By Devin O’Branagan
My name is Talisman, I am an Australian Shepherd, and I’m the heroine of my own book, SHOW DOG SINGS THE BLUES by Devin O’Branagan. In it, I—a fabulously beautiful and pampered show dog—must risk life, limb, and a really great pedicure to save a baby lamb. However, I heard of another book named SHELVE UNDER C: A TALE OF USED BOOKS AND CATS by Jenny Kalahar wherein a Calico kitty named Buglit makes quite a splash as a hero, super cat, and saint. Intrigued, I asked Devin to read me the book about two rescued cats, Buglit and Stomper, who live in a used bookstore while awaiting adoption. It was wonderful! So, I asked Devin if I could interview them..
Buglit and Stomper sat companionably together in sunny silence, looking out of the front door. The sliver of air that glided in under the door seemed freshly-washed and new. Buglit crouched low, twitching her nose to breathe those wonderful scents in deeply.
Stomper was tempted to lower his nose, too, but instead flung a front paw over his hip to start his morning bath in an ill thought-out attempt to look busy. He wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings, however, and when he flopped back too far while licking near his tail, he flopped into a tall stack of heavy encyclopedias that were by the door with a sign that said “Free — Please Take”.
The stack leaned and slid, and then suddenly – CRASH! The big books came down over Stomper so fast that he didn’t have a chance to move out of the way. And then there he was, flattened at the bottom of that heap, startled and hurt, and also quite trapped!
“Yeeeoooowwww!” cried Stomper, though his call for help was muffled by the open pages of volume L that he was now wearing like a giant hat.
Buglit was unhurt. She had jumped out of the way just in time. After scampering all around the shop in panic, she stood up on the red sofa, breathing hard and staring wide-eyed at the one paw that was sticking out of that huge mass of books. Stomper grunted and pushed, but he couldn’t budge an inch. The books were just too heavy!
The only bits of the silver cat that could be seen were half of his tail, a paw, and the tips of a few of his whiskers. Bug jumped down to lick Stomper’s paw (something he would never have allowed under normal circumstances), until he eventually calmed enough to retract his claws. He stopped yowling in fright, but let out a pitiful mew every few seconds to ensure that he wouldn’t be forgotten.
Outside, a young man in a blue uniform who was carrying a delivery for the art gallery down the street heard the commotion. Stopping to look in through the front door, he saw Stomper’s tail and paw within that mass of books. He yanked on the door, trying to get inside to help, but it was locked tight. Two elderly ladies wearing matching yellow track suits paused in their morning walk, wondering what was happening in the bookstore. They also took turns at trying to open the door.
Stomper, hearing the door being jiggled, struggled again and let out several long mews.
Buglit moved from Stomper’s paw to walk around the pile. Putting her head down, she pushed as hard as she could against a book near his tail. It barely moved. It was blocked by other volumes at its corners. She stepped thoughtfully around to another spot and pushed there, finally managing to move books at the outer edges of the heap. Bit by bit, book by book, she shoved enough of them so that Stomper could at last free himself.
He stood shakily, walked a few wobbly steps to a clear patch of the floor, and then plopped on his side in exhaustion. Cheers and clapping noises arose from the sidewalk as the small crowd that had gathered there during Bug’s rescue all celebrated Stomper’s release.
“Woah! Did you see that?”
“I wish I had a camera!”
“Kitty! Look over here, kitty! Let me see how cute you are, kitty!”
“Three cheers for ‘Super Cat’!”
“‘Calico Hero’ to the rescue!”
“I can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it, Betty! Oh, where’s my phone? I gotta tell Ray!”
“Wait – I think I see someone coming. Yes . . . look!”
Just then Mr. and Mrs. O’Malley came into the main room from the hallway. They could hear the muffled shouting and wondered what had happened. When they got to the front room they saw the jumbled heap of encyclopedias, but couldn’t see any reason for all of the excitement.
After they gathered up the books to get them out of the way, Mack unlocked the door and was abruptly shoved aside by the two ladies in yellow. Then the whole group rushed in and jostled each other to be the first to pick up and pet the two surprised cats. Stomper was snuggled and called a “poor baby” and Buglit was passed around and praised as a “hero” and “sweetie” and “saint.”
* * *
Talisman to Buglit: You guys don’t talk in your book, but since I am a fellow animal, will you talk to me?
Buglit: Is this gonna be on TV?
Talisman: No, sorry.
Buglit: I drank orange juice once. It was awful!
Talisman: Will you tell us a little about that day you rescued Stomper from the book avalanche? How does it feel to be a Calico Hero; a Super Cat?
Buglit: Can I start by saying that, for a dog, you are so, so beautiful, Tali. Painted toenails! Cool! Oh, and thank you for this interview! Well, when I first saw those giant books start to slide I didn’t even think. I just dug into the floorboards with my own, unpainted nails and I hightailed it! When I stopped to see what had happened, there was Stomper. He was . . . a little bit pathetic. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than that poor Stomps needed to get un-squished. I shoved those books off of him as fast as I could while he moaned and complained about his left hip or his right elbow or whatever. It would’ve broken your heart to see him all squished like that, Tali. Pitiful!
Talisman to Stomper: How did it feel to be rescued by Buglit?
Stomper: I did not need “rescuing.” I was fine. Help was on the way and the O’Malleys would have freed me in no time. Don’t waste your minty-fresh dog breath interviewing the Bug. This is embarrassing. She thinks she’s going to be on television. Now, if you want to hear a story of real heroism, you should let me tell you about the time I didn’t eat for a whole seven hours. Seven! I’d like to see the Bug top that!
Talisman: [rolls eyes] Buglit, I read that you also saved Mrs. O’Malley from certain death! Here’s the scene for our enthralled readers:
A moment after the cat had sat down next to Elephant Gerald, a fly landed on Mrs. O’Malley’s chicken salad sandwich. Buglit’s golden eyes were wide with fascination as she hunched low to watch it eat. When her tail flicked, the insect soared away, and then quickly was back on the edge of the sandwich where the chicken salad oozed from the bread. Her tail flicked once more and the fly made a short swoop around the cash register and computer, only to land once again, determined to enjoy his new-found lunch.
Just when Mrs. O’Malley returned to the front room, still talking with the Hemingway collector on the phone, Buglit made her move and tackled the fly with one enormous pounce.
Down, down onto the floor went that long-awaited lunch. The cat also leapt to the floor, still thinking that she could attack the fly if it followed the chicken salad.
Now on the floor, the sandwich was open with the top bread slice off to one side. Something smelled odd. People food in general could be odd sometimes, and things like fruit and vegetables and bread had never appealed to Bug, but this smelled . . . wrong. It smelled like something she would definitely avoid eating if she had been a cat out in the wild, searching for stray things to survive on.
Though Mrs. O’Malley had seen Buglit knock her lunch off the counter with her own eyes, she was helpless to do anything about it while still tied up with that international call. By the time she had finished taking the phone order, Bug had dragged a small rug a short way along the floor and then had used it to ‘bury’ the sandwich. Then she stepped on the rug a few times and kicked it with her rear legs, further making the whole thing a big, inedible mess. The fly had been forgotten during the burial so it buzzed off, miraculously untouched.
After hanging up the phone, Mrs. O’Malley put a hand to her forehead and cried, “Bug! Buglit cat! What has gotten into you? You are so naughty, you bad, bad, bad kitty!”
Still unable to believe what she had just witnessed, Mrs. O’Malley bent and scooped up the rug and sandwich together, and put the whole disaster into a large plastic bag to wash when she got home.
By the tone of Mrs. O’Malley’s voice Buglit could tell that she had gotten herself into big trouble somehow, though she really couldn’t think of any reason. Attacking insects and flies was always a good thing in her former caregiver’s opinion. What had she done? And what was wrong with burying something that gave off a bad odor?
Buglit jumped onto the shelf of paper bags under the counter and decided to wait for peace to return to the bookstore.
After she washed the floor, Mrs. O’Malley sat again for another drink of water. She placed her notes about the sale of the Hemingway book near the computer and then scowled hungrily at nothing in particular.
Stomper walked down the hallway, feeling it was finally safe to leave the back room now that things had gotten quiet at last, but wheeled around again when Mr. O’Malley pushed frantically through the front door. Mack was so excited that he stumbled on an area rug on his run around the counter. Bending over with his hands on his knees, he panted right into Mrs. O’Malley’s face with an anxious look in his eyes.
“Mavis! Did you eat it? Did you eat lunch?”
She rolled her chair away from him, shocked and still very grouchy. “No. As a matter of fact, I just now was very cruelly prevented from having that pleasure. Why?” Then a sudden thought made her a little hopeful. “Hey! Did you bring me something else to eat? I’m starving! And . . . why are you so out of breath, anyway?”
Mr. O’Malley leaned back against a bookcase and then blew an airy whistle through his pursed lips. “Oh, good! Whew! I was so worried!” He panted a few more times and then continued. “Your favorite chicken salad brand has some very, very nasty bacteria running rampant in it! You’re supposed to throw it out or return it to the store. I just heard about it on the radio news a couple of minutes ago. Several people have gotten really sick. I nearly killed myself getting back here in time!”
Mrs. O’Malley sat with her mouth open, unable to speak. She looked stunned. She slumped forward and let her arms hang limply below the edge of her seat.
Mack stepped closer. “Mavis? Dear, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you okay? Did you already eat the salad? I thought you said that you were ‘cruelly prevented’ or whatever.”
She raised her eyes to meet her husband’s, swallowed, and then finally said, pointing, “That cat! That cat that is sitting right there under the counter. Buglit saved me! She must have known that the salad was bad. Cats have such sensitive noses, you know. I probably wouldn’t have smelled or tasted that it was bad or noticed there was anything wrong with the sandwich. She absolutely, positively saved me! Bug! Bug, baby!”
* * *
Talisman to Buglit: How did it feel to save your person from that poisoned chicken salad?
Buglit: Is that what all the fuss was about? I had no idea! All I knew was that her sandwich stunk. It smelled like a combination of that sickly yellow medicine people give you if you cough, that gross blue medicine they give you if you have an infection in your tooth, and a really old glob of mayo that’s been in the garbage for five days. But, it did have a hint of maybe some pretty good chicken that was tempting, so I sort of felt a tiny bit guilty about burying it under that nice rug.
Talisman: Stomper, would you care to comment?
Stomper: I believe I was off doing something productive that day. Napping in a rear window, most likely. I will admit that the Bug did, quite by accident, do the right thing. I probably wouldn’t have touched it, even if I had sensed that Mrs. O’Malley’s sandwich contents were spoiled. Unlike some cats, I would never, ever steal a person’s food. We have fresh water and a nice, high-quality kibble and that is more than enough for this cat!
Talisman and Buglit both erupt in hysterical laughter and ask that the following scene be included in this interview.
Buglit explains: This is what really happens at the bookstore when the O’Malleys go home for the night:
In a graceful leap Bug was on the chair again. She curled into a ball on the orange flower-patterned cushion and then covered her pink nose and white whiskers lightly with her tail. The cushion wasn’t warm and cozy like Mrs. O’Malley’s lap, but it would be comfortable enough for the night.
Soon she was sound asleep in the darkened bookstore.
An hour later, though, the tips of her ears were aglow in the yellow light from the mini refrigerator that Stomper had finally worked to open by himself.
The morning dragged on and on. There had been activity on the streets and sidewalks for hours before the cats finally heard a key turn in the lock of the rear door.
Stomper jerked awake with a guilty jolt and then he bumped the small refrigerator door closed with his forehead. He stretched this way and that, and then sat down again casually. His let his eyes go drowsy and then he tried hard to have a very innocent look on his face.
Mr. O’Malley leaned down to pat Buglit’s peach-and-cream colored head, laughing at her pleas for attention. He then put some yogurt and sandwiches into the refrigerator. Had he looked closer, he would have seen that half of a package of bratwurst was missing from the bottom shelf.
* * *
Stomper: I’ve been framed.
Talisman and Buglit: [roll their eyes]
Talisman: It’s been delightful to interview you both and I hope this is the beginning of a long friendship. In closing, Devin has a short review of the book that has made Buglit famous, and Stomper, infamous.
Devin’s review of SHELVE UNDER C: A TALE OF USED BOOKS AND CATS by Jenny Kalahar:
A Sweet Tale ~ 5 Stars This novel was truly delicious. It was much like eating a creamy chocolate mouse…um, mousse. Many animal-related stories, especially ones that revolve around rescue, are sad and difficult to read. Indeed, throughout the entire book my stomach was clenched just waiting for the other paw to drop. But, no, there were no negatives. I laughed out loud a few times and I shed at least one tear—a good tear. Very highly recommended!
Check it out on Amazon.
For many years, author Jenny Kalahar and her husband, Patrick, owned a used bookstore out of which they, in conjunction with their local animal shelter, fostered and found homes for more than 50 cats. This novel is the first of a planned series inspired by their experiences.
Devin O’Branagan is a bestselling author who writes novels about uncommon heroes. Her genres include young adult urban fantasy, paranormal thrillers, comic mysteries, and fiction about dogs and cats. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America, and many of her writing projects support animal rescue. Her books have been published by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books in English, Heyne Verlag in German, and Dogan Egmont in Turkish. All of her books are available in both print and eBook formats. Visit her website at DevinWrites.com, and check her out on Facebook and Twitter.