Star Wars. The Wizard of Oz. Harry Potter and…whatever he's up to in a given book. The Mrs. Pollifax mysteries. I love settling down with stories like these, about a regular, often discounted, person who is thrust into a strange new world full of wonderful and terrible challenges. Instead of falling apart, our hero or heroine rises to the occasion by being…themselves. I love that-- as a reader. But as a writer?


The funny thing about writing stories like this, at least for me, is that when it comes to that critical stage where our hero or heroine meets the wise old guru who knows what the protagonist needs to do to defeat the villain, I can't help but think, "Instead spouting the usual cryptic mumbo jumbo, why don't you just tell them what they need to do and save us all a lot of angst?"
Of course, if you do that, there'd be no story. And thus another promising adventure goes into the To Be Finished drawer, for a second life as author's guilt. ("I really should finish that great story I started…")


I've written or thought up dozens of stories, only to get stuck on this point. Until now. Until I became the wise guru in a real life drama, which I'll call Feline World War Three: The battle of the dining room table.


I recently moved and my cat, Fuzzy, came with me. (No, I did not name her.) The house we moved into already has a cat, Tum Tum (I didn't name her, either). Tum Tum is fourteen pounds of furry black affection-- and she is not pleased that another cat is muscling in on her tummy rubbing time with her humans. The moment Fuzzy enters the room, Tum Tum turns into a shrieking banshee. As best I can translate cat shrieks, she is saying, "Get out! Interloper! Interloper! My house! My house! Go! Go! Go!) The fact that Fuzzy is twice her age, half her size, and has zero interest in any human affection is beside the point.


Now, Fuzzy can pretty much take care of herself. It's actually a little embarrassing to watch Tum Tum (aka The Giantessa) repeatedly get her butt kicked by this wee grey-striped cat. I always thought that expression, the fur went flying, was overdone until I actually saw it in action. Neither cat ever gets hurt or even scratched, but there are hunks—HUNKS-- of black Tum Tum fur all over the place. I have to vacuum every day or the carpet looks like dalmatian fur.


It's not the vacuuming I object to (well…) but the fact that Fuzzy is sick and doesn't need the stress of constantly defending herself. And there's the disquieting reality that one of Tum Tum's huge claws, if it ever reached Fuzzy, could take off her tiny head.
The thing is, getting back to my point about being the wise guru in this battle, Fuzzy could completely avoid being stalked by Tum Tum if only she went up. That's all she has to do. Jump up onto something. Tum Tum can't jump worth squat. She is barely able to pull herself the eighteen inches up onto the couch.


And yet, what does Fuzzy do when Tum Tum comes in the room, looking for a fight? She promptly jumps down to hide under something. Something worthless, like a chair where any idiot can see her.


I want desperately to communicate to Fuzzy that all she needs to do is stay on the bookshelf or the table top or whatever she's napping on. But I can't. It is something she will have to figure out for herself.


And that is why, in the Wizard of Oz, Glinda can't just tell Dorothy to wish herself home the second those ruby slippers appear on her feet. It is only at the end of her journey that Dorothy can hear and understand.


You can't tell someone what they need to hear until they are ready. Sometimes they need to find it out for themselves. I just hope, in my situation, Fuzzy figures it out before Winter. It's cold in our house and Tum Tum's going to need her fur.





Liz Jasper is the author of the award winning cozy vampire mystery UNDERDEAD. Visit her at her website: www.lizjasper.com. If you are in the LA area on Sunday, visit Liz at the Anaheim Convention Center in the Sisters In Crime booth where she'll be signing copies of Underdead.

15 comments

  1. Mary Marvella // June 28, 2008 at 3:41 PM  

    That is so true and so funny. Sometimes we aren't ready to hear what we need to hear.

  2. Mary Ricksen // June 28, 2008 at 4:16 PM  

    They should get used to each other eventually. Must be some kind of instinct to hide like that.

  3. Beth Trissel // June 28, 2008 at 5:15 PM  

    Liz this is delightful! Off to tell my loops!

  4. Beth Trissel // June 28, 2008 at 5:24 PM  

    Oh, and Liz, WELCOME BACK TO THE BLOG!

  5. Keli Gwyn // June 28, 2008 at 6:50 PM  

    Enjoyed your story, Liz.

  6. Liz Jasper // June 28, 2008 at 7:32 PM  

    Beth, Yes, I'm afraid it's true, I'm still alive. Now it's out that the real reason I haven't blogged lately is I've been immersed in field research on the vaguaries of cat behavior. Thanks for the welcome back. : )

    Mary R., I am clinging to your words of hope they someday get along. Little turds.

    Mary M and Keli, glad you enjoyed the blog today. I should say, "don't encourage me" or the next thing you know I'll be posting long daily diatribes on catly behavior.

    Cheers,
    Liz

  7. Beth Trissel // June 28, 2008 at 7:33 PM  

    I find cats fascinating. :)

  8. Liz Jasper // June 28, 2008 at 7:41 PM  

    So do I, which means I can drone on about them ad nauseum (that is probably spelled wrong, but I took French in High School and am too lazy to look it up.)
    --Liz

  9. Nightingale // June 28, 2008 at 8:35 PM  

    Liz, witty as always. I'm a cat person too. I so enjoyed this post. Thanks!

  10. Mary Buckham // June 28, 2008 at 10:08 PM  

    Liz ~~ Too, too funny -- I'll never be able to think of a mentor -- or wise old woman/wise old man -- without thinking of someone with whiskers!!

    What a hoot! ~~ Mary B :-)

  11. Liz Jasper // June 29, 2008 at 12:50 AM  

    Linda, glad you liked it. Since you like cats, email me your address and I'll send along a certain fat black cat and...problem solved!

    Mary B., I am honored you stopped by. For anyone here who might not know Mary Buckham, she teaches a kick ass class on The Hero's Journey. She also does amazing plotting workshops and has a fabulous n.f. book coming out on plotting.

    : ) Liz

  12. Helen Scott Taylor // June 29, 2008 at 4:20 AM  

    Wonderful blog Liz. I love cats, and I've had a similar problem to yours. Sad to say, the only solution I found was to rehome one of the cats before she became nothing more than a quivering jelly hiding in the corner all day. Hope your cat wars are solved more satisfactorily.

  13. Ginger // June 29, 2008 at 9:42 AM  

    So true. We can't grow and learn sometimes without actually experiencing the journey, so to speak. Too bad it sometimes means cat-fights. *grin*

    Great blog, Liz.

    Ginger

  14. Anonymous // June 29, 2008 at 8:03 PM  

    Liz,
    My dog and cat still scrap all the time and they've been together for going on 4 years! So I understand how you feel. Haven't figured out how to make them get along, so I can't offer a solution!

    Melba from Georgia

  15. Liz Jasper // July 1, 2008 at 1:27 AM  

    Helen, Ginger and Melba, glad you liked the post.

    I only wish you could offer better suggestions for controlling the cats, but then they wouldn't BE cats, would they?
    : ) Liz