The second in the Blueskin series reveals the Lore of Cats. Blueskin meets Little Wolf, a terrier, and together they trek across Califonia to save the City of the Cats from thieves. They are helped by Wynimi, a Washoe child, make friends with three horses, discover things about themselves they never knew and find the fabled city hidden in a valley between the mountains. There they fight to preserve its secret and Blueskin learns thinks about himself than he never thought possible.
Paperback. 132 pages. Full colour artwork by Gabriela Sepulveda.
£9.00 Amazon UK
$11.50 Barnes&Noble USA
Widely available online and from your local book store: ISBN 978-1-908867-0-94
The Waylaid Cat
It was a hot Thursday morning in July 1743, a few days walk inland from the Californian coast. A land fabled to hold so much gold you couldn’t find it all
in three lifetimes. There were still:
Hundreds of fabulous, secret places to be discovered in the world.
Flocks of carrier pigeons so countless they took three days to pass across the American sky.
Millions of buffalo roaming the plains.
Hundreds of thousands of American Indians who didn’t know what a television was.
Clean oceans, unclimbed mountains, undiscovered islands and, in the middle of it all, one blue cat.
The cat’s name was Blueskin. A cat who didn’t care for gold as he had no use for it, even though he had more than three lifetimes to go looking.
Unknown to him he was about to meet a ‘terriertorial’ terrier who went by the name of Little Wolf. The idea of meeting a dog was far from Blueskin’s mind as he made his way through California with his tail flicking away the flies, his paws warmed by the soft soil under the short grass.
He rubbed himself along the ground to get rid of the biting midges. They tasted like feet smell. Not that, as a cat, he wasn’t used to strange smells. The
number of things he could smell made his head spin and caused not a few sneezes, one or two grimaces and one cough that turned into a spit and a plaintiff meow. That had been the smell of a lizard’s breath after it had eaten more midges than was good for anyone’s breakfast. Blueskin was thirsty. Trailblazing across America was hot work.
He heard the high but strong bark of a Jack Russell terrier. He immediately knew it had one brown ear, one brown eye, weighed in at fifteen pounds three
ounces and needed to have its claws cut. He didn’t tell this from her bark. The bark just made him jump, raise all the hairs on his back and spit very quickly, which was actually pretty much how he reacted when he was attacked from the side even before he had been reincarnated as a cat. No, he knew all this because he just glimpsed the dog bounding towards him across the rocks, her tongue slightly hanging out and her eyes shining like pure, brown gemstones, before she slammed into his side, stuck her wet nose into his left eye, stopped and said,
“I don’t suppose you wanna fight?”
Blueskin, who was really too hot to care, slid away from her. She smelled of fish, canoes, furs and gunpowder mixed with mud, sweat, a few tears and
root vegetables. The last thing she smelled of was dog. He eyed her up for toughness.
“Only if you want to lose an eye.”
Little Wolf wagged her tail, “Say bud, your accent’s cute. You ain’t American.”
“What would I have to do to be American?”
“I don’t think anyone knows yet.”
“Then why assume I’m not American?”
“You didn’t fight me.”
“Is that unusual?”
“Everyone here fights, some with words some with fists but they all have a go.”
“I didn’t know. I only arrived recently, after a shipwreck.”
“You should really take up my offer of a fight. It’s good to get your claws out when you’re a stranger. Lets other cats know you can’t be pushed around.”
“I’ve no wish to have much to do with other cats.”
“I didn’t become a cat by choice.”
Little Wolf sniffed Blueskin’s whiskers.
“Whose choice was it?” she asked, quizzically.
“I’ve no idea. I was once a man.”
“By the ancestors of the Yokut, the canoes of the Chumash and the rivers of the Yuma, you’re one of those!”
“What exactly is one of those?”
Little Wolf scratched her ear with her back foot before answering,
“Sorry about sounding so surprised but you’re my first. I’ve heard of animals who were human but I never … well you don’t do you. I mean most of them
don’t last that long. It takes time to get the hang of being an animal and they just don’t get it before snap, they’re dessert. Me, I’ve always been a dog.
Got the knack of it you might say. Couldn’t ever change even if I wanted to. My ancestors have been dogs for eighteen thousand years. Would you like to
hear the names of my ancestors?”
“I could think of better ways to spend a year of my life.”
“We should move. You’re walking right into a blizzard of midges. They’ll play hell with our skin.”
“Lead the way.”
“I didn’t think there were any like you in the New World.”
“Must be neat to be original. Mind you, bud, there aren’t that many of me. I’m a new breed called Jack Russell. I prefer Little Wolf by the way.”
“I should have guessed by the sheen on your fur.”
Little Wolf jumped deftly over three large stones which spanned a stream. Blueskin followed and lapped at the sparkling, cold water in the middle.
“What line were you in?”
“A crook? You’re going to fit into life around here
“I don’t need your vote of confidence.”
“Why not? Say, are you on a mission?”
“You believe in the rights of women?”
“I had no idea they needed any?”
“No, well you’re a guy, I can understand your ignorance. Going anywhere in particular?”
“I’m just looking around.”
“Ah,” said Little Wolf, picking up the trail of a raccoon with her wet, nosey nose, “lost.”
“I’m still getting my bearings.”
“And where exactly are your bearings going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Know what you’re looking for?”
“Not so as I could describe it.”
“Eaten anything since yesterday?”
“Now you mention it I could do with a good meal. I seem to be hungrier than I ever remember.”
“You’ll get used to that. Cats are great noshers. Meal every ten minutes. Meantime I know most of the villages hereabouts, if you need directions.”
“A minute ago all you wanted was a fight.”
“Nothing wrong with fighting or helping. They’re one and the same around these parts.”
“I only recall dogs hating cats.”
“No, you recall dogs chasing cats. There’s a difference. Besides this is the New World. Some people do the same things but give it a different
name but we, well,” she cocked an ear, “we can try to do things better. We might get along bud, might even be friends.”
“Might we?” Blueskin wasn’t convinced but he had to admit having someone show him where the food was would be very useful.
“Well it’s a big country. I guess there’s room for both of us.”
“That’s the spirit,” she barked.
“I still think like a man sometimes.”
“Try to get out of the habit.”
“Won’t it help?”
“Nope. There ain’t an animal around that can’t out-think a person. Just can’t get away from their weapons. That’s their big advantage.”
“I never thought about it that way before.”
“There’s a lot you’ll have to think about. Smells you have to get used too, tricks of the trade to survive, if you haven’t already learned them. Now lets eat.”
“Downstream aways. There’s a small trading house built by the Spanish. It’s a funny sort of a place but if you’re quick you can usually get a bite before they fling something dangerous at you.”
“You want me to eat scraps?”
“We can’t be choosy.” She lent her mouth to his ear and whispered, “There’s people around here who would have us for their main course.”
“That was true back in England.”
They arrived at a canoe bobbing about on the riverside, tied by a thick rope to the thick trunk of a tree hanging out over the running water. It smelled
of skins, oils, wet boots and a man who had not washed in three months. Most of the smells that were on Little Wolf came from this canoe.
“This your canoe?”
“Nope. It belongs to Claude, my French companion.”
“You’re owned by a Frenchman? They’re enemies of England.”
“Maybe, but not of dogs.”
“I won’t share a boat with a Frenchman.”
“I won’t enjoy this.”
“Listen bud, take friends where you find them otherwise you’ll have no friends at all.”
“I think I should avoid people all together, it’s safer.”
“What, and miss out on the fun! How else could you have a white water ride? Besides if you don’t get help you’ll never find the City of the Cats.”
“How,” said Blueskin darkly, “did you know about that?”
“Oh a blue cat in the middle of California on a Thursday in 1743, what else could you be looking for?
“I don’t know.”
“To tell the truth I’ve been on your trail half the night. Claude tied up yesterday morning and he trades with the Yuma. I met the medicine man. We
get along fine. He asked me to look out for you. Say hi and all that. But he didn’t tell me half of it. Beats my butt you were once a person. For a new cat you walk light mind you, your trail was tough to crack. ”
“He told you about the City of the Cats?”
“Glory be, no. Everyone is looking for lost cities. The lions have a lost Den; gorillas have a whole country they can’t find. The badgers have been
looking for their lost Sett for a thousand years. If we look around for a while we might get to your lost city. Anything for a bit of adventure and a good reason to dig a few holes.”
“Well,” boomed a voice from the depths of a beard, large moustache and face half hidden with animal skins, all of which made him look like a bear
and stink like a manure pit.
“You wouldn’t believe what he’s got hidden under that lot,” said Little Wolf.
“I don’t want to know.”
“I zee I am not ze only one with ze eye for ze animal? Bonjour mon ami, pleazed to meet you monsieur bleu cat. I make the hand shake with ze
cat and zen I sit down.”
Claude patted Blueskin on the head with a huge, dirty hand flattening Blueskin’s face into the watery bottom of the canoe which smelled of fish and . . .
UGH the man had been urinating into it. Claude dumped the skins in the canoe. He then picked Little Wolf up and stroked her stomach
and the dog actually licked the man’s moustache. Blueskin was disgusted.
“Come,” said Claude, picking them both up and putting them on top of the skins, “The Yuba is flowing fast we must go. I need some trade today.”
He stroked Blueskin again more softly and a tingle went through him from his whiskers to his tail. He stretched even though he didn’t want to and a deep
purr came from his throat.
“Haha! Zis iz a fine cat you find, non? Fine cat. Magnifique! We must keep the devils away from him or they will add hiz coat to their furs.”
He gave Blueskin a slice of fresh, uncooked fish. Steering the canoe with a single oar the powerful Frenchman took them swiftly down river to the
towns Little Wolf had spoken about. Claude sang as they went and Blueskin, warmed by the sun, curled up on the furs and watched half asleep as the fish
flashed silver in the water. The motion of the canoe on the fast but calm water lapped at his thoughts.
He slept remembering the warnings of the medicine man that death stalked all those who sought for the City of the Cats and to beware, for
the New World would have many unexpected traps put in place to stop him.
Then he snored a little and woke himself up to see Little Wolf eating the head of a fish and Claude spitting the tobacco he had chewed into the river
My kind of people, he thought.