reasonable, courteous tone. Claw stared straight ahead, as if disinterested in the Fox’s antics.
“I know you think you can linger outside a family’s doorway and intrude on their quiet evening,” the Fox said, “but just think of how you would feel if someone did the same to you.”
“Our home has no doorway,” Calico jeered. “The world is our home. The open sky and the broad earth is ours and ours alone.”
“That’s right,” said Pug-Nose, wheezing through his flat-faced nose. “Doorways are for people who fear the world. We do not fear it. The world fears us.”
The Fox spoke a lot, and I would have thought him confident except for a slightly nervous twitch in his poofy tail. He was as large as Claw, but he seemed to be more concerned with making a spectacle of himself than actually fighting. If anything, he fought with Foxy truth. He leapt all around Claw, his tail bouncing after him. He changed direction so much that it was hard to keep track of him as he spun through the fog and shadow. His tail misled the eye, just like a Fox’s word misled the mind. The fog swirled with him, trailing him like his tail. Claw remained still, however, the mist bedewing his whiskers. He was a statue of hoarfrost.
“All this time spent here,” the Fox said, “and you could have been hunting something better. Chickens, for instance. Or mice, if you prefer.”
The Fox bounded round and round, his speech and tail baffling to me. If I had been caught in that whirlwind I would not have known when to attack, nor which direction. The Fox was disorienting.
“You think you are rooted in your spot,” the Fox said. “But the Wind Fox would pull you up into the sky and eat you. And you never know when he will show himself.”
The Fox hastened, moving faster and faster as if he might become the Wind Fox. I began to step back, wondering if the Wind Fox would appear.
And yet Claw seemed unfazed. The Fox’s confidence grew, mistaking Claw’s silent stillness for confusion. He suddenly sprang forward, his teeth gnashing toward Claw’s throat. Quick as lightning, Claw’s paw struck the Fox across the face, sending him tumbling back into the wheat. Claw had not used his claws. Why, I did not know. The Fox stood up slowly, and shook off his hard tumble. He looked at Claw again. The Fox’s grin, and the gleam in his eyes, were gone. I felt a thrill, and the hateful glee of revenge. I knew, then, that the Fox could not defeat Claw, and I could see that the Fox knew this also. He looked toward his den, behind Claw; a black hole in the earth. I thought he would flee. I triumphed in the thought of his flight—his cowardice.
Claw finally spoke.
“Your words will change nothing,” he said. “You are all meat and blood for my morning meal. Nothing more. The wind does not hear the shivering of the leaves it blows. It does not care.”
The Fox bared his teeth again.
“The Wind Fox will take you!” the Fox cried. “He will eat you! You will be his morning meal!”
He charged at Claw. He charged without Foxy truth in his tail. He charged without strategy or deceit. He simply leapt at Claw, head-on, and for a moment it appeared that Claw would do nothing. Yet, as before, Claw struck out at his foe at the last moment. The Fox tumbled again. This time Claw had drawn blood. The Fox’s face was ragged with cuts. I felt my own cuts burn anew as I watched the Fox’s cheek bleed. But it was a sweet pain between us. The Fox’s pain resonated in my own wounds, and I reveled in that pain. I savored every burning ache and agony. If I could have sliced off my tail so he could have felt that pain, I would have. I hated him and his kind more than I could ever love myself.
The Fox stood again, and again he looked toward his den. Again he charged at Claw. This time he landed upon the large Cat, and for a moment it appeared as though the Fox had finally tackled and overcome Claw, the two of them rolling over.
But it was a feint— just more of Claw playing with the Fox. Claw flipped the Fox, in an instant, and latched onto his neck and pinned his fiery body to the ground. The Fox became still as stone.
And then, just as suddenly as he had pinned the Fox, Claw released him and stepped away. The Fox, looking as bewildered as I felt, shakily pushed himself up from the earth. Claw stepped away from the den, as if he was inviting the Fox to return to his family. I saw the female Fox look out from within the shadowy mouth of the den. I thought I could see Candice, too.
Trembling, the Fox walked toward the den. A smirk passed across his snout, for the briefest moment, and that was when Claw tore the Fox’s white throat open with a swipe of his paw, spraying the wheat and grass with blood. The Fox flipped and floundered about—much like the fish from the overturned bowl—and then, gradually, he lay still upon the earth, moving no more.
The hush of the wheatfield was haunting. The fog gathered close like ghosts creeping all around. And then, out from that silence, I heard quiet sobbing beneath the concrete foundation.
I did not know what I felt in that moment. Satisfaction? Regret? Pity? Maybe I only felt envy toward Claw, for he knew what he was with absolute certainty. He was a Cat.
“Where are your witty words now?” Claw said. “What is a word to the power of a sharp tooth or a talon? What good is a word from a throat easily torn? Better to use your mouth for biting rather than speaking in this blood-steeped world.”
Calico and Pug-Nose leapt down from the concrete, smirking at the body of the Fox.
“He was no match for you, Claw,” Calico said.
“No match at all,” Pug-Nose said, wheezing through his nose. “Like a little mouse.”
Claw said nothing. He began to eat the Fox. I watched him eat the Fox. I watched him eat Candice’s father while the full moon shone pale among the silent stars.
When Claw had finished eating, he approached me. His white mouth was crimson, and his one eye an icy blue. His missing eye was black with shadows, and it almost seemed as if the sobs from the den came from his dark socket.
“Why are you here, little one?” he asked me.
“I…I wanted to learn,” I said.
He stared at me as much with the black hollowness of his skull as he did his blue eye. “And what did you learn?”
“I…I don’t know,” I said. My thoughts fumbled over one another, and none of them seemed satisfactory for the question.
“By killing, we become stronger,” he said. “We gain strength from every foe we defeat and devour. I began with insects and mice. Then came moles and chipmunks and squirrels, chickens and geese and whatever bird I could claim with my teeth. And then came the larger prey. The fox cubs, and then foxes themselves, as you have seen. In time I will devour men and women, too, and more.”
“The Man has the THUNDERSTICK,” I said, fearful that what he said was true. “He has the power of the thunder and lightning. I have seen it blast a Snapping Turtle’s shell to pieces in the Big Water. I have seen it explode a Hawk into a cloud of feathers in the sky. He uses it against the Coyotes, and Jack told me he had killed a Bear with it once, too.”
“He has a trifling bit of power,” Claw said, indifferenty. “When I kill the Wind Fox I will have true power over the storm. No man will be able to destroy me. I will wipe their ilk off the face of the earth. Their shelters will not save them. Their buildings and their roads and their machines will not save them. I will run riot over the earth and devour them all.”
I looked past Claw, watching Calico, Pug-Nose, and Zoe gather around Candice’s father. They gnawed at his bones.
“He was no wolf,” Claw said, “but at least he was no dog, either, tamed by man.” He did not take his eye off of me, or the dark hollowness of his empty eye socket. There came into his expression something of wry appraisal.
“Dogs were once wolves,” he said. “Did you know that? Powerful, fierce wolves. But Man enslaved the wolves, and took power away from them, one generation after the next, until some have become as weak and puny as that dog that foolishly died chasing foxes in the field. Think on that, and know who your true enemy is.”
He turned his back toward me and walked to the Fox’s den. He stared into that darkness where Candice and her family huddled together. I felt that Jack had been avenged, even if I had not been the one to avenge him. I watched Claw in wonder and admiration. I did not feel sorry for Candice or her family. I did not feel sorrow for her father. No, I thrilled at the thought of being strong like Claw. I wanted Foxes to fear me. I wanted everything to fear me. I wanted to fear nothing. I would be like Claw, I told myself. I would be as ice-cold as Claw seemed to be. No topsy-turvy feelings. No warring emotions to spin me around and around in a tornado. I wanted to stand as still and solid and cold and unfeeling as he did—as if made of ice and hoarfrost.

Author’s Note: The above is a sample chapter from a children’s novel I had started to write as a sequel to my first children’s novel “Chloe Among The Clover”.  I had set it aside while finishing my other novels/short stories and had recently had time to pursue its conclusion while recovering from an automobile accident (that was not my fault).  My nephew has been urging me to finish it since he loved the first one so much.  The sequel is titled “Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch” and is nearly finished.  I have been finalizing the first half of the novel and now will finalize the second half in the oncoming days.

Free “Chloe Among The Clover” giveaway.

Chloe2coversmallscale

 

This weekend I will be having a giveaway for my children’s novel “Chloe Among The Clover” on Amazon kindle. The novel follows a chick in the (literal) Summer of youth and is intended for children on a surface level, but also is intended for adults in its symbolism and subtext. I have received positive feedback from children and adults, so if you want some light reading, give it a try. There is a paperback version too, priced at $8. I hope to have the sequel, “Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch”, ready by Christmas.

Modern Hubris

Kitten
Our ancestors trembled
like kittens in the shadows of tigers
when lightning flashed
across the roaring heavens,
and,
fearing the thunderbolt’s pounce,
they huddled in dank caves
to escape the salivary rains
that dripped upon the horizon
while the tigers prowled.
Now we chain
that fulgurous feline fury
with dainty wires
and bandwidth collars
so we can watch in idle hours
online kittens
prancing across tinkling keyboards,
fearing only
(in our complacency)
that the kitten might fall off
while taken too much with its prideful pace.
Yet,
the tigers still prowl,
their shadows always upon us,
threatening to strike us dead
with thunderbolt claws
or merely the modern boredom
that comes with an ambushing
blackout.

First Chapter of “Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch”

Stormy

CHAPTER 1 THE COMING STORM

The clouds were as dark and thick as a murder of Crows. The winds howled like Wolves as they raced through the wheatfield. Lightning flashed like the talons of Hawks above the woods. I slipped through the billowy stalks like a shadow, seeking the mouse that I had seen scrambling in the underbrush. I was so quiet. Even if the lightning did not crash and boom overhead the mouse would not have heard me. I moved as smoothly as a little wavelet upon the Big Water; soundless as a droplet of water slipping down a whisker.
But then I thought of what Jack had taught me about hunting like a Dog. So, taking a deep breath and heaving my chest as high as I could, I barked at the mouse— or barked as well as any Cat could—and charged after the mouse, barking as I went. The mouse squeaked a scream, fleeing on its little pink paws and zigzagging here and there in the crowding clutter of wheat. I had been only playing at hunting, but seeing the mouse run caused my heart to race. My paws trampled the wispy grass as they beat fast upon the ground. There was excitement in the air, and a tingling thrill in my chest, as I bolted after the mouse’s spindly little tail. I lost sense of my self and all that remained was the slip-dashing chase.
But the barking made me breathless. I lost speed to a fit of coughs, my throat soar and my chest aching. Barking while running did not help when you were a Cat and did not have a barrel chest like Dogs do. I became dizzy with barking and running. I felt as if I had taken a big gulp of water into my lungs.
The mouse emerged from the wheatfield and shot into the woods. Trying to regain my wind, I slowed down. The wheatfield opened and fell away and I approached the trees. Taking a big gulp of air, I barked once again and thrust myself in between the crooked trunks and low-hanging branches. I heard a mousy scream, just as soon silenced. A thundercloud rumbled overhead. I plunged deeper into the woods, nearly landing in the pond sheltering there. Recoiling, I fell back in the decaying leaves, their dust making me sneeze. I blinked at the pond and caught a glimpse of an orange-and-cream colored tail. It fidgeted irritably. My eyes followed that tail and I discovered that it was connected to the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I did not know what to say, so I gawped at her, the mouse forgotten. She scoffed, and turned her back to me.
“Go home, lap pet,” she mumbled, her mouth full of mouse. “Run back to your litter box.”
I was thunderstruck. I could only stare at her as she left, disappearing into the deeps of the woods. She seemed to glow, like the fire the Man summoned in the fireplace, and the snow that heaped upon the yard in Winter. I sat without moving, watching the shady depths and hoping she might come back. I might have sat there forever, if only to glimpse her yellow eyes again, but the rain began to fall, and I hated to be wet, even in Summer. The woods bowed and whipped in the rallying winds like the necks of angry Geese. It was time to return home.
Lightning hissed like Snakes and thunder galloped like Horses. The storm followed me back to the house where the Man and the Woman were canning tomatoes. They were standing under the portico, near the Truck. There was a table with lots of glass jars on it, and the Man and Woman stooped over a silver pot cooker. They smashed the tomatoes and then boiled them and then ladled them into glass jars. I had seen them do it earlier that week. Jack and I watched them do it for a little while.
“Storm’s coming,” I told Jack. “And I saw a beautiful creature.”
“Not as beautiful as Master,” Jack said. He was laying on a rug, chewing at it absently. “And the storm only comes if Master says so.”
“He probably wants rain for the wheat,” I said.
“Yes,” Jack said. “And for the Big Water. It is leaking.”
“The clouds are leaking?” I said, confused.
“No, the dam,” Jack said. “But, yes, clouds leak too. That’s how the Big Water grows.”
I looked at the yard where the clover grew thick and soft. Goldie was standing there, bright yellow as she watched her chicks. They were scattered all around her, popping up and stooping down in the clover, eating ticks and grasshoppers and other nasty things. Sandy was nearby also, hopping on one leg. Sandy was older than Goldie, but Goldie was much bigger than Sandy. It was like me and Jack. Jack was my older brother, but I was bigger than him. I guess it was because I was a Cat and Jack was a Dog. Were all Cats bigger than Dogs? I didn’t know. Jack had a limp and Sandy had only one good leg. But I had problems, too. I had a torn ear, like a crescent moon. I had caught it on the barbed wire fence one day and ripped it. It had hurt pretty badly, but it didn’t hurt anymore. Actually, what hurt right now was something else. It was my chest. Too much running, I thought.
“Goldie,” I said, walking toward her. “I saw the most beautiful creature in the world.”
Goldie looked at me sideways— because she was a Chicken. “And what was that, Stormy?”
“I saw another Cat,” I said. “She was orange and white and had yellow eyes.”
Goldie watched me with one eye and watched her chicks with the other. I sometimes wondered if she did not trust me, or like me. “There are lots of Cats like that,” she said.
“I don’t look like that,” I said. It was true: I was striped all black and gray, like smoky night, or the storm that was bellowing as it approached the farm. “I wish I did, though. She looked like …well…like sunrise.” I thought about seeing my own reflection on the Big Water. “I look like a cloudy twilight.”
Sandy hopped over to us, steadying herself against Goldie as she stopped. “If you can get up in the morning you should be grateful,” she said. “If you’re not someone else’s dinner you should be grateful. If you have one good leg, then you’ve got nothing to complain about.”
“I have four good legs,” I admitted reluctantly. “And a tail.”
“Then you have more than you know what to do with!” Sandy exclaimed. She dipped her head into the clover and withdrew a worm in her beak. She tilted her beak up and opened her throat, gobbling the wiggly worm down. She nearly fell over with gobbling. “Four legs and two ears and a tail. Not even Jack has a tail. Or the Man or the Woman. If anyone has no right to complain, it’s you.”
I felt ashamed. “You’re right, Sandy,” I said. “It’s just that she was so pretty…”
“So is the sunset,” Goldie said. “But it always brings out the most dangerous animals.”
Sandy shuddered as if a dangerous animal had her by her bad leg. “Don’t speak about them,” she said. “They’ll hear you.”
The thunder boomed above us and the chicks all ran toward the apple tree for cover. The rain began to fall in hesitant droplets. Sandy hopped toward the tree like a bouncing ball of feathers. She moved pretty well for only having one good leg.
“Stormy,” Goldie said, “be careful what you wish for. You might think you want to be something else, but you’ll regret it. As for this Cat that’s struck your fancy, be careful. If you met her in the woods then she’s probably a Stray, or worse, Feral. And such Cats are not to be trusted. Do you understand? Not only will a Feral Cat eat Chickens, it will attack you, too, and the Man and the Woman. They are wild. You might want to stay away from the wheatfield from now on.”
“But Jack and I go hunting there,” I said, scared of losing our favorite place to hunt.
“Do as you will,” Goldie said, “but Jack is old now. He could get hurt trying to keep up with you. And none of us want Jack to be hurt, especially for some foolishness in Summer.”
“Okay,” I mumbled.
Goldie walked toward the apple tree and I ran up the steps and joined Jack on the ivy-curtained porch.
“Jack,” I said, “Goldie said we should stay away from the wheatfield.”
“We can’t do that,” Jack said. “We have to protect Master’s wheatfield.”
“That’s what I thought, too,” I said, curling up beside Jack. The storm was crackling now, and it scared me a little. Rain hammered the roof. “She said you were old,” I added.
“Old?” Jack said. “I’m not old. Master is old. He is older than the Big Water. Did you know that?”
“Yes,” I said. “You’ve told me that. And you said he’s older than the house and the wheat and even the Woman.”
“He is older than everything,” Jack said. “And he will live forever. And I will live forever, too, because he needs me to be with him. It would be very lonesome for Master to live without me. And the Woman, too. Probably. Though it would be a lot quieter without them arguing all of the time.”
“That sure is true,” I said. Even now the Man and the Woman were arguing.
“I told you that you need it hotter!” the Woman said, dumping a jar of tomato juice back into the pot. “Otherwise you aren’t going to cook them good enough for canning!”
“I’m cooking them plenty hot enough,” the Man growled. “If I cook it any hotter you’ll scald me while you’re ladling it in the jar.”
“If you’d just hold the jar still you’d have nothing to fear. But you got to stop swaying it around and not paying no attention…”
“The only thing hotter than this here pot of tomatoes is your temper, woman!”
They thundered and crackled like the thunderstorm in the sky.
“By God,” the Man said, “I hope a tornado comes and takes you off to Oz! All you’d need is a bicycle to get you there safely.”
“And you think yourself so high and mighty?” the Woman said. “I’ve had a peek behind the curtain and I can assure you you ain’t no big man as you like to think!”
Jack sighed beside me. “I hope they calm down soon.” His curly head hung low, his ears flat on either side of his big brown eyes. “And I hope they don’t give me a bath.”
“I hope they’re not mad when we go inside,” I said. “The Woman pets me awfully rough when she’s mad. It makes my ears hurt.”
“Yeah,” said Jack, “and either they’re really loud or they’re really quiet. I don’t know which is worse!”
“Hey,”I said, suddenly curious. “What’s a ‘tornado’?”
Jack tilted his head to the side, as if trying to slide his thoughts from one side of his head to the other. “Torn-a-dough? I think it is that thing that happens when you need to do two things, but you are torn between the two things because they won’t let you. And you get all twisted and pulled in two different directions, like bread dough.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” I said. It did not really make sense to me at all.
Jack tilted his head to the other side. “Like wanting to eat and wanting to go play at the same time. You are pulled in two different directions at the same time.”
As with everything else, I took what Jack said to be the truth and trusted in what he said, even if I didn’t understand it or think it entirely true. I spoke no more about it, or about the beautiful creature I saw near the little pond. I didn’t want Goldie to hear and lecture me again.
The wind warred with itself, whipping about the trees and flinging rain under the car porch until it reached the Man and the Woman.
“Leave off until tomorrow,” the Man said, putting down a jar and taking off his mittens. “We’ll finish it then.”
“We still have a lot of green beans to can,” the Woman said.
“My back’s hurtin’ anyway,” the Man said, pushing his chest out and pressing on his back with his hands. “Can’t do much more today.”
“All right,” the Woman said.
They turned off the cooker and the Man put up Goldie and her chicks in the little shed for the night. They corralled the other Chickens from the Pen into the Coop. Then the Man and the Woman headed to the house. At the door the Woman called for us.
“Jack! Stormy! Hurry up!”
We came running and went inside with them. Jack laid by the Man’s chair, waiting for him to sit down. I leapt up to the window sill, laying on the edge and staring outside. I did not mind being inside the house— especially when it was raining or cold outside—but in the Summer I always found myself looking outside in the evening time, wondering what was happening out there. The window was open and I could feel the wind thrash against my whiskers. There was something very nice about being inside while the world outside was wet and windy. It made me feel nice, like I was too good to be drenched in rain; like I was safe.
Looking out on the wheatfield I saw the rain veil the sky with its falling wash. The wheat billowed violently. It rolled in waves, like the Big Water after a fish had leapt and plunged back into its depths. I could feel that angry wind on my fur. The gusts had paws and smacked me and whistled and screamed like a living thing. I could not fight it. No one could. You just had to seek shelter.
“That sky’s brewing worse than a witch’s cauldron,” the Man said, gazing out another window in the living room. He smiled slyly. “Your momma must be havin’ another fit.”
The Woman put her hands on her wide hips and looked ready to say something spiteful. But a tree creaked outside in the wind, and soon all of the trees were groaning.
“Maybe we ought to go down in the cellar,” she said.
“Oh, don’t be hysterical,” the Man said. “Just like a woman to let your emotions get the better of you.”
“I am not,” she said. She gave him her scariest looks; a look that chilled the skin under my fur. “You’re the one that said it don’t look good.”
“Just because I say something don’t mean I mean it,” he said. He grinned. “I always say I love your cooking, don’t I?”
Her cold scowl cracked, like ice, but instead of chilly mists coming out of her mouth and freezing the house she just went and sat down in her recliner and called me to her. Reluctantly, I tiptoed to her. She patted her legs and I jumped into her lap, coiling around myself. The Man sat in his recliner. Jack tried jumping into his lap, but his back legs didn’t let him jump much, even if he could run. Instead, he barked up at the Man.
“Aw right, aw right,” the Man said, leaning forward and picking Jack up. He put him in his lap and petted his curly hair. “Spoilt dog.”
The Woman petted me, too, but I could tell she was angry. Her fingers were stiff as they raked my fur. It was like being petted by a Hawk’s talons. Still, her dress was soft and I nestled perfectly between her knees, resting my head on my own paws. It was better than sleeping on the warm towels that she pulled out of the noisy box that spun them around. Often, this was my favorite time of the day.
The Man turned on the thing they called a “television”. It was a window where small things lived. One time I tried to catch them, but I could never find the opening to the window. It was like that fish bowl that the Woman had. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch the little fish in it. Then one day Jack knocked the bowl over and it broke and the fish flopped around on the floor. I felt so sorry for the fish that I decided not to try to catch the little creatures in the television anymore either. I didn’t want to see them flop around and gawp breathlessly for air like the fish.
The rain splattered like tomatoes against the house and the lightning flashed and the thunder grumbled and roared. It was like a big creature stalking the farm. But it did not frighten me. I was inside the house. I was on the Woman’s lap. Her lap was warm and soft and made me feel relaxed and peaceful, like the whole world was tucked into a cushioned bed, even though I could still hear the storm outside, raging beyond the windows.
As I fell asleep I suddenly remembered the beautiful Cat I saw in the woods. I wondered if she was someplace warm and dry, or if she was being drenched by the rain. I also remembered how she called me a “lap pet”. She said it like it was bad. I told myself that it did not matter what she thought about me. I was comfortable and happy. I liked being a “lap pet”. I wanted her to go away and let me sleep in peace.
And yet her beautiful fire-and-snow stripes flashed in my dreams.