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On a stormy night in the Low Country of South Carolina, a cat gives birth to five kittens under a small blue cottage. When the kittens are unexpectedly orphaned, the family living in the house above them brings them in and helps them to find good homes.
Before the kittens are separated, they vow to reunite one day using the “inner voices” their loving mother told them to follow.
Will they succeed? What roles will the animals of the Low Country play in their adventures? What dangers lie ahead for the kittens? Enter the world of Gus, Callie, Grace, Jim Bob, and Sugar to find out.
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.43(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Faylene was a calico cat; mostly white with patches of black, brown, and orange. She was also a feral cat, which means no one had ever cared for her, and she had to take care of herself. She lived In the Low Country of South Carolina, close to the Atlantic Ocean, where the tides change twice each day. There are lots of islands separated by small creeks whose waters rise and fall with the tides. Life is abundant in the Low Country, but the weather is fickle, and safety is always a concern.
When the tide is high, some islands disappear and dolphins swim up the creeks to trap fish and feed on them. Small boats can navigate at high tide into places where normally they would be stranded. At low tide the sandy beaches are wide and fiddler crabs emerge from their burrows. In the creeks the dark 'pluff' mud is stinky and slippery. It oozes between your toes when you step on it, and it can suck you right up and trap you.
There are also hurricanes along the Atlantic coast, and this year Faylene witnessed one. She watched as the wild animals scurried to find higher ground. Rain fell in great sheets, and water overflowed the banks of the nearby creek. The wind howled. Debris swirled through the air. Tree branches broke and leaves took flight. But Faylene was wise, so when she needed to, she found shelter under a small blue cottage in the countryside.
In time the storm subsided leaving in its wake a huge path of destruction. The wind and rain abated as quickly as they had come, and now there was only the drip, drip, drip of water from the roof. The little house remained unscathed, but the nearby fields were strewn with detritus deposited by the storm. Faylene relaxed, knowing her hiding place was secure.
Caleb and Ida Mae Brown lived in the little house above Faylene. They had painted it a special color called 'haint' blue because, according to traditional beliefs, that color would scare away any evil spirits that might be lurking around. Neither they nor their boys Otis and Clay had any idea there was a cat living under the house. Faylene had chosen this place because the soil was sandy and soft, and it was close to fields where she could hunt for food, but she was afraid of humans, so she kept quiet and out of sight.
The Browns occasionally saw a calico cat hunting in the fields nearby, and when they saw her, they always put out a little something for her to eat. Of course Faylene welcomed the treats, but remained elusive.
When the time was right, Faylene retreated far back under the house, and there she gave birth to five beautiful kittens. Each one was unique. There was a calico like her mother, another was white and fluffy, and a third was grey. There was a bold and sassy orange kitten and a rather shy black and white one. Because they were all quite small and helpless at first, Faylene snuggled them close, nursed them, and reminded them that she would always be there to protect them.
As the kittens grew and become more active, their mother taught them about life in the world around them and about growing up. She cautioned them to be very quiet under the house, but she also talked to them about making their own way in the world.
"Each of you was born with a quiet little voice inside of you. That voice can guide you and help you to do the right thing. Now is the time to learn to listen to your inner voice, so that when you are on your own, you will make good choices and be safe. Your inner voice is like an invisible friend, if you listen to that friend, you will do well."
The kittens did not quite understand what their mother was saying. They tried to listen, but all they heard were tree frogs and crickets in the fields, and the people going clomp, clomp, clomp, on the floor of the house above them.
In time the Browns began to suspect that the calico cat might be sleeping under their house, but they were happy she had shelter, and they continued to place a bit of food out for her each day. They had no idea about the kittens because they were well hidden and had been ever so quiet. As the kittens grew, however, their appetites grew as well. They were not ready to provide for themselves, so their mother had to spend more and more time hunting in the fields to provide for them. She watched them scamper after palmetto bugs and other tiny critters under the house, all the while cautioning them to be careful not to be seen or heard and to listen to their inner voices.
"Your inner voice is something deep inside that makes you feel good when you do the right thing, and when you are making a mistake, you will not feel comfortable. If you choose to ignore that voice, it will become quieter and quieter until you cannot hear it. If you listen carefully, you will hear it a little better every day and it will always tell you what is safe and what is right. You only need to pay attention. One day you will be on your own. You will need to find your own food and shelter. Then you will need that voice to guide you."
The kittens tried, but usually they were too busy having fun to think about inner voices. They knew their mother would always care for them, so why did they need to worry? Then one evening Faylene went out to hunt for food and never returned. What exactly happened to her was a mystery.
The Browns noticed that their cat was not coming out to get the little treats anymore and wondered why. Where was she? They took turns going outside and saying "Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty," but there was no response.
After three days without their mother and without food, the kittens were hungry and scared, and they began to cry. The orange kitten said, "We need to go out and find her". The gray one said, "No, she told us to stay safe right here and that is what we should do." The white kitten cried, "I'm hungry and I'm scared. Why isn't she back to take care of me?" The calico kitten offered to go out and hunt for food, and the black kitten said, "We need to stay here and be quiet and make a plan."
By nighttime the crying kittens were louder than the crickets.
Otis had missed Faylene too, so as he lay in bed that night, and heard meowing under the house, he thought she had returned. He ran into his parents' bedroom and said, "The cat is back. I hear her under the house."
"You must be dreaming," said Miss Ida Mae. "She was always a quiet cat. Go back to bed."
A few minutes later both Otis and Clay woke their parents and said, "We think the cat is hungry. Maybe she brought her friends too, because we hear lots of meowing."
"Boys," their father said, "that cat always hunted for her own food. We only gave her little snacks. Go to bed, and go to sleep. You have school tomorrow."
A few minutes later, they returned and pleaded, "Mama, Papa, she keeps crying and crying. We need to help her."
Caleb Brown sighed, put on his robe, grabbed a flashlight and plodded out the front door. He shuffled across the porch, down the stairs, and around to the side of the house where he got down on his hands and knees and crawled underneath. It was pitch black and the flashlight batteries were weak, but something caught his eye. He directed the flashlight a little to the right and saw five pairs of eyes glowing in the dark.
"Look, Ida Mae, kittens! The boys did hear something. Otis, bring me that big basket from the kitchen, and Clay, you bring a big soft towel."
Otis and Clay both ran inside, got the basket and towel, and hurried back outside under the house to await their father's instructions.
Caleb put the towel in the basket and handed it to the boys. Then he gently handed the fluffy little kittens to them one by one. They took turns placing each kitten on the soft towel in the basket. When all five kittens were safely on board, the children's father carried the basket into the house.
"We are so lucky," said Clay "One cat disappeared, and now we have five."
"These kittens must be hungry," said Miss Ida Mae.
She warmed some milk, poured it into a shallow bowl and placed it near the basket on the kitchen floor. The kittens were a bit hesitant at first, but finally crept out of the basket and over to the bowl where they eagerly lapped up the milk.
"Enough now," said Mr. Caleb. "We've been up half the night and we still have to get up early tomorrow. We need to get some sleep."
After the family went to bed, the kittens whispered to one another about being rescued until they drifted pleasantly off to sleep.
Soon the house was filled with the sound of gentle snores.
Early the next morning the children raced to the kitchen to play with their new kittens.
"Let's call the fluffy white one 'Sugar,'" Otis said.
"We even get names," whispered Sugar to the others.
"Okay," said Clay, "then this one can be Callie because she is a calico cat just like her mother, and this one has to be 'Jim Bob' because his hair is orange just like Jim Bob in my class."
Otis thought about that for a moment. "Then I guess we should call that gray one Grace, because it is gray."
Clay looked over at the last kitten sitting in the corner of the basket. He was smaller than all the rest and appeared to be a little frightened. "This one is black and fluffy and it has a white mustache and white hairy chest just like Uncle Gus. Let's call the last one Gus."
Otis's eyes welled up and his lips quivered. "That's not fair. Clay got to name three kittens and I only got to name two."
"So-o-o-o-o-o-o, we can't help it if there are only five kittens."
Miss Ida Mae came into the room just in time to put an end to the squabbling. "Since Clay only got to name two kittens, he may choose which one we will keep."
"I choose to keep all of them."
"We can't keep all of them. We can't be responsible for five cats. We can keep only one and we will find good homes for the others."
"Then I choose Callie because she looks like her mother."
"That's fine. Now put the kittens back in their basket and close the kitchen door. Your father and I must go to work and you both have school. When we get home this evening we will decide what to do about the kittens."
The family left, and the house became quiet.
Making a Plan
Jim Bob looked at his sisters and said, "Now look at what you've done. We're trapped in this room and they're going to take Callie away from us and we'll probably all be separated. Why did you have to be such crybabies? If you'd listened to me we'd all be out hunting and having a great adventure, and we would all be together."
"As long as I have a nice comfortable bed and good food, I don't care," said Sugar.
"All you ever think about is eating and sleeping," Callie said. "This is serious. We might never see each other again."
"We need to find a way to get back together if we are separated," said Gus. "The most important thing is to make a plan."
"I agree," said Grace.
The kittens spent the rest of the day figuring out what they could do if they were separated, and after dinner that evening, the Brown family discussed how they might find homes for the kittens.
"Tyrell in my class says his mom is a vet and she might be able to help us find good homes for them," said Otis. "He's going to ask her tonight."
"That would be wonderful," said Ida Mae. "Let's wait and see what she has to say."
The kittens were pleased that they had at least one more day together. That meant at least one more day to plan how to find each other when they were separated.
"Callie, you are going to get to stay right here", Jim Bob said. "Maybe we could just figure out how to get back here."
"But you heard them, Jim Bob. They cannot care for five cats. They would just send us away again."
"Callie is right," Gus said. "We need to figure out a way to find each other when we are old enough to travel on our own. I've been thinking ... Mama told us we each have an invisible friend to help us. We need to be still and listen for our inner voices because they can help us do the right thing. If we do that, we will know how to find each other if we are separated."
"How are we supposed to do that?" said Sugar. "The only voice I ever hear tells me I'm hungry or that I need a nap."
"Gus, you are just plain crazy," said Jim Bob. "I just listened and I didn't hear any voices."
"Maybe we could practice," said Callie. "We could play hide and seek and only one of us hides. Everyone else could try to figure out where the hider is by using their inner voices."
"That's not going to work," said Jim Bob, "but it sounds like fun anyway. I'm tired of all this planning."
"Let's play hide and seek tomorrow," said Sugar. "I'm tired and need my sleep."
Hide and Seek
So Sugar went to the basket and took a nap while the other kittens played hide and seek. At first there was a lot of bickering, but soon things became quieter. Grace had a problem listening to her inner voice, but she kept trying. Jim Bob said he would rather be the hider because he was good at finding secret places. Callie and Gus practiced listening for their inner voices and trusting, until by the end of the day, they found Jim Bob every time.
The kittens played hide and seek until they were so tired they flopped on top of one another into the basket and fell into a deep sleep. Of course, Sugar was not tired, because she had been sleeping all day. She drank some milk, groomed herself and wandered the kitchen looking for something to entertain her.
The following evening at dinner Otis announced, "Tyrell said his mom told him we can bring the kittens to her clinic first thing Saturday morning."
That meant two more days for the boys to play with the kittens and two more days for the kittens to work on their plan.
"Let's get back to hide and seek using our invisible friends," said Gus. "Jim Bob, go find a really good hiding place."
On Saturday morning Caleb Brown put the kittens into their basket and loaded them onto the back of his battered old truck. The boys piled in with the kittens and Miss Ida Mae sat in the front with Caleb. Her seat was covered with a doubled up blanket to cushion the bare springs. The truck engine roared to life and they headed toward town. The kittens were startled by the noise of the truck, and when they began bouncing around, Jim Bob and Callie scrambled out of the basket trying to escape. Otis and Clay quickly picked the kittens up and put them on their laps to calm them down. Gus remained in the basket with Sugar and Grace telling them he would be sure to keep them safe. Once the kittens had calmed down, the boys held on to the sides of the truck and, as they chugged and rattled down the bumpy dirt road, they peered down through the holes in the rusted out floor to watch the road pass beneath them. That was the best part. The worst part was the dust that came up through those same holes making them cough and sneeze.
Finally they arrived at the clinic where Tyrell's mom, Dr. Tinsley, examined the kittens and said, "You have a beautiful, healthy, little family here. Their mother must have taken good care of them. I will keep them here until we find a perfect home for them."
She gave all of the kittens their shots and let Callie return home with the Browns. Then she placed the four remaining kittens in a cage in the back of the building, gave them some food and water, and went back to her office to make a phone call.
Sugar immediately began to cry. Jim Bob arched his back, hissed at her, and told her to stop being such a big baby. Grace looked bewildered and Gus went off to a corner to think about what they could do.
A little later in the day a pleasantly plump woman with a puff of white hair came to the clinic. The woman's beloved cat had passed on recently and Dr. Tinsley hoped a new kitten might be good for her. She brought the woman into the back room where the four kittens were huddled together in the cage. Grace and Sugar were curious and came forward, but Jim Bob stayed close to Gus who, being rather shy, stayed in the far back corner of the cage.
"Mrs. Shortbread," the vet said, "these are the kittens that were brought to me this morning. Why not look and see if one of them might be right for you."
"That fluffy white one is absolutely perfect," said the woman. "She reminds me of my beautiful Splenda when she was just a baby. Does she already have a name?"
Excerpted from "Gus and the Invisible Friend"
Copyright © 2017 Caryl Z. Sweet.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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.
Table of Contents
1. Faylene, 2,
2. Family, 5,
3. The Surprise, 8,
4. Names, 12,
5. Making a Plan, 15,
6. Hide and Seek, 18,
7. Adoption, 20,
8. Sunday, 23,
9. Two to Go, 25,
10. All Alone, 27,
11. A Home At Last, 30,
12. Wrapped, 32,
13. Afloat, 34,
14. The Truce, 38,
15. A Palmetto Bug, 43,
16. Lee Roy, 46,
17. Lee Roy Pushes the Button, 50,
18. Gus Asks For Help, 54,
19. Ask Mama, 58,
20. Callie, 62,
21. The Swing Bridge, 66,
22. Finding Gus, 68,
23. Callie's Escape, 71,
24. Toby, 75,
25. Dwayne, 79,
26. Jim Bob, 82,
27. Sugar, 85,
28. Free, 89,
29. Jim Bob's Quest, 93,
30. Grace, 96,
31. Missing, 100,
32. The Search, 104,
33. Signs of a Struggle, 107,
34. Grace's Story, 112,
35. The Search Continues, 114,
36. The Problem, 116,
37. More Signs, 118,
38. Search Party, 121,
39. Jim Bob's Story, 127,
40. What to do, 129,
41. A Better Plan, 133,
42. Reunited, 138,
List of Illustrations, 148,
Author's Note, 150,