Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chuck Picnics with the Lions

Lions, tigers, and bears.

Lions, tigers, and bears.

Lions . . .

My rascal cat Chuck has had a thing for getting in touch with his ancestors so while we were on safari in Africa he was on the look-out--at all times--for sightings of lions on the plains. He wanted to see one up close. Face to face. He wanted to look a lion in the eye.

And who knows what he thought would happen. Did he think they spoke the same language? Did he think that a lion would meow in greeting? Or did he just want to hear a lion roar?

But lions are difficult to spot.

For one thing, the grasses are tall on the plains in Kenya, and it is almost impossible to see a pride of lions slinking through the tall grasses. Their magnificent tan coats blend in well with the burnt out color on the plains, and unless the pride is camped out under a tree, in the shade, in a picnic spot, you can be within 100 feet of them and miss them completely.

We were shocked and dismayed at one point, while stopped in our safari vehicle observing a leopard, when we received an alert that a pride of lions was sauntering along--headed right towards us, in fact. Sure enough, within minutes, they walked on by, and we didn’t even see them until they appeared out of nowhere, strutting their stuff, cool and sophisticated past our vehicle.

One day in particular, on safari, we’d been riding around, and not having much luck spotting much of anything, when Steven, our driver announced it was time for lunch. He knew of a tree about twenty miles away that happened to be smack in the middle of the plains AND it happened to have a bunch of picnic tables underneath it. Yes, we would be having a picnic on the African plains.

So off we rode, chugging along on roads, riddled with potholes, that were not meant to be ridden on, getting hungrier by the minute.

I kept my eye on Chuckie, who sat in my lap, staring out, scanning for that tree.

We rode and rode, and I knew that the Chuckster was getting hungrier and hungrier.

“We’re getting closer,” Steven yelled back into the vehicle.

I heard Chuckie’s tummy grumble.

“I can see the tree now,” Steve called.

Chuckie straightened and leaned his head out the window. I knew what he was thinking. He’d be the first one out, the first one to the food. The kid had no manners when it came to chowing down.

Finally, Steven turned off the main path, and we slowed as we wound our way toward the tree. I could see that the grasses under the tree were greener because of the shade. I tightened my grasp on Chuck. He began to wrestle with me.

“Behave yourself,” I hissed.

After the incident with the leopard in the tree, I would have thought Chuck learned his lesson--never just jump out of the safari vehicle until you check what might be up the tree, until you check that it is SAFE.

The vehicle stopped. Chuck broke free and leapt onto the grass, obviously without looking.

Then I saw them.

An entire pride of lions were fast asleep underneath the tree--sprawled out everywhere--some on the grass, some on the benches, some near the fire pit. They were taking their afternoon siesta. And my Chuckie had jumped directly into the center of the action. My little Chuckie.

“What the hell is that cat doing there?” Steven whispered, a bit too loudly, I thought.

Chuckie stayed absolutely still. It took him two seconds to realize the danger. His ancestors were not about to provide him with any heartfelt welcome. In fact, I figured Chuck had about 30 seconds to get out of there before one of his ancestors woke up and devoured him alive.

But the poor kid was scared out of his wits and paralyzed.

It seemed as if the air stilled on the entire African plain.

I heard Steven open the door of the safari vehicle.

“C’mon, Chuck,” I heard myself praying, “Do something.”

Someone must have nudged him on the shoulder for it was as if he suddenly awoke. He began to moonwalk backwards so quietly you saw it but didn’t hear it. Then he swiveled and quicker than a jackrabbit, jumped back into the vehicle.

I pulled him close to me and didn’t say a word.

Oh, there were plenty of things I wanted to say, but why rub it in it. If the kid hadn’t learned his lesson this time around . . . no, the most important thing was the kid had made it back alive.

To read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto to my website: www.katelutter.com.

Wild Point Island -- soon to be released 2012.

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