I thought I’d start out this writer’s blog with a little serial fiction. I will also be posting about my path to finding an agent and a publisher, but I wanted to lead with something more interesting! Tales from the Shelter will be a recurring series here, and it’s intended for children of all ages.
You can also check out my other blog, The Bright Side.
Many amazing animals make their temporary homes at animal shelters. This is the story of Lewis, a cat who came to a shelter after a thrilling adventure on the high seas.
You can be part of the next adventure of an animal in need of a home by becoming their adoptive family.
Tales from the Shelter # 1: Lewis The Pirate Cat
Lewis the cat had not intended to be a pirate. He’d planned quite a different life, actually, a life on a farm in beautiful southeast Iowa. Living in Iowa was better than a life at sea in many ways. For example, in Iowa there weren’t sailing ships that creaked and cracked dreadfully in the middle of the open ocean. Ships were supposed to keep the water out, not to open up holes in themselves and welcome the sea inside. And yet, the ship that Lewis found himself on right at this moment, the Dick Whittington, was not exactly following those rules.
It was the storm, of course. They were in the middle of a terrible blow, which battered the poor ship mercilessly. From the skies came torrential rain that made it difficult to even see past one’s own whiskers. And the wind was so loud, so crazed. Honestly, there couldn’t be much difference, Lewis thought, between being soaked by this much rain and simply being dropped into the open ocean. And was that going to be his fate? he wondered. Was the Whittington going to deliver them all into a watery grave?
It all came from having dreams that were too big, Lewis admitted to himself now. His life in Iowa had been pleasant, even through the harsh winters that froze the pads on his paws as he traipsed through the laneways of the farm. Winter nights had been spent by the soothing warmth of a fireplace, curled up on a cotton pillow. Lewis missed that pillow now, more than he’d ever thought he could. Why had he gone to sea? Why had he sat on the fence by the cow pasture, looking out at the fields until he could imagine that the gently sloping hills were not made of dark green mint, but of sparkling blue ocean waves?
That steady fence had been by far a safer place than this poor wooden ship where he now found himself. And gentle waves? Those were a false promise that lured naive cats away from the security of solid ground. When it stormed on the farm, there was always shelter, for the cats and for the cows. A blizzard could howl and Lewis would still have been curled up by the fireplace enjoying a dignified, pleasant tongue-bath, not the sideways flood of salt water and rain that were soaking his black and white fur now. Oh why had he ever gone to sea?
Lewis stood silently on the deck of the Whittington. There was no reason to make any noise now, no cause to cry. The wind shrieked loudly enough to express the regret that was in Lewis’s heart. The rigging of the ship groaned with such melancholy that it spoke for Lewis’s grieving soul. And the shrill, terrified crying of the–
Lewis broke out of his self-pitying reverie with a start. What on the ship could make such a noise as that, a shrill crying? It sounded like tiny voices.
It was tiny voices.
Here and there, in the snatches of wind that blew past Lewis’s ears, he could make it out. It was not the ship. It was the kittens! Captain Rogers’ three grandchildren!
Lewis let go of the railing he’d been clinging to and bounded across the deck of the ship. He passed by a couple of other cats. It was hard to even see who they were as the ship pitched beneath them, and as the wind blew hard enough into Lewis’s face that he had to half close his eyes. Fortunately, his ears were more reliable. Lewis had the best hearing on the whole ship. He’d been quite proud of that. Maybe it had come from years of work on the farm, where he’d had to learn to track the cows across the wide fields by the sound of their lowing. In any case, at this moment his hearing was proving itself more useful than ever before. As he crossed the deck, the tiny cries of the kittens grew louder. But suddenly Lewis found himself at the very edge of the ship. The kittens–he could still hear them–out beyond the ship! The kittens were in the water! They had been swept into the sea!
Lewis sprang across the deck to the lifeboat that was lashed against the wheelhouse. He sank the claws of his back feet into the wooden decking and with the claws on his front feet he slashed through the ropes that held the lifeboat down. The heavy boat started to move immediately, sliding across the deck as the ship pitched in the waves. It was all Lewis could do to follow the boat’s path as it crashed across the deck and into the sea below. It landed upright and Lewis stopped once more at the railing. For a moment, he turned back to the decks of the Whittington, and he screamed at the top of his lungs. “Lifeboat away! Come and join us, lads! Captain Rogers! Sailors!”
There was no answer that even Lewis’s ears could pick out, and so there was only one thing left for him to do. Lewis leaped out into the storm, leaving behind, perhaps forever, the reassuring bulk of the ship that had become his home. The wind shoved him violently as he fell, but by some miracle, Lewis’s outstretched claws found purchase in the hard wood of the lifeboat that was waiting for him. And he immediately realized that he was not alone. A tiny soaked bundle of fur was curled into the lowest part of the boat, still crying as loudly as before. It was Blackie, one of the kittens!
Lewis yelled to him over the wind. “Blackie! Thank heavens! Where are your brother and sister?”
Blackie must have too exhausted to answer, all his strength spent in his desperate climb into the lifeboat by himself. But at least he stopped his weeping, reassured by Lewis’s presence. Lewis peered over the edge of the lifeboat into the rain and wind, twitching his ears from back to front. The little boat bounced violently in the waves, making it hard to even look for the other two tiny creatures that were out there somewhere. And then a flash of white–Lewis didn’t dare hesitate and risk losing sight of the little soul. He leaped into the storm once again, but this time, he crashed down into open ocean. Water immediately went into Lewis’s mouth and up his nose. He coughed and sputtered it back out again. Where was she? And then, a miracle–he caught sight once more of that tiny white speck. Lewis lunged forward, paddling as best he could in the crazed waves until he’d reached Snow and managed to gently grasp her by the nape of her neck. And then, a second miracle–Snow was not alone. She and her brother Grey had managed to stay together through the storm. Lewis hooked a paw around Grey and started paddling 3-footed for the lifeboat. It seemed ages before he could get close, but surely enough, his frantic swimming made some headway and at last he reached the relative safety of a tiny boat in the wide, stormy ocean. With nearly his last strength, Lewis tossed the two kittens aboard and then climbed in himself. The three bedraggled fuzz-balls in the boat crawled together for comfort and warmth, and Lewis settled himself against them. He was no drier than they were, but at least he could provide some heat and protection from the wind.
The little boat bounced along in the waves and Lewis peered out into the storm as best he could, searching once more. But this time, he couldn’t find what he was looking for. The Dick Whittington had gone, lost below the waves. All that remained now was the tiny lifeboat with four souls aboard.
Chapter 2 will be posted next week!