Advance Praise for Kat Tales
"If you enjoy hearing about animals getting the best of Katy Brown as much as I do, then you'll LOVE this book!"
-Brad McElhinny, Managing Editor
The Charleston Daily Mail
Life is anything but tame.
It's true that essayist Kathryn Brown knows how to tell a story. What's especially interesting is that Katy's success as an independent published author began with her amusing Facebook posts, considered a daily comic strip by her readers.
In her first book of non-fiction, Kat Tales, a memoir of life with animals, you'll discover for yourself how Katy's creativity runs wild! Each adventure is laugh-out- loud funny, from a dangerous raccoon that she couldn't get rid of, to a pair of intruders that she couldn't wait to catch. Katy describes through vivid detail how even the smallest pet can turn into the biggest worry.
Katy's humorous criticism of her own life is highlighted by dueling dialogues and awkward attempts to explain her way out of wacky situations. Kat Tales may be a collection of short stories, but it's every bit of a reality show in print! If you loved Lucy, then you'll adore Katy.
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Read an Excerpt
Kat TalesStories of a house ... broken
By Kathryn E. Brown
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Kathryn E. Brown
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHare Raising
In Greenbrier County, one of the most serene and beautiful places in West Virginia, there was a special shade tree in the middle of the state fairgrounds where some of my relatives flocked to people-watch. They'd claim the bench by the tree early in the day to sit and observe all walks of life, considered more entertaining than whatever country music band was performing live on the main stage.
I'm not a huge fan of any summertime fair because I can't stand the heat and humidity, but I do enjoy strolling through the barns to look at blue-ribbon cows and goats. The barn reminds me of Charlotte's Web - young Ferns and Averies sitting on bales of hay nodding to visitors as they stop and stare; Wilburs standing at "Some Pig" attention, while large, gray spiders hover overhead. For two weeks in late August, there is no better place to take in the oddities of human behavior than at the fair, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
I'm grateful the circus-like atmosphere between the animals and their owners doesn't have to end when we get in the car and drive two hours back to Charleston. I can pick up where we left off at the fairgrounds just by standing in line at a supermarket, sitting in the waiting room at a doctor's office, or leaning against the counter at the veterinary clinic. Now, this is the place where you can see it all ... the fanatical and the freakish.
During one morning while my daughters were in school, I hauled their rabbit named Butterscotch to our neighborhood animal hospital for a toenail trim. Butterscotch, reportedly a subcompact breed not to exceed two pounds, was really a Flemish Giant weighing in at a whopping 13 pounds and requiring a handmade, two-story habitat to provide enough room for his outstretched length. He barely fit into a cardboard carrier, traditionally used for smaller breed dogs and miniature versions of animals such as dwarf rabbits. Fifty-cent piece holes had been chewed into the diameter of a porthole, reminiscent of my mother's 1957 Ford Thunderbird. Thankfully, Butterscotch still couldn't squeeze through the circular opening.
Butterscotch was a gift to my daughter, Ava, who had survived the first week of kindergarten by crying only four of the five days. My husband, Mike and I told her that we would buy the pet of her choice if she would please stop crying. We took Ava to the nearest pet shop and let her snoop around, bypassing dogs and cats, dodging the reptiles and ducking to avoid the flapping hostility of green parakeets. She discovered a large, glass tank full of fluffy, baby bunnies hopping around and sniffing the air in search of foolish, uniformed parents.
Ava spotted a "red" rabbit huddled in a corner of the tank, and with tears in her blue eyes, she started worrying about how alone the little fellow looked. Thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents later, Ava was the proud owner of this little bunny, and $159 dollars later, Mike and I were in possession of a starter kit and all of the necessary items to keep her new pet happy. Butterscotch was the love of Ava's life for approximately two days until she developed an allergic reaction to his fur. That's when the largest rabbit ever deceptively marketed became my hare to care for.
To be perfectly honest, I'm familiar with owning a rabbit. When I was about ten years old, a friend of mine announced that her solid black rabbit similarly named Buttercup would be set free if her mommy and daddy couldn't find a home for him. I sprinted three blocks to my own home, sobbing the entire way and preparing to argue my case that this helpless animal needed to be rescued from his cramped wooden box and small wire window. (I now see a trend here.)
Reluctantly, my dad issued an exasperated, "Oh, all right," and lit a cigarette as if he were going off to war. And I was going along with him. That evening, I opened Buttercup's cage and pulled him out in the same manner in which I lugged around my elderly cat. Limp and agreeable, the cat never protested my awkward handling of him, but Buttercup wasn't as boneless. As soon as I snuggled him to my chest, his exposed back feet began to kick, fighting their way toward freedom. I screamed like a banshee but refused to drop my new pet that I fought so hard to save.
My mother rushed out the back door and gasped when she saw blood seeping through my tee shirt. Gashes that extended from my neck to my sternum resembled the expert slicing of Freddy Krueger's razorblade fingernails. I cried out in pain as I tried to subdue the rabbit that was hanging upside down, thrashing to escape his inexperienced captor.
My father then emerged from the house, a familiar cigarette dangling from his bottom lip, muttering "Oh my God," as he grabbed Buttercup and tossed him back in the cage. "I knew this would be a damned mistake!" he exclaimed, ashes falling onto his white golf shirt.
One of the most bizarre behaviors parents can display is how willing they are to make the same mistake twice for the sake of their children's happiness. After a few nights of hard work, Buttercup successfully dug an escape route from his pen to the vast green grasses of our neighbor's yard. My father had built a run for Buttercup, which wrapped around the side of our house, but the gentleman farmer had forgotten to put a proper floor in the design. An older woman who lived by herself in the house next to ours slept all day and sat on her front porch all night, which was convenient because she noticed Buttercup hopping around the yard in the early morning darkness. Our telephone rang at that ungodly hour, which usually meant that someone had died or was well on his or her way. My father answered the phone using his angry voice, an option he selected when he wanted to scare off prank callers.
"Mistah Brown? I think ya daughter's rabbit is loose. He's hidin' under Missus Brown's cah."
"Okey dokey," my dad replied, choosing his chipper voice. "We'll take care of it!"
He slammed the receiver down and mumbled a barrage of four-lettered words and compound phrases. "Damned mistake," he muttered again.
This is the time when my father should have used expert judgment and given the rabbit his blessing to continue hopping into the wild blue yonder. Instead, he pulled on his dress pants, stuffed his bare feet into wing-tipped shoes and searched the yard over for my bunny. I never knew exactly how he trapped the rabbit and returned him to the pen that would soon be remodeled to contain a reinforced floorboard. But, the next day, when my mother and I were headed to the grocery store, I noticed something orange reflected in the passenger side mirror. As we pulled away, I counted at least a dozen carrots scattered on the gravel pad.
Donning pale scars on my chest some thirty years later, I find myself to be a tad smarter, recognizing the commitment it takes to provide for an animal. I also maintain the practice of keeping a rabbit's nails a safe, laceration-free length, even if it does cost $2.00 per toe.
So here I am now, standing in the vet's office requesting a toenail trim for le petit lapin. Warned that it would be a while before an exotic pet specialist could see us, I stood by the registration desk because the house was full. Squalling cats arched their backs in carriers; a Doberman Pinscher salivated to sink its teeth into a creamy Maltese, taunted by the red bow in its hair; a couple of ferrets romped in the box next to ours, capturing the attention of a toddler who had to be told numerous times "not to touch them things ... them weasels can bite 'cha."
I turned my attention to the main entrance; double doors kicked open by a woman banging the glass with an oversized crate that appeared too cumbersome to handle alone. The woman smiled when we made eye contact as she set the obviously heavy container onto the floor. Its weight shifted from one corner to the other. The woman adjusted her coat and smoothed the flyaway blond hairs from her face, which was flushed from the chilly wind ... or possibly frustrated by the contents in her possession. The desk attendant looked up. "May I help you, ma'am?"
The woman's voice was slightly unsteady as she explained why she was there.
"I don't have an appointment to see a doctor, but as I was driving to work, I noticed a stray cat limping on the side of the road, so I stopped and picked it up and brought it here. He's in really bad shape," she said.
"So the cat isn't yours?" the receptionist asked, a question that was carefully phrased to assess if the woman intended to pay for services or drop the crate and make a run for it.
"No, he's not mine. There's no collar and there weren't any houses around, so I guess someone dumped him," she explained.
The receptionist began filling out a form on a clipboard, looking up every now and then to ask for more information as it pertained to the cat with one paw in the grave.
"Can you tell what his injuries might be?" the receptionist continued.
The woman nodded her head and curled her upper lip as she began describing what the animal may have endured during his time in the wild.
"Well," she stammered, "His fur is really dirty, really matted and kind of gray. I think he used to be white. Oh, and he can only turn his head one way."
Those of us in the waiting room, or should I say, those of us in the audience, leaned forward to hear more about the half-dead cat that couldn't make a left turn.
The receptionist looked concerned. "Ma'am, how did you get him here? A stray cat can be dangerous. Were you scratched or bitten? You know there's always a threat of rabies."
The woman continued to smile brightly as if the receptionist had asked a ridiculous question. "Oh no, he was fine," she insisted. "But I thought of that, and luckily I had a carrier in the back of my car, so I was able to drive with him. I also had a shovel, and that's what I used to nudge him into the crate."
I stood in jealous awe of this woman, as it took me nearly thirty minutes to get a rabbit bound in a bath towel into a cardboard box. Obviously, my animal could turn its head in two directions and kick the fire out of its owner whereas her new pet seemed to have some sort of feline paralysis, but I still envied her trapping skills. The receptionist narrowed her eyes at the woman, forming a perfect goal post of two deep wrinkles between her brows. A shovel?
"He might have been hit by a car," the woman added. "He's in terrible condition and I don't think he's gonna make it. In fact, I thought he was almost dead when I scooped him up."
The receptionist pressed a button on a telephone and spoke into the receiver. She announced over the intercom that a technician needed to report to the reception area immediately. The woman looked at all of us sitting and standing in absolute amazement. The cat hadn't uttered a sound since arriving on the scene – no painful cries for help, no hissing, no scratching – no proof of life or signs of death. The woman's story captivated each one of us in the room, including the animals waiting for checkups and annual vaccines. We simply had to see for ourselves what this cat looked like.
A moment or two later, a vet tech wearing surgical scrubs and an identification tag on a beaded chain around his neck walked into the reception area. He picked up the clipboard and scanned the data, seeming most unimpressed with his next case. He slapped the board down on the counter and let out a deep sigh.
"Ok, ma'am, let's see whatcha got here."
He squatted down and peered into the window of the crate. He then leaned in closer to get a better look, lifting the carrier to allow the ceiling lights to shine into the darkened cave. The vet tech placed the carrier back on the floor, folded his hands, dropped his chin and shook his head slowly.
"What is it?" the woman asked anxiously. Her smile drooped into a frown of dread. All of her hard work was for nothing. Her enlarged heart, full of care and concern, would be broken as soon as the vet tech uttered the words she hoped she wouldn't hear.
"Ma'am, you don't have a feral cat. You picked up a possum."
The woman's face froze in its down-turned position. Pet owners fought to hide snorts of amusement and muffled explosions of laughter. Still leaning over the counter waiting for my rabbit's pedicure, I covered my mouth with my hand to conceal my own expression. The woman looked at me as if she were searching for a friend.
"It happens," I stammered. "Short ears, pointy nose, beady eyes, a dirty coat ... a tail with no fur ... fangs ... plays dead ..."
The vet tech stood up and asked what the woman wanted the clinic to do for her giant cat-rat.
"Uh, I dunno," she answered with less concern in her voice. "Do y'all take these things?"
The receptionist pointed to a sign that asked for donations in exchange for medical treatment of wild or endangered animals. The woman nodded and said that would be fine, and she pulled out her checkbook to make a donation to the marsupial fund. I bet she has a nice coyote for a lap dog, another woman snickered.
The vet tech picked up a second clipboard and reviewed the information before calling out "BUTTERSCOTCH" for the entire room to hear. This time, all beady eyes were fixed on me.
I spun around. "Yes, that's me. I mean, that us," I said, still wiping the stupid grin off my face from the last ten minutes of priceless entertainment.
He looked at my battered carrier, the cardboard cutouts now shredded into larger, jagged ovals. "What do we have here?" he asked, assuming his next case might be as surprising as the last.
"He's here for a toenail trim," I repeated. "Oh, you mean what is it? Butterscotch is a rabbit."
The vet tech scrunched his face and cocked his head to one side. "Are you sure?" he asked.
I remembered the "DWARF RABBIT" sign taped to the glass container of bunnies in the strip mall pet shop, and then handed the unusually heavy box to him. The animal inside presented firm ears, skinny limbs, whiskers, jagged nails, long teeth, a full stomach and sturdy, pounding feet.
"On second thought, you'd better take a closer look. It may be a kangaroo."
"Wilbur, I forbid you to faint." – Charlotte A. Cavatica
Chapter TwoAnimal Husbandry
Despite the hilarity of the moment, I really had no reason to laugh at the woman and her possum. Not too long ago, I found myself equally confused by an animal in our house, which produced an entire afternoon of panic that prompted multiple calls to an emergency hotline. It's surprising that I had so much trouble stuffing a rabbit into a cardboard carrier when I managed to trap other wild beasts in our basement without trying. Well, I trapped them without true knowledge.
When my husband and I were engaged (yes, I managed to catch a man, too), we bought a house before we booked a honeymoon. We looked in various neighborhoods in Charleston, deciding that we should find a home in an area that was as neutral as Switzerland. We agreed not to live near either one of our families out of fairness to the other. This left two areas of the city to choose from - the expensive one and the inexpensive one. Swallowing an ambitious mortgage payment during a time when interest rates were not that attractive, we moved into a desired part of our hometown with high hopes for our future, not expecting to have the police department on speed dial.
The crime division of the city police department seemed to have our number, too. When I called the phone company to establish service, I asked the customer representative to assign a number to us that would be easy to remember. He understood my request and remarked quite simply, "This one looks like a goodie."
That goodie of a home telephone number was once held by a suspect high on the authorities' "Most Wanted" list. Throughout the day, the phone would ring and I would answer, my perky greeting met with deep doubt. I'm sorry, but this is the Brown residence. There's no one by that gentleman's name at this number. Apparently, the detectives weren't so sure that the suspect's answering service wasn't harboring a fugitive, because they called at least once a day for more than a month. Sorry, but he still doesn't live here!
Excerpted from Kat Tales by Kathryn E. Brown Copyright © 2012 by Kathryn E. Brown. 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.
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Table of Contents
The Tale of Two Betties....................31
I C M P N....................51
Excerpt from Diary of a Grumpy Mom....................89
About the Author....................93