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, November 25, 2012

Chuck Is Almost Caught by Ex-Nun in Pastry Shop

View of the land surrounding Erice

            I don’t pretend to be an expert in ancient history.  
But once you’ve spent a few hours in Erice, you can’t help but want to know more about how people used to live.  The place itself entices you to wander around and listen to the stories that beg to be told.  
So wander around, we did.
But first we did what every tourist does--we wandered down to the shops to see what we could buy and take back with us as a memento.  And there was one shop that caught our eye.  

The sunflower shop 
In Italy - you can not ride down a country road without passing a glorious field of sunflowers.  And by now everyone knows that sunflowers are so enchanting because they have this unique ability to open when the sun comes up and then twist their lovely faces around and follow the sun.  During the brightest part of the day, the sunflower looks magnificent in the field--especially when you are standing on the edge and gazing out over acres of them lined up--their faces, like human faces--tilted toward the sun.  As dusk descends, of course, their faces begin to droop and then close and that’s the saddest sight of all.  
But, here, in Erice, we spotted a shop devoted, it seemed, to sunflower plaques.  And that was a sight to behold!  

Sunflower plaques

Chuckie became immediately excited when he saw row after row of them outside the shop.  He admired them and sniffed them and put his paw down and demanded that we buy one as a memento to Erice.  Now that we needed to be persuaded!

More sunflower plaques
From the sunflower shop, we proceeded past one of the typical houses in Erice, where our guide pointed out how the townspeople used cow bones as a kind of gutter system to collect the fresh rain water.
Our guide pointing to the cow bones used to collect rain water

Then we visited the local church where we were hurled back in time.  As we stood and gazed around this ancient church, we learned that one of the customs in Erice was that a daughter from just about every family was “donated” to the church and became a nun.  Once they “joined” the convent, the only opportunity they had to see their family and the outside world again was from the balcony of the church.  They could look down from on high for their glimpse of the outside world.  But the exit door to return to the outside world was forever closed. 

Inside the church--notice the balconies--the only place where the cloistered nuns were allowed to see the real world

That story was the precursor for the next story we heard . . . rather a remarkable story really . . . about a young girl who was sent to the church when she was only 11 in the years following World War II because her parents were too poor to support her.  She was one of six children.  Fifteen years later she left the convent.  This is not a usual occurrence.  
This girl, Maria Grammatico, had learned to bake pastries while in the convent, and when she decided to leave, she opened up her own pastry shop in Erice.  She used the same traditional recipes she’d acquired from the convent.  Ancient recipes.  
Her pasticceria is now world famous.  

The famous pastry shop of Maria Grammatico
We, of course, were obsessed with visiting that pastry shop and sampling her pastries.  
After all, we were travelling with the “almost famous” belly boy himself--Chuck.  
The pastry shop was mobbed.  
My original intention was to let Chuck out of my smart bag, but because there were lines and lines of people waiting to order, we had to quickly revise the plan.  Instead, Chuck peeked his head out and saw the operation.  He glimpsed the famous Maria Grammatico, who still works behind the counter, greeting the customers and posing for photos. 
And that moment could have been disastrous BECAUSE I am absolutely sure that she glimpsed him too.
I saw her do a double-take.
She craned her neck forward and her eyes widened.
In her upscale pastry shop??
Fortunately for us, there were so many people, that a few very rude tourists pushed their way in front of us and blocked Maria’s line of sight.  So her momentary glimpse of Chuck became just that -- a momentary glimpse.
She probably thought she was hallucinating.
I pushed the kid back into the bag.
When the line of sight was clear again, Chuck was nowhere to be seen.
And she was looking!
We were able to snag a table outside the shop and enjoy our pastries.  
And as we snacked down, we were very conscious that we were eating the same food made the same way for hundreds of years.  
Very cool!
But before we left Erice, we had one more stop to make . . . we wanted to see the ancient castles that were still left standing . . .more next week!
        Log onto www.katelutter.com to read more about Chuck and his rascal adventures!
        My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available in ebook and mass market paperback from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

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