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Friday
Aug262011

Feeding Malachi

It's here! Thank you to Jeff McDowall for an awesome cover design. :)

Eve is an inquisitive baby rat who regularly escapes from her cage. One night she meets a strange creature in a glass tank across the room - a boa constrictor named Malachi. The snake is amused by Eve's questions, and he awes her with stories of the wilds where he was caught. What will happen to their fragile friendship when Eve discovers what Malachi eats? Can they devise a solution that will save both Malachi and Eve's family of rats?

Feeding Malachi is a 6,000-word story, divided into 10 short chapters. The story is illustrated with beautiful ink drawings by the Sarah Cloutier, who is also the cover artist. The story has a few scary moments, but also a happy ending. If you and your child enjoyed the whimsical dialogue of The Little Prince or the loveable characters in Janell Cannon's Stellaluna and Verdi, you will enjoy the adventures of Eve and Malachi.

Here are the first 3 chapters, minus illustrations.

 

Chapter 1. In Which Eve Makes a Strange Discovery

 “Eve, if you go out again, I’ll shut the cage!” said Phineas to his little cousin. Phineas was a black hooded rat, and he stood bristling beneath the water bottle.

Eve looked down at him from the top of the bottle. “You’re just jealous because you’re too big to go out, and you never thought of it when you were smaller.”

This was true. No rat had considered going out of the glass tank until Eve decided to try. They all thought her rather strange.

“Be sure to bring back a good story!” called Athena, her sister.

“Yes, but mind the cat,” said Moses, her father.

“Do be careful,” said Maribel, her mother, and her aunt and cousins and brothers and sisters said the same.

Eve turned to look at them and nearly lost her balance on top of the water bottle. She was a cream hooded rat with pink eyes, still very small. “I’m always careful. I’ll bring back a lovely story, Athena.” Then she pushed the screen lid with her nose, wriggled her head through the crack, and squirmed out of the glass tank. Eve made sure the lid remained a little ajar. She didn’t worry about Phineas closing it because she knew he wanted to hear her stories as much as the others.

Eve dropped to the shelf beside her home. She waved to her brothers and sisters and cousins and aunt and mother and father, and then started into the dark, quiet house for another adventure.

The cat, she thought, is she out tonight? Eve tested the air with her nose and scanned the dark room. Not a whiff of cat!

Eve took a running start and jumped onto the big, soft chair just across from the shelf where she lived. She bounced once and then scampered up the other side. From the top of the chair, she jumped onto a bookshelf that ran along the far wall. Eve liked the bookshelf—so many hiding places that smelled of leather and paper and ink. From the top of the bookshelf, she could see almost to the end of the room. Eve had never gotten quite to the end before. Usually the cat came, and she had to run. She’d nearly been eaten twice, which was terrifying, but made wonderful stories.

Tonight, thought Eve, I will reach the far end of the room. If the cat comes, I will bite her! Of course, she would do nothing of the kind, but saying so made her feel brave. She started off: from the bookshelf to the desk, from the desk to the rolling chair, from the rolling chair to the plant stand, and from the plant stand across the floor to the sofa. All this took a great deal of time, as Eve was obliged to stop and sniff and clean the dust from her whiskers and bathe herself (for no self-respecting rat would go without a bath after getting dusty) and chew a pencil on the desk and nibble the cookie crumbs left by the boy.

By the time Eve reached the sofa, she was tired and had nearly forgotten why she’d come. But then she looked up and saw the table against the very back wall. Eve gave a little squeak of excitement and cried, “I did it! I reached the end,” and then she ran under the sofa for fear the cat had heard her.

Cautiously she put a whisker out and then her nose. Finding herself still in one piece, she emerged and looked up at the table. “I wonder what’s on top.”

Eve was not the sort of rat to stand idle when there are strange tables to explore, so she shimmied up the sofa and climbed onto the arm to have a look. Or two looks. Or three.

In fact, Eve couldn’t take her eyes off the table. “It looks just like our home,” she whispered. “I didn’t know there were two, not in all the world.”

The glass tank on the table did look like Eve’s home, and as Eve crept closer she saw something moving inside.

Chapter 2. Meet Malachi

 Something was alive inside the new glass tank. Eve did not think it was a cat. She hopped onto the table and inched closer, sniffing, but the glass kept her from catching the stranger’s scent. Finally she grew so impatient that she went right up to the tank.

Immediately there was a loud bump and Eve started back. A face with a long neck moved up and down in front of her.

“Oh,” it said and stood still, “you’re on the outside.” A pair of bright black eyes examined her curiously. Eve thought she’d never seen so odd a creature.

“Please, sir,” she began, “are you a rat or a human or (she gulped) are you a cat?”

The stranger smiled. “I’m not any of those things.”

Eve looked confused. “What other things are there?”

“Well…there are snakes. I am a snake—a boa constrictor, actually. My name is Malachi.”

Eve had never heard of any creatures besides rats and humans and cats. He certainly has a very long neck, she thought. Eve kept seeing more and more of his neck, but she couldn’t find where his body began.

“Where are your shoulders?” she asked.

“I haven’t any.”

“And your whiskers? Your belly, your tail?”

Malachi smiled. “I’m all tail.”

Eve thought this extremely odd, and she was trying to imagine what it would be like to have her head attached to her tail, when the snake spoke again. “What is your name?”

“Eve.”

“You’re a brave baby rat, Eve.”

Eve bristled. “I’m not a baby! I’m almost a month old.” (She was only two and a half weeks, actually, but she thought that was close enough.)

Malachi put his head down next to her. The distance from the tip of his nose to the back of his jaw was bigger than her entire body. “You’re not that old,” he said.

Eve was feeling sulky and tried to change the subject. “The cat isn’t out tonight. I didn’t need to be brave to come across the room. I just needed a lot of energy.” (And with that she yawned.)

“Not brave?” laughed the snake. “Don’t you know who I am?”

“Yes, you’ve just told me. You’re a tail with a head, called Malachi.”

He laughed. “That’s not what I mean. I mean, don’t you know the relationship between you and me?”

Eve looked very much surprised. “I don’t think we’re related…and if we were, I don’t think I’d admit it.”

Malachi cocked his head on one side. “You really don’t know, do you?”

“Don’t know what?” Eve came to the glass again and put her nose against it. She could see a stick inside and some water in a big dish.

The snake hesitated. “Nothing.”

“I do most certainly know many things!” retorted Eve. “I’ve been out of my glass tank, and not even my father will do that.”

“I’m sure he won’t.” Malachi seemed to be thinking of something else and not really listening to her.

This annoyed Eve. “The boy must not love you very much,” she said slyly. “I can’t see that he feeds you.”

“Oh, he feeds me,” said the snake quickly.

“Where’s your food, then? I don’t see any grain or apples or grapes in your tank.”

“I don’t eat very often—only once a month.”

“Oh?” Eve was much astonished. “You must eat a great deal at one time!”

“Yes…” said Malachi slowly. “I eat a great deal.”

“I’m tired,” said Eve, “and I shouldn’t be standing around in the open like this. The cat might come.”

“Oh, the cat won’t come here,” said Malachi. “She never comes on my table.”

“What makes you so sure? Aren’t you afraid of the cat?”

Malachi flicked his tongue and grinned. “Nope.”

“Why?”

He thought for a moment. “Because I’m bigger.”

This seemed to Eve like a good reason. She sighed. “Well, I’m not. I have to go home now. Good-bye, Malachi.”

He raised his head and watched until she was out of sight. “Good-bye, Eve.”

Chapter 3. “A tail with a head that sees with his nose and smells with his tongue”

 When Eve got back to her tank, she told her whole family about the strange creature called a snake with no body and no whiskers, and whose head was attached to his tail. Most of the family was skeptical, and Phineas announced that he didn’t believe a word of it. “You’re just making up stories because you really didn’t do anything interesting tonight.”

Eve squeaked at him and tried to nip his ear, but her mother intervened. “Now, Eve, try to get along with your cousins. Remember they won’t be here forever.”

“I’m not a liar,” she pouted. “I really did meet him.”

“I believe you, Eve,” said Athena, but Eve could tell that even Athena wasn’t sure.

Only her father, Moses, seemed to have no doubts about her story, but his reaction was not what she had expected. “Eve, you must never go near that creature again.”

“But, father, he’s not a cat!”

“No, but I think he is dangerous.”

“He’s in a tank,” laughed Eve. “What can he do to me?”

Her father didn’t answer for a moment. “Long ago,” he said at last, “when I lived in the pet store, I heard rumors about snakes. I think you should stay away from it.”

As soon as he mentioned the pet store all of the youngsters began to beg for a story. So Moses told them about living with many other rats and seeing many kinds of people and sometimes other kinds of animals. “If you are a good rat, someday the boy will take you away to start a family of your own,” said Moses, “just as he took me from the pet store and brought me here to be with your mother.”

“I don’t see what being good has to do with it,” grumbled Eve, still in a bad mood. “Everyone gets taken away when they get old enough whether they’re good or not.”

But the young rats were busy asking questions about the strange people and animals, and they told her to be quiet.

The next night Eve went to see Malachi again. The snake was curled up under his log, and Eve had to tap and squeak to get him to come out. She was afraid of the cat, but she reminded herself of what Malachi had said: “The cat never comes on my table.”

When Malachi finally woke up, he came to the glass and looked at Eve. “You’ve come again.”

“Yes,” said Eve. “I wanted to ask you a question.”

Malachi dangled his head over the edge of his log. “And what is your question?”

“Did you ever live in a pet store?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“My father tells all kinds of stories about the pet store. It sounds like an exciting place.”

Malachi flicked his tongue. “If you have never been anywhere else, I suppose it is an exciting place.”

Eve looked surprised. “There are other places besides here and the pet store?”

Malachi’s bright little eyes looked amused. “Eve, there are more places in the world than there are hairs on your body.”

Eve’s eyes grew round. She sat on the table while Malachi told her about a place he called the jungle. He talked about trees and grass and wind and sky and sun.

Eve interrupted. “I don’t understand grass. Is it like carpet in the house?”

Malachi thought for a moment. “No, it’s more like fur that grows on the ground.”

“And a tree—is that like a chair?”

“No, but I think chairs are made of dead trees.”

“What about the sun. Is it like the lamp on the desk?”

“Yes, only more so.”

Eve wasn’t sure she believed Malachi, but she liked to listen, and in the nights that followed she came back often. Sometimes the cat was in the room, and this prevented Eve from visiting Malachi, but she was becoming adept at crossing the room quickly, and many nights she spent beside Malachi’s tank. The snake seemed to know something about everything. He told her stories about the outside, about humans, and about other animals like birds and lizards.

Sometimes he said strange things. One day Eve asked him why he stuck his tongue out all the time.

“To smell,” said the snake.

“You smell with your tongue,” said Eve doubtfully. “Malachi, that’s silly.”

“It’s true. I see with my nose.”

“What?!”

“I see heat with these pits around my nose. I can see your body because you’re giving off heat.”

Eve started to laugh so hard that she nearly fell off the table. “A tail with a head that sees with his nose and smells with his tongue!”

Malachi frowned. “I’m very efficient!” he growled. “You wouldn’t laugh if you—”

Eve sat up, still snickering. “If I what?”

Malachi curled his head against his log. “Never mind.”

“Oh, don’t be a grouch. What were you going to say?”

But the snake only flicked his tongue. “Nothing.”

“You would be happier if you had a family,” said Eve. “Why don’t you have a family, Malachi?”

“I don’t know. Probably because snakes are expensive pets.”

“What does ‘expensive’ mean?”

“Nothing.”

“You say that a lot.”

He pretended not to hear her. “Why do you think I should have a family?”

“Because we rats always have families. When we get old enough, they take us away to have families.”

Malachi looked uneasy. “Oh?”

“Yes, that’s what happened to my parents, and when I get old enough—”

“It’s late, Eve,” he interrupted. “You should go home.”

She twitched her whiskers. “Well, alright. Goodnight, Malachi.”

_____________________________________________________________

This book is designed to look good on your eReader. You can get it from Amazon, BN, or Smashwords. It is currently $3.50. If you want to see it, but you don't have an eReader, I recommend the Kindle app. It's free for most smartphones, and there's a desktop version as well. You can view your kindle books in any kindle app as long as you're logged in. You can easily switch between devices. For instance, I switch between my Kindle and my iPhone frequently. I'm told that Nook also has an app, which may be just as good, but I haven't used it.

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