Apart from having a name that begins with X, Xavier isn’t an interesting person at all. But he does indirectly lead to Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition, so I thought I’d tell you how. He’s Magali Rousseau’s husband in One Green Bottle, you see, or was until she swapped him for a cat. Actually, to be honest, he swapped her first for another woman, so she didn’t have a lot of choice. She thought at that point her life would be miserable, but as it turned out, the despondency she braced herself for never came. On the contrary, a couple of months after settling in, she was sitting on the patio on a glorious summer evening, sipping a glass of wine as Toupie purred contentedly round her ankles, thinking that she was no less contented herself. This was surely better than supper in front of the television with a husband who seldom acknowledged a word she said. Perhaps, looking back through the lens of anger, it all seemed bleaker than it was, but honestly, they might as well have been waxworks in a museum.
But Toupie wasn’t the catalyst for Cat Tales. That was the two tabbies. They belonged to the boy who later moved to Marseille, traded antiques on eBay, and killed people. A long time ago, when life was tolerable, almost good, he had two cats that kept him company. How old was he? Seven? Eight? Before his father began to question the worth of his existence. Back then, presumably, he was cute, almost as cute as the tabbies. He never knew what happened to them but they disappeared, both of them, all of a sudden, and he was left only with an inconsolable sadness.
I often wondered what happened to the cats, which is why the passage above became the prompt for the first Book a Break short story competition. And in came the answer! Or many answers, in fact, because that’s the magic of stories. You can be in Taunton, open a book, and suddenly be in Egypt, Kyoto or Crete. Cat Tales will take you to 21 different worlds. Not even quantum physics can do that.
As for me, it’s decided now. I’m off to travel for real. First stop, Provence, where I’ll hang out with Toupie, then it’s the great wide world as I go in search of Utopia. A new life beckons. But I’ll stay in touch, don’t worry. You’ve not seen the last of Smith!
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 read all 21 stories and find out what happened to the tabbies. 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).
*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).