MeowOWeen a charity anthology for children, edited by Stephanie Barr
Spooky, scary, otherworldly, magical…
You can find all kinds of tales and tails in this collection of haunting cat stories for children and the child in us all. And if you think the perfect solution to a frightening dilemma or phantom is a kitty or two, well, you might just be right.
But don’t make them angry…
Death crept closer.
There was a nest of baby birds perhaps three meters up the tree, but Death could leap that easily. The night was dark and the moon was hidden. The mother bird dozed on her babies, unaware.
Death was used to that. He was silent and dark. Many thought him harmless since he had no tail and no front claws. It was usually the last mistake they ever made.
Closer, he crept and closer still. The father bird was elsewhere so no threat. Even the mother could not hold her own against him. Death was a large creature, sleek, lithe, deadly.
His yellow eyes were all but hidden behind the dark of his pupils. His feet were silent on the fresh-cut grass. The nest was on the other side of the tree, but he could leap up there and be on the birds before they had a chance to defend themselves. He was Death.
Easily, he could feast on the baby birds, a week old or so. And probably the mother. He could offer his friends what remained as treasures once he had consumed his fill.
Death poised for the jump. His strong back legs—oversized to compensate for the tail he’d never had—were ready to spring and propel him up the tree…
A door slammed open to his right, bathing the yard with yellow light from the kitchen. “Alvin!” the man shouted.
Death hissed his frustration. He was Death, Death! And he was being interrupted.
The birds were awake now but where could they go? Death returned to his pursuit, ready to leap and destroy.
“There you are,” a human voice said. “There’s my little smoochy oochy.”
Death turned to warn him away with a hiss. The birds definitely knew he was there now. He could still kill, but he might not get out unscathed.
The human scooped him up and snuggled him despite his wiggling protest. “Who’s a handsome boy? Want some fresh salmon?”
I am not a handsome—wait, did you say salmon? After all, those birds would be there for several more weeks.
The man, who smelled of oil and gasoline, nuzzled his head. “That’s right, you beautiful kitty. Nothing but the best for you.” With that, he walked back into the house, Death cradled in his arms. As soon as he’d closed the door, he let Death back to the floor, then crouched and scratched Death’s head in just the right spot. He rose and moved to the kitchen, then paused. “You coming, buddy?”So what if he was Alvin here? He had nice humans to pet him.
And let’s not forget the salmon.
Life was pretty good for Death.
From ‘Death Stalks’ by Stephanie Barr
All proceeds from MeowOWeen go to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital whose mission is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for paediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of its founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay. No family receives a bill for treatment.
All authors and illustrators have donated their work free of charge:
Stephanie Barr, Knixolate Bar, Rose Campbell, Jocelyn Dex, Ken Goudsward, Jane Jago, Debbie Manber Kupfer, RC Larlham, USA Today Bestselling author Lily Luchesi, Jen Ponce, DM Rasch, F Stephan and Donna Marie West
A Bite of… Stephanie Barr
Question one: How much truth do you think there is in the following statement, and why? If cats weren’t so fluffy and cute, people might notice that they are just about perfect killing machines.
I think that’s a lovely summation. So many cat adoption stories come from a kitten out in the “wild” walking up to a stranger and looking adorable with the person falling in love. The adorable nature of kittens is, without a doubt, a survival mechanism. Even when they’re older. “Punkin, did you tear up the bread and leave shreds all over the house?” Punkin (ginger tabby) rubs against your leg and purrs, with an added purry meow. “Well, don’t do it again.” Repeat endlessly. I find the fact that they’re also brutally capable hunters as well also appeals to me. Cats are amazing killing machines and, ounce for ounce, one of the most devastating killers out there. Hard for me not to respect that.
Question two: The connection between cats and Halloween is probably as old as the festival itself. Why do you think this is the case?
Cats are quiet, sneaky, slide easily into forgotten corners, can hide in plain sight, can be brutally vicious, and don’t bow down to the dictates of people as most other domesticated animals do. I think a part of it is driven by the faction of people who don’t like an animal that sees them as, at best, an equal. That’s likely the group that demonized cats.
For some people who love cats, their ability to get where they shouldn’t, their ability to kill effortlessly, their silent tread and stealth can seem like magic. And the purr. How many creatures have a mechanism that effortlessly reduces stress and even heals? Magic!
People who love cats can often love cats unreasonably, with an almost slavish devotion.
And most people who have cats have, at least at some point or another, seen cats staring at what looks to be a blank wall, as if there’s a spirit or some other otherworldly beast there. (The story “Fate” addresses this point directly).
Plus, who wants a holiday without cats? Maybe I should do a Christmas cats anthology next time.
Question three: As a person who loves cats would you agree that people may own dogs but they are owned by cats? And why are cats so addictive?
Cats can definitely get away with more than most and, people can become almost slavish in their support. I mean, we literally clean up their crap. Dogs want to make you happy, and, I think, dog people are definitely devoted to their dogs, BUT, dog owners know they’re the boss. Cats want you to clean up their crap and bring out dinner, chop chop. And pet them when they want you to, okay you can stop now. Don’t make me have to scar you.
So why are they so appealing, so addictive? Why do people have to actively stop themselves from having an indefinite number of cats? Part of tit is their apparent independence, their disinterest in what we think of their behavior. It’s hard not to respect that.
Part of that is their dangerousness. Having a deadly creature that cuddles up to you and jumps on to your shoulders is flattering.
Part of it is that cats—and especially kittens—are so damned adorable. And cats, often, do better with a friend to keep them entertained. And, once you have two, if you stumble across a new kitten, it’s hard not think, “So, how much more trouble is a third?” How do you take an adorable new kitten you find in your engine to a shelter? How do you leave a sad neglected stray to its own devices? They know how to appeal to the people they choose (there are dozens of examples of people who “hated” cats who became totally besotted). Then, suddenly, you have ten and nowhere to put another litterbox.
And cats are caring, too. Sure, they do their own thing and don’t need you, but people who have been depressed or are recovering from illness and injury will tell you how devoted a cat can be, even a standoffish one. Cats are very empathetic.
But, the same passion that people have for cats is not necessarily stronger than the antipathy some people have for cats. Feral cats are subject to abuse with little or no notice. And cats know true cat haters and respond accordingly (which is likely reinforces it both ways). I have a story about that in Pussycats Galore (“The Cutest Little Zombie Apocalypse Evah”).
Their very independence leads people who picked up a kitten for its cuteness but had no idea what they were getting into to abandon their cats. Cats can be very difficult. Some people just leave their cats behind when they move, neglect them, brush it off when they disappear. Toss ’em if they get expensive or difficult with age. It’s not all beautiful.
But, when it’s beautiful, it’s glorious.
Although Stephanie Barr is a slave to three children and a slew of cats, she actually leads a double life as a part-time novelist and full-time rocket scientist. People everywhere have learned to watch out for fear of becoming part of her stories. Beware! You might be next!