Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Lucky Cat

Kevin Coolidge

You’re either a cat person, or a dog person. Me? I grew up with dogs, big dogs. Dogs so rough and wild and strong, that I’d have to pick my arm off the ground, and screw it back into the socket if a squirrel crossed our path. As you might imagine, I didn’t have a cat. Not that there’s anything wrong with cats – often I’d see scruffy toms scampering ‘round my grandparents’ farm. Good for catching mice, if they didn’t get tromped on by a clumsy cow. Yep, guess you could call me a dog person.

One day, I saw a little kitten hunting in the field. He was scrawny and wet and hungry, and running low on luck. I hate to see any animal go hungry, so I opened a can of tuna and set it out. Well, for some reason that cat just seemed to keep hanging around, so I bought some cheap cat food.

Being it was the country, there were skunks and possums and the occasional raccoon that would pilfer the food, so that tiny kitten would have to be brought inside. Just for a little while, you know. Just long enough that I would make sure he got something in his belly. Well, before I knew it, summer turned to fall, and winter was knocking on the door. To make the story short, that cat sure was a lucky cat…

Hobo, my lucky cat, wasn’t the first lucky cat. There’s a Japanese folktale about Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat. You may have seen a cat figurine with an upraised paw in your favorite Japanese restaurant or shop. Such a sculpture is believed to bring good luck to the owner.
Why is this cat waving at you? To Westerners it may appear that Maneki Neko is waving, but he’s really beckoning. Japanese beckon by holding up the hand, palm out, and repeatedly folding the fingers down and back up. So, why is this cat beckoning you?

Long ago in Japan, a cat set out in search of food and shelter. After a difficult journey, the cat came upon a dilapidated temple. The monk of the modest temple had little to share, but he was a kind man, and welcomed the shivering cat in. That cat, then, was a lucky cat.

One afternoon, a spring thunderstorm raged across the countryside. Through the pouring rain, a weary samurai approached the sagging temple. When he saw how poor and pitiable the temple was, he instead chose to seek shelter beneath a cherry tree. The wealthy man saw the lucky cat beckoning to him, and with a smile of amusement, he took a few steps towards the temple gate. CRACK! Lightning struck, and a large tree limb landed just where the lord had been standing only a moment before.

The grateful man thanked the monk and the cat by restoring the temple and helping it become prosperous. He then became a lifelong friend of both cat and man, and when the cat died, a wooden statue, the first Maneki Neko, was created in his honor.

There are several children books that tell the Japanese legend. My favorite is I Am Tama, Lucky Cat written by Wendy Henrichs and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. It’s a beautiful hardcover children’s book with breathtaking watercolor illustrations that offers readers a glimpse into Japanese culture while retelling a poignant tale appropriate for children. I’ve always been curious about those little white, orange and black statues. Yep, guess you could call me a cat person…

Lucky Cat? Or Lucky Dog? Comment and let me know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 2011: Calendar of Events!

THURS. Sept. 8: Writers’ Group, 6:30 to 8:30pm

Free & open to the public. For the 1st half, we’ll do a spontaneous “free-write,” based on one of two writing prompts given at the meeting. For the second half of the meeting, writers are invited to bring up to three pages of a current work-in-progress to share. Most likely, we’ll break up into smaller groups for encouragement and constructive critique.

FRI. Sept. 9: Game Night, 6 to 9pm free & open to the public

SAT. Sept. 10: AUTHOR EVENT: 12 to 3pm
the Austin Dam disaster
Authors: Gale Largey, “The Austin Dam Disaster, 1911
as reported in the media, before radio, television, the Internet...”
Paul Heimel, “1911: The Austin Flood”

SUN. Sept. 11: CLOSED

FRI. Sept. 16: Game Night, 6 to 9pm free & open to the public

SAT. Sept. 17: KLUTZ Craft & Activity Night, 6 to 8pm!!
Join us for a night of good, old-fashioned, non-electronic fun!
Children under age 10 need to be accompanied by an older sibling or by an adult.
Adults do not need to be accompanied by children!!

PURCHASE OF ONE KLUTZ KIT REQUIRED: member discounts gladly applied.

Shrinky Dinks, Jacks, Body Crayons, Clothespin Cars, Paper Stained Glass, Marbles, Rubber Band-Powered Flying Machines, Coin Tricks, Design 'Em Yourself Stickers … and many more choices! Since each kit usually contains enough supplies to do more than one project, or is a game to share with people, we expect there to be many opportunities to swap and share!

SUN. Sept. 18: CLOSED

FRI. Sept. 23: Game Night, 6 to 9pm, free & open to the public
if you have extra folding chairs, please bring one!

TUES. Sept. 27: Book Club, 7 to 9pm
Discussing Stef Penney’s novel, “The Tenderness of Wolves”
You need not be a “regular” member; anyone who has read the book for
the month’s discussion is welcome to attend! Please join us!

SAT. Oct. 1: Author Event with Carolyn Turgeon!
12 to 3pm, light refreshments served
Carolyn is the author of the novel “Rain Village”,
as well as two ‘fractured fairy tales’:
“Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale” and
“Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story”

Normal hours: Monday – Thursday, 9am to 6pm
Friday, 9am to 9pm
Saturday, 9am to 6pm
Open some Sundays, 11am to 3pm, check calendar of events or call

From My Shelf bookstore … your hometown bookstore …
Building community, with you, one book at a time, one event at a time
on facebook: under “Kasey Cox” or From My Shelf
(570) 724-5793

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Kevin Coolidge

I wake to darkness, open my eyes, and smell…nothing. I must be the first one up. Usually, if my rumbling stomach doesn’t wake me up, my nose teases me awake with the mouth-watering aroma of bacon and eggs wafting up from the kitchen. Grandpa is the best cook. I quickly pull on my jeans, toss on a shirt, unlock my door and rush down the steps. I have never beaten the old man, and today is the day! He’s in his favorite chair still asleep with a dog-eared copy of the Bible in his lap.

“Hey, lazy bones, let’s make breakfast!”

I hear his low answering moan from across the room. His head jerks up; his eyes flutter open--cold and empty--dentures clacking together. Grandpa is gone. No trace of humanity remains--just a creature driven by a need for human flesh. I must quiet him. I will give him peace. I draw my belt knife. I’m gonna have to make this quick…

In Dust & Decay, the follow-up to Rot & Ruin, author Jonathan Maberry remembers that zombies were people too. It’s just a sad fact that after “First Night”, everyone who dies comes back as a zombie. It’s been almost sixteen years since that fatal night. The night that civilization died, and the dead reanimated. We don’t know why. We don’t know how. We just know that the world we knew is gone. Mankind lives inside isolated communities behind fences with the great “Rot & Ruin” lurking outside.

In Rot & Ruin, Benny, the male protagonist, comes of age, and must pick a career. He finally chooses to apprentice with his half-brother as a zombie bounty hunter. He can’t wait to get outside and kill some “zoms”, but he learns more than just survival in the wasteland. He learns about himself, his past, and what it is his brother really does. He also quickly learns that flesh-eating zombies aren’t the most dangerous animals around.

In his young adult novels, Jonathan doesn’t skip on the brains, gore, or the action, but there’s also a lot of heart. There’s a strong focus on the complex relationship between Benny and his brother, Tom. The actions of another cruel bounty hunter drive the plot, and Benny learns more than he ever thought possible about life and death.

Seven months after the end of Rot & Ruin, we find Benny, his friends, and his brother in Dust & Decay. The “Rot & Ruin” may lie outside the secure fences of Mountainside, but what is beyond that? It’s time to leave their home forever and search for a better future. It sounds easy.

But everything goes wrong: they are pursued by the living dead, escaped zoo animals, and deranged murderers. The teens must apply all their training if they wish to stay alive, and what’s worse is that there is evidence that a former foe is still alive, angry, and evil as ever. In the great “Rot & Ruin,” everything wants to kill you, and not everyone is going to come out alive…

In Dust & Decay, we see further character development of Benny and Tom, as well as the romantic relationship with his girlfriend Nix. I found the excerpts from Nix’s diary a great addition to the story, giving the reader more background about other bounty hunters, Nix’s thoughts and feelings. This diary shows us more information about their world, as well as providing thought-provoking questions for the reader—can zombies feel pain? Why don’t they attack each other?

Benny begins to mature and build upon the lessons learned in the “Rot & Ruin”, and grow into a man who is strong, but different from his brother. This series is sure to be satisfying for anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, or World War Z by Max Brooks. This is not just a book that I can enthusiastically recommend to lovers of the zombie or dystopian novel, but to anyone who loves a good coming of age story with heart, brains, and a little intestine…

The Rot? Or the Ruin? Drop me an email at and let me know. Taking a dirt nap and miss a past column? See them all at Looking for a children’s book with heart? “Hobo find a Home” is a children’s book about a cat who found a home and a friend. Be sure to catch Hobo’s next exciting adventure, “Hobo and the Carnivorous Ponies”