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, October 7, 2012

Chuck Almost Drowns in the Canal

Here's a shot of the canal, the main thoroughfare through the "water town."

             Before you feel too sorry for Chuck.  Before you imagine Chuck, who could have had a wild time in Shanghai, lying face down on his bed--because he ate too many snacks--just remember that Chuck is often the cause of his own difficulties.
It’s true that the next morning we flew out of the Shanghai airport for home.  We said goodbye to China.
I neglected to mention that when we were in China, we didn’t always visit big cities--Beijing and Xian and Shanghai--we also wanted to see how the Chinese lived in smaller towns.  
      So we made a stop in a very interesting little town outside of Shanghai called Zhujiajiao, which is called the “water town” because a number of rivers intersect through the town. The town itself is over 1700 years old, but amazingly enough archaeologists have discovered artifacts dating back over 5,000 years.
This town is also known for its canals and for its 36 stone bridges that cross over the canals.  

One of the 36 historic stone bridges that cross the canal

Along the canals there are ancient rice shops, spice shops, and even a post office that dates back to the Qing dynasty.  Approximately 60,000 people live in the town.  There is also a Buddhist temple, of course. 

The Buddhist Temple

And, as you may already suspect, Chuck wasn’t interested in the history.  He wanted to see this “water town” for two reasons. 
He wanted a ride on one of the canal boats AND he’d heard there was this cool little shop along the canal that sold cat figurines and he wanted to bring something back for Ella, his sister.  

The upscale shop that sells "everything a cat lover wants"

He likes boats, and even though he can’t swim and he’s not a fan of water, he does like to “hang out,” and drift down a river.
Well, it all seemed innocent enough. The plan was simple--we’d ride down the canal in one of the canal boats, and we’d stop off at the cute little cat shop we’d heard about.  
What could go wrong?
We completely missed clue number one that could have alerted us to impending disaster.  When we arrived, we walked into the town along the street and passed a number of “merchants,” ahem, farmers who were selling their wares along the street.  In this particular case, this particular farmer had chickens for sale--live chickens--and one suspected that if you were interested in buying one for dinner, he would have either chopped its head off or strangled it right there in the street.

The "chicken man" who was on the street--that Chuck became fascinated with . . .

We didn’t see that.  This is pure speculation, but Chuck was mesmerized by the live chickens.  He didn’t want to leave.  
That was our clue that the curious boy was, maybe, a bit too curious.
When we arrived at the canal boat, we climbed in and took our seats.
      Now these are not fancy boats.  They are made of wood.  They are small and close to the water, so close in fact that you can dip your hand in if you want, and they resemble oversized canoes with a cloth stretched over the top that serves as the roof.  They are propelled by sheer human force using an oversized wooden paddle. 

A good shot of the canal boats and the oversized paddles that propel them

We set off down the canal, past the restaurants and the shops.  But Chuck was not noticing any of that.  His gaze was directed downward toward the water.  Toward the fish that were swimming up to the surface as we were meandering by.
Chuck inched closer to the side to get a better look, and frankly, I didn’t think anything of it.
I saw the fish, and remembered that when we’re at home, Chuck had impecable eyesight when it comes to spotting small flies and bugs that land on the wall or floor.  And then he won’t rest until he captures them.  

If you look carefully, you can almost see the fish that almost lured Chuck into the water

When Chuck inched even closer and bent over the side of the canal boat, an alarm should have gone off in my head--an alarm of danger--but it didn’t.  It seems a school of fish were swimming alongside the boat and popping up--ever so often--just often enough to make Chuck think that he might have a shot at grabbing one of them.
For a fat kid, he’s fast.
Then it happened.  He leaned a bit too far over.  
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a fish leap out of the water, close to the side of the boat.  Chuck leaned out to swipe at the fish.  He teetered outward, as if he were going to fall into the water.
I was sitting there, and suddenly a shiver shot down my spine.
“Chuck,” I screamed as I reached out and grabbed the nape of his neck.
As I tell it, it was just in time. 
The kid would have fallen into the canal.  
And then what would have happened?  Chuck can’t swim.  Would he and his big belly have sunk to the bottom of the canal?  Would I have been able to reach him in time to rescue him?
“No fish is worth it,” I said to him.
But it wasn’t the fish, it was the adventure.  That’s how kids are.  They want the challenge.  Chuck was not a happy camper until the boat landed.
At least now he was able to buy his sister the cutest Chinese “Good Luck” cat that she now has hanging where she sleeps at night.  

Oh, yeah, we're back home.  Here's Ella and her new "Good Luck" cat that Chuck bought for her.

And even Chuck had to admit, Zhujiajiao, the water town, was pretty cool.

      If you'd like to read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com   

      Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  

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