The Adventures of CatvinkleElliot Perlman
About the Book
When a pampered cat has to share her home with a lost dog, sparks are set to fly. To her surprise, Catvinkle starts to like Ula. She even tells Ula her three secrets. But a cat and a dog can’t be friends – can they?
A tail-spin of a tale that will make you howl with laughter – and remind you that if you aren’t open to adventure, you might never meet your best friend.
About the Book
Part One – The Surprise
Part Two – The Plan
Part Three – The Competition
About the Author
Read more at Penguin Books Australia
For Nicholas and Alexander
Once there was a barber who cut and styled the hair of men, women, children and babies. In fact, if you were at all human and had a head which had some hair, he could give you a very nice haircut.
The name of the barber was Mr Sabatini. He was a kind man and he liked to make people look as nice as he could. As you’ll soon see, he liked animals too – although he didn’t give them haircuts or even fur trims. But he was comfortable in a world of wet hair and even wet fur.
Mr Sabatini’s barber salon was part of his house in Herring Street. Herring Street is a street in Amsterdam, which is a big city in a country that has two names: Holland and The Netherlands. None of the animals in this story know why.
He lived there with a dear friend of his, a white cat known as Catvinkle who had long, strong, quite substantial whiskers that were almost as thick as wings. Mr Sabatini loved Catvinkle very much. In fact, he loved her so much that he bought her a large red bow. Catvinkle wore it proudly tied to the end of her tail, making her look like a walking furry birthday present that Mr Sabatini got to play with every day.
Catvinkle had her own room in Mr Sabatini’s house, though she kindly allowed him to share it and use it as a study. She loved this room. It was slightly sunken below the ground, so that when Catvinkle would sit in the space in front of the window she could see feet and legs walking past her on Herring Street outside.
She found people’s shoes, socks and legs endlessly fascinating. They all walked at different speeds. Sometimes Catvinkle noticed that people’s socks didn’t match. This didn’t happen often but you could be lucky every now and then.
Then there were the animal legs. Catvinkle could recognise many of the passing animals just by their paws. ‘Gee, that Russian wolfhound is up early. I wonder where he has to go in such a hurry,’ she might say to herself from the comfort of her basket.
Catvinkle’s room had pleated curtains of cream and royal blue that went from above the window to the red carpeted floor. When Mr Sabatini closed them in the evenings they would sweep the floor like a ballgown flowing across a dance floor. There was an old desk with matching chair, both of shiny dark wood, a soft armchair in a creamy colour to match the curtains, and books lining the walls almost all the way along.
But Catvinkle’s two favourite things in the room were the deep fireplace – where Mr Sabatini kept the fire going all through the damp and colder months – and her big comfy wicker basket. Catvinkle found it hard to imagine anything better than lying in her basket with the fire glowing to keep her coat warm and her water bowl just a paw’s length away.
One morning, Mr Sabatini picked up Catvinkle’s basket very gently as she was sleeping. He took it into his bathroom and placed it carefully beside the basin so that he could have his morning chat with Catvinkle while he shaved.
‘Good morning, my dear Catvinkle.’
A little flick of the tail came from deep within the basket, which was Catvinkle’s way of saying good morning. She always did this and it always made him smile.
‘It looks like you’re having a lovely warm and snuggy sleep, Catvinkle,’ said Mr Sabatini. He had shaving cream all over the bottom half of his face and his razor blade was scraping it away.
Another little flick of the tail came from Catvinkle, which he took to mean, ‘Yes, it is a lovely sleep!’
‘So I guess you don’t want to come out with me for a quick breakfast?’
The third flick of her tail meant that she agreed. She was too warm and snuggy to leave her basket.
This little exchange was part of their morning routine. Mr Sabatini always asked Catvinkle if she’d like to come for a breakfast walk, and Catvinkle always politely declined with a little flick of her tail. They enjoyed being polite to each other. Mr Sabatini was a very polite barber, and Catvinkle was for the most part a very polite cat. At least, she was polite to Mr Sabatini and his clients.
‘Of course, dear Catvinkle. You get some more sleep,’ said Mr Sabatini. He washed and dried his face so that now it was not only smooth but clean.
Then he gently picked up Catvinkle in her basket, took the basket from the bathroom and placed it down on the floor back in her own room. Her water bowl was full and the fire in the fireplace was crackling. Catvinkle was in heaven.
Mr Sabatini put on his coat to go out for his daily breakfast of coffee, wholemeal bread and appelstroop. He loved going for his quick morning walks because he found his city so beautiful. Whenever he walked along the canals, fresh air brushing against his face, he never failed to enjoy looking at the wonderful old narrow brick houses. Each was a different colour, nestled cosily against its neighbour, and each was full of stories that came from all the people who had lived there over hundreds of years. Mr Sabatini thought he had to be one of the luckiest barbers in the whole world to live in such a place.
Not only was his city beautiful, but interesting things were always popping up. You just had to be ready to see them. This morning, for example, as he was enjoying the feel of the cobblestones under his feet, he saw a Russian wolfhound going for a walk with another animal that looked like no dog he’d ever seen. It looked more like … a llama?
Mr Sabatini rubbed his eyes to make sure he was awake. Could it really be a llama, not in Peru but here in central Amsterdam? The llama was walking sleepily and seemed to be about to fall into the canal when the Russian wolfhound lengthened his neck to get slightly ahead of the llama and guided it to safety with his snout. This is the kind of lovely unexpected thing Mr Sabatini would see when he went for his walks, the kind of thing that made him even happier. What a helpful dog that Russian wolfhound was, Mr Sabatini thought to himself. He had really stuck his neck out for that llama.
Kindness in people and in animals made Mr Sabatini feel warm inside. What would his own animal friend, Catvinkle, have done in the same circumstance, he wondered. Would Catvinkle help other animals? She does seem to spend a lot of time on her own, he thought, although perhaps she goes out when he’s busy washing, styling and cutting people’s hair. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with spending time on your own. But perhaps she needs a friend, Mr Sabatini wondered to himself as he went inside his favourite local cafe.
Mr Sabatini didn’t have time to stay for very
long this morning. He was in a bit of a hurry because a lady and two children were coming in for a haircut and he didn’t want to be late home. He quickly ate his wholemeal bread and appelstroop in the cafe, and he was walking home drinking his coffee in a takeaway cup when he saw a beautiful white dog with black spots, a Dalmatian. The dog shyly came up to him.
Mr Sabatini bent down to give the Dalmatian a quick, friendly pat. What a lovely dog, he thought. As he was patting her he read her name, ‘Ula’, on the dog tag that was attached to her red leather collar. He noticed, too, that Ula’s big brown eyes were a little sad, and that the fur on her coat was not sitting entirely smoothly. Some of her fur stood up from the rest of her coat. Being a barber he would notice a thing like this. He looked around to see if there were any humans nearby who might be connected to Ula. No, there didn’t seem to be anyone.
So, with his coffee in one hand, he stayed down on one knee and gently patted Ula. He looked carefully in her eyes as he spoke. ‘Don’t you have anywhere to stay, Ula?’
Ula leaned into his leg and nuzzled it with her nose. Mr Sabatini understood that to mean that he was right, that she didn’t have anywhere to stay.
She had such a kind face with her big brown eyes that Mr Sabatini wanted to spend more time patting Ula.
But he was torn because he was in a hurry. What could he do? If he spent too much more time patting Ula he would be late.
‘Well,’ said Mr Sabatini, ‘I have to get back to my salon to cut some people’s hair, but why don’t you come along with me? I can give you a drink of water and you can get warm inside.’
So Mr Sabatini and Ula walked back to his home. When they got there, Mr Sabatini saw that the lady and the two children were just arriving for their haircuts. He wasn’t late, thankfully, but he didn’t want to keep them waiting, so he asked them to come into the salon while he showed his new friend, Ula, where she could get some water.
Mr Sabatini went downstairs to the room where Catvinkle slept and opened the door.
‘Ula,’ he said, ‘I’d like you to meet Catvinkle. I’m sure she’ll be happy to share some of her water with you.’
Catvinkle was in shock. One moment earlier she had been peacefully napping by the fire in her own room. Now, suddenly, there was a spotted dog standing by the door, and Mr Sabatini had gone upstairs.
Ula, for her part, was very uncomfortable being in a cat’s room. And not the room of just any cat. This cat had a beautiful white shiny coat of fur, impressive thick white whiskers, slinky paws and a big red bow tied around her tail. Ula wasn’t looking to make trouble.
‘Hello, Catvinkle. My name is Ula, although many people call me “Wet Ula”.’
Catvinkle didn’t say anything. Instead she just stared at Ula from her wicker basket. Was she asleep and still dreaming? She dipped her paw into her water bowl and trickled a little water onto her face. Yes, she was definitely awake, and yes, there was really a dog in her room. A dog!
‘Oo-la?’ asked the still sleepy cat.
‘No, it’s U-la, like You-la, rhymes with school-la or ruler,’ said Ula.
‘Wouldn’t that be You-ler?’ asked Catvinkle.
‘No, not in my case. Anyway, sadly, I often get called Wet Ula,’ said the spotty dog.
‘Did you say Wet Ula?’
‘Yes,’ said Ula.
‘Why are you called that?’ Catvinkle asked.
She was shocked to be having a conversation with a dog and in her own room. This was horrible. She couldn’t believe that Mr Sabatini, who was such a kind man, had brought a dog in here. Perhaps this Ula creature wasn’t really a dog. Perhaps she just looked like a dog.
‘Do you mean why am I called Wet or why am I called Ula?’ Ula was trying to be polite to the suspicious cat.
‘Let’s start with Wet. Are you wet?’ asked Catvinkle.
‘Not right now, not as far as I can tell. But sometimes when I’m cold I can’t tell if I’m also wet. I’m a bit cold now but I’m sure that lovely warm fire will warm me up in no time. Does that ever happen to you, that when you’re cold you think you might also be wet?’
‘Well,’ said Catvinkle, stretching, ‘as you can see, I have a lovely warm fire in my very own room.’ She scratched her neck casually with a rear paw as she continued. ‘A fire in my very own room in this house where I live with Mr Sabatini. So I’m not cold very often.’
‘I see,’ said Ula.
Ula slid her right front paw very quietly and slowly towards the fire, closely followed by her left front paw.
‘So you’re never so cold that you think you might also be wet?’ she asked Catvinkle.
‘Sometimes I am,’ said Catvinkle, ‘when I’m in the sky.’
‘In the sky?’ said Ula with great surprise. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Never mind what I mean,’ said Catvinkle, a little snippily.
Ula was worried that Catvinkle might notice her attempts to creep closer to the fire, but she was so chilly that she had to take the chance.
‘Cough,’ she said and, as she did, she raised her tummy off the ground and inched herself just that tiny bit closer to the fire. ‘Cough, cough.’ She inched her tummy forward again.
‘You’re not sick, are you?’ Catvinkle asked, more out of suspicion than friendly concern.
‘Er, no,’ said Ula.
‘You haven’t explained why you’re called Wet Ula, or why you’re trying to use up my fire to dry off or why you’re in my room. You haven’t explained anything,’ said the frustrated Catvinkle, who still could not believe she had woken to find a dog in her otherwise perfect room.
‘I didn’t mean to use up your fire. Aren’t you getting the same warmth from the fire that you got before I came in? I didn’t realise fires couldn’t be shared. Do you want me to explain why I’m called “Wet” Ula?’
‘Yes, I do,’ said Catvinkle. ‘But before you try to explain anything else or use up any more of the warmth from my fire, the fire in my room in my house, the one I share with my dear friend Mr Sabatini, whom I’ve known for a very long time and didn’t just meet this morning –’
‘Yes, what is it?’ asked Ula.
‘Well,’ said Catvinkle, ‘I really do think you need to clear up one thing first, because I’m not sure if I’m awake or dreaming. You look to me a lot like – well, there’s no other way of putting this – a dog. Wet or not, are you … a dog?’
‘Yes, I’m a Dalmatian. We’re all dogs, us Dalmatians.’
‘Did you tell Mr Sabatini that you’re a dog?’ asked the bewildered Catvinkle.
‘I didn’t have to tell him. He knew I was a dog. Just look at me.’
‘But … he likes cats,’ Catvinkle said. ‘How do you know he knew you were a dog?’
‘Well, he let me rub my nose against his leg and he patted me,’ Ula answered.
‘I rub my nose against his leg and I get pats from him,’ Catvinkle protested. ‘Do I look like a dog to you?’
‘No, you look like a cat to me – and a most elegant one, if I might say,’ said Ula diplomatically.
‘Well, I am a cat, a most elegant cat, and yes, you can say that if you feel you want to.’
‘Maybe Mr Sabatini likes to pat dogs as well as cats?’ Ula suggested.
‘First I’ve heard of it,’ said Catvinkle dismissively. ‘Never before have I seen him pat a dog, no one has ever told me that they have seen him pat a dog, and then one morning I’m rudely awakened from a beautiful snuggy nap by a wet dog!’
‘Oh, I’m not actually wet, remember?’ said Ula in an attempt to make Catvinkle feel better.
‘But didn’t you say your name was Wet Something-or-other?’ asked Catvinkle.
‘Wet Ula, yes. But my parents named me Ula. The “Wet” part I’ve sort of picked up along the way,’ Ula said sadly.
‘Picked up along the way? What does that mean?’ asked Catvinkle, more confused than ever.
So Ula began to tell Catvinkle the story of how she became known as �
��Wet’. She didn’t mind telling the story because it meant that she could stay near the fire.
She had been living with some nice people in a nice house when they decided to have the rooms in their house painted before selling the house and moving away to a new town. The people wanted the house to stay warm to help the paint dry in the rooms, so they closed all the windows and all the doors and were in the process of moving out to a hotel before leaving for the new town.
They were so busy packing up all their things, putting them into boxes, moving the boxes into a van on the street and locking up the house that they didn’t realise that Ula was not where they thought she was. Each one of the family members thought Ula was with another member of the family.
No one had noticed that Ula had gone out walking. In fact, at the very moment the van drove away with all their things, no one was thinking about Ula at all. They were too concerned with whether their many boxes would fit into the van. Ula had been on her way back from visiting her friends at her club, Puppies Anonymous.
‘I would have been back sooner,’ Ula explained to Catvinkle, ‘but there was a big scary grey dog that kept chasing me every time I got close to the house. So I had to wait till he went away. Perhaps you know this dog?’
‘What’s Puppies Anonymous?’ asked Catvinkle, ignoring Ula’s question.
‘Puppies Anonymous is a special friendship club for dogs and puppies who have lost their name tags or else who just want to take a break from being someone’s pet for a while. It’s a place dogs can go and let their fur down, slip off their collars if they can, and chew the fat – or else gnaw on a nice bone. It’s on the eastern side of Vondelpark,’ Ula explained.