CATS AND CHARACTERS

You may have noticed that in various ways my website pay homage to cats. My do everything book guru, Anita Moore, has sprinkled a kitty silhouette in the margins and included a sketch of a kitty sitting on a desk that I drew years ago.

This shared affinity for felines is not just a coincidence. Anita reviewed The Gene Police and noted that the book featured cats in various scenes:

Oh, and Shep has cats…lots of cats; just a few more creatures in need of help that he doesn’t turn away. These critters end up being a fun addition to the book too. I don’t say that just because I love cats (don’t judge me) but because they become tertiary characters due to how Mr. Light treats them.

A character’s reaction to an animal or an animal’s reaction to a character adds depth to a story. For example, in Lonesome Song, the fact of Reilly Heartwood’s death is made more real by the reaction of a cat:

The open casket was at the end of the room. A stray beam of sunlight danced across Reilly’s waxen face. I watched as a male tabby cat appeared on the closed end of the coffin. He walked confidently toward Reilly’s head, his tail raised in a question mark. When the cat was half way across the coffin, his gait slowed and his tail twitched nervously. He continued to move forward in a crouched position, until he came to the edge of the opening. The cat stepped gingerly on Reilly’s chest, his head bobbing as he took in the scent of the dead body. He looked up, his mouth open—it was the feline’s way of tasting what he had inhaled. A moment later, he was on the floor, scurrying away. I could see by the fluff of his tail that he had encountered something frightening. I wondered if the brave tabby would spread the news to the others that Reilly had used up his nine lives and was no longer of this earth.

In Chain Thinking, Shep refers to the cruel treatment of a cat to question the relationship of humans with God:

Howard Doring had justified testing on animals by declaring that humans were made in the image of God. …. How about the sick person who coaxed a lovable old cat like Van Gogh to approach, then violently slashed off his ear? I thought ofVan Gogh and how he had probably run happily to the human who called to him. I imagined how he swiped his attacker, a feline gesture that means “good to see you.” I wondered what Van Gogh would say about humans, to humans, if he could speak. How do humans, knowing the cruelty we as a species are capable of, stake claim to such a relationship with the Supreme Being?

In The Gene Police, cats again are used to reveal the troubled nature of the character Willet:

“I know who you are,” replied Willet angrily. “I’m not stupid. I’m just fucked up. Paranoid delusions and tremors.” He nodded as if confirming a thought. “Yeah. I took drugs. Fucked me up good.” With his gun, he motioned toward the bunkhouse and Robbie and I turned and walked to the door. As we stepped inside, Willet yelled, “Hands on your head!”

A moment later, the four kitties surrounded his feet.

“They won’t hurt you,” I said.

“I know that. People hurt people. People hurt animals. I prefer the company of cats to any humans I’ve met.” To my surprise, he knelt down and rubbed each cat behind the ears. I considered tackling and disarming him, but I was afraid I might break all his bones.

Willet put the gun down and slid it over to where I was standing. “I don’t know if the gun actually works. Anyway, it’s not loaded. I can’t afford bullets.” Willet laughed as one of the cats butted its head into his chin. “These creatures calm me. They tell me something about you. I think I’m okay for the moment.”  

Cover Art for Throwaways by Elliott Light

In Throwaways, cats provide a brief insight into the thinking of a traumatized girl:

The living room was a small space made more so by an odd collection of furniture, cat trees, and scratching posts. Kizzy was sitting in the middle of the floor, the object of attention of three kittens vying for ownership of her head and shoulders. The yarn attracted the attention of an orange tabby cat who chased and batted at it enthusiastically.

I sat on the floor a few feet from Kizzy and cast the yarn in her direction. “I call this cat fishing,” I said. “You want to try it?”

For a moment, Kizzy ignored me. Then she grabbed the end of the string and pulled it toward her. The three kittens and the tabby gave chase. She smiled as they took turns pouncing on it, falling over, and chasing it again.

“Do the kitties have names?” I asked.

Kizzy looked at me, making eye contact for only a moment. She pointed at a gray-striped kitten. “That’s Daniel. I had a brother named Daniel. The black kitten is Licorice. Daniel was always eating it. It made his tongue black. The girl kitten is a calico cat. I don’t have a name for her yet. And the orange kitty is Trouble. That’s his name because he’s always climbing the curtains or pushing things off counters. He may be my favorite.”

“Did Alicia like to play with cats?”

Photo by
Andrea Marciani

A scowl flashed across Kizzy’s face. She scrambled to her feet. “I want to leave.”

Like many folks, I observe the interaction of humans and animals without conscious effort. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites pictures. What does this say about me?

For more information about Lonesome Song, Chain Thinking, The Gene Police click here. Learn more about Throwaways by clicking here.

Writing a book? Need a graphic design? Check out Anita Moore’s website and services at www.cyber-bytz.com. She does cover art, interior formatting for print and digital books and can walk you the entire way through the publishing process!

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