It’s, like, about a cat store that sells books, or is it a book store that sells cats?
And there would be, like, a mystery component, eh?! And lots of murders. We’ll call it “Toms, Tomes and Tombs!” (You know, like a Tom = a cat, eh?!)
That’s actually how we talk when we are planning this as we drive to our exercise class at the Parkside Older Adult Centre on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. (Yes, I get the irony that we are driving to an exercise class.)
We have to distract ourselves from the fact that we are going to be doing an hour of stretching and sweating. And we do the same on the way home so that we don’t lose consciousness.
Patti and I have a lovely circle of friends that volunteer at Small Things CATS (Cat Adoption Trust Sudbury (see www.smallthings.ca). No one takes a penny, and everyone gives a lot of time, talent, and treasure — especially Steve, affectionately known as St. Yves.
But volunteering at ST CATS does have its benefits. All the free coffee you can drink and all the books you can read, including murder mystery series. Right now, Patti’s and my favourite author is Colin Bateman — an Irish lad whose books are both witty and, at times, grisly.
He isn’t a household name in Sudbury, yet. We’d like to change that, but Colin’s not a great cat lover and his characters swear a lot and drink like elephants. (Just read the first chapter of Belfast Confidential to see what I mean.) This limits our outreach a tad since we’re a cat shop, we don’t like swearing, and Small Things is an alcohol-free zone. Ach!
But back to our book…
Title: Toms, Tomes, and Tombs
Location: a cat and book shop in “Thud-bury”
Some of the characters: (Note, I’ve changed the names just a little. Sometimes a lot. By the way, Blanche is really Patti.)
-Blanche the Blackmailer
-Cloris the Cleaner
-Suzy the Supermom
-Carrie the Cookie Killer
A little more info:
Toms and Tomes is a sweet little cat and books store located near Killer Crossing in Thudbury and a tall water tower with a ladder, not far from a NIM bin and a cemetery. Their motto is “What’s a cat store without books?”
All the volunteers, except for Yves, are sweet little church ladies who attend St. Gertrude’s Church (Gertrude is the patron saint of cats). Yves appears sweet, too, but is too big to sit comfortably in the pews. The parishioners started getting nervous when this 300-pound 6-6 lad started pacing around the church.
The sweet little store is a volunteer effort and is free of mice, swearing and alcohol (except for medicinal purposes.) These delightful friends meet weekly for meetings after church over coffee and cookies (not the almond-flavoured ones) and none of them know that each of them has a minor personality disorder.
Yves likes to do house calls on adopted cats — surprise house calls to make sure the cat or cats have fresh food and water and clean litter and toys and lots of nice places to sleep. If the new home isn’t up to his standards, the cat(s) come back to the shop. Owners who go crazy on Yves tend to end up almost jumping off the Thudbury water tower. (A few “succeed” if they don’t repent.)
Big Don is the chair of church council at St. Gertrude’s and the chief of police. He has a habit of declaring the death of every person found around the water tower to be of “natural causes,” saying “If you fell from that height, you’d die, too!” Big Don, by the way, has a cat called Godfather.
Blanche is the official cat photographer. She has a thing about men in uniform and invites them in to pose with the kitties. The papers dare not turn down pictures of firefighters and policemen — they never know when they’ll need them next. Most lads are happy to help. Those that aren’t, she steals a photo of, photoshops it onto a man being gruff to a kitty, and threatens to expose these officers if they don’t make a $50 donation to the Toms and Tomes rent fund.
Cloris is the nicest lady you could meet and takes great pride in keeping the store spotless. But make an unkind comment about a cat — any cat — and she’ll chase you out of the store with her mop. And you’d better hightail it, since the mop pole is an iron bar. The wooden ones kept breaking. (Big Don’s comment regarding the slew of injured negative cat-commentators? “Self defense! A gal just can’t be too careful these days.”)
Suzy is the publicity lady and mother of nine active home-schooled little boys ranging in age from two to 10. (There are sets of twins in there.) If anyone gives Toms and Tomes negative publicity, she and her boys show up for a visit — be it to an office, home, business or charity. She tells her bundles of joy that there are chocolates hidden all over the place and their job is to find them all. After half an hour of bedlam and before the police arrives, she says, “Oops, they were in my purse all along. Back to the van, boys!”
And then there is Carrie. What a sweetheart — always baking vegan chocolate chip almond cookies. The book part of the store is made up of books written by her husband, Cullin Braden — a self-published writer of a baker’s dozen books. His protagonist is an Irish detective named James Joyce who solves crimes using impenetrable logic. Alas, Cullin is no Colin; Braden is no Bateman. He is not Irish; he’s never even been to what his character calls “The Emerald Isle.” His books are unreadable. Even worse, DCI Joyce drinks green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Ach!
But Carrie (who thinks she is Irish) thinks Braden is wonderful (for a Scot.) Whenever her husband’s books get a negative review or a nasty comment, she sends a lovely card thanking the reader for their interest, along with a heart-shaped cookie that has “Bite me!” written on it with icing sugar. Alas, she regularly, but accidentally, substitutes arsenic for the almonds. Big Don’s comment at the inquests? “Anything that Carrie cooks is deadly. Have you tried her multi-bean casserole?! Natural causes, obviously! Case closed.”
This is as far as Patti and I have got and will likely ever get, because, being women of a certain age, we can’t remember from one day to the next what we’ve already “written.”
Who could we get to publish this book? Hmm, my husband Laurence runs Scrivener Press. He could have a sister line — Executer Press.
I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse. What would that be? “Publish Patti’s and my book and I’ll never make multi-bean casserole again.” He’ll be all over it like HP sauce on steak.
Jan Carrie Steven
Carrie’s Vegan Chocolate Chip and Almond (or Arsenic) Cookies
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
1/2 cup cold pressed vegetable oil
1/2 cup organic soy milk (unsweetened because you are sweet enough)
2 teaspoons almond extract (or arsenic, depending on the occasion)
2 cups stone-ground flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
Mix and bake at 350 until ready.
* Yields two dozen yummy cookies or 24 cases of horrific vomiting and death.
1 can baked beans
1 can hot chili beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can lima beans
1 can yellow wax beans
1 can green beans
1 can baby butter beans
1 can black beans
1 can tomato soup (on sale this week at Thudbury’s Super Saver)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup barbeque sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
Mix and bake at 350 C until ready.
* Don’t go out in polite company for at least 24 hours after eating these.