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Fat Cat of Underwhere

Fat Cat of Underwhere by Bruce Hale
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Cats are not meant to save the world.

Fitz the cat is supposed to be enjoying the normal activities savored by those of the feline persuasion—napping (a lot), nibbling on house plants, sharpening his claws on expensive furniture, and, most importantly, never, ever doing what a human wants him to.

But instead, thanks to Zeke, Stephanie, and Hector—those meddling, tuna-hatin', whiskerless kids who dragged him down to Underwhere—Fitz has bigger fish to fry (though, of course, he prefers his fish raw).

Not only has he started thinking like a human, he's actually helping them recover the stolen Scepter of Underwhere, battle a wild pack of triceradoodles, outwit a roaming band of savage mice, and foil the plans of the strange new movie director in town, who happens to smell awfully familiar. . . .

HarperCollins; June 2009
176 pages; ISBN 9780061857966
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Fat Cat of Underwhere
Author: Bruce Hale; Shane Hillman

Chapter One

Trouble with Garlic and Onion

Let's face it, humans are pretty hopeless. I don't know how you make it through this world.

You can barely hear or see. You have no claws or fangs to speak of. You can't smell (although you do smell, if you catch my drift). And worst of all, where your glorious tail should wave, you don't even have a stump to wiggle.

In fact, if you didn't feed us, pet us, and scratch us in that special place under the chin, I'd be half tempted to write you off altogether.

So imagine my disgust and surprise when I found myself turning human.

No, not physically (perish the thought!). But mentally.

One day I'm looking out for Number One, being fabulously selfish, the way cats should be. The next day I'm attacking evil magicians and helping children save the world.

It's not natural. It's not right.

I blame it all on that wicked little man who smells like rotten eggs.

Shortly after the neighbor children, Zeke and Stephanie, got this fancy old litter bowl (toilet, I believe you humans call it), Rotten Egg Man started showing up. Trouble followed. And bit by bit, I began talking and acting more like a human than a proper cat.

Don't believe me? How else can you explain this latest episode in my entanglement with Underwhere (the place, not those ridiculous things humans wear under their clothes)?

One fine day in spring, I was leaping up and down outside a classroom window. (Is that any way for a cat to behave, I ask you?)

My human, Hector, was inside, doing whatever humans do at their school. And I urgently needed to tell him something.

But schools are not built with cats in mind. Cat paws, though clever, cannot open doorknobs. So I jumped up and down like a nincompoop (or a dog—same thing) to catch his eye.

Finally, the boy spotted me and hurried out.

"Fitz?" he said. "What are you doing here?"

"Acting like a mouse-brained dunce," I said. "Listen, there's trouble back home."

Hector just shook his head. "You know I can't understand you up here."

I rolled my eyes. Fur balls and fish bones! I can understand humans, but they can't understand me unless we're in Underwhere, that strange land below our world.

So, I trotted a little way toward the school gate and looked back over my shoulder.

"What is it?" said Hector.

I repeated the move.

"You want me to go with you?" he asked.

That's my Hector—slow on the uptake, but he gets it eventually.

I nodded.

"Sorry, Fitzie," he said. "I can't leave school yet."

"Oh, for the love of mice," I muttered, trotting back to Hector. I bit his pants leg and tugged.

"All right, all right," he said. "I'll try to get off. But this better be important."

Hector hurried inside. A minute later, he rejoined me.

I led the way as we hustled back to my territory—otherwise known as the Center of the Universe. In front of the neighbors' house, a stinky metal box on wheels (car, I believe you humans call it) was waiting. In it sat a big-eyed old man who smelled like mothballs.

"By Aphrodite's nightie!" he cried. "Thank heavens you've come!"

"Dr. Prufrock!" said Hector, approaching the car. "What's wrong?"

"It's the, er, Scepter," the old man whispered. "We must hide it someplace safe."

Hector's eyes brightened. "You found the Scepter?"

"Shh!" said the old man. Fear scent rolled off of him, stronger than Hector's grandmother's cheap perfume. If he'd had a tail, it would've been curled between his legs.

"I brought the Scepter here," he said, "thinking we could figure out something together. When I found you children weren't home, I tried to leave. But my car wouldn't start."

"Let's see it," said Hector.

Mothball Man picked up a cloth-covered item. He unwrapped it.

My human took the object, a short stick with a bell-shaped thingie attached. "Where did you find it?" he asked. He held it up, and pretty rocks on its shaft twinkled in the sunlight. Supernatural power pulsed from it, making my whiskers quiver.

"Careful!" said Prufrock. "Keep it hidden. The Scepter mustn't fall into the wrong—"


Just then, a car pulled in behind us. Two men in dark suits, dark hats, and huge pink sunglasses stared from it intently.

Well, tug my tail! It was the government spies the kids called Agent Belly and Agent Mole. (To my mind, they were Onion Breath and Garlic Breath.)

"What's that?" called Garlic Breath.

"Looks like a magical object," said Onion Breath.

For some reason, these two were eager to get their paws on some magic. I guess without cat powers, humans have to make do as best they can.

Mothball Man shrank back into his car. Up went the window.

Hector turned to face the men and slipped the Scepter behind his back. "What, this?" he said. "Just a bathroom plunger. Nothing special."

The two spies climbed out of their car.

"If it's nothing special, then you won't mind us having a look," said Onion Breath, waddling over. His onion stench made my nostrils flinch.

Hector backed up. "But it's all dirty. You might catch something."

"Had it already," said Garlic Breath, extending his hand.

My boy shot a glance at Mothball Man, who had slid so low in his seat only his eyes and white hair showed. No help there.

Hector kept backing away from the two men in black.

"Over here!" I called from behind them.

Hector spotted me. He hefted the Scepter and tossed it over the heads of the spies.

"Hey!" cried Onion Breath.

I snatched up the object in my jaws. Oof, it was heavy. Cats aren't meant to fetch and carry. (Others fetch for us—it's only right.)

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