T is for Tricks

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Illustration by Anna Smallman

It was sunny for the first time in weeks. He enjoyed the warmth on his face, felt his shoulders relax and his arms swing and realised that for the first time in ages, he was happy. He was glad the cat had chosen him. Maybe not him exactly, but his flat, his pile of dirty laundry. It was currently lying on his smelly blue top, right next to a pile of grubby grey underpants. ‘What’s that if not love?’ he smiled to himself.

But things aren’t as rosy as Michael imagines. He’s the owner of the smelly top  in The Magician’s Cat, Mai Black’s story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition. First of all, he’s down to his last fiver, which was meant for beer, not cat food. Then it turns out he hasn’t got one cat but five.

Kittens, he soon realised, were stupidly expensive what with all the injections, the kitty litter and the special food but he managed to get a few more gigs and, when it wasn’t raining and Janet was around to look after his new little family, he did street magic to earn a few pounds extra. The one thing he didn’t do was steal. He kept his promise to his parole officer, to his Dad, to Janet. That part of his life was over, he decided.

For all his faults, Michael’s heart is in the right place and it has enough love for both Janet and the cats. So things get awkward when a rather unpleasant man comes round saying the cats are Persian, worth £200 each. And they’re his.

Of course, being a magician has its uses. I’d love to pull off a few tricks myself. I tried that one about being in two places at once, so when I leave Taunton the Smiths will think I’m still here. But I don’t think it worked because I was hiding by the garden shed when Sam put out some gizzards and I didn’t eat them. That was until I couldn’t hold out any longer so I did. One can never be 100% sure, but it felt very much that when I was by the shed I wasn’t eating the gizzards and vice versa. Maybe I should ask Michael for advice.

Mai, incidentally, has been busy since Cat Tales came out. In her own words: Apart from running Suffolk Writers Group (click for photos and information), I’ve finished my novel for young adults called ‘A Ghost of a Chance’. It’s about a thirteen year old boy called Ben who gets taken over by ‘Zeke’ a Victorian ghost, desperate for another shot at living. I’ve also started the second in the series – ‘Ezekiel’ – that centres on Zeke’s younger brother, Jacob, who is trapped in the afterlife, waiting for him to arrive. In the photo below which was the inspiration behind the books, Zeke is third from the left and Jacob is at the front.

The proceeds from Cat Tales go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. So please don’t hesitate to spread the word (reblog, twitter, faceboook, sandwich board, Times Square illumination) and help us raise all we can. And of course, if you click on the button yourself, you can find out what happens when Michael’s magic fingers get to work. Thank you!

In a special promotion deal, the price of Cat Tales is just $1.99 for the whole month of April. Available as a PDF (or epub / mobi) complete with colour illustrations directly from this site* by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).

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*You can buy from Amazon here, but buying from this site results in $1.61 after the PayPal commission, as opposed to just $0.70 from Amazon. An insecticide treated mosquito net, which protects on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years, costs $2.50. PLUS, if you buy from this site, you’ll get a personal message of thanks from Curtis along with a short story of his own (in which Nibbles the cat, I’m sorry to say, comes to a rather unfortunate end).