Dear Visitor,

You’re here most likely because you, like I, share your home with at least one cat. As I write this, our cat, Dignan, sits on an art table in my office looking out a window. I keep a bird feeder hanging nearby, turning the old panes of wavy glass into a widescreen kitty-vision set. Dignan spends hours watching the birds, and the birds are more than willing to entertain him as long as I keep the feeder full.

Now I hear Dignan thumping his big furry paw against the window. He does so not to get the attention of the birds on the feeder (they are well aware the glass force field prevents him from pouncing), but rather to gain the attention of his girlfriend, our neighbor’s tabby, whom we call Bella. Dignan is quite smitten by her. She and her brother, dubbed Tinker by us, come into our yard often to visit. They like tummy rubs and scratches behind the ears, but mostly they like the food we offer. Bella especially. Sometimes, lovingly, we call her Belly. She doesn’t seem to mind as long as we keep that particular body part full.

However, Dignan was not always so in love with Bella. When she and her brother were kittens, Dignan was less than pleased to see them in the yard, stalking windblown leaves and playing with the neighbor’s dachshund as if the small black dog were just another cat.

And Dignan was even less pleased by the kittens on the night the fox came.

It was an autumn evening, not long after the kittens’ arrival, when I happened to hear an odd sound outside our house. Curious as a cat, I walked down the driveway. In the stark light of the streetlamp I saw Tinker standing in the road, and sitting just in front of him was a gray fox.

Tinker didn’t seem half as frightened for himself as I felt frightened for him. I yelled at the fox to leave, waving my hands and arms about. But the fox did not run away. He simply looked around at me, leering with his dark eyes as if I were some foolish human interrupting something I could not possibly understand.

The fox then turned his attention back toward Tinker, and I turned mine toward the ground. Searching among the patchwork of shadows beneath nearby trees, I found a fallen limb. Brandishing the small branch, I shouted again for the fox to leave, striking the blacktop with the crooked stick to show I meant every word.

Begrudgingly, the fox stood up. More annoyed than frightened, he began to walk away, looking back to leer at me one last time before vanishing into the night.

But I was certain he was not gone for good. Foxes are clever, I thought, and he must be there somewhere in the dark waiting for me to go inside my warm human home, leaving the kittens unprotected.

So I bent down and scooped Tinker up in my hands and started searching for his sister. I soon found Bella hiding under a shrub. With kittens cradled in the crooks of my arms and our neighbor not yet home from work, I carried Tinker and Bella into my home.

Dignan was indignant.

He was even more so when he learned we would be bringing the kittens into the house for several nights to come, until they were a bit older and the fox had moved on, losing interest in them.

And it seemed to work.

The kittens are now cats.

Tinker, the ever-wondering soul.

Bella, the beauty in the window whom Dignan now adores.

As for the fox, one can only wonder. Which is what I did the night he came. My imagination got the better of me—as it often does—and I began to devise a reason why the ever-so-clever fox was so interested in the kittens. My fiancée, Michelle, listened attentively, smiling and nodding—lovingly saying she liked the snippets of story. I jotted down the idea in one of many small notebooks I keep on hand for just such musings. Once written, alongside countless other ideas, I closed the book and moved on with my life. And the night the fox came for the kittens faded from memory.

Until about seven months later when Michelle, like Stephen King’s wife did with his manuscript of Carrie, pulled the long forgotten story out of the wastebasket that is my brain and said, “You should write a book about the fox and the kittens.”

We talked about the book on and off for a couple of weeks, and then I began to write. An hour here, two hours there, three if I was lucky—mostly early in the morning before going to work each day. Eight months later, the first draft was finished. Always amazed at how the words accumulate over time like dust, I was pleased for the most part and exhausted for the better part. To celebrate and to recoup, I took a few weeks away from the words to reacquaint myself with friends and family. But soon the story called me back. I could not resist. There was rewriting to do.

After the second draft, I handed the manuscript over to Michelle to read and edit. While she slashed away with a blood red pen, I sat down at my art table and began to draw some of the characters from the story.

And now that The Knowing: Secret of Cats has been written and some of the illustrations have been drawn, the really hard part begins—getting an agent and a publisher.

It should be quite a journey. I’ve set out upon this treacherous trek of query letters and rejection forms before with other manuscripts, only to bury them in my trunk of unpublished books. But who knows, maybe this story will be plucked from the ever-growing slush pile toppling with the works of other hopeful writers.

Dignan, on the other paw, hopes not. He’d just as soon not let the secret of cats out of the bag.

Thank you for taking the time to visit the site. And say hello
to your cats for me. But don’t tell them what I’m doing. They won’t be pleased about it either.

E. William Woods

Copyright © 2009 E. William Woods

Double click the photo for more of Tinker & Bella.