Part Time, the Cat Who Captured a Family

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Part Time is really a good baby!

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About the Book

Our tale begins when an editor for a publishing company is about to sign a contract with Jennie Buckley for the right to publish Part Time, the Cat  Who Captured a Family, her story of the adventures of Part Time, her family cat. Then, an authorless manuscript arrives in the mail, titled PART TIME THE CAT.  This manuscript tells, chapter for chapter, the story of the cat's adventures from “his” point of view. Fearful of legal complications, the editor breaks off negotiations with Mrs. Buckley who denies authorship of the second manuscript. A week later, the editor receives a letter of unknown origin signed Part Time, *TC (*The Cat), which gives her permission to publish the second manuscript, PART TIME THE CAT. The editor and the company attorney suspect one of the Buckley children, probably Anne, the oldest daughter, is the author of the second manuscript.

Negotiations are reopened and the attorney gives permission to publish the two manuscripts as one novel if the royalties are shared between Mrs. Buckley and a trust established for her three children.  Mrs. Buckley agrees to this plan. The editor tells Mrs. Buckley that she needs more chapters to cover the cat’s account of his adventures at the grandmother’s house in Ohio to match her chapters.  Mrs. Buckley is sure that Anne will write them. The editor patiently waits for the additional chapters but is repeatedly told that Anne is very busy with school work but will write those needed chapters “soon” and that the family plans to go to Ohio for Thanksgiving. The editor is at the point of giving up on the possibility of publishing Part Time, the Cat Who Captured a Family  when in December she receives the missing chapters from Part Time,T.C.*                                                 *The Cat

 

The Story

A year-old alley cat has been dumped out of a car in front of the home of a suburban family named Higgins. The family members  name him Part Time because they have no intention of keeping him as a permanent member of their household.  They already have one cat.

Jennie Buckley tells us that with the arrival of summer and the Higgins family's two week vacation looming ahead, Joan Higgins enlists  her neighbor, Hilda Riley and herself to take care of Part Time for one week each.

Part Time tells us about his early life on a Nebraska farm with Suebeth and Jack and their three boys.  He learns to read words out of books by watching Jerry, the youngest who has difficulty learning to read, finger each word and speak it aloud.   

When Part Time’s family leaves to take the oldest boy to college, he stows away in the U-Haul.  Finally arriving in the town where the college is located Jack gets lost and they drive around looking for the campus.  Part Time sees the white cat of his dreams, leaps from the car and hides from the searching family who, pressed for time, finally give up the search. 

His first meeting with Snowball, the white cat, is an amorous disaster.  Part Time is rescued from hunger and thirst the next day by a boy called Billy Higgins. Billy’s cat, Tabby, is a wise old cat who loves to watch Gunsmoke  and other TV westerns. Tabby and Part Time become friends and Tabby tells Part Time about the neighborhood cats including  Linus, the “top cat.” Part Time meets Linus, a large, ginger-colored cat, who is a bully.  Old Tabby dies or as Part Time believes “goes to the great roundup in the sky.” Tabby’s death leaves Part Time lonely and “with nobody who can understand his meows.”  Snowball finally agrees to be Part Time's friend and tells him what a female cat expects from a male cat.

Billy Higgins delivers Part Time to the Riley family for a week’s stay. Part Time realizes that since Linus lives between the Higgins and the Rileys, any return to the Higgins house means an encounter with Linus and the obligation to 'hunker down' to him. He does this but grudgingly. Linus knows a rebellious male cat when he sees him and begins to stalk Part Time. Part Time wins a fight by tricking Linus, who swears vengeance.

Meanwhile, his week's stay with the Rileys is over.  Part Time moves in with the Buckleys, who live even closer to Linus. The Buckley children-- Anne, aged 10, Meg, 8 and four-year-old Frank Jr. who calls himself Pookie, are delighted by the arrival of Part Time.  Despite their enthusiastic welcome which nearly kills him, Part Time begins to like them, too. He observes that the mom, Jennie, is a bit loco but oh, well, what can a cat expect from humans?

Part Time now believes Billy is never coming back and he desperately wants the Buckleys to like him so he can have a permanent family. He misinterprets the tomato-stuffed-with-tuna salads, which Jennie has put out for the family's dinner, as her gift to him. He carefully eats the dad's dinner, leaving only a cleaned-out tomato. Full of tuna he retreats to wash up. When he returns to the dining room he sees the family eating what he believes to be the rest of his dinner. 

Feeling foolish for being so stupid, he tries to make up by allowing the Buckley children to dress him up in a batiste and lace dress and bonnet and take him to the nearest shopping center in the doll buggy. The amusing outcome is told in Chapter Eight.

The Higgins family returns from its vacation and agree to give permanent custody of Part Time to the Buckleys, along with a warning by Joan Higgins to always put Part Time in a laundry bag if he has to ride in a car. Otherwise, he will go crazy.

Part Time tells his version of the story which is not quite the same as Joan's. Part Time then finds he has been replaced in Billy Higgins' affections by a tiny new kitten, that he will "just love".  Part Time realizes that he will live one house away from Linus, forever.

When Jennie and Pookie take Part Time to the veterinarian for his "shots", they find out what Joan Higgins’ warning was all about. Part Time fights his way out of the bag and leaps from the car. Part Time tells us that he heard Pookie say that he, Part Time, was going to get shots at the vet’s, like the bad guys on Gunsmoke,  which is why he put up such a fuss.

More visits to the vet follow over the next several years because of Part Time's fights with Linus and his subsequent, almost fatal injuries. Part Time views these fights as his efforts to protect Snowball from Linus' advances and to become "top cat" himself. The family and the vet worry that his fighting will "kill him" so they decide that in order to save his life he will be "fixed".

Meanwhile Snowball has a litter of kittens, fathered by Part Time. One of them is a white-furred large male  named Salty.  After Part Time’s "fixing" he moans to us that he can't understand why he no longer has the drive to fight or to attract Snowball. The family relaxes knowing that they have saved his life. 

Jennie is now writing a story about Part Time who enjoys sitting on the table beside the typewriter and reading the story as she types it. However, he tells Snowball that he is disturbed by the fact that Jennie’s stories about him are not really true. Snowball advises him to write his own stories which he proceeds to do after he teaches himself to write.

Pookie and Anne develop an allergy to cat dander which causes them to develop asthma. The allergist recommends that the family find Part Time another home. Jennie’s sister Jan, who lives in Ohio, is delighted to take Part Time.          

Salty, Snowball’s white kitten grows into a smart, big cat.  Part Time sees his chance to "get" Linus by teaching Salty to fight. He believes Salty has both the size and the smarts to defeat "that varmit" Linus, and  become "top cat". Part Time succeeds in both his aims the evening before he and Jennie and the children are to leave for Ohio where he knows he is to live with Jennie's sister, Jan. 

Jennie and Part Time's account of the plane ride to Ohio differ, largely because Part Time sees the trip through the grating of a box into which he is put for the trip.

 Jan and her husband Fred will pick up Part Time the following weekend, at the grandmother, Aya's, house on Lake Erie. Part Time’s arrival at the lake becomes a traumatic experience when the children take him to the beach. Because of hazy sky, he can't see the  horizon and believes the lapping lake water around his feet is the "great roundup in the sky grabbing him."  He flees in horror and hides in a hole under a dense pine tree.

The hole has another occupant, a one-eyed, mangy, tailless, human-hating,  yellow cat named IT. While the family frets about Part Time's refusal, for three days, to "come out and eat." he and IT become friends, trade life stories and have nocturnal adventures. As the week passes, IT helps Part Time to see that the lake is not "the great roundup" and Part Time encourages IT to see that all humans are not as bad as the boys who named him IT and had set fire to his tail.  Part Time confesses that he does not want to leave the Buckleys. IT tells him if he has to leave, he should go "with his tail high".

Jan and Fred arrive at Aya’s house to pick up Part Time, who is resigned to leaving the Buckleys. When they drive away he is sitting with his tail high, on Jan’s lap, as IT advised,  to the amazement of the family. As the car pulls out of the driveway, Part Time spies IT drinking out of the milk bowl by the back step of Aya's house.  

The Buckleys return to Chicago. Jennie finishes her story of Part Time and sends it to the publisher whose subsequent agreement to publish it is threatened when the editor receives a second manuscript somewhat identical to Jennie’s but unsigned. A week or so later a letter arrives signed “Part Time, T.C.* (*The Cat), giving them permission to publish.

Jennie confronts the children who finally admit they found the manuscript in Anne’s closet and sent it to Jennie’s editor. The children believe Part Time wrote the manuscript.  The adults do not agree and conclude that one of the children, probably Anne, wrote it. The editor agrees to publish both versions and split the royalties between Jennie and her children, providing  Anne writes several more chapters to cover events at Aya’s house which Jennie has described in her account.   

On Thanksgiving eve, the family arrives at Jennie’s sister’s house, only to be told that Part Time disappeared the day before. The children seem to Jennie to be particularly upset; she knows that they loved Part Time.

Thanksgiving is a sad affair, but the next day Part Time is found, his paws frozen to the front porch floor. The family enjoys the rest of the visit. They plan to meet for Christmas at Aya’s house at the lake with Part Time and Aya’s new cat whom she calls Pirate because he is mangy, tailless and has only one eye.

Part Time describes  his disastrous journey to find IT and his return, defeated by cold and hunger, to Jan’s house and the family. He is delighted to see them and when the children can get him alone, they tell him that they found his manuscript in Anne’s closet and sent it to Jennie’s editor.  

Part Time shows them how he writes and that he can now “talk” to them through his writing without all those meows. They discuss the planned visit to Aya’s at Christmas and Aya’s cat, IT, now called Pirate. Anne asks if they gave him envelopes and stamps could he write to them about his life in Ohio? Could he find a way to open the mailbox at the corner and drop the letters in?

Part Time writes a note telling them he can mail the letters. He asks them to tell Snowball and Salty about his adventures and how much he misses them. They can tell that “fat cat Linus” how his old enemy is part human “because he can do human things like read and write.” 

 

For more information about Part Time Email: jgoerth@parttimethecat.com

 

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© Copyright 2007 Jean E Goerth. All Rights Reserved.