One-Eyed Cat

One-Eyed Cat

2.4 21
by Paula Fox, Erika Meltzer

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A Single Shot
Ned fired the forbidden rifle just once, at a flickering shadow in the autumn moonlight. But someone — a face, fleetingly seen staring at him from an attic window — was watching.
And when a one-eyed cat turns up at an elderly neighbor's woodshed, Ned is caught in a web of guilt, fear, and shame that he cannot escape —


A Single Shot
Ned fired the forbidden rifle just once, at a flickering shadow in the autumn moonlight. But someone — a face, fleetingly seen staring at him from an attic window — was watching.
And when a one-eyed cat turns up at an elderly neighbor's woodshed, Ned is caught in a web of guilt, fear, and shame that he cannot escape — until another moonlit night, come spring, brings redemption and surprising revelations.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A lonely boy's acquaintance with an artist helps him to define and improve his own self-image in this finely crafted story. Ages 11-13. (October)

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5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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One-Eyed Cat

By Paula Fox


Copyright © 1984 Paula Fox
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3742-6



Ned Wallis was the minister's only child. The Congregational Church where the Reverend James Wallis preached stood on a low hill above a country lane a mile beyond the village of Tyler, New York. Close by the parsonage, a hundred yards or so from the church, was a small cemetery of weathered tombstones. Some had fallen over and moss and ivy covered them. When Ned first learned to walk, the cemetery was his favorite place to practice. There, his father would come to get him after the members of the congregation had gone home to their Sunday dinners. There, too, his mother often sat on a tumbled stone and watched over him while his father stood at the great church door speaking to each and every person who had attended service that day. That was long ago, before his mother had become ill.

Just past the church was a low, dark, musty-smelling barn where people had stabled their horses in the days before there were automobiles. In bad weather, it was still used by ancient Mr. Deems, who drove his rattling buckboard and skinny chestnut mare all the way from his farm in the valley to the church and into the barn. And when Ned grew older, he and a few of the children from the early Sunday school class played there, hiding and shouting and scaring each other but keeping their distance from Mr. Deems's mare, who was known to be cross tempered. On warm days the voices of the choir — especially the high tremulous voices of the oldest singers — would float into the darkness of the barn like the thin, sweet aroma of meadow flowers. The children would pause in their play and listen until old Mrs. Brewster, who held the last note of a hymn till her breath ran out and she tottered into her seat, fell silent.

The Wallis family didn't live in the parsonage, although they could have and it would not have cost them a penny. Their house was fifteen miles from Tyler. It had been built by Ned's grandfather in 1846, nearly eighty years before Ned was born. Like the church, it stood on a hill. From its windows there was a view of the Hudson River. This view was one of the reasons the Reverend Wallis did not want to move.

It was a big, ailing old house. When too many things went wrong with it — the furnace cut off when it wasn't supposed to, the cistern overflowed, the roof leaked — or when Ned's mother's illness grew worse so that Reverend Wallis could hardly bear to leave her to take care of his many pastoral duties, then he would cry out that they would have to go and live in the parsonage, such a mean, small house, so far from the heart-lifting sight of the great river. Ned knew that his father loved the house that was such a trouble to take care of, too far from his church, too costly for a country minister's salary.

When Ned followed his father into the church on Sundays, he was always startled by the vast airy openness above the aisles and rows of pews, and by the immense height of the windows which flowed with light, and by the many dark gold-colored pipes of the organ which rose behind the pulpit. No matter how often he counted them, he always ended up with a different number. He knew every part of the church, from the cellar where the huge furnace glowed in cold weather like a steam locomotive, to the basement where the Sunday school classes and meetings and study clubs were held, and on special occasions, where church suppers were spread out on long tables, all the way up the curving narrow steps to the gallery above the choir. Perhaps he was always surprised by the bigness of the church because he was used to thinking of it as another room in his house.

One Sunday in late September, a few days before his eleventh birthday, Ned was leaning back in the front pew where he usually sat. The red velvet pew cushion, so comforting in winter, was making the backs of his legs itch. The August heat had held on and the sky was pale with it. Papa's voice, as he preached his sermon, seemed to come from a great distance. Someone coughed. Someone else rustled the pages of a hymnbook. A cloud of drowsiness dropped over Ned like a cloth. He tried to keep himself awake by imagining what it would be like to live on the ocean for all of your life. That was what had happened to Philip Nolan in The Man Without a Country: he had been exiled to a ship. Ned had just finished the book that morning before he went downstairs to have breakfast with Papa. The thought of breakfast woke Ned up completely. It reminded him of Mrs. Scallop.

Until two months ago, Sunday breakfasts had been quiet. Ned's Papa always wore his amethyst tiepin in his black silk tie, his black trousers with the satin stripe down each side and the cutaway jacket with back panels that looked like a beetle's folded wings, and he had his Sunday look, thinking about his sermon, Ned knew. The only noise had been their spoons hitting the sides of the cereal bowls. Sometimes Ned would gaze up at the Tiffany-glass lamp shade with its various panels depicting wild animals. Ned's favorite was the camel who stood in a brown glass desert which appeared to stretch for miles when the light was turned on. But that quietness had been shattered by the coming of Mrs. Scallop, whose voice now intruded in the dining room every morning, as sharp and grinding as the woodcutter's saw when he came in the spring to thin out the pines which grew along the north side of the Wallises' property.

Mrs. Scallop was the third housekeeper they had had in a year, and in Ned's opinion, the worst. She would stand at the table talking to them, her hands resting on her stomach. She didn't need questions or answers or any kind of conversation at all to keep going. Ned noticed how Papa's brow grew furrowed with lines, though he was as polite and kindly to Mrs. Scallop as he was to everyone else. On their way to church that morning in the old Packard car, Ned had said, "Mrs. Scallop talks to our chairs when we're not there."

Papa said, "She's very good to your mother. Poor woman. She's had a hard life — losing her husband only a year after they were married and having to support herself all these years."

Ned knew he would say something like that. But earlier, when he'd told his mother his joke about Mrs. Scallop speaking to furniture, she'd laughed and told him Mrs. Scallop was frightened of groans and whispers. "If I whisper, 'Leave the napkin on the tray,' Mrs. Scallop disappears instantly," she said. Ned had started to smile. Then he couldn't — he'd thought of his mother's illness, which was rheumatoid arthritis, and how it really did make her groan, or so weak she could only whisper.

What puzzled Ned most about Mrs. Scallop were her sudden unexplained silences. They were far worse than her talking; they were angry silences, and the anger was even in her hands which she pressed so hard against her stomach that Ned could see white spots on her skin. He could never figure out what had set her off.

One day she would call him her darling boy and hug him every chance she got. But the next morning, she would stare at him silently with her small eyes that were like two blue crayon dots. Her nostrils would flare slightly, her frizzy hair would look electrified. What hadhe done, he would wonder, to make her so furious? But she never explained. Ned decided that the worst thing you could do to a person was not to say why you were angry with him.

Papa preached about only ten commandments, but Mrs. Scallop had hundreds of them and she rapped them out like a woodpecker drilling away at a tree trunk.

"If you don't dry your toes well after your bath, you'll get appendicitis," she warned him. "If you drop a fork, you'll have bad news before sunset," she said. Once she had snatched the book he was reading right out of his hands, studied it closely for a second, then exclaimed, "What piffle! Talking animals, for mercy's sake! Your brains will go soft if you read such nonsense!"

Still, he preferred her woodpecker rapping to those sullen, accusing silences.

This morning had started out as a "darling boy" day. She'd described the birthday cake she was going to make for Ned on Wednesday. It would amaze him. Hadn't she made her first cake when she was a tiny thing of five? Hadn't her mother taught her good? Didn't she know how to make the best cakes for miles around? His eleventh birthday, she said, was very, very important. After you passed eleven, you had to start learning everything. If you didn't know everything by the time you were thirteen, you never got another chance.

"Well, Mrs. Scallop, I think we have more time than that," Papa had said gently.

Ned had excused himself from the table and gone upstairs to say goodbye to his mother.

"Mrs. Scallop says I have to learn everything before I'm thirteen," he had said. Mama was in her wheelchair over by the bay windows.

"I'm afraid that's what Mrs. Scallop did," Mrs. Wallis said, smiling at Ned. He saw at once that she was feeling well today. There were mornings when he had no sooner entered her room than he turned right around and left, days when she was bent over the tray table attached to the wheelchair as if a wind had pinned her there, a wind that kept her from sitting up. Those were the mornings when her fingers were as twisted as the roots of pine trees, and he would tiptoe away, feeling as if his own bones were turning into water.

"She's going to make me a birthday cake Wednesday," he'd told her.

"We'll have to grant that she bakes well," his mother said. "Although by the time she's finished a cake, by the time she tells you how absolutely wonderful it is, you hardly have any appetite left." She had turned to look out the window. "Look," she said. "It's so beautiful today. The haze hasn't formed yet. I do believe we can see all the way to West Point. I always wonder about that little island in the river. Do you suppose anyone lives on it?"

"You told me a story about it once," Ned had said, thinking his mother found any kind of day beautiful when she wasn't in pain.

She had laughed and exclaimed, "Oh, Ned! You remember that? You weren't much past your fifth birthday. I was still walking around. Yes ... I made up a long story about an old man and his cat."

"Uncle Lightning," Ned said.


"The cat's name was Aura."

"Aurora," she said. "That means 'goddess of the dawn.'"

She fell silent and he looked past her through the window at the river flowing between the mountains.

"Eleven is a good age to be," she said slowly. "I came to these windows just as the sun rose that morning in September, 1924, when you were born. It was a clear day, like today. Not so warm though. I wasn't thinking about the view. I loved it but I was so used to it I often looked at the mountains and the river and the sky without seeing them. That dawn, I was wondering who you were. And then, about fourteen hours later, you arrived."

He bent to kiss her goodbye and saw close up the thick braid of her fair hair that was coiled into a bun at the nape of her neck.

He had once seen Papa braiding her hair. He had stood in the dark upper hall and looked through her door as his Papa stood next to her wheelchair with the hair in his hands like a great soft rope, braiding it quickly, pinning it at her neck. Papa had then rested his cheek on her head and Ned, suddenly shy and uneasy, had gone on downstairs.

"We must try and be philosophical about Mrs. Scallop," his mother had said. "She is a good cook, and your father's mind is at ease when he must be away."

By philosophical, Ned knew that his mother meant they had to remind themselves there was a bright side to Mrs. Scallop's presence in the house. It was hard to find anything bright about Mrs. Scallop, only red and inflamed, like skin around a splinter. Even the rag rugs she was always braiding were without a touch of brightness, just dull and rusty-looking.

Before she came, the Wallis family had eaten a lot of canned salmon and canned peas. The church ladies had always tried to help out, sending hampers of Sunday dinner home with Papa. But the ladies tended to be partial to desserts. Large amounts of cakes and pies and cupcakes sat around in the pantry all week, crumbling and growing staler day by day and nearly curing Ned's sweet tooth for good.

There had been other housekeepers over the years, but they seemed ghostly compared to Mrs. Scallop. Ned couldn't remember what sort of meals they had made. He reminded himself, too, how relieved he was at night by the knowledge of Mrs. Scallop's presence in her bedroom off the back staircase, how comforting it was when Papa had to attend a meeting of the church deacons or visit a sick parishioner.

Even though he always lay awake until he heard the sound of the Packard's wheels on the gravel of the driveway, he wasn't frightened the way he had been so often when he was alone with his mother, imagining what would happen if the house caught on fire, or if she had a terrible attack of pain. What would he have done to help her except to get the operator on the telephone and ask her to get help? Papa had taught him to use the telephone long before he could even spell his own name.

One thing he was sure about was that if the house caught on fire while she was there, Mrs. Scallop would be able to carry both him and his mother down the stairs and out the door. She was like someone in the funny papers. He was trying to think of the name of that character when he heard the beginning of the doxology: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow ..."

He saw Papa step back from the pulpit. He remembered now who Mrs. Scallop was like in the funnies — Powerful Katinka, who could pick up a whole trolley car!

He realized he was still holding a nickel in his hand. The deacons had forgotten to pass him the collection plate today. As the doxology died away, an elderly heartfelt voice quavered on. It belonged to Mrs. Brewster, with whom he and his father were having dinner today.

Ned stood next to Papa at the church door and shook hands with the men and bowed to the ladies. He tried to ignore Ben Smith, who was making faces at him, then ducking behind his elder brother. Ben made the most terrible faces he'd ever seen, much better than Billy Gaskell's, who was in Ned's sixth grade at school.

Ben pushed up his nose, pulled down his lower lids and stuck his tongue out, all at once. Ned felt a great single shout of laughter rising inside of himself. He turned his back on Ben and tried to concentrate on Mr. Deems hitching his mare up to the dusty old buckboard.

Later, after Papa and he had stopped to get the Sunday paper in Tyler and were driving on to Mrs. Brewster's house, Papa said, "That child, Ben Smith ... I've never seen anyone make such a face, have you? He looked exactly like a gargoyle."

Ned let out the laughter that had remained somewhere inside him since Ben had made his prize face, and Papa laughed, too.

When Papa laughed like that, Ned was at once reminded of the past, the time before his mother had become ill. He imagined the three of them dancing down the living room holding hands, or skipping stones down by the Hudson River on a little muddy strip of shore where cattails grew and large damp toads hid behind rocks and the days were always sunny. He knew it couldn't have been like that; he knew it must have rained and stormed, that they hadn't spent all their time dancing and skipping stones and laughing together, yet it felt as though they had. It was the time he'd been happy and hadn't known it. When he was happy now, he would remind himself he was. He would say, At this moment I'm happy, and that was different from simply being a certain way and not having to give it a name.

Papa parked in front of the path that led to the Brewster house. It was old and narrow and leaned slightly toward a giant elm which stood next to it. A branch of the elm crossed the front of the house just beneath the two second-floor windows like a mustache.

Mrs. Brewster and her daughter welcomed them with high, wordless cries of delight. The house smelled of rat cheese and old newspapers and candle wax. Ned glanced into the small dining room and saw the food was already on the table; a great knob of butter had melted then hardened over a mountain of lumpy, mashed potatoes, and a very small joint of meat sat on a large platter. Once when they'd had Sunday dinner with the Brewsters, Ned had asked for a second helping of beef, and his father had pinched his knee and shaken his head slightly so that Ned had to say he'd changed his mind. Afterwards, Papa explained that the Brewster ladies were really as poor as church mice, and that it was best not to ask for second helpings, since you never knew what it cost people to give you a meal.

Mrs. and Miss Brewster seemed so old to Ned that it was hard for him to believe one was the daughter of the other. They both looked exactly like the women in the tintypes that were glued in an album they kept on the pine table in the living room, and which Ned always looked through when dinner was over and Papa and the Brewster ladies were speaking softly together over their coffee. Ned wasn't interested in their conversations except when his father gave a small, delicate snort of laughter. Then he knew that one of the Brewsters must have said something funny about someone in the congregation. It was the same kind of laugh Papa gave when Ned imitated Mr. Deems's extremely deep voice, or Mrs. Brewster's famous long-held note at the end of a hymn. It was not that his father was unkind — it was that he appreciated the comical side of people. In a way, Ned felt more friendly toward his father when he laughed than he did when the Reverend Wallis looked sad and described a person as being poor or miserable or brave through adversity.


Excerpted from One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox. Copyright © 1984 Paula Fox. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Paula Foxis an Americanwriter of novelsfor adults and children. For her contributions as a children's writer she won the biennial, internationalHans Christian Andersen Awardin 1978, the highest international recognition for a creator of children's books. She has also won several awards including the 1974Newbery Medalfor her novelThe Slave Dancer, and a 1983National Book Award in category Children's Fiction (paperback)forA Place Apart.

Donna Postel should have known the path she'd take at the first grade play. Instead of getting to play a duck or a tree, she was cast in the only speaking role, The Narrator. Fast forward to the present and we find Donna in her state-of-the-art studio where she has been happily talking to herself ever since. Her voice has been heard on hundreds of commercials and corporate narrations, and she is positively thrilled to expand into audiobooks. When she's not in the studio, Donna can be found down at the barn, cleaning up after, and occasionally, riding horses.

Brief Biography

Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
April 22, 1923
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Attended Columbia University

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One-Eyed Cat 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
andrewreynolds More than 1 year ago
The story wasnt the greatest, but we read worse. I just felt it dragged out the point of the story too long. All the characters were boring. I read this book for a class; thats the only reason I read it, but overall it is a pointless book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book just sort of dragged on, but I can say that their were some parts that I enjoyed, like the ending, when he and his mom are sitting in the moonlight watching three cats play and I thought that part was so descriptive it put a lovely picture in my mind. The book had very good descriptive parts but also had description in part where they are not needed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was the worst book i have ever read. it has no point and its extremely borring. i had to read this for school but if i didnt have to i would have burned this book and ran away.the characters are dull and dumb,did i mention its boring? no good parts in the story,its all just not a book. i have no idea how this even got published. did i mention its boring?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school and do a project on it. It was an easy read on the surface but when you have to analyze it, there are a lot of messages there. It is basically about a boy becoming mature and learning to deal with his guilt and learning to open up to his parents. Unfortunately, the story was boring and the characters not that likeable. Believe me, if I did not have to read this book for school, I never would have finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok youre book was great no doubt about that but ive read other great Paula FOx books and i gotta say not youre best keep up the good work
Guest More than 1 year ago
It wasn't the greatest story or very interesting. Paula Fox has written better books but the story does not really talk about the cat. All it really was was just a boy who got a gun for his 11th birthday but he thinks he shot a cat. My report is to find a plot for this story but i should tell my teacher that 'Oh, this story has no plot,' To tell you the truth, Paula should suprise readers and interest them more. I was very disappointed in Ms. Fox because i know she can write amazing novels and excuisite details and not some pointless novel about a stupid kid who thinks he shot some blind cat. I am sorry about my language but i know Paula does better. Just to make it happy for the readers who loved it, I thought the story was sad, happy and filled with emotions and thoughts by Fox who had enjoyed writing for many years.Mrs. fox if you make any other books NOT including a story like this then i would be more than happy to re
Guest More than 1 year ago
Seriously, this book needs a better plot. I did not feel emotion. I did not feel any terror or enjoyment for that part. The book was poorly written, non-descriptive, and well, DULL! As my headline said, the one eyed cat needs more than a hospital to survive, much less be a better book. The supposed climax, really does nothing for you and on top of that, the characters are completely filled with tedium. For me, Paula Fox tried too hard for this to be a good book. Pitiful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the worst book I have ever read. There is no plot! It's all about a boy who thinks he shot a cat in the eye, but never finds out. The cat resides in this creepy, old man's backyard. It was like pulling teeth to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
extremely boring but I think Paula Fox did a great job writing her story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Awsome story, a must-read. Paula Fox did a great job.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was incredibly boring. It was hard to get into, although the end probably had to be the best part. The chapters were way too long, they were like 20 or 30 pages long!!! The author talked too much about the small things, and hardly about the cat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book had some good points to it. However, it was a little boring and took some work to get through it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a boy named Ned Wallis who is the child of a minister and his mom is really sick.A couple days before his birthday his uncle came over.His uncle gave him a rifle for his birthday.Ned's father takes it away and said he was too young for it.Ned will get it back when he's fourteen.One night Ned finds where his father hid the gun and needs to shoot it so it's out of his system.He hits somethig in the shadows but doesn't know what he hit.He also sees that some one saw him out the window.A couple of days later,when he's helping out Mr.Scully,he sees a cat with only one eye.Is this the creature he shot that one night?Who saw him that night? To find out read the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In One-Eyed Cat, eleven year old Ned is given a gun for his birthday, but he¿s forbidden to use it until he¿s fourteen. Bet he can¿t control his curiosity, he has to shoot it just once. In the middle of the night, he feels something watching him, and he shoots at a dark shadow. A few months later, He spots a cat with one eye while helping a neighbor. Is the cat what Ned really shot at that night? How can he hide his guilt? There are several themes in the book. The two that I chose to explain are love and guilt. Love plays a major part in the book because while Ned¿s family and friends change in many ways, he realizes that they still need love, something to hold on to. Guilt is also a big theme because for most of the book, Ned feels really guilty about taking the gun. The author has a unique style of writing. She tends to describe visuals very thoroughly. It almost makes you feel like you are right there with the characters. Her style definitely paints a clear picture in your mind. Although the book takes place in the 1930s, I think that almost anyone can relate to Ned at some point in his or her life. Everyone has done something that they know is wrong, but they are too afraid to admit it. This book is very realistic in that way. I personally thought that this book was good, and it had somewhat of a surprise ending. If you¿re looking for an on-the-edge-of-your-char thriller, this book probably isn¿t for you. However, if you like historical fiction, interesting plots, and symbolism, then read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was ok. I've read better. The author spend to much time talking about little things that don't matter. I couldn't really get into the book. It was sort of 'exciting' at the end but not really. I've recommended some other(better) books below.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a boy, I forgot his name, lives around the 1940's. He turnes thirteen one day and gets a present. It's a gun. But he got it from his uncle. His mother has terrible disease. Not really terrible, but you know what I mean. His father is a minester. So when the boy gets his gun, hais dad takes it away. That night, the boy finds the gun and takes it out. He sees a shadow and shoots at it. The next day he's at an old mans house. He sees a cat with one eye. He worrys that he's the one that shot the cat's eye out. To find out more, well, read the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i believe by reading other reviews that i am agreed with when i say this book was awful. it had nothing to grab the attention, no story line to follow, and the most detail it went in to was of the half blind cat! it had nothing to make you think. the only reason i read it was for a book report and i would not recommend it for that, it had no substance, nothing significant to write about, i knew nothing of the few pionts that might have made it more enjoyable. the only reason i give it 2 stars is in the intrest of fairness, it deserves 1/2. how this become a newbary anything amazes me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very stupid, slow, and hard to get into, but that's probably because it is best for little kids. Although Paula Fox does a good job with characterization. Besides that, HORRIBLE!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well, I am in the 6th grade so you parents out there will see how a kid thinks of it. Well, it isn't as good as harry potter. It talks about how a boy disobeys his father and shoots a gun at a cat. The cat appears in an old man's backyard. THe plot, I think is good. In case you want to know children like books made in years 1990-2000. THose books have the things many children have and children can relate more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a great book! I think everyone should read it. It takes place in the country with a boy named Will. It is exciting and mysterious at the same time.