Cattification: Ruby’s Ghost by Shona Husk

Author Shona Husk, at http://www.shonahusk.com/, writes books about humans who don’t wear actual shirts. At least, judging by their covers. Hey, I’m a cat, I get to use whatever criteria I want! In May 2013, she released a book that had much more clothed people in it, but unfortunately it was pretty much devoid of felines. We have rectified this sad situation for her with the following cattification.

Note: To get the most out of the transformation, check out the catless Ruby’s Ghost first: http://www.shonahusk.com/rubysghost.html. The excerpt we repaired is the first chapter of the book…

Refusing the “call to cat love” is hard to survive…

One moment, Tate Dogger is callously taking a stray kitty to the animal shelter on his motorcycle. The next, he has been punished by the Cats of Fate, his soul suspended between life and death, wandering in confusion between the shelter and the house he should have let the cat live in.

Except it’s not his home anymore. In his old bedroom sleeps a beautiful young white kitty, the only animal who can see him. And the only animal who can keep him from succumbing to the urge to slip helplessly into DOG purgatory, a place full of drool and fleas and honching and bad smells, which would cause horrific pain in his mortal body.

Siamese Jones should be studying for her Society of House Cat exams, but it’s tough to stay focused when a lost human soul keeps appearing in her room. She figures it must have something to do with the dogs she heard barking in the night, but she’s not sure a dog person is worth saving.

As Siamese tries to help Tate unravel the tangled yarn leading up to his decision not to adopt the stray kitty, his longing and desire to have another chance at a mortal, cat-person life grows into an almost tangible bond between them. But then a second spirit appears, a hairy, noisy one with a darker, very canine intent that could separate them before Tate learns the true error of his ways…

Warning: Contains a vengeful dog spirit and the shining realization of feline worship that crosses the boundary between life and death.

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

“Meow meow me row!” The stray kitty Tate Dogger had decided to take to the animal shelter took a swipe at his cherry red sleeve and leaned forward to hiss at him.

Tate turned his arm away and the cat’s claws connected with his hand instead. The cat was mean. One too many nights on the street. The same cat he used to see at the high school. Trouble was, he wasn’t at the high school anymore. So why had this cat shown up in the neighborhood?

“Kitty, I think you need to settle down.” Tate eased its claw out of his hand.

“Mrrrrr.” The cat withdrew, her claws stained red.

He looked around the room. The cat had followed him to this party. Half the people he didn’t know, the other half were his friends by default because they also owned dogs and hung at the local dog park. He winced. They had all been friends once, but in the last year he’d realized two things. They’d gotten more dogs and he hadn’t, and he didn’t want to spend his weekend picking up poop and taking the dogs for never-ending walks when he had assignments to do and projects to complete. At first the drift away from the dog park group had been accidental because he’d been down to a single dog, but now it was more deliberate.

I mean, just the smells on their clothing was enough to drive you mad, but the conversation! So boring. Pepe did this, Barney fetched a ball, Kiki is so cute.

And now this cat seemed to be trying to adopt him. What was this cat thinking?

Tate shook his head. “I’m done with you, kitty.” He was done with this, all of it. He glanced at the cat and realized she was actually quite pretty. That hurt to even think, since he was a dog person and all, but his heart hadn’t been in the relationship with his Cairn Terrier for months.

“Mew.” The cat head-butted his hand, her nose cold but not as slimy as a dog nose. He let his fingers slide over her silky fur. The cat hadn’t changed. She was still the same calico he’d seen around the high school. She was purring at him now, her tail curling as she beckoned him to take her home with him and ditch this party of dog lovers forever. And in truth, he no longer felt the crazed fanaticism to own lots of dogs the way he once had. He was going through the motions and that wasn’t fair to him or his Terrier, Chowder Head, who was lonely for other canine companionship.

But that didn’t mean he could adopt this cat!

The cat’s tongue was rough when she licked him. Instead of saying what he felt—that he wished he could take her home with him—he mumbled out an excuse. “I have a dog, kitty. I can’t have a cat too.”

The kitty sat down, her soft tail curling around her front paws. “Mew?”

Petting the calico was fine when he was seventeen or eighteen, on the way home from school, and didn’t want his dog to know he was out cheating with a kitty—though he was sure in hindsight his dog knew more than he’d let on.

“I have poop detail every single day. I can’t add a cat box and cat food and who knows what else to my responsibilities.” And then a summer job, then one more year to go and he’d be a qualified mechanical engineer.

“Purrrrrrr.”

He’d heard that from her many times. She didn’t like it when he walked away at the end of the school day, but this kitty didn’t understand. He had to get home to the dog or the dog would pee on everything. Stupid dog. Lately he’d been seeing the kitty on his front porch, too, and then at his back door, like it was making a loop. He couldn’t do it anymore, ignore her pitiful mews, but he didn’t know how to break up with a cat whom he’d secretly loved and wanted to take home since he was fifteen. But he and Chowder Head had been together for too long for it to be easy and painless to bring a feline into a dog house.

The music went up and all his friends started pretending to be their dogs and howling and barking along with it. Because who doesn’t love Maroon 5, bow-wow style? Tate had been the only one out of all his friends to go to college. A few had joined the defense force; most had drifted into full-time positions at the shops they’d worked in through high school. All they cared about was making sure they had a lot of time to spend at the dog park and getting a big enough yard. He just wasn’t sure he wanted to be tied down like that. He wanted to do other things first.

The kitty meowed something at him he couldn’t hear over the barking music.

He leaned in to speak in her ear. “Why don’t you come with me, kitty? I’m finally going to take you where you belong.”

And she did. And she’d be fine. This wasn’t the first dog barking party he’d left early, though it wasn’t usually to take a kitty to the animal shelter. Even as he thought it, he resented the fact that he couldn’t just keep this kitty. Why did Chowder Head have to be such a…dog? Everytime he left the house, there was a fight about how he shouldn’t have left Chowder Head home alone, and that he didn’t really love the dog, and that he deserved to have all his shoes chewed up, and O BOW WOW DO YOU SMELL LIKE CAT??? The list of Tate’s faults just went on. Then he’d apologize, and clean up the mess, and take Chowder Head for a walk, and everything would be sweet until next time.

He didn’t want a next time.

He touched the cat’s soft calico fur, then her cheek. The kitty was right about one thing. She didn’t need to be living on the street. “I’m sorry, kitty.”

Tate walked away to find something to use as a cat carrier. He pulled his helmet and jacket out of the hall cupboard, where he’d hidden them from those who would let their dogs chew them up. In the bottom of the closet he found a milk crate and some cardboard. Everyone just howled and barked and talked about milk bones and ignored both him and the cat. He gave the party another hour before the neighbors called the police. He affixed the milk crate to the back of the motorcycle so it would be safe and put on his jacket.

“Mew, mew.” The kitty came running out the house. She reached the bike, tail twitching. “Mrow?”

So, she wasn’t onto his plan yet to take her to the shelter. He stared at her tiny body on the leafy ground beside his bike.

“Mew?” She sounded worried, as if she knew something was different somehow.

He eased himself off the motorcycle. Once all he’d wanted was to have a lot of dogs and to believe they’d be together forever. He glanced at the house and the people barking along to the radio. Chewed up couches and leashes and other doggy detritus lined the porch. This wasn’t the life he wanted. “I’m sorry.”

The kitty put her paw on his foot. “Purr.”

He had to do it, grab her and get her in the crate. She’d be angry and hurt, but she’d realize they were better off apart. She’d be happier with someone else…someone who didn’t have a dog. And so would he.

The ache was back, pressing on his heart. He’d been with Chowder Head for so long…but he couldn’t help it. He secretly loved this cat. Had he ignored his civic duty to make sure kitty was taken safely to a no-kill animal shelter out of fear? Because he loved seeing her every day, even if she wasn’t in his house? He couldn’t be what she wanted. A cat person. He already had a dog. If he were, she and Chowder Head could never get along, and she would get pissed with him for having a dog instead of taking the dog to the animal shelter instead.

He’d heard of people having both dogs and cats. He just didn’t think he could be one of them.

He took a breath but couldn’t look her in the eye. “It’s over. We’ve both known it for a while.”
But neither of them had wanted to be the first one to say it.

“Mewwww.” Her body brushed against his leg. She lowered her head and began to clean her ears with her little white paw in a way that threatened to bring him to his knees.

He placed his hand on her shoulders. He wouldn’t hurt her. He’d be careful. The animal shelter would take good care of her, find her a loving cat family.

Tate closed his eyes and swallowed. This was more difficult than he’d thought it would be. He didn’t want to hurt her. Carefully he lifted her purring, soft body into the crate and strapped on a lid.

She did not like it. She howled and let him know. He winced with sadness. He zipped up his jacket and pushed on his helmet. Each move was slow and determined. He wouldn’t let himself be meowed around. Yet he couldn’t take off and leave her standing on the driveway, living on the dangerous streets for one more night.

He would drop her at the shelter, go back to his home with Chowder Head, and sleep, and then he’d ring the shelter tomorrow—just to check—just to hear about the beautiful beloved calico for the last time. The cat would be much happier with a man who was happy to have cats, not dogs, and take care of the kitty for the rest of his life.

He wasn’t that man.

The bike thrummed to life beneath him. Black and chrome. Secondhand and the best bike he could afford. The cat howled at first, until she realized he wasn’t going to let her out of the crate. He’d rather be doing this in a car, but a bike it was. The income from his part-time job didn’t stretch that far. It barely covered Chowder Head’s food and flea meds.

The cat managed to get her paw through a hole and scratch his side. He carefully put her paw back, safe, and waited while she calmed down behind him. He was going to miss her.

Was he making a mistake? He’d worried about the cat on the streets for so long, maybe this was just how it was. But missing her was different than expecting Chowder Head to accept her. He eased the bike down the driveway. The cat wriggled behind him, making the bike sway.

“Hold on, kitty.” He checked the street and waited in the driveway as a white SUV raced past. Someone’s new car was getting test driven by everyone at the party. He’d had a look at it earlier in the night. It was flash, leather seats and sunroof. The owner’s dog would tear the hell out of those flash seats soon enough. Pity the owner wasn’t smart enough to get seat covers. The insurance wouldn’t cover damage from a dog. He let it roar by then turned onto the road and went the opposite way.

This was the neighborhood he’d grown up in. He indicated, checked the intersection and noted headlights coming up the road. It was his right of way, so he started slipping around the corner.

Halfway round he realized the car’s headlights were moving too quickly to stop at the sign. They were going to run the stop sign and go straight through the intersection. They were going to hit him…and the cat! The precious kitty he loved so much. Panic kicked hard. He had to get clear. Save the kitty. He didn’t care about himself!

He gunned the bike through the intersection, but it was too late. The SUV was too fast and too close.

His world shattered in the crunch and scream of metal. The cat meowed in a very angry fashion.

Then there was no bike. No cat. Adrenaline squeezed his heart. He couldn’t breathe. He was in the air. There were lights everywhere. Spinning. Was he close enough to the shelter that somebody would save the cat? He hit the ground on his side and slid—there was nothing he could do. He came to a stop. Pain flooded his body. He had to get up. He couldn’t move. He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to be at home, miraculously with a cat on one side and a dog on the other. He wanted…he wanted cats and dogs both.

He sighed and closed his eyes. The lights were too bright.

****

Meankitty & Jody W.
www.meankitty.com  * www.jodywallace.com