Read The Great Cat Caper Online

Authors: Lauraine Snelling

The Great Cat Caper

© 2012 by Lauraine Snelling & Kathleen Damp Wright

Print ISBN 978-1-61626-566-3

eBook Editions:
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-62029-102-3
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-62029-103-0

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.

Cover Illustration: Jamey
Christoph/lindgrensmith.com

Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683,
www.barbourbooks.com
.

Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.

Printed in the United States of America.
Dickinson Press, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI 49512; August 2012; D10003469

Dedication

Kathleen—
to my husband, Fred, my Adventure Guy

Lauraine—
to Chelley and Gina of Have a Heart Humane Society in my hometown who have saved the lives of hundreds of cats and kittens.
My hat is off to animal rescuers of all kinds.

Acknowledgments

Kathleen—
Thanks to: Rhonda at Second Chance for Homeless Pets in Salt Lake for letting me experience the joy of cat-ness and ask a jillion questions. The Wang family for whisker instruction. Jane Owen, a fabulous friend and writer who laughed in all the right places and marked up some that needed to be better. Mom Kris and daughter Gaby for how accelerated school might work. Natalie for use of her made-up word. No More Homeless Pets of Utah for letting me see the process of trapping community cats.
Lauraine for her friendship and our continuing adventures.

Lauraine and Kathleen—
God, You are our Treasure in every moment.

Chapter 1

Beetle!

A
nd now I want you all to sit somewhere
unstructured
and think of your own interjection.” The language arts teacher waved her arm, draped in gauzy fabric, and smiled, showing most of her teeth. Vee Nguyen’s slow, answering grin flowed across her face; the woman winked at her. “Put the brains that got you into this accelerated learning center to work!”

Vee, pleased to be noticed, blushed and looked down. Yes, she and these kids were smarter than the rest of them. She couldn’t wait to tell her new S.A.V.E. Squad friends, Sunny, Aneta, and Esther, that Moby Perkins Elementary School Accelerated Learning Center—or the ALC—was like another planet. The girls—the first letter of each name spelled out “S.A.V.E.”—had agreed to meet at the library today to tell each other
everything
about the first day of school.

To beat the others, she darted toward the rolltop desk where Mr. Tuttle, the learning center teacher, sat. Rather than the students leaving the center, teachers came into their learning center. Mr. Tuttle said it was to continue the “synergy” of learning. Vee had made a note in her always-present notebook to look up the word. She crawled under the desk. With the next breath came visions of her twin stepbrothers, the Twin Terrors. Where she sat smelled just like their feet. Only extra-strength grown-up stinky. Eww.

No matter.

From her prime spot, she watched the rush for the padded window seats, the couch, and a huge white claw-foot tub loaded with rainbow-colored pillows. The room burst with brightly colored kites hanging from the ceiling and words applied to the wall: W
HO
W
ILL
Y
OU
B
E
T
ODAY
? P
REPARE
. P
ROPEL
. P
ERPETUATE.
The good spots were going fast. Giggles and a couple of grumpy “Hey, I was here first!” floated in the sun-brightened air.

Better get going with A+ work. This was her spot, this group of smart kids. She’d earned it.
What interjection would be better than everyone else’s?
Breathing through her mouth like she did when she was around the Twin Terrors, she readied her pen. She grinned, keeping her lips nearly closed, placing her hands on the carpet to get a smidge more comfortable. How cool to make up your own word for—

“Eww!” she shrieked and shot out from under the desk. The heel of her left hand had
crunched something.

The language arts teacher clapped her hands. “Excellent learning moment here, Vee!” She turned to the class who was—yes. Staring. At. Her. Vee’s face burned with embarrassment. Staring at her after she had the best interjection was okay. But now? No way! The teacher turned back to Vee, looking expectant. “What interjection to show strong feeling or emotion could you use for this intensity, Vee?”

Dreading what she might find, but needing to know, she slanted a glance down at the “whatever” now stuck to her hand. What interjection?
Think, Vee, think.
This is life in the ALC. Parts of a beetle, antenna still moving on a separated head, lay there.

“Beetle!”
she yelled, madly shaking her hand. “Beeeeeetle!”

Nodding to the class to join, the teacher clapped. “
Beetle
works. Strong consonant beginning conveys strong feeling.”

Oh—Vee fished around for a better word to describe her humiliation. Okay,
beetle.
As she stood there feeling like a
beetling
idiot, the class went back to their papers, most crossing out what they had.

“You’ve done a great job,” the woman said. “Go ahead and continue the rest of the activity.”

Yanking her focus from the remains of the bug, Vee plunged in. The loud and smelly stepbrothers could have each other and soccer mania. Her parents and their others could have each other. She had
her
spot.

If I survived the beetle incident and fish sticks with marinated vegetables for school lunch, I can survive anything.
Now, back in the smart-kid learning center for fifth period math, a tiny, yes,
tiniest
zizzle buzzed in her stomach along with lunch. The feeling couldn’t be because math was the next class, she argued with herself. She’d worked hard all summer on her math. It had to be lunch. She wrote in the notebook:

Bring lunch except for pizza day.

“Okay, nodkins.” Mr. Tuttle folded massive arms across an equally massive chest. “Get out your books. Stay awake in class.” He knit bushy brows. “Ms. Smith and math begins in a minute, and before she does”—Mr. Tuttle looked at the generic wall clock and then down at his clipboard—“I’ll tell you about your service-learning project for the semester.” When he smiled, he looked like a wolf baring its teeth like in Wolf Week on the
Everything Animal
show. Her gaze fell to his large, clog-covered feet.
Eww
.

A hand touched her shoulder. She jumped. Looking up to her left, she saw the guidance counselor. The woman smiled, looking over Vee’s head in Mr. Tuttle’s direction with a little tip of the head toward the door.
I am once again the center of attention the first day of school.
Sigh. Mr. Tuttle kept talking as though the counselor wasn’t there and everyone wasn’t staring at Vee. “Service-learning projects help you see that just because you may be the smartest kids in the school, everything is not about you….”

After they sat down at a small round table in her office, the petite guidance counselor picked up a polka-dotted file folder with Vee’s name on the tab. The counselor opened it and laid it flat on the table between them.

“Oh, Vee. First thing, you’re not in trouble,” she said, as though she’d forgotten any kid would freak when dragged off to the counselor’s office the first day of school.

“I know,” Vee said. Although she
had
wondered. “I’m not a troublemaker. I’m one of the smart kids.”

“You are,” the woman nodded. “Here’s the situation. We had a computer glitch after all the students took the assessment to get into the Accelerated Learning Center.”

The zizzle swept up from Vee’s toes. She found she was still clutching the notebook and pen. She set them both down on her lap and unclenched her fingers.

“The thing is,” the counselor said slowly, leaning forward and looking right into Vee’s dark brown eyes. Her gaze was kind, which let Vee know something terrible was up. “You passed the assessments in language arts, history, and science.”

Vee counted one, two, three subjects. The counselor hadn’t mentioned … “But, not in—” Vee faltered, her voice sounding breathy like her
okay, no problem
voice when Dad called to say he wasn’t coming to pick her up like he promised. “Math?”

The counselor shook her head. “Not in math. It will take me a day to get everything arranged. You can stay in the ALC until then,” the counselor said, patting Vee on the shoulder and smiling. “Don’t think of it as losing something. Think of it as blooming in a different place.”

Blooming? How could she bloom with her prized spot yanked out from under her?

This time the list formed in her head:

Why Smart Kids Cry the First Day of School

Her throat tightened. After school. The Squad. They were going to tell each other everything.

Everything?

No way.

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