Guest post by Musetta Simon
Musetta here, and I’m logging on to tell you: I hate summer.
Does that surprise you? As a cat, I am essentially a desert animal. My body temperature runs higher than yours, and I could lay in the sun for hours, soaking up the rays. (When I do this, my mom says I’m the solar-powered kitty, recharging.) But as a writer’s cat, I’ve learned a few things. And number one is that summer means travel. For my humans, of course. Not for me, and I hate that.
Sometimes, the trips are not so bad. My people disappear for about 12 hours or so, to some mythical place called “the beach,” and when they return they taste so different – so salty – that I can’t resist lapping at their hands or bare legs. Sometimes, though, they are gone for a weekend or even a week. I know when this is going to happen – don’t think I don’t! The suitcases come out. The dreaded washing machine – so noisy! – runs nonstop. And then they disappear. Being a cat, I don’t have much sense of linear time. Still, I know what’s going to happen and all I can think is that they’re not here. Taken by predators, perhaps. Gone. Doesn’t my mom have more books to write? More paper to spread out on the table, where I can loll about? Where are her priorities?
Not with me, obviously. But at least, as a mystery writer, she isn’t entirely clueless.
“Why don’t you take Musetta with you?” I’ve heard that question bandied about, by the so-called friends who come over and disturb our quiet mealtimes. “There are pet-friendly hotels on the Cape, after all.”
My mom knows better than that. She knows what they don’t understand. I love my people, with all their delightful books and paper for me to lie on. How could I not? But as a cat, I love my home most of all. Here, in my territory, I have my secret places – the back of the closet. Under the bed. I have my sunny spot, although it does move during the day. And I have the stairs I can run up and down when the whim takes me (or a particularly fetching moth gets in). I miss my people when they take off, sure. But unlike a dog, I’d rather have them leave me here, with a surrogate servant, of course, than drag me around behind them on their ridiculous adventures.
Which brings me to the most mysterious aspect of my mom’s new book, Code Grey*. In this new book, the ninth in the Dulcie Schwartz feline-filled series, Jeremy, a gentle, older former scholar who has been sidelined by mental illness, is found, unconscious, with a rare book hidden beneath his coat. The book, a valuable volume, has been missing for decades, and its reappearance raises so many questions. Did Jeremy steal it? The older scholar has been hanging around the library for as long as anyone can remember. And although Dulcie believes he is harmless, not everyone is so sure.
But if he did steal the book, why hasn’t he sold it? His coat is threadbare. He appears to be homeless, and the volume is worth money. Where has he been keeping it all these years? It’s unlikely that a life on the streets would have preserved its fragile binding, or the strange printer’s mark that appears inside.
Of course, to me, these are not the important questions. I’ve learned by now not to get too worried about the people in my mom’s other life. Dulcie will get involved, as is her way, not only with the mystery of the book but also the larger questions of Jeremy’s life, starting with what happened to leave him unconscious outside the library. This is what she does.
What worries me is a much more important matter. What I’m concerned about is the shadow of a cat who keeps reappearing. A grey cat, rather like the spirit Mr Grey, who watches over Dulcie in all the books. The ghost of the late, great cat in Dulcie’s life and who, I hear, so resembles my own predecessor in this house of mine: a long-haired cat with features more Siamese than Persian, whose astute green eyes and sensitive whiskers set the bar pretty high for felines here.
What I want to know is what is going on with that cat Dulcie keeps seeing? Is he a real cat or another apparition? If he is real, does he have a safe place of his own, or is he as homeless as Jeremy seems to be? Living on vermin and rainwater, and always on the run? Does he ever find a sunny place in which to sit? Is he warm, and is he safe? I may hate summer, and the temporary displacement of my people, but at least I have a home to watch over. Does that strange cat have his own place to stay? Will Dulcie ever find out?
My mom is going away again this weekend. It’s one of those weekends. But I really hope she solves this mystery for me. Not knowing is what I hate most.
Musetta is the inspiration for the cats Esmé (in the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries) and Wallis (in the Pru Marlowe pet noirs). She is attended to by author Clea Simon, author, most recently of Code Grey: A Feline-Filled Academic Mystery* and Cats Can’t Shoot: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir*. Her works – along with pictures of Musetta – may be found at http://www.cleasimon.com.
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Photos of Musetta and Cyrus ©Clea Simon, used with permission
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