Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl
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HOUGHTON MIFFLIN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
Hoghton Mifflin Harcourt
Boston New York 2010
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—Bonus procurator est rarus quam
Text copyright © 2010 by Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Calef Brown
All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from
this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company,
215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children is an imprint of
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
The text of this book is set in Apollo MT.
The illustrations were created in brush and ink.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Pinkwater, Daniel Manus, 1941–
Adventures of a cat-whiskered girl / by Daniel Pinkwater.
Summary: Big Audrey, who has cat-like whiskers, and her telepathic friend, Molly,
set out on a journey to find out why flying saucers are landing behind the old stone
barn in Poughkeepsie, New York, and, more importantly, to determine whether
another cat-whiskered girl really exists.
[1. Extraterrestrial beings—Fiction. 2. Cats—Fiction. 3. Science fiction. 4. Humorous
stories.] I. Title.
Manufactured in the United States of America
DOC 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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i. Explaining [>]
ii. Where I'm From and Where I Am [>]
iii. Where I Went [>]
1. The UFO Bookshop [>]
2. Letters [>]
3. People [>]
4. Talking Crazy [>]
5. Walkabout [>]
6. Through the Gate [>]
7. The Old Stone Barn [>]
8. Cats and Bats [>]
9. Back to Abnormal [>]
10. Back to Normal [>]
11. Fuzzing Saucers [>]
12. Pussycats [>]
13. What the Professor Found Out [>]
14. Who? Where? [>]
15. She's Very, Very, Very Old [>]
16. Tea for Three [>]
17. Questions [>]
18. Quick! [>]
19. Yes, I Know the Muffin Man [>]
20. Do You or Do You Not Know the Muffin Man? [>]
21. They Are Among Us [>]
22. Horse? [>]
23. In the Fog [>]
24. What Happened? [>]
25. Elizabeth's Story [>]
26. Destiny [>]
27. A Giant [>]
28. Oh, Hell [>]
29. You Can Get Used to Anything, Almost [>]
30. On the Island [>]
31. Pirate Pete's [>]
32. Night [>]
33. We Play Cards with Monsters [>]
34. With the Trolls Before Breakfast [>]
35. The Wolluf [>]
36. Breakfast with a Wolluf [>]
37. Away from the Island [>]
38. Harold, Row the Boat Ashore [>]
39. Fuss on the Bus [>]
40. Mousetrap Soup [>]
41. Cloaks [>]
42. On a Smooth Stone [>]
43. Take the Cloaks [>]
44. A Sinking Feeling [>]
45. But Where? [>]
46. Neither Here nor There [>]
47. Jake and the Bean Soup [>]
48. Like Mother, Like Son [>]
49. Three Little Kids [>]
50. Birdheads [>]
51. Marched [>]
52. Waiting for Midnight [>]
53. The Mystic Brothers of the Mystic Brotherhood [>]
54. In the Mystic Temple [>]
55. De Boom Is De Sleutel [>]
56. Sub-sub-sub-sub-sub [>]
57. Thump [>]
58. Following [>]
59. A Light! [>]
60. Much More [>]
61. Finally! [>]
62. Tell Everything! [>]
63. Plans [>]
64. I Know What I Know [>]
65. Razzle-Dazzle [>]
66. The Time Has Come [>]
67. The Best Ever [>]
68. The Ball at Spookhuizen [>]
69. The Grand Dance [>]
* * *
It surprises me how many people don't know there are different planes of existence. Well, it's not really surprising that you don't know if no one ever explained it to you, so I will do that now. Imagine that you live in a house that is all on one level: no upstairs, no downstairs, no attic, no basement, no crawlspace underneath. You live there, and you go in and out, and everything seems normal. Now imagine that it is really a three-story house, and you live on the second floor, with people living above you and below you ... but you never know it! You never see the people living above and below, you never hear them, you don't know anything about them—and they don't know anything about you. There are three families living in the same place, at the same time, and each family thinks they are the only one.
It's like that, only it's not houses, it's whole worlds. And there is one other thing to imagine. Imagine the three floors of the imaginary house all squashed together, so it's only one story again, but the people still have no idea they are not alone. This part is tricky to imagine. Let's say you are in your bedroom, listening to music, lying on your bed, and bouncing a rubber ball off the ceiling. At the same time, in the same space as your bedroom, someone you can't see or hear is giving the dog a bath, and someone else you can't see or hear (and the dog-bather can't see or hear) is preparing vegetable soup.
It gets more complicated. While you are bouncing a ball off the ceiling, and someone else is bathing the dog, and someone else is making soup, a highway with traffic is running right through your bedroom, or there is a herd of buffalo wandering around, or there's a river with water and fish in it. All at once, and all at the same time. But if you are in any of the worlds all going on at once, it looks and feels to you like there is only one.
Now imagine this: sometimes it is possible to go from one world to another. It's really rare, but it does happen. There you are bouncing a ball off the ceiling, and next thing you know you are in the middle of a herd of buffalo. Or, if you were to catch a momentary glimpse of someone from another plane of existence, you'd probably mistake them for a ghost. I know about all this—I myself came from another plane of existence to this one.
A skeptical person might think I was making all this up, or that I was crazy if I believed it myself. Of course, anyone can say she comes from another plane, or planet, or that her mother is the queen of Cockadoodle (which is not a real place, as far as I know). Well, it's true that I can't absolutely prove I come from another plane. However, if you go to the library and get ahold of encyclopedias and National Geographies and certain books, you can find an article with pictures of a typical-looking Inuit, a typical-looking Northern European, a typical-looking Mongolian, a typical-looking Bantu, Korean, Australian, Moroccan, and so on ... all different types. All different in minor ways, and all similar in most ways. It is interesting. What you will not find is a picture of a girl with cat whiskers
and sort of catlike eyes. That is, until they take a picture of me.
ii. Where I'm From and Where I Was
Since practically nobody even suspects there are other planes of existence, there would be no reason to name the one you live on. Besides, if the one I came from had a name, nobody on this one would have ever heard of it. I lived in a city, an ordinary city, with my uncle, Uncle Father Palabra. He's a retired monk and a professor of mountain-climbing. I don't remember my parents very well—they went away a long time ago. I liked living with my uncle, and I was reasonably happy, but for some reason I developed a strong desire to travel to other places and see things. I met three kids, Yggdrasil, Neddie, and Seamus, who had managed to get off their plane and onto mine. We got to be friends, and when they went home, I went with them. My name is Big Audrey.
iii. Where I Went
I went to Poughkeepsie, New York. I said goodbye to my friends Iggy and Neddie and Seamus, and also to Crazy Wig. Crazy Wig is a friend of theirs. He is a shaman, which means he can see visions and knows things of a mysterious nature. The first time I met Crazy Wig, he grabbed my head with both hands, closed his eyes, and made odd sorts of singing noises while continuing to hold my head. Then he said, "Daughter, your destiny is not here. You must travel. You must go on a quest. You must go ... the vision doesn't say where, but you have to go there."
A couple weeks later, Crazy Wig arranged for me to go as a passenger with this movie actor he knew, a guy by the name of Marlon Brando, who was driving his car to New York, which is all the way on the other side of the continent. I had been thinking I should see more of this plane of existence than just Los Angeles anyway, so I quit my job at the Rolling Doughnut, threw my few belongings into a bag, and took off with Marlon in his big convertible.
Marlon was extremely handsome, and crazier than a bat. He talked incessantly about health food and played bongo drums while driving. He drove fast, and we went nonstop. Marlon had plenty of fruit, wheat germ, and bean curd in the trunk (and also a dozen large chocolate cakes, which did not seem like health food to me), so we never stopped at restaurants—just to gas up the car. When he got tired, he'd pull over, eat about half a chocolate cake, wash it down with carrot juice, crawl into the back seat, and sleep for a couple of hours. I'd curl up on the front seat with my coat over me. I made it almost all the way to New York City with him, but about the time we reached Poughkeepsie, I'd had all I could stand and told him I'd be staying there awhile. Marlon gave me a bottle of papaya juice, wished me the best of luck, and bongoed off in a cloud of dust. He was a nice guy, but he got on my nerves.
The UFO Bookshop
I woke up in my little room behind the shop, washed, got the big electric coffee percolator started, and got ready to open the shop. This had been my routine since I first hit town. Mr. and Mrs. Gleybner had hired me on the spot when I walked in the door, carrying my bag and my bottle of papaya juice.
"Oh! Look, dear!" Mrs. Gleybner, who was short and round, said.
"Oh! Yes, dear!" Mr. Gleybner, who was also short and round, said.
"You are just the employee we have been wishing for," Mrs. Gleybner said.
"You will like working here," Mr. Gleybner said.
"Do you come from ... a long way away?" Mrs. Gleybner asked.
"Yes. Los Angeles," I said. "My name is Big Audrey."
Mr. and Mrs. Gleybner looked at each other. "Los Angeles, she says." They smiled and nodded knowingly.
The UFO Bookshop specializes in books about flying saucers, visitors from other planets, space travel, aliens who live among us, radio messages from space, and secret government conspiracies to conceal the truth from the people. They also have books about the abominable snowman, Bigfoot, crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle, mystery spots where gravity works backwards, secret cities underneath the surface of the earth, and chickens who can foretell the future. They didn't have any books that told about other planes of existence, but except for that it seemed they had plenty of stuff that would appeal to intelligent people.
The store also had a small selection of binoculars, special notebooks with boxes printed on the pages for noting characteristics of flying saucers you'd see, pens that had a little flashlight built in, and cards with pictures of different kinds of spaceships on one side and different kinds of space beings on the other, for quick identification. There was also the Gleybner Helmet, which was something like a colander with wire spirals sticking out of it and a chinstrap—this was to enhance the reception of telepathic brainwaves from the space people. Mr. Gleybner made them in the basement.
Naturally, the Gleybners had assumed I was an extraterrestrial alien because of my appearance. I tried to explain, but their minds were made up. They wanted me to work for them, paid me the same as I had gotten working at the Rolling Doughnut in Los Angeles, and threw in the room in the back for me to live in. I liked the store, and I liked them. Also, once I got started working there, I found out that Mrs. Gleybner brought delicious homemade sweeelves in the morning, and wonderful soup for lunch. Suppertime, they would send me to the delicatessen or the Chinese restaurant, and we would eat at the table in the back of the store.
During the day, I would dust and vacuum, unpack books, and wait on customers, and when nothing was happening I could read. Mrs. Gleybner spent a good part of each day visiting with other shopkeepers on the street, and Mr. Gleybner would read, work at his desk, and take naps in his rocking chair. There was a store cat named Little Gray Man, and he and I got to be very good friends.
The best thing about working in the UFO Bookshop was the customers.
"The finest and most interesting people in all Poughkeepsie come into this shop," Mr. Gleybner said.
Of course, I did not know all the people in Poughkeepsie, but the ones who came into our shop were mostly very satisfying to observe and talk with.
I sent a letter to Yggdrasil telling about things I was learning. I told her how Alexander the Great had seen two flying saucers in 329 B.C., how Edmund Halley, who discovered Halley's Comet, saw one in 1676, how Christopher Columbus had seen one in 1492, and how one was seen in 1783 from Windsor Castle in England. I also told her about Little Gray Man, and how nice the Gleybners were to me.
She wrote back to me that Crazy Wig had seen the word "Poughkeepsie" in a vision and said it had something to do with my destiny, and that everybody there sent their love.
I also wrote to Iggy about Poughkeepsie.
Poughkeepsie is different from Los Angeles. it is an old city, about 300 years old! There are strange-looking old houses, and some of the streets curve and bend and go every which way. There are lots of trees, and a creek twists and turns through the city. in the old days, the creek turned water wheels that powered mills and factories that made piano keys, cough drops, ladies' underwear, buggy whips, licorice whips, and buttonhooks, and some of them are still there. A big river runs past, and there is a ridiculously high and precarious-looking railroad bridge that goes over it. There are trolley cars that run on tracks, and a gigantic madhouse on the north side of town. And even though it's a city it's surrounded by country—you cross a street and all of a sudden it's farms and forests. There are wild bunnies, rats, and opossums in the business district. The people like to eat jitterbugs, which is the name of a dish consisting of a slice of white bread with a slice of meatloaf on it, and on top of that a scoop of mashed potato, all of it covered with brown gravy. I haven't tried one—too disgusting—but they are sold everywhere. I spend all my spare time exploring.
Give my love to Neddie an
d Seamus, Crazy wig, and all our friends.
I missed my friends in Los Angeles, but I wasn't lonely. People came into the bookstore every day, and most of them liked to talk. And it was only a half-block to Main Street, where the bigger stores were, and lots of people. Also, there was a trolley, or streetcar, that ran on tracks from the loony bin, and patients who weren't considered dangerous would come every day to walk around, sit on the benches, and watch the normal people. A lot of the loonies were interesting to talk to. And of course, some people were both mental patients and customers.
I do not have a problem with my appearance—I am a nice-looking girl with lovely whiskers. But some people do tend to stare or ask silly questions. I got a lot less of this in Poughkeepsie than I had in Los Angeles. The bookstore customers were all sure, like the Gleybners, that I was an outer-space alien girl. I learned to avoid specifically saying whether I was or was not. It meant a lot to them, thinking I was. Besides, I sort of am. The loonies tended not to mention the whiskers. I think they weren't sure if they were seeing them or hallucinating.
Probably my favorite customer, and also my favorite loony, was Professor Tag from Vassar, a girls' college not far from Main Street. He was a cute little old guy with a tangled gray beard. He talked fast and was always excited about something. If you didn't know he was a professor, you would have thought he was a bum. I liked him because he was always smiling and laughing, and because he liked me.
Once a year, Professor Tag would go nuts and they would move him up to the loony bin for a while—then he'd get over being nuts and they'd bring him back to teach his classes. He told me all this himself, and sure enough, a little while later he went nuts. I asked the Gleybners why he hadn't been in the store for a while, and they told me he was up at the insane asylum for his annual cure. So one Sunday I took the streetcar up to the place to visit him.
The insane asylum was big and sad and scary. It was not just a building as I had imagined. It was a lot of buildings, like a whole not-so-little town. The main building was the biggest. It looked like a scary castle. The streetcar stopped in front of it, and I went in the main entrance to the office and told them I was there to visit Professor Tag. The lady in the office picked up a phone and talked to someone. Then she told me I could go outside and sit on a bench and Professor Tag would be along.