Sneak Peak: First Chapter of "Baby Makes Three" - and Cats![caption id="attachment_498" align="alignright" width="229" caption="A pair of Korat Cats (source: Wiki Commons)"][/caption]
I've been slowly getting back into the groove of writing, after the twin disruptions of moving and illness. I'm almost back into the habit of writing every day. The thing I'm mainly working on at the moment is a sequel to Holding On, which I'm calling "
Baby Makes Three" at least for now [I ended up calling it Five At Table]. You can probably guess at the main theme of the book. I won't spoil it for now, since I haven't even just reached the halfway point as yet.
What I have finished so far includes the first chapter, in which I introduce, among other things, Gun's mother. "Mae", as she's called, raises Siamese Korat cats. Now, when you think of Siamese cats, you almost certainly think of the tan cat with dark brown 'points' on its ears, feet and tail, but that's just one of about five breeds of cats that originated in Thailand. There's also an all-white cat with blue or yellow eyes, or one of each color.
But perhaps the most valued breed among Thais is the Korat. These cats have a short coat of solid gray, the color of rain clouds. Among the rural people of Northeastern Thailand, the cat is a symbol of good luck, that can bring rain during the wet season. Korat is the colloquial name of a city and province in Northeastern Thailand, properly known as Nakorn Ratchasima. Korats are prized for other reasons as well. To find out more, read about David's lunch with Gun's mother:
Baby Makes Three - Chapter 1
Tao rolled onto his back and stretched out in invitation. David obliged by scratching the big cat's stomach. Tao was the alpha male, actually the only male, in Mae's little breeding group of Korats, the prized gray Siamese cats. Tao may have looked like a big brute, and he definitely lorded over his harem of females, but he was the biggest glutton for David's attention of the lot, and he always insisted on being the first to get David when he visited.
As David stroked the cat's tummy, he noted the ever-widening patch of white around the cat's muzzle. "He's getting really old, isn't he?" David observed as he turned to Mae.
Gun's mother smiled. She insisted David call her "Mae", the common Thai word for mother. "Yes, he's ready for retirement. I've already arranged for a new breeding male from a friend of mine. Time for some new blood anyway."
David frowned, "And what about Tao? What will you do with him?"
"Oh, he'll spend the rest of his days in the kennel, where we keep the juveniles that haven't sold yet. Actually, I suspect Ning will keep him in her room. He always was one of her favorites, and that will keep him out of trouble with the young bucks."
Ning was the cats' caretaker - nanny, maid and if necessary beautician. She looked after the cats, especially when Gun's parents were back in the states, where they still spent several months each year. The cats were very well cared for. In addition to Ning, there was always at least one maid and a gardener around, so they always got lots of attention.
David continued to stroke the old cat's tummy, but he noticed Melissa waiting patiently under a bush a short distance away. Well, maybe not so patiently, her tail was twitching around and she was staring at David intently. He decided Tao had had enough attention, so he picked the big cat up and sat him on the ground, then put his hands on his lap to discourage the cat from jumping back up.
Tao sat glaring at David for a moment, but then shook his head and sauntered off. Melissa was walking toward where David sat even before he extended his hand towards the ground and wiggled his fingers in invitation. The pregnant cat's swelled belly swayed as she walked. When she reached the bench where David sat, her jump up onto the bench was more of a climb. Melissa laid down on the bench and immediately began rubbing her cheek against David's thigh. David scratched her other cheek, "Hormones got you crazy, girl? Wow, she's huge," David observed.
"Any day now," Mae grinned, "We'll have another batch of grand-kittens."
David continued to scratch and stroke the pregnant cat. He had always liked cats and dogs, but for some reason it seemed that cats had a special affinity for him. Even cats whose owners said they were stand-offish would approach him, and once he started to scratch and stroke them, he had them hooked. Some would even get quite violent if he tried to stop.
He listened to Melissa purr as he stroked and petted her. "Do you ever miss..." David turned to face Mae, and instantly realized he was about to ask something impertinent. But now Mae was looking at him expectantly, so he had no choice but to finish, "Do you ever miss having real grandchildren?"
Mae's expression softened and she tilted her head. Like her son, Mae had a very unfussy appearance. She was clearly well-groomed, but she wore her graying hair in a simple bob and used very little makeup. Her eyes were framed with over-sized glasses as she gently smiled and answered, "Oh, I've gotten used to the idea of not having grand kids. That ship sailed a long time ago, sweetie."
Gun's mother was a well mannered society lady, but when she was alone with David she would often talk like a waitress in a truck stop diner.
"Anyway," she continued, "I think what any parent wants is for their children to be happy, and I've never seen Gun as happy as he has been these last two years since you came into his life." She put a hand on David's knee and gave it a squeeze.
David pretended to turn his attention to Melissa while he tried to marshal his emotions. He felt his eyes tear up with pride and happiness. Gun had reassured David often that he was happy, but hearing it from Mae made it all the more real for David. He took deep breath to calm himself and turned back to Gun's mother, "He's made me happier than I've ever been, too."
Mae huffed and gave David's knee another squeeze before releasing it, "Oh, I know, honey." Gun had obviously gotten his ability to read people from his mother. If anything, she saw through David's thin shell even better than her son did.
David enjoyed these visits, with just Mae, the cats and himself. He and Gun had been together almost a year before Gun took David to meet his parents. Part of the reason for that was that Gun's mother and father had been in the states for several months, but David soon learned that he was also the first of Gun's subs to have met his parents. Mae was so much like her son that it was impossible not to like her instantly. Gun's father was affable but very quiet. In that, at least, David realized they were quite similar. He often wondered how much more he had common with Gun's father, but he rarely met the man when he visited.
After David got the tattoo of Gun's mark at a temple, an event they both regarded as their wedding, Mae offered the couple one of her cats. David had no idea how much she knew about the wedding, but he knew even before Gun told him what the offer meant. In Thailand, Korat cats were a traditional wedding gift, meant to bestow good fortune on the marriage. Mae was giving them her blessing. Even Gun was a bit surprised by the offer.
Sadly, once they talked it over, David and Gun had to agree that they couldn't accept the cat. While any cat would love the many high perches the penthouse afforded, there were also dangers that couldn't easily be eliminated. More importantly, David traveled up to a week every month, and even when he was home in Bangkok, he was often out for the whole day. For cats that were used to having people around all the time, leaving them alone for long hours would be asking for trouble. And neither of the men were ready to have a maid or any other kind of full time servant around their home.
Mae seemed to take the refusal in good stride, and even seemed impressed by the reasoning that went into it. She told them they had made a wise decision.
It wasn't long after this that the first invitation came. Mae called David one day while Gun was at work. He had no idea how she got his cell phone number. She invited him to come for lunch the next day. David replied that he didn't know if Gun was available, since it was another work day for him. No, she was just inviting David, she explained. David didn't know what to make of it, but didn't think he could refuse.
David mentioned the invitation to Gun that night. Gun just shrugged, "She knows how much you like the cats, and they seem to like you too, so she probably just wants to give you a chance to play with them some more."
"You don't think she wants me to, you know, tell her stuff about you?"
Gun grinned and arched an eyebrow, "What's to tell?"
David felt his face glow bright red, "Nothing," he answered quickly.
The lunch went well, even though David was nervous about being alone with Mae. But, like her son, she was an easy person to be comfortable around, and David soon relaxed.
More invitations followed, roughly every month when Mae was in Bangkok. David didn't mention them to Gun, unless it came up. David and Mae rarely talked about Gun, except in the usual passing pleasantries.
Melissa dug the claws of one paw into David's leg, as if to pull her cheeks even harder against the fabric of his jeans. David winced, but didn't disturb her. The pregnant cat was obviously in a little distress.
Mae sighed, "I think I'll have to get Ning to put her in the birthing den."
"It's okay," David said, "she's not really hurting me."
"Oh, no dear, it's her time. She's closer than we thought. This is how she gets when she's ready to give birth. It might be just a few more hours." Mae turned and got Ning's attention.
Ning was sitting on the other side of the courtyard, where Tao was now monopolizing her attention after David had rebuffed him. She came quickly to Mae's call, and didn't even wait for Mae to explain once she saw the way Melissa was rubbing frantically against David's thigh. Ning gently scooped up Melissa and took her away.
"She'll be fine, David," Mae reassured him, "Melissa has been through this a few times, and Ning's been around for the birth of maybe a hundred kittens, although cats don't need much help."
One of the maids came to announce that lunch was ready before one of the other cats had a chance to get David's attention. Mae's cook was extraordinary. She was not only a master of all the regional cuisines of Thailand, but she could also do Western food just as well. David never knew what to expect. It might be the savory foods of Northeastern Thailand, or spicy southern seafood. Once she had even prepared roast beef and mashed potatoes, the first real taste of home cooking David had eaten in many years.
Posted in Work In Progress on February 10, 2012