|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)|
|Age Range:||4 Years|
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By Randi Giles
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Randi Giles
All rights reserved.
DADDY COMES HOME
The day her daddy came home, Snowflake was lying in the big front window soaking up sunbeams. Babysitting the window could be a real drag, but it was the next best thing to being outdoors and a great place to practice her Yoga. As she lay there meditating, she looked prim and pretty in her pink sweater. It had silver sequins stitched across the back, which spelled out the words, "Spoiled Brat." Actually, Snowflake was spoiled only in the sense that she did not like to get her paws dirty, and she was a brat only when she was getting into trouble, which was more often than not. Moreover, she was sometimes just a little too fussy about her absolutely awesome tail.
Mom whispered to Jana, "Snowflake is so deep in thought! I wonder what she is planning."
Seven-year-old Jana laughed and replied, "You mean what she is plotting? I bet she wants to go outside and scratch some dog on the nose."
They knew her well, for in spite of her I'm-lost-in-thought look, Snowflake was feeling quite restless today. As a rule, she did not like dogs. But alas, she sometimes had to put up with them, especially Coco, the family's cocker spaniel. But even Coco had learned never to get too close to Snowflake, for she was truly a fickle feline. Depending on her mood and whether or not she had kittens to protect, she could be sweet or savage, spoiled or brave, a prima donna or a vicious, ninja cat warrior. She ADORED kittens, and when it came down to defending them, it was no-claws-barred for Snowflake. One fine day, after giving her last brood of kittens a good bath, she took them outdoors for their first stalking and pouncing lessons. The kittens were jumping this way and that, pouncing on little leafhoppers, when the neighbor's Rottweiler, Buddy, escaped from his fence and snarled at them. Snowflake charged at him like a bolt of lightning and swiped him in the face with her paw. Then she chased after him screaming, "TAKE THAT—ROTT-BREATH!" Ever since that day, he wore a scarred-up knot on his nose as a reminder to stay away from cats.
Today, Snowflake was feeling especially moody, but scratching dogs was not on her to-do list. For weeks, she had shielded her heart from the sorrow of her daddy going away by putting him on the backburner of her mind. Now her internal clock told her that Daddy would be coming home soon. Therefore, she waited at the window for him, her heart filled with longing and excitement. Snowflake thought, Can't they see I want to go outside? I want to be the first one to greet Daddy when he comes home. She also wanted to catch the cardinal that was pecking at her through the windowpane. Her tail switched with an irritated flick as the bird fluttered away. She planned her next move: I'll pretend I'm asleep. Then, as soon as the front door opens, I will rush out and catch that fat, grain-fed bird, (referring to Mom's bird feeder). She smacked her lips, contemplating how delicious a feathery cardinal might be. However, in order to hunt birds, she had to be a real escape artist, for her family preferred to keep her inside for her own safety. If she wanted out, though, she could always figure out a way—that little round brain inside of her little round head would start rolling around, and pretty soon she'd be through a door, out a window, or stuck in some air conditioning duct, yowling.
Now Snowflake's daddy was a truck driver. He drove big semi trucks with 18 wheels. He drove all across the country and did not come home very often. Sometimes he would stay on the truck several weeks, but he and Mom would talk on the phone every day, for they were very much in love. Snowflake also loved her daddy. She saw Mom watching through the window, too, and knew that he was coming home today! When Snowflake saw the truck's engine section (also called a bobtail or tractor) pull up in the driveway, her heart raced with joy. Immediately she jumped from the window and ran to the door to meet him. Her heart throbbed with love as he picked her up. She purred and purred, rubbing her head against his hands.
"I missed you so much!" she said in her purrs. "Why did you leave me?"
He kissed Snowflake. "Well, girl, it looks like you didn't forget me!"
"Are you kidding?" said Mom. "She hasn't been this happy since the day you left ... and neither have I." She and Dad hugged and kissed, squashing Snowflake in between. Snowflake squalled and fluffed out her tail in front of Daddy's face.
"Any news about Coco?" asked Mom.
"No," he sighed, "I've searched everywhere, but no one has seen the little truck hopper."
Coco was the family dog, but he was really Daddy's dog because Daddy took him everywhere on his truck, through cities great and small, and through the mountains, deserts, forests, and farmlands of America. Coco loved to go on the truck, and he was a good friend to Dad on those long, lonesome trips. Coco didn't even mind listening to Country on the radio hour after hour, and he would always wag his tail and seem to enjoy Daddy's dumb jokes. Dad said he would rather have Coco for a trucking buddy than a man because Coco was easier to get along with. Even though Coco looked dumb with his big tongue hanging out of his mouth, he was really quite smart and knew which one was Daddy's truck. After doing his business, he would always hustle right back to the big blue engine and wait there by the door—but not this last time. When Daddy exited the restaurant with a sack of food for himself and Coco, he saw another 18-wheeler pull out of the lot with what appeared to be two cocker spaniels.
Now Coco was chocolate brown all over except for the top of his head. Daddy had asked the dog groomers to allow this white spot, which the groomers called a topknot, to grow and stick up. With that white puff on his head, he was easy to tell apart from other dogs.
Mom asked Dad, "Are you sure it was Coco you saw on the other truck? Perhaps we should be looking for him in the shelters instead."
"How many times do I have to tell you!" he replied. "It was HIM all right—ol' marshmallow head! And the other dog looked like a cocker spaniel too. They both had their heads hanging out a window, happy as two peas in a pod. I hollered at Coco as the truck swung by, but he paid no attention to me. Next thing I knew, they were gone. The driver of that truck must've had a really stopped up nose." [A skunk had recently sprayed Coco.] "I waited at the restaurant for hours, sure that he'd swing back by and dump off the dog, but he never returned."
"The other dog was probably a girl dog," said Mom. "Coco just wanted to find himself a girlfriend."
"And that's perfectly normal," said Dad. "But flirt with a polecat? That dog's got bran for brains."
"Bran flakes," Dad's nickname for Coco, was a name well deserved, for Coco often did stupid things. One day he decided to cozy up to a baby skunk. The little animal peeked out of its hole and dived back in when it saw Coco coming. Then Coco shoved his whole muzzle into the hole, sniffing. The next day, he cornered the skunk and pranced around it, playfully swatting at it.
"He was FLIRTING with the SKUNK!" exclaimed Daddy. "By the time I got there, it was too late. If only I had kept his collar on him, but after a couple of days, it stunk like a dead skunk in the road." Then he winked and said, "The dog is lucky I didn't throw him out the window too."
"He was probably just playing with the skunk," said Mom.
"Maybe he misses Snowflake."
When Mom said that, both she and Dad broke down laughing.
"Well, you know, Coco always was big on love and short on brains," said Mom. "He's never had a whole lot of sense. He even loves Snowflake, and she can't stand him. So the polecat doesn't surprise me."
The tag on the collar Dad threw out had an address and phone number, but it was not Coco's only identity. He also had a tattoo, but the tattoo was not easy to see.
After being sprayed by the skunk, Coco continued to perfume the truck for two solid weeks. The sheets, the food, Daddy's clothing, everything—REEKED! Because Daddy smelled so bad, he was treated as a social outcast at all the truck stops and restaurants. Wearing a bandanna and nose plug, he had to drag the stinking dog into a truck wash and used the soapy bubbling brush to scrub him down. Even so, the stubborn odor persisted until Coco, who hated baths, drew his line in the dirt; and Daddy, who was suffering from isolation syndrome and skunk inhalation, drew his line in the dirt. Each had taken all he could take. Then Daddy gave the dog one last chewing out: "Perhaps it's these fumes eating HOLES in my brain," he scolded, "but next time I'm going to take the CAT instead of you! At least Snowflake has enough sense not to tango with a SKUNK!"
Coco hung his head in shame. "Daddy doesn't love me anymore," he whimpered. He was ready to abandon ship. That's when he met his new friend—a sweet-smelling, ravishingly beautiful, blonde cocker spaniel. When Coco saw her, he had but one word to say:
Heart pounding and hormones surging, he swapped trucks and never looked back, not for a while at least.
Jana and Joey, the two children, had made a flier with a picture of Coco. They colored him brown and drew a big cotton ball on top of his head. Then Mom made copies and gave them to Dad to put out at every truck stop along the way. While crisscrossing America in his truck, Daddy put out the fliers and prayed for Coco's return, but until he found him, he needed another pet for a trucking companion. He needed one that was potty trained and loved him enough to listen to his stupid jokes.
Placing his hands lovingly around his wife's shoulders, he stared into her questioning eyes and said, "Joanna, I know you and the kids aren't going to like this, but I have decided to take Snowflake with me. Life on the road is just too lonely. Baby, I'd rather have you with me, but—"
"But who's going to take care of the children? You know, it sometimes gets lonely around here, too."
"Yes ... I know," he said. "You have your career and I have mine, but one day we will all be together, I promise." Daddy hugged her tightly. He wished there was some other way.
When Snowflake overheard the conversation about her going on the truck, she licked a paw nervously and thought, Me on a truck? In your DREAMS! Snowflake did not like to ride in moving vehicles. She remembered the last time they took her to the veterinarian. It was as terrifying as all the other times: First this awful, cramped carrier, followed by the slam of a door, engine roar, lurching, gasping, panic attack, squalling, men in white, pinching, probing, poking and PAIN, all rolled into one nightmarish blur. Snowflake gulped and pulled into a tense little ball. She loved an occasional short adventure, but the idea of embarking on a dreadfully long and uncertain voyage to Never-Never Land, on a cargo truck?—The thought made her skin creep and her eyes pop out of their sockets. Daddy needed a companion though, and his mind was made up. They purchased her a collar and tag so she would not get lost like Coco.
Jana and her five-year-old brother, Joey, were not happy about Snowflake going away. They asked Mom to ask Dad if he would get them another dog or cat.
"NO!" said Dad. "We don't need any more animals around here, period!" (To break our hearts, he meant.) "The kids can catch grasshoppers or frogs for pets. That's what I did when I was a kid. You get a shoebox, punch holes in the top, put the turtle, or frog inside, and without forking out a dime you have a pet that does not need shots or expensive visits to the veterinarian." He suggested other activities as well: "Sew a net of tulle to a bent clothes hanger and tie it to a long cane stick. Catch butterflies. Put a caterpillar in a jar and watch it spin a cocoon. Wait for it to morph. One day, out flops a moth or a butterfly. It's loads of fun!"
"That sounds COOL, Dad!" said Jana and Joey. Immediately, they began to search for old jars, aquariums, and shoeboxes to house their new pets.CHAPTER 2
Much too soon, the day came for Daddy to go back to work. The family hugged and kissed. It was time to say goodbye.
Snowflake tried to wiggle loose. "Easy girl," said Daddy. "Once you get used to it, you'll love it. There's fun around every curve of the road." Suddenly Daddy looked up. He saw the flash of a road, curving—felt himself plunging. It was like a vision that had sparked in his mind. Was it déjà vu? A premonition? He shook his head. I'm just tired, he thought. From now on, I'm staying off roller coasters.
"Yes, there is adventure every day when you are traveling," echoed Mom. "It's as fun as going on a Caribbean cruise ... unless there is a hurricane at sea." She cocked a smile at Daddy, hoping he'd caught the hint about the cruise.
"One day, honey, but first, I promised Gran-Gran we'd come see her on our next vacation. She's not getting any younger, you know."
Phooey! I'm getting out of here! thought Snowflake. When Daddy tried to put her into the cat carrier, she spread all four legs and desperately grabbed both sides of the doorway with her claws, but next thing she knew, she was inside with the door slammed behind her.
"We'll miss you Snowflake! No frog or turtle can replace you!" sobbed Jana.
"Come back safely and watch out for skunks!" said Joey tearfully.
Daddy promised that he would not let anything bad happen to Snowflake. The whole family held hands as he said a prayer, which ended with, "Lord, may I never have to leave my family again." As they said their final goodbyes, Snowflake even saw Daddy push his glasses up to hide the tears. Then he hoisted himself and Snowflake aboard the bobtail and started the engine. He honked the horn twice. Mom blew kisses as the bobtail rolled out of the driveway, and off they went, bouncing down the road.
Snowflake gulped. She was now in the carrier on the passenger seat. She could see gauges and strange lights on the dash. She looked around at the sky and the clouds. At first, she felt as if she were on the roof of the house, her favorite place in the whole world to go. But in order to reach it, she had to climb the old spreading oak tree next to the chimney and then jump off the big limb. The scratchy gravel of the composite shingles felt good beneath the pads of her feet, but the best part was being way up high and knowing that this was her very own territory. Cats enjoy their privacy, and the roof was her secret place to go that no other cats knew about.
However, rooftops don't move. The bobtail was now thrusting along at a frightening speed. Passing objects seemed to fly at her face. She thought they would strike her in the head: Trees—WHOP! Telephone poles—WHOP! Snowflake felt herself going into a panic attack. Control it! she told herself, but she could not control the panic. She opened her mouth agape to pant.
Daddy observed her tenderly, "Are you okay, Snowflake?"
Her eyes stared back at him, as wide as saucers.
"There, there," he said. "Whatever happened to the brave little heroine I saw take on a Rottweiler last year?"
Snowflake swallowed hard and answered him silently, "Well, Daddy, whatever happened to YOU at the theme park last year?" She wanted to talk to her daddy but couldn't. (Human talk was "sooooo" complicated.) However, she understood human conversation well, and being a nosy cat, she would eavesdrop whenever possible. Ears perked, she had listened as the family reminisced about Daddy on the roller coaster. Captured by pay camera as the coaster roared down the big plunge and permanently enshrined in a frame in the center of the coffee table, stood a picture of him hanging his head over the side of the coaster—upchucking. The picture had become a favorite family conversation piece, and even though Daddy was a good sport about it, Snowflake could feel his pain, especially now.
"Y-O-W-L," she cried.
Suddenly, Daddy felt pangs of guilt for taking Snowflake away from home. "I'd better do something until you get your sea legs," he said. (Daddy had a nautical spirit.) He pulled over to the side of the road. Behind the driver and passenger seats was a long vinyl curtain with a split down the middle. He took Snowflake through the curtain to the sleeper area, which was actually a cute little apartment. In addition to a bunk bed with two bunks, there were storage cabinets full of supplies that included lots of her favorite cat food. He placed her litter box on the floor and set her carrier on the lower bunk. Then he closed the curtain. The cabin suddenly became dark and peaceful. Snowflake could no longer see the scary things outside, so she began taking deeper breaths. She saw a microwave and a TV. Hey! This isn't so bad. It's almost like home, she thought.
Excerpted from Catsup by Randi Giles. Copyright © 2011 Randi Giles. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION (Cats), vii,
1 DADDY COMES HOME, 1,
2 SAYING GOODBYE, 8,
3 BAD COMPANY, 15,
4 THE BET, 20,
5 SNOWFLAKE MAKES A SCENE, 26,
6 HEROES COME IN ALL SIZES, 37,
7 PACO'S TURN, 44,
8 THE SEARCH FOR COCO, 52,
9 PACO'S BIRTHDAY PARTY, 58,
10 THE GUEST, 71,
11 PACO LEARNS SIGN LANGUAGE, 79,
12 THE RENDEZVOUS, 87,
13 OUT OF HARM'S WAY, 98,
14 WHO DUNNIT, 109,
15 GETTING READY FOR HALLOWEEN, 118,
16 GATO DIABLO, 124,
17 NOT ALL BLONDES ARE ALIKE, 140,
18 THE CAR-TAILS, 150,
19 DOWN BEARSKIN RIDGE, 159,
20 THE ACCIDENT, 188,
21 BY THE TAIL, 199,
22 BACK HOME, 206,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, 223,