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Excerpt from The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles

by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel X
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel
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    Oct 2018, 288 pages

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles

I am a cat. As yet, I have no name. There's a famous cat in our country who once made this very statement.

I have no clue how great that cat was, but at least when it comes to having a name I got there first. Whether I like my name is another matter, since it glaringly doesn't fit my gender, me being male and all. I was given it about five years ago – around the time I came of age.

Back then, I used to sleep on the bonnet of a silver van in the parking lot of an apartment building. Why there? Because no one would ever shoo me away. Human beings are basically huge monkeys that walk upright, but they can be pretty full of themselves. They leave their cars exposed to the elements, but a few paw prints on the paintwork and they go ballistic.

At any rate, the bonnet of that silver van was my favourite place to sleep. Even in winter, the sun made it all warm and toasty, the perfect spot for a daytime nap.

I stayed there until spring arrived, which meant I'd survived one whole cycle of seasons. One day, I was lying curled up, having a snooze, when I suddenly sensed a warm, intense gaze upon me. I unglued my eyelids a touch and saw a tall, lanky young man, eyes narrowed, staring down at me as I lay prone.

'Do you always sleep there?' he asked.

I suppose so. Do you have a problem with that?

'You're really cute, do you know that?'

So they tell me.

'Is it okay if I stroke you?'

No, thanks. I batted one front paw at him in what I hoped to be a gently threatening way.

'Aren't you a stingy one?' the man said, pulling a face.

Well, how would you like it if you were sleeping and somebody came by and rubbed you all over?

'I guess you want something in exchange for being stroked?'

Quick on the draw, this one. Quite right. Got to get something in return for having my sleep disturbed. I heard a rustling and popped my head up. The man's hand had disappeared into a plastic bag.

'I don't seem to have bought anything cat-suitable.'

No sweat, mate. Feline beggars can't be choosers. That scallop jerky looks tasty.

I sniffed at the package sticking out of the plastic bag and the man, smiling wryly, tapped me on the head with his fingers.

Hey there, let's not jump the gun.

'That's not good for you, cat,' he said. 'Plus it's too spicy.'

Too spicy, says you? Do you think a hungry stray like me gives a ratsmonkey about his health? Getting something into my stomach right this minute – that's my top priority.

At last, the man liberated a slice of fried chicken from a sandwich, stripping off the batter, laying the flesh on his palm and holding it out to me.

You want me to eat right out of your hand? You think you'll get all friendly with me by doing that? I'm not that easy. Then again, it's not often I get to indulge in fresh meat – and it looks kind of succulent – so perhaps a little compromise is in order.

As I chomped down on the chicken, I felt a couple of human fingers slide from under my chin to behind my ears. He scratched me softly. I mean, I'll permit a human who feeds me to touch me for a second, but this guy was pretty clever about it. If he were to give me a couple more tidbits, scratching under my chin would be up for grabs, too. I rubbed my cheek against his hand.

The man smiled, pulled the meat from the second half of the sandwich, stripped off the batter, and held it out. I wanted to tell him I wouldn't be impartial to the batter, either. It would fill me up even more.

I let him stroke me properly to repay him for the food, but now it was time to close up shop.

Just as I began to raise a front paw and send him on his way, the man said, 'Okay, see you later.'

Excerpted from The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Beyond the Book:
  Cats in Japanese Culture

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