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, we concocted a plan to take Chuck with us--my husband and I--when we travel around the world, which we do frequently. Not an easy task. First, we have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when we arrive, we 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, March 25, 2012

Chuck Sees the Ocean and Becomes A Soggy Mess of Fur




The rascal cat is a real fan of the Jersey Shore.

No, not those crazy kids who have been on reality TV for the last five years or so--burning up the TV tube with their antics. Dare I say Snookie?

I’m referring to the real Jersey shore--the physical entity of land and water--the beautiful waves that crest along the beach--the mythical reality that predates reality TV, the Jersey shore that Bruce Springsteen used to sing about.

That’s the Jersey shore that most Jerseyans know and are proud of, not the parody it has become on national TV.

Oh well, that’s another story.

Down in Atlantic City, traipsing along the famed boardwalk, Chuckie caught his first glimpse of the Jersey shore, the moment we headed out of a certain casino. He could smell the delicious salt water and feel the breeze that blew in from the ocean, but let’s face it, the boardwalk provided plenty of distractions for a rascal cat.

On the way back from out tarot card reading, however, I walked him over to where he could get a real glimpse of the ocean.

There is nothing better, and if you are guardian to a cat, even if he’s a rascal cat, you know what I mean by this--there is nothing better than to watch when a cat goes into that state of awareness--I call it becoming MESMERIZED. He stared straight ahead, and, of course, began to sniff. Now when a cat sniffs, he puts all his energy into it. His nose twitches in the most delightful way. His whiskers move back and forth. He literally seems to inhale the air around him the way someone would inhale smoke from a Cuban cigar. They take it all in. And you just know that because cats are so sensitive to smell, that he is picking up so much information.

As a human, I smell salt and, maybe, some fish, but Chuckie, not doubt, can smell so many things--animals, and people and events that have occurred present and past.

He seems so content there, that I honestly do not anticipate what happens next.

But, just as I turn my head, look back to the boardwalk, because I hear some kind of music and it sounds like old-fashioned organ grinder music, Chuck leaps from my arms and onto the boards in front of us. Of course, he takes off--toward the ocean--the beach.

The curious kid just has to know what’s out there.

“Chuck.”

He ignores me.

The same old story.

“Chuck, come back here.

The kid, despite the fact that he has a belly, can scamper like the wind, and by this point, he flies past the gigantic WARNING SIGN that talks about dangerous rip tides and currents and is off the board and has plopped himself onto the sand. He stops immediately. He lifts first one paw, then another. He has never walked in sand before.

He is sniffing away. Distracted by all the smells, he slows down.

Thank God.

I move closer and I can almost put my hands on him, when he sprints forward toward the ocean.

Would the kid be dumb enough to run directly into the ocean?

No, I tell myself. Cats hate water. They hate getting wet.

But, honestly, Chuck, even though he has the tendency to be an over-groomer--Mr. Clean--doesn’t mind slopping around in dirty situations.

So there he goes--

And there it comes--

A WAVE.

“Chuck, watch out.”

The kids must have angels watching over him. He backs away literally at the last final second and avoids becoming totally soaked. Instead, the wave crashes near enough to scare the bejeebers out of him. Let’s just say he is SPRINKLED with salt water, his coat is dripping, and he retreats with that look in his eye like he’s had enough.

“Well,” I say, trying not to sound overly sarcastic, “this is the Jersey Shore. What do you think?”

No answer, of course.

And, now, he expects me to pick him up--a soggy mess of fur--and put him back in my smart bag and sneak him back into the hotel.

Gees.


Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go.  This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."  
       

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chuck Is On a Mission - In Search of PEZ




After the fortune telling incident, before we’d even made our way back to our hotel room, as we were strolling down the boardwalk in Atlantic City, one of the most famous cities on the east coast, Chuck, the rascal cat, had yet another idea.

So . . . imagine. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining brightly. And I’m almost beginning to totally enjoy myself. I’ve almost even forgotten our encounter with the tarot card reader and the crazy man in the casino. I glance at Chuck, and, yes, he seems to be enjoying himself. Because, as you know, CATS LOVE THE SUN.

But no sooner do I let relaxation course through me, than I sense that something is about to go wrong.

Chuck is pointing with his paw.

Because we are passing a store that I would have thought Chuck would have no interest in.

I am obviously wrong, of course.

He has that look in his eye, that stare that cats get when they spot a bird or a butterfly.

This time the Chuckster has spotted the sign that no one can miss as they saunter on by : IT’SUGAR.

I discovered this store last year when I was in Atlantic City with my sisters. It is the ultimate sugar fix-candy store, with literally every brand of candy you can imagine or remember gorging on when you were a kid. Even the mega-sized Hershey bars.

But Chuckie isn’t interested in “smoking” candy cigarettes to look cool or licking lollipops. Or munching on twizzlers or those dots that are pasted on those long sheets of paper that you have to tear off with your teeth.

As we sneak into the store -- and believe me, we really don’t have to do much sneaking because everyone in this story seems to be so totally mesmerized by the merchandize, I could’ve walked in with a 200 pound gorilla and no one would have noticed -- Chuckie scans all the shelves until he spots the only confection he’s truly interested in.

PEZ.


Now, it’s true. Cats don’t eat candy.

At least no cat I’ve ever lived with. They’ll sniff it and pretend interest, but when it comes right down to eating it, they’ll go for chicken, steak, lobster or salty potato chips anyday of the week.

So why was the kid so into PEZ?

Chuck and I made a beeline for the PEZ, and I did what any concerned guardian would do. I turned our casual outing into a history lesson.

“This candy,” I said to Chuck as he sat staring at the PEZ, “has a fascinating history. It was invented in 1927 in Vienna, Austria, as a breath mint.”

Since he didn’t stir or sigh, like he usually did, I kept on talking.
“In fact, the word PEZ comes from the German word peppermint: PfeffErminZ. That’s where the PEZ came from. Isn’t that interesting?”

Chuck leaned in closer, and I could tell he was looking at all the different types of dispensers.

“In 1935 they built a factory in Czechoslovakia to manufacture PEZ on a grander scale, but it wasn’t until 1948 that Oscar Uxa designed the first PEZ dispenser.”

Now, here I had the kid’s attention.

“That’s right. Before that, the candies came in just plain old wrappers. Anyway, the dispensers were meant to resemble cigarette lighters to encourage people to quit smoking.”

Chuck tilted his head. For all his bad habits, smoking wasn’t one of them.

“PEZ came to the United States in the 1950’s. Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Tweetie Bird were all on dispensers. Elvis. Star War figures. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. They added feet to the dispensers in the 1980‘s.”

Chuck looked really interested now.

I rambled on. “In fact, their slogan was: ‘YOU’RE NOT FAMOUS UNTIL YOU PUT YOUR HEAD ON A PEZ DISPENSER.’”

Chuck’s eyes lit up.

That’s when I realized what the kid wanted.

He wanted his head on a PEZ dispenser.

My almost famous cat.

Oh, Chuck. Just because you are star of a blog and your picture is on my website and sometimes, just sometimes people notice you . . .

“Maybe, someday you’ll be so famous you’ll get your head on a PEZ dispenser. But for now . . .” And I almost couldn’t bear to say the rest of it, for already the kid looked so dejected. He had his head down in his paws. “Oh, Chuck, for now, it’ll have to be just a dream. But someday, I promise, you’ll be on a PEZ dispenser, too.”

To learn more about PEZ: www.pez.com/history

And to learn more about Chuck log onto www.katelutter.com


Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go.  This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."  
       

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chuck Walks the Boards and Visits a Fortune Teller




And that is one thing I have grown accustomed to--as the official guardian of a rascal cat--Chuck always has another idea.

The kid is full of ideas.

Good ideas and bad ideas.

Now, as we were making our way back to our hotel room--ensconced in the escalator--after Chuck had squandered every penny of my twenty bucks playing the slots--he pushed a card out of my smart bag and it tumbled to the floor.

A calling card advertising a certain madame on the boardwalk. No, not that kind of madame. A tarot-card-reading-fortune-telling madame by the name of Sylvia. Sylvia?

Was the kid for real?

“Why?” We had this conversation the next early afternoon after we finally woke up. “Why do you need to have your fortune told? What is it you need to know?”

But, as usual, Chuck pretended not to hear me. He was too busy gazing out the large window that overlooked the ocean, fascinated by the waves that swept into shore. He had never seen the Jersey shore before. Or the ocean.

“We can spend the day on the beach,” I promised.

Chuck remained firm.

I know Chuck when he gets into one of his moods. He gets an idea in his head and he just won’t budge. Like hardened cement.

So, yeah, you guessed it. The next thing I knew, after lunch -- because the kid never misses a meal -- we were trekking down the Jersey boardwalk in search of Sylvia.

I half prayed that, perhaps, she had gone out of business. Or that we wouldn’t find her. But, unfortunately, she had a little storefront not too far from where we were staying with her name prominently displayed in front.

“SYLVIA. PSYCHIC READINGS. TAROT CARDS”

We were doomed, I thought. But then I had another thought. Maybe she would have some objection to doing a reading for a CAT. Oooh, things were looking brighter. After all, who could ever tell what a cat was thinking?

So, in I marched through the door, into the darkened hallway -- why are they always so dark -- and up to the counter. A woman stood there.

“Yes? Can I help you?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. I--”

“You want your fortune read?”

“I want a fortune read, but it isn’t for me. You see . . .” and I paused for dramatic effect. “It’s for . . . my CAT.”

I don’t know what I expected. But this woman -- Sylvia -- didn’t blink an eye. “Whatever. That will be ten dollars.”

And why should she care? After all, my fortune. Chuck’s fortune. It was the same ten dollars for two minutes worth of work.

“You can do a reading on a CAT?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Follow me.”

I was caught. Now I had to go through with it.

“I hope you’re happy,” I whispered to Chuck as I walked around the counter and into a corner room on the right.

“Put Chuck there,” she said.

Now that was spooky, because I hadn’t said his name at all, but I did what she wanted.

She pulled out a deck of cards, tarot cards, and like in the movies, began placing them down on the table in front of us.

“For this reading,” she said looking directly at Chuck, “The cards tell me three things.” Then she proceeded to stare at the cards. Touch one in particular. “Ah. You will live a long life. For a cat.” She almost smiled.

Then she fingered another card, and it was as if she was receiving special information through her fingertips. “You are lucky. You will be very healthy in your life. No major illnesses that I can see.”

She closed her eyes then and waved her hands over the cards that remained on the table. Settled on a third card. Her eyes popped open. “Ah. Now this is very interesting. A stranger will come into your life. A mysterious stranger. This is not always good news, my furry friend. But, luckily, in this situation, this stranger will bring you much happiness.”

I heaved a sigh of relief. At least from all this mumbo jumbo we had gotten good news.

After we left, as we walked back to our hotel room, I wondered if Chuck believed the fortune teller or not.

Personally, I was on the fence.

It didn’t seem possible that anyone could tell the future and yet, Sylvia had known Chuck’s name. And that freaked me out.

I hadn’t said his name. He wasn’t wearing his name anywhere on him.

And, literally, we had just shown up on her doorstep.

I reached the only obvious conclusion I could make -
Sylvia was either a real psychic or she was an incredibly good guesser.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chuck Plays the Slots And . . . Almost Loses His Fur




I don’t talk about it much, but the Chuckster is a Jersey boy, through and though. That is why March will be devoted to my fair state of New Jersey and most specifically to Atlantic City.

Recently, Chuckie decided he would pay a visit to the Jersey shore AND no, not to see if he could catch a glimpse of SNOOKIE--get that thought out of your head.

He’s more sophisticated than that.

The kid had compiled a list of typical touristy things to do.

And number one on that list was PLAY THE SLOT MACHINES.

Yeah, I know the Chuckster is way under age to play the slots, but let’s face it, considering Chuck is a cat, age was the least of his problems.

And because the casino was sure to be mega crowded, we figured it would take some careful calculations to sneak the belly boy into a rather famous casino down in AC so that no one would know he was there. We had to think long and hard about how we would accomplish such a feat.

I mean, no one brings their DOGS, OR CATS, OR HAMSTERS, for that matter with them, when they gamble. So this was going to be a first. I felt sure there were cameras-what I would call spy cameras--all over the joint. If Chuckie dared to peek out of my smart bag, he would have to be wearing some kind of disguise--floppy hat, anyone?

We talked this out at length before we walked into our preferred casino (which will remain nameless.)

“Okay, so here’s the plan,” I said to the kid, while we sat in our luxurious room on the 43rd floor overlooking the beautiful Atlantic City ocean. “Getting you down to the casino is no problem. I can walk in there. You’ll be hidden in my smart bag, as usual. Then I’ll find the least crowded slot machine.”

Chuckie tilted his head as if he were listening intently. Which was a good sign.

I continued. “But you’ll have to wear some kind of hat. A disguise.” Suddenly, a panicked look shot into his eyes.

“I know. This is not the way you imagined it, but the casino folks have spy cameras everywhere. Once you peek your head out, if they see you, you’ll get kicked out. You don’t want that to happen, right?”

A casual shrug from the kid let me know he was following my argument even if he wasn’t totally buying it.

“You can sit on my lap, get an eye-view, and use your paw to . . .” But we had already discussed how to play the slots.

D-TIME was three o’clock in the morning. I wasn’t thrilled about gambling in the pre-dawn, but it seemed reasonable to play with the least amount of people wandering around. And sure enough, our trip down the elevator was uneventful.

We walked through the lobby area and into the casino and no one gave us a second glance. Chuck is very disciplined in such moments, and barely uttered a whimper.

I was making my way to the back part of the casino, having scoped out the place the day before, looking for the least busy area, but in all honesty, at three o’clock, one place was as good as the next.

I plopped myself down at a slot machine on the end and inserted my GOLD CARD. Oh, yeah, I’m a real professional and figured I might as well rack up time on the card with the Chuckster gambling.

The most amazing part was that the kid didn’t seem nervous at all. Maybe because he was playing with MY money. I had flipped him a $20.00, and we started at Coyote Moon, but quickly mover to Poker.

We were cruising along--losing at a reasonable pace, and I do believe Chuck was having a good time, when suddenly a man popped out from nowhere. Now, maybe, he had a bit too much to drink, but he didn’t seem too surprised to see Chuck sitting on my lap.

“Hey, there, little fellow,” he said. “Having any luck?”

Chuck, of course, engrossed in the game, completely ignored him.

I knew it was too late to shove Chuck inside my bag, so I acted as if it wasn’t unusual to have a cat playing the slots. I smiled. “He’s not very good at the slots, I’m afraid.”

The man careened closer. “If I can give you a word of advice. Does he have his own GOLD CARD?”

I narrowed my eyes at him, thinking was the guy kidding, but no, he seemed totally serious.

I smiled again. “No. He’s playing with my husband’s card.”

“How many GOLD CARDS do you have?” he asked.

“Two.”

“But do you have your own card? In your own name?”

I was trying to figure out what the guy was getting at--one GOLD CARD or two GOLD CARDS. What was the difference? Plus I was keeping a half eye on Chuck, watching his paw hit the button. “Why?”

“Because you can rack up points faster if you both play under one name. That’s the mistake me and my wife made . . .” And then he proceeded to tell me a long winded story about how his wife had insisted on two separate cards, which turned out to be A BAD IDEA.

When he finally finished talking, I thanked him profusely for the advice. By this time, Chuckie had gambled away every last cent. He was lucky his fur coat was attached, or he would have lost that too.

“Well, kid, what do you say?”

Before Chuck could say anything, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped around, just in time to confront the same “advice man,” who now was rip-roaring mad.

“Well, I’m sure sorry I came over and talked to you and your cat,” he said, a bit too loudly. “Somebody ripped off my machine. While I was standing here talking to you, I was robbed. $500.00. Can you believe it?’

Mr. Advice Man turned and pointed to his slot machine across the aisle. That’s when I spotted two casino personnel drifting our way.

“Duck, Chuck. Into the bag. And don’t say a word.”

Mr. Advice Man sprinted over to his machine. I could just hear it now. “I was over there telling this lady and her CAT . . . and somebody . . .”

It was time to go.

With Chuck safely back into my smartbag, I remembered to remove my GOLD CARD and skeddadled back to my hotel room, passing a magnificent statue along the way, who reminded me of a certain Roman general.

“I’m thinking tomorrow,” I said to Chuck, “we can try walking the Boards or . . . ” and that’s when Chuckie came up with another brilliant idea.