Adventures of a Hemingway Cat
There is no turning back for Buffett, a seven-toed cat, after he escapes from a popular Key West cat show. Frustrated by the vicious teasing of other cats for his deformed paws and inability to perform tricks, he decides to search for the Hemingway House, a place where polydactyl cats can live in peace. When
Gil, a mysterious pirate cat, gives him a gold treasure link, Buffett is drawn into encounters with several out-of-the-ordinary animals. He learns about a community rich in history, yet also challenged by environmental issues that endanger the lives of some of the animals who befriend him. But all is not as it seems. He discovers the existence of the Alliance, a secret group of cats who also wear gold treasure links. As evil villains and challenges test his courage, Buffett discovers the secrets of his past and a destiny he could not have imagined.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.37(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Adventures of a Hemingway Cat
By MEREDITH EASTWOOD
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Meredith Eastwood
All rights reserved.
Brilliant shades of red highlighted the sky as the sun sank behind the small islands off Mallory Square. Buffett, an orange cat not yet a year old, sat in his cage waiting to perform. Peering out between the bars, he saw humans swarming around the stage where the nightly cat show took place. His show was one of several acts that lined the pier at sunset.
Suddenly he heard a click, and the door to his cage swung open. Tonight could be my chance to escape, he thought.
Trembling with dread, he stepped onto the dock and crept toward the trainer, where he joined three other housecats. The trainer coaxed the two older ones toward the circus-style stage props. For the most spectacular stunts, the trainer used athletic cats—ones who could jump to platforms, climb ropes, or leap through hoops of fire. Buffett knew he would never be one of those cats.
He sighed and gazed down at the extra toes on his large paws. Why can't my paws be normal?
Tiger, a gray striped tabby, shoved him aside. "Hey, Big Foot, stop gawking and get out of my way. It's time for me to do my trick."
Soon it would be Buffett's turn to do his first trick, retrieving a catnip mouse the trainer threw near the children in the audience. But when Buffett tried to do his second trick, he felt like a fool. The audience laughed at him when he couldn't jump high enough to reach the stools where the other cats sat.
"I'm not going to be laughed at again," he said, watching Tiger strut toward the tallest stool with a black padded seat.
Buffett scanned the noisy crowd. Knowing there was not much time, he dashed behind the rows of folding chairs and crouched beneath one farthest from the trainer. He peeked through a pair of sunburned legs and glanced at the ocean. There was only one way to freedom. And it wasn't by leaping off the concrete pier and plunging into a sea filled with sailboats. He bolted in the opposite direction and raced past the throngs of tourists. He had no idea where he was going, but there was no turning back.
Crossing the small bridge that connected the site of the cat show to a larger dock, he threaded his way through the slow-moving humans. It was impossible to see the other entertainers, but he heard screams of delight from the crowd. There were rumors among the cats that the humans did great stunts. But the cats knew their show was one of the most popular attractions. Buffett remembered all the hours of practice it took for a cat to learn just one amazing trick.
At the end of the walkway, the humans wandered off in different directions. Buffett could finally see where he was going. Bewildered about which way to turn, he surveyed the large, crowded courtyard. In the area closest to him, several scruffy cats were pacing around an old bearded man as he diced up fish on a stained wooden board.
"Batcat, give me six," the man directed, reaching his hand toward a black-and-white cat with a masked face.
Batcat pawed the man's hand. The man instantly rewarded him with a morsel of the freshly cut fish. Then he yelled to the other cats, encouraging them to do simple, crowd-pleasing tricks. Beaming a toothless grin for their efforts, he tossed pieces of diced fish toward each one. A bucket meant for donations stood next to his feet.
Buffett watched Batcat strut around twitching his whiskers and swishing his tail.
In a matter of minutes, Batcat returned his gaze and called out to him. "Hi there, little buddy! Come join us. We're free-range cats."
Buffett crept toward the handsome cat. "I ... I'm just passing by. I don't want to mess up your act."
Batcat stretched his sleek body forward and shrugged. "No problem. Our show's not planned. We just do what we feel like doing. The old guy loves us and feeds us no matter what. Say, you look sorta lost like you're looking for something. Maybe a home for those six-toed paws?"
"I'm tired of cats picking on me about my paws," Buffett growled.
Batcat sauntered closer to Buffett. "No offense intended, little buddy. I've got the same paws. I think they're cool." The masked cat held up his large, six-toed paw and stroked a shiny gold ring hanging from his collar.
"Wow, you've got extra toes like me!" Buffett exclaimed. "And I thought I was the only one. Are there more like us?"
"Yeah," Batcat replied. "I heard there's a whole bunch of us special cats on the other side of the island. They live behind a tall brick wall in an old writer's house. The humans call the place the Hemingway House."
"How ... how can we get to that house?" Buffett asked.
"I'm not sure," Batcat replied. "You might ask Scully the parrot, over near Duval Street. He knows everything about this town."
"You ... you mean you haven't gone to this Hemingway House yourself?" Buffett asked.
"I don't want to leave Mallory Square," Batcat said. "The company's good, and you can't beat the food. And the humans who come to watch us are really funny. You know, you could stay with us."
Buffett pondered Batcat's offer. The masked cat did have extra toes on his paws. But if Buffett stayed near the sunset performers, the cat trainer might find him. More importantly, he was curious about the special cats that lived at the writer's house.
So Buffett answered without reservation, "I don't think I'd fit in here either. But thanks for the offer. I think I'll try to find that Hemingway House."
"Take care, young buddy," Batcat said, pawing Buffett's neck. "We'll be here if you change your mind. Oh ... and watch out for the nasty cat, Nubis, who prowls around the island."
Buffett nodded without listening to Batcat's warning. Now he had a destination, a place that could be his real home. Yet he was puzzled about why Batcat chose to stay with the old man when he could live with other six-toed cats like himself.
Not wanting to be seen again, Buffett slunk past flashy performers and peddlers: sword swallowers, fire eaters, singers, fortune tellers, tightrope walkers, craftsmen, artists, and food venders. The cats at his show used to talk about Sunset Celebration and the crazy humans who came to the pier each night. But tonight he was too confused by the chaos of the noisy crowd to care about such things.
As he turned away from the waterfront, he spotted a life-size statue of a silver man. He ran toward its platform base, hoping to hide behind it. Unexpectedly, the statue began to move, and the crowds clapped and cheered. Terrified, Buffett darted across the brick yard into the dock's market. Sponges, toys, shells, T-shirts, and endless knickknacks crammed the shops.
"There has to be a safe place somewhere," he moaned.
He crawled under a display in one of the booths and inched past stacks of baskets toward what looked like an exit. Once out of the market, he paused between the legs of a mammoth statue made entirely of sponges, and he exhaled with relief. Then he looked across the courtyard at the numerous small shops and kiosks. Humans were forming a line at the entrance to the Key West Aquarium, a tourist attraction he had heard about.
"I can't stay here," he said, running toward the side of a brick alley teeming with cars, bikes, and motor scooters.
Exhausted, he finally made his way to a sidewalk. Seeing what looked like a quieter place on the other side of the street, he leaped off the curb.
The Strongest Cat in Town
Hogtail had been watching the small orange cat slink around the tourist shops piled with souvenirs. The cat had zigzagged along a congested alley toward the main street and was now looking in his direction. But it didn't seem to see him or the traffic. Hogtail knew he had to do something before the cat got smashed into the pavement.
"Hey, what're you doing?" he called. "You can't cross the street at this time of night."
The orange cat didn't hear his warning and darted into street. Hogtail wasn't very fast, but he was the strongest cat in town, and he had his reputation to protect. He dove into the street. With one paw, he lifted the cat off his feet and threw him onto the sidewalk before sliding there himself. A slight breeze fluttered against Hogtail's backside as a long vehicle zoomed by, missing him by inches.
"Moron!" he yelled, waving his powerful paw at the driver.
As he bent over the half-conscious cat lying on the sidewalk, Hogtail felt his face wrinkle with concern. He recognized this cat. He had known Buffett since he was born. But he kept his thoughts hidden. "Are you okay?"
Buffett lifted his head. "Yeah, I think so."
"Didn't you see that Conch Train?"
Buffett grimaced and looked up at Hogtail. "Huh ... what's a Conch Train? What happened? Who ... who are you?"
"One question at a time. My name's Hogtail. You're lucky you didn't get run over by that vehicle full of tourists. I yanked you out of the way just in the nick of time. But you bumped your head pretty hard."
"Uh ... you don't look quite right for a cat," Buffett gasped. "Your face is scarred and you're so big. And ... and your tail ... I mean you don't have a tail."
Hogtail knew his appearance could be a little scary. Like a wild cat, the thickest part of his brownish coat stood out around his neck like a mane. But the most alarming thing about his body was the fact that he had a small stub instead of a cat's long tail.
He peered into Buffett's gold eyes. "Yeah, I know I look a little different, but I assure you I'm a cat, a Manx cat. Manx cats don't have tails. By the way, I just saved your life."
"Mr. Hogtail, th-thanks. My name's Buffett. I just came from Mallory Square, and I'm a bit confused. I even saw a statue move back at the pier."
"Yeah, that's statue man ... just an act. He paints himself up every night and doesn't move until someone puts money in his jar. Enough now. I'd better get you off the sidewalk."
Hogtail led Buffett a short distance through a black iron gate and along a concrete walkway to an area where humans were seated at tables. Buffett stopped and turned toward the smell of food.
Hogtail nudged him toward a staircase. "They'll kick you out of here if they even think you might beg for food. Quick, let's go this way."
Buffett followed Hogtail as he climbed the splintered stairs to the top floor of an old building. When they reached a porch overlooking the street, Buffett crawled to the edge of the deck and peered down on the humans below.
"This is so cool!" Buffett exclaimed.
"It's my home," Hogtail said, grinning. "A perfect spot for a cat to keep an eye on things. Hey, look over here, dinner's arrived."
Buffett turned toward the exterior wall of the building, where he spotted two bowls. He crept toward the wall, stopped and sniffed. Expanding the toes on his right paw, he stretched forward and touched the rim of the first bowl. He edged closer and sniffed again. "It smells really good," he said.
Hogtail pawed Buffett's shoulder. "Go on, young friend, eat up. And there's fresh water in the other bowl."
After Buffett gobbled most of the food in the bowl, he slumped onto the moldy wood planks.
Hogtail licked the bowl clean. Then he flopped down under one of the ceiling fans suspended from the roof over the porch and began licking the coarse fur around his oversized chest. After an uneasy silence, Hogtail looked at Buffett with concern. It was important to be careful about what he said until he figured out what Buffett remembered about his father.
"Buffett, where did you come from?"
"Well ... uh ... for as long as I can remember I ... I've been with the cat trainer," Buffett stammered. "You know ... the one who teaches cats to do tricks for the shows at sunset."
Hogtail frowned. "The show's legendary, and the trainer loves his cats. Where else can ordinary house cats perform tricks for crowds of humans except here in Key West? You're obviously a runaway. Why would you leave? All the cats in the show are stars and even have their pictures on T-shirts."
"Mr. Hogtail, I didn't belong there. The other cats made fun of me, especially Tiger. They called me mean names like Klutz Cat and Big Foot. If you'll look closely ... uh ... right here," Buffett said, holding up his right paw, "I have extra toes on my front paws. None of the other cats in the show had toes like mine. My paws are deformed."
Hogtail touched a gold ring on his collar. "I know what it's like to be teased. I don't have extra toes, but when I was young I got teased for not having a tail."
Buffett thrust his jaw out. "Uh ... I had another problem. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do the tricks. I wanted to be like the other cats that jumped to the padded seats of the tall stools. They looked like they were flying through the air. But I could barely claw to the top and grip the slippery fabric with my toes. I ended up hanging there like a fool. And ... and then I would lose my grip and fall to the ground. The humans and cats both laughed at me."
"I'm sorry," Hogtail said. "But surely the cat trainer helped you."
Moisture welled in Buffett's eyes. "When I first arrived at the cat trainer's home, I was excited about becoming a star. The trainer encouraged me. He said I was still just a kitten. But I got tired of the other cats making fun of me. They should have been my friends!"
Hogtail shook his head. "Do you have family in town?"
"Do you mean a mother or father?"
Hogtail grinned. "Yeah, that's what I meant."
"I ... I don't remember my parents, and I can't remember anything before arriving at the cat trainer's house. I don't even remember how I got there. But sometimes I have dreams about hiding in a sea grape bush and being real scared."
Hogtail remembered Buffett as a kitten hiding in the sea grape bush. "You're still young," he said. "In time you'll figure it out. It took guts to go off on your own."
"I felt ... uh ... desperate, I guess the word is. I didn't fit in at the show. So, I left without thinking. Now I'm all alone."
"Then you must want to find your parents."
"Yeah," Buffet said. "I heard from Batcat at Mallory Square about the Hemingway House, where there are special cats who have toes like mine. I'm going to find that place. I hope the cats that live there will be my friends, and maybe my parents will be there too."
Hogtail didn't like the thought of an important cat like Buffett wandering around town alone. Now that Buffett had left the safety of the cat show, something had to be done. Gil, the pirate cat, would know what to do.
"I've seen young cats like you do something rash and live to regret it," he said. "But you have a goal in mind, so you might ask Gil, who's a friend of mine, to help you. He hangs out on the next street near the treasure museum." Hogtail closed his eyes as his face dropped onto his paws.
Buffett yawned and caught his head falling forward. "Uh ... Hogtail, will you help me find the museum where Gil lives?" Buffett asked.
"Huh? Oh ... yeah. We'll leave here in the morning when it's still cool, and there aren't too many humans around. Right now, we'd better get some sleep.
Early the next morning, Buffet and Hogtail slipped under the T-shirts in the gift shop attached to the restaurant and ducked out the door onto a quiet street. Creeping along the sidewalk past a courtyard filled with palms and bushes, they spotted a bearded man with long, dirty hair and ragged clothes asleep on the cement. Buffett sniffed the sandals that lay next to his feet.
"Come on," Hogtail said. "We have to keep going."
When they came to the corner, Hogtail nudged him to the right. "Okay, this is where we say good-bye. Go to the end of this sidewalk. Then cross the street and climb the brick steps. When you spot two cannons you'll know you're in front of the museum. Start looking for an old gray cat. He'll probably be sleeping near the entrance to the building."
"I've heard about cannons," Buffett said. "The cats in the show used to talk about pirates, ships, and lost gold treasures."
"A surprise waits for you," Hogtail said, pawing Buffett's head.
Lord of the Links
Gil was dozing under a banyan tree next to his favorite museum. Just as the sun broke through the clouds, he opened his one good eye and began lapping his thick, charcoal gray fur. He delighted in projecting a roguish image by wearing a black patch over his other eye, the one blinded while on one of his many daring adventures. He halted his grooming when he sensed movement from his backside. He rotated his head just as a young orange cat padded up next to him.
"Whoa, kid, don't sneak up on me like that. I can't see so well from my right. It's my blind side."
"Oops, I'm sorry. I didn't know. Uh ... are you Gil? Hogtail sent me. Is this the treasure museum? I saw the cannons by the steps."
Gil couldn't believe it. He thought Buffett was safely hidden with the cat trainer. But instead the kid stood in front of him, his legs shaking. Gil needed time to think about what to do. So he decided to pretend he didn't know him.
"Yep, I'm Gil. And the museum's official name is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Inside the building, guides tell tourists about the treasures from really old shipwrecks in the Florida Keys. One of the most famous stories is about the search for a lost Spanish ship named Atocha. Hundreds of years ago it sank near Key West during a bad storm. Several years before I was born, a man named Mel Fisher discovered it after searching for sixteen years. It was loaded with over $400 million in gold and silver treasure."
Buffett's face brightened. "Is that a lot?"
"More than most humans can comprehend. Hundreds of years ago, too many for cats to imagine, European explorers stole gold and silver from Indians who lived in Central and South America. The explorers loaded their ships with the loot and sailed back across the sea, navigating near Key West. Many of the ships were sunk by storms. Some ships have been found, but humans are still searching for others and the treasures lost underwater."
Buffett yawned. "Uh ... all that history sounds kinda interesting. But why are you hanging around here?"
"I love stories about pirate's treasure. I inherited some from my family. Maybe I can find more treasure someday. A cat can have a dream. Life should be like that. You know, following a dream."
"I know about dreams," Buffett said. "I have one too. I want to find the Hemingway House, the place for six-toed cats, where I won't feel like a freak."
"Yeah, kid, I noticed your front paws. They're really big, especially the right one, the one with the seven toes."
"I always hope no one will notice that paw," mumbled Buffett. "It's bad enough having six toes. I wanted to forget about my extra toes and run away. And that's what I did."
Excerpted from Treasure Link by MEREDITH EASTWOOD. Copyright © 2013 Meredith Eastwood. 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
Chapter 1 Sunset Celebration.................... 1
Chapter 2 The Strongest Cat in Town.................... 7
Chapter 3 Lord of the Links.................... 13
Chapter 4 Parrots Really Can Talk.................... 19
Chapter 5 A Hero's Quest.................... 27
Chapter 6 Have Faith and Believe.................... 33
Chapter 7 Bullies.................... 39
Chapter 8 Catnapped by the Trolley.................... 45
Chapter 9 Does It Really Matter?.................... 51
Chapter 10 Schooner's Harbor.................... 57
Chapter 11 Too Much to Swallow.................... 63
Chapter 12 Fish 'n' Friends.................... 71
Chapter 13 The Rat's Greed, A Cat's Craft.................... 75
Chapter 14 A Wild Ferry Ride.................... 79
Chapter 15 My Name Is Not Mudd!.................... 85
Chapter 16 Flying Is for the Birds.................... 93
Chapter 17 Pepe's Problem.................... 101
Chapter 18 Say No.................... 105
Chapter 19 Unlikely Rescue.................... 111
Chapter 20 Hiding Out in a Parking Garage.................... 117
Chapter 21 Buffett Finds His Courage.................... 125
Chapter 22 Tiger Changes His Stripes.................... 133
Chapter 23 The Alliance.................... 137
Chapter 24 A Final Secret Revealed.................... 143
Chapter 25 The Reunion.................... 149