Here is a sample of John’s book that is for ages 10-14.
John thanks the Strathmore Writer’s Group for their support in his writing.
“Cat Story” – an excerpt
Jack got off the bus already feeling good, and that was a rare thing. It was Friday, which always made for happy times, but more importantly it was also a sunny day in early spring. That meant he could enjoy the spring runoff as it coursed down the creek in behind their yard, a torrent of cold water that would soon bring the whole ravine back to life. He couldn’t wait to find his cat, Satin, and head off with her on a new expedition of peaceful discovery.
As Jack walked down the driveway Carly bounded past him and into their house. “Milk’s mine!” she called out triumphantly as she dropped her things and sped for the fridge. Jack came up behind her with an unperturbed smile, making his sister looked back peevishly. “I’m gonna have a whole slurpee glass of pink milk,” she taunted, “and its gonna take a while!”
But still Jack did not react, other than to calmly put his school gear away. “What’s the matter with you?” sneered his spooked sister.
Jack just grinned back. “I’m going to the creek today” he answered casually. A surprised Carly opened her mouth to say something else, but shut it again without a word. “You’re weird,” was all she could mutter as she got on with putting strawberry syrup into her outsized glass.
Jack just chuckled at the sour comment, but he had to agree with its premise. He was weird: and everybody knew it, including himself. But today he was being rather normal, which to his sister, just made his weirdness even weirder. Carly was used to him being different, a tightly wound loner that came home like a kid returning from the dentist; just needing a place to flop down and recuperate. So for her this ‘happy Jack’ was almost like an imposter.
The suspect boy enjoyed his sister’s unease, pleased to disappoint in a good way, for once. Yet he still decided it would be best to join Carly for at least one cartoon today, complete with his customary chocolate milk. It was their routine, after all, and would help his only sibling not to get too creeped out with him: Jack was always very keen to keep his home sanctuary both functional and safe.
In fact Jack and Carly had a decent, if complex, sort of relationship. Socially, of course, she was vastly more successful, well liked and popular at school, while he was the undisputed freak of Edgeburry Elementary. But he was still two years older than her, and also notably bigger, which meant that while their status at school was that of opposites, at home it worked out to a rough equivalent.
So it was they had an unspoken agreement to simply ignore each other during their time in the ‘hallowed halls of learning’, and thus avoid a home war that neither could win. After all they did live on a farm, out of range of any other kids, so they both knew they had to get along.
And one thing they naturally shared was after-school television, a chance to relax after the day’s tensions, no matter how different they were. So it was that he slid into a family room chair with his usual refreshment, just in time to see the credits of the educational program that preceded Sponge Bob.
Jack pulled on his straw as Carly peered at him suspiciously. “Caitlan said you and Prin were in the library together”.
“Yeah” he answered with a coy shrug.
“She said you were together, alone, talking, and everything” she went on slowly, like a cop probing a suspect.
Jack looked at her sideways. “Yeah” he said simply, enjoying the moment of rare status. “We have a social project together,” he admitted after a few moments, “so we had to go to the library and work on it”.
Carly nodded with an, ‘I knew it’ look, but still appeared rather impressed. She also asked no more questions, knowing that Jack didn’t like to talk school while at home. With a huffy ‘harumph’ she let the topic go, and focused on the mindless entertainment they could both readily agree on.
The cartoon was, as usual, a repeat, so Jack was content to leave after the first story. “Going to the creek,” he announced as he walked out with his empty glass, “just me and Satin”.
Carly twisted her head after him. “She didn’t look too good yesterday,” she said uncertainly.
Jack shrugged again. “She is getting older,” he said, like he was a wise man, “old cats get quirky…er”.
“Yeah,” groaned Carly, “but she looks…well, old”. Jack felt a little uneasy at her concern, but proud too: Carly had always been kind of despairing about his cat, so it was good to hear his only sister talk of Satin with some regard.
“She’s fine, don’t worry,” he answered as nicely as he could, and got on with his plans.
After checking to make sure Satin hadn’t come in, he donned his wind breaker and boots and walked out the door. It was a fine April afternoon, crisp but nice in the sunshine, and without a breath of wind.
“Sat-in” he called in the distinct way he always did. He walked toward the back of their acreage, waiting for his best friend to come out. “Sa-tin:” he went on distractedly, noting the buds in the trees, and the greening grass beneath his rubber boots: T-shirt weather couldn’t be far away. “Sa-ti-in” he called again in teasing tones, soaking in the great weather without a care in the world.
Well, no unusual cares, anyway. He was still an outcast at school, his grades were slipping, and summer vacation was still a long, long ways away. But that was his life, he was used to it, and anyway he was starting to be cautiously hopeful again. True, the dreaded shift to junior high was rapidly approaching, but if he kept on easing from being openly disliked, to merely being tolerated, it may be that a new school would be an opportunity, a place where he might finally make a friend or two.
But as he picked an early dandelion his head warned his heart to be very careful; he had been burned by so-called friends before. Without hardly noticing he whispered his Golden Rule of School Survival, ‘We don’t need them, we are just fine ourselves’.
Jack believed that all too deeply: except, of course, for the one true friend he’s had since being sentenced to a twelve year stretch in the local learning institution: his precious Satin, the cat who was always glad to see him.
‘Saaa-tin-tin-tin!” he called out again, nonchanlantly patient in the lovely conditions. Spring was his favorite time of year, when almost any sunny day felt warm after winter, and no spoilsport mosquitos were around yet either. He was so at ease that he brushed aside any worries he might have as to his cat, who was unusually slow to answer him: he guessed she was probably just as relaxed as he was today.
As he walked around the old barn he suddenly caught a glimpse of his mother, trimming last year’s vines on the north side of the house. The clipper in her hands had just stopped, and she now seemed to be watching him from under her gardening hat. A strange sense of autumn stole over Jack on that spring day, as though a season of his life was falling into winter. Mom had been getting seriously worried about his social struggles lately, and even Dad was no longer so calmly sure that ‘it would all work out’.
Reminded of his parent’s increasing fears over him, he decided to keep looking for the only person who had never doubted him. “Sa-tin” he called again, more serious now. Still no faithful friend appeared, cool and confident and happy to see him. He walked away to the barn but still cast a careful look back at his mother. She was still watching, and he hated the way that made him feel.