Sunday, December 26, 2010

Excerpt from The Cat Before Christmas

Here’s the excerpt I promised from The Cat Before Christmas:

All week long Wiki hunted the spider. He knew its scent, dry and desiccated like a cicada casing, faintly ashy from hanging out in the flue. He searched, he stalked; he lay in wait still as a statue for hours near the fireplace, by the dining room window where he picked up the spider’s scent Wednesday afternoon.

Friday morning a hastily spun web caught his right ear as he shook his paws stepping out of his litter box in the back hall. He whirled, ready to pounce, and heard only an echo of eight eyes’ laughter coming from -- the sun porch!

The door to the sun porch had a glass top half. The tallest thing in the hallway was the old microwave cart Cary parked outside the kitchen. An ivy plant in a blue ceramic teacup sat on the top of the cart. It was a tight space, but if he gauged it just right…

Wiki dug his back claws into the braided rug in front of his box and vaulted onto the cart. He turned carefully to avoid knocking the plant onto the floor and saw the spider swinging by a thread of silk from the ceiling in the sun porch.

How did you get out there? Wiki growled.

Wouldn’t you like to know, furball?

Little chilly out there for the likes of you, isn’t it?

I find it bracing.

The furnace cycled. The blower came on, and warm air fluttered up from the wall vents in the hallway. From the vents Cary kept open all winter on the sun porch, too, stirring the silk suspending eight eyes on the other side of the window.

“I’ve got the world on a string,” the spider sang, his voice raspy enough to pass for Frank Sinatra past his prime.

Wiki hissed. If I promise not to eat you will stop singing?

Eight eyes started on the second verse. Wiki raced into the bedroom. He snagged the spread with his claws, tugged it down and stuck his head under Cary’s pillow to drown out the spider’s voice.

He was still there when she came home from school, happy and humming because it was Friday and she was going to a movie tonight with Tina. Wiki had heard them making plans on the phone last night.

“I had a hypothetical, what would you think if I went skiing for Christmas chat with mom today,” Cary had told Tina. "Her face almost hit the floor, but I planted a seed for next Christmas. If you and Pam want to take another ski trip then I can go."

Ski trip? Wiki had pricked his ears. What ski trip?

Cary sat with her ankles crossed on the window seat in the dining room talking to Tina on the cordless phone. Wiki sat on the floor pretending to clean his ears. His hearing was sharp enough to pick up Tina’s reply.

"Awesome," she'd said. “For next year we're thinking about a weeklong Caribbean cruise. You'll have the time off from school, and Pam and I can save up our vacation days."

"Oooh,” Cary sighed. Wiki sat close enough that he could feel the thrill of gooseflesh that shot through her. "I'd love that."

Wiki stared at Cary. Was she crazy? She wasn’t going anywhere at Christmas! Thank the catnip gods for Lorraine. She’d put the kibosh on the ski trip. He could take care of the cruise.

That’s what starts all the trouble for Wiki, the cat who loves Christmas, and launches his plan to keep Cary from going skiing. To paraphrase the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men -- or in this case cats -- often go askew.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Cat Before Christmas as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And remember: From now until January 31, 2011, I’m donating 15% of all proceeds to Wayside Waifs and The Humane Society of Kansas City.

Happy day after Christmas!

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