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The Story of Saint Catrick
The Story of Saint Catrick
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Robby gives an overview of the book:

Maybe a bit like Wind in the Willows, or Stewart Little, except with a socio-political slant. Catrick, a cat living in cat society, sets out to spread the message that animal species can and should live in harmony. All the while, the rodents are rising up against cat rule. Catrick and his friends encounter political agendas, prejudices, and countless other reasons for not doing the obvious.   This book has been reviewed at: Goodreads.com
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Maybe a bit like Wind in the Willows, or Stewart Little, except with a socio-political slant. Catrick, a cat living in cat society, sets out to spread the message that animal species can and should live in harmony. All the while, the rodents are rising up against cat rule. Catrick and his friends encounter political agendas, prejudices, and countless other reasons for not doing the obvious.

 

This book has been reviewed at:

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Towards his latter days, people who knew him often referred to Catrick as a 'saint and a scholar'. After his passing, nobody contested the designation. Though there weren't any miracles attributed to him - except, perhaps, the opening of blind eyes (the inner ones, that is) - and no posthumous appearance (unless one counts the dubious claim by a hamster who happened to be drunk at the time) he did die a martyr's death, so the epithet stuck.
Earlier in his career, before anyone began to think of him as a saint, Catrick was simply called a 'gentlecat and a scholar'.
A gentlecat he was indeed, as he was of royal Siamese extraction, of the ancient Siswart clan, and was even said to know a few words of Siamese, taught him by his mother.
As for being a scholar, he had studied, as all young gentlecats do, at the Royal Feline University. He received his Ph.D. in Cultural Felidaeology (the study of feline social customs), and later, occupied the professor's chair in that department. This scholarship, of course, pertained to his gentlecatliness - hence the designation, 'a gentlecat and a scholar'.
But in reference to the later epithet, 'a saint and a scholar', that was from the School of Hard Knocks, which is the only institution that prepares one for sainthood.
Being of noble blood, Catrick was a citizen of the Kingdom of Catropolis. Royal Siamese cats all enjoyed a privileged position in Catropolitan society but Persians, even more so. The king of the realm was a Persian Cat, King Catticus III of the ancient Gorbeh clan, who tended to favour Persians over all other pedigrees. However, as Catrick's grandfather had distinguished himself in the Dog Wars and exhibited outstanding loyalty to the Crown, this was a mark in their favour whenever Siswart family issues came up in the royal court, so the family always received favourable treatment.
The Dog Wars were an important event in the history of Catropolis. In them the cats fought to establish their kingdom, and finally overthrew the Cocker Spaniel dynasty. Ever since, dogs tended to behave themselves, and either worked in their fields in the rural parts, or did jobs as beasts of burden or as saddle dogs. There were never enough of them allowed in any one place at a time to cause any trouble -- that is, except for the wild dogs packs that inhabited the frontier areas to the West. Every so often they made raids on the settlements near the frontier. Usually the victims were rodent communities, but whenever they threatened the feline populations, it was cause for a military campaign.
One such incident occurred when Catrick, just out of kittenhood, was of the age to perform his tour of military service. He had hardly been inducted and made a corporal (as cats of noble blood are), when his whole regiment marched right off to the frontier to fight the wild dogs. It was probably the events of this campaign that began to shape the thinking of young Catrick; or shall we say, it was his first lesson in the School of Hard Knocks. His regiment met with disaster, and Catrick had to flee for his life, wounded, until he finally lost consciousness somewhere in the pastures and hedges of County Mullen.
When he came to, he found himself in the home of a family of field mice. Still not in good health, and with a broken foreleg, he stayed with them for several months, until he had fully recovered, his foreleg had mended, and they thought it safe for a cat in military uniform to show his face outside. Despite being a cat, the mice treated him as a member of the family, and when it was time to go home, there were tears shed, both by the cat and the mice.
Catrick had been presumed dead, so it was with great joy that his family received him back again. The fighting then took another turn for the worse, and the mouse family that had befriended Catrick, were either killed or had to flee. All Catrick could find later were the ruins of their humble cottage.
The typical cat response would have been, 'What's one more family of mice?' so nobody understood Catrick's sorrow at not finding his friends. Catrick was forced to keep his sadness to himself, but something on the inside had changed forever.
One of the usual methods of training at the School of Hard Knocks is never quite knowing whether one is normal or not. Things that seem quite sensible to ones own mind, are nonsense to everyone else. Why a cat would place any value whatsoever on a family of mice was just the sort of issue that kept Catrick wavering on the edge of social self-confidence. Why, Catrick's own forefathers were mouse hunters! Even today, though the sport was officially banned, many cats accepted in polite cat-society were still known mousers.
Life was full of social exchanges with cats of every type. As Catrick began his studies at the university, he met them all. Sometimes, he would feel emboldened to speak up against the cruel sport of mouse-hunting, or the value of a mouse's life. He lost a few friends at the outset, and even made a few enemies. As time went on, however, Catrick wearied of losing friends, so he became quiet about his feelings so that, by the time he was a professor, he seemed just like any other cat. Later, when he was the head of the Felidaeology department, he even laughed along with the others when a colleague told a rodent joke, but something inside never felt right.
One day,  he told his students the story of the mouse family that befriended him during the Wild Dog Campaigns. The fire that had once burned inside Catrick, suddenly started doing so once again, just for a few minutes. The kittens saw it, and the next day, they begged him to tell it again; and a day later, again; and again. Each time, the fire burned more intensly. Usually, that was in a class room, but sometimes, they were out on the campus grounds during breaks when the kittens were idly chatting and asking him questions. Then, the fire that lit his eyes would kindle the imaginations of his pupils.
The result was that Catrick soon found himself the unwitting leader of a small and growing group of students and junior professors who met for lunch to discuss the place of rodents in society. Now and then, the topic would turn toward equel justice, and the bigoted attitudes on the part of most cats. Some of the kittens began to develop strong opinions, and a few even began to foster friendships with their rodent neighbours.
Catrick wasn't a thoroughly willing leader for such a group. He did see his earlier self in some of the enthusiastic young cats whose opinions were taking shape, and some of this tugged on his heart strings so as to further fan the fires. He also had a wide circle of friends among the senior professors and aristocratic friends of the family who took exception to the unbridled free-thinking of the youth. Now and then, he tried to defend the youthful energy of his young friends while with the seniors, only to be rejoined 1.with a 'humph' or a sudden change of subject. Also, just knowing about the ifluence he was having would put some off.
Right about that time, the Rodents Revolt was beginning to pick up steam. Catrick's position began to look awkward indeed.

- Chapter the Second -
Rodenski

• introducing Vladimer Rodenski • David Mousecovitz • the kitten student movement attracts the attention of the rodent front • of the ancient Ratsburg dynasty •

The de facto leader of the rodent revolution was a rat answering to the name of Vladimer Rodenski. His original home was the rodent ghettos of Catropolis where he grew up, but since becoming a fugitive of justice it was more often the hedges and the byways of the counties.
He started out in life as a good little rat, and with his intelligence and nimbleness, it looked as though he would go as far as a rat could in a cat dominated society. His parents had taught him to be satisfied with his lot, and satisfied he was. That was until his father was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and mistaken for a troublemaker. The cat-wardens chased him as far as the rat neighbourhood where the neighbours banded together to fend them off. The end result was, both of Vladimer's parents and several of the neighbours were taken away, the house boarded up, and young Vladimer, left to roam the streets.
Even then, he did well for himself, and got into as little mischief as he could. He even continued to attend school, until the school master, a cat -- schools run by rodents weren't allowed in the city -- began giving him notes to take to his parents demanding his school fees. Then, he simply stopped going to school, and spent more time looking for food. It was when winter approached that life for an honest young rat without a home became hard to cope with. But banding together with other street urchins made the living easier, though not the staying out of mischief.
As he grew into an adult, Vladimer Rodenski continued to develop into a street-wise survivalist with a resentment against the society that had made him that way. He learned well from every mistake. From each tangle with the authorities, he gained know-how in avoiding further trouble. Whenever he managed to get jobs as a messenger, or other odd jobs, he used the opportunity to observe cat life closely. The attitudes of the cats he met daily taught him to hate their culture, but not so much that he couldn't learn a thing or two from them. He learned what made cat society purr, and ways to turn it to his advantage. Gradually, he pieced together his knowledge of every level of society to form ideas of how an ideal rodent nation could work, given the chance. He spread his ideas via the print media.
Both his experience and his charisma drew others to him until his name was a household word in every rodent home. Of course he was too dangerous to be allowed to run free in the city, so he fled to the counties.
The education that he managed to obtain for himself enabled him to write persuasive pamphlets, which the underground printing presses reproduced by the thousands, and the network of rats and other rodents that had joined his cause distributed throughout the kingdom. Some of the presses were literally underground, operated by moles.
Two of Rodenski's closest colleagues were his cousin, Ivan Von Ratsburg and a mouse named David Mousecovitz. Ivan was the nephew of Rodenski's mother, who was of the Von Ratsburg line of noble rats. Long, long before, in ancient history, the forebears of the Von Ratsburgs were a dynasty of rat kings, the last one being defeated by the Nutcracker in a fierce battle, which was later celebrated in a ballet presentation of that name. Rodenski was only reunited with that part of the family since becoming a fugitive, but from the moment they met, Vladimer's and Ivan's hearts were bonded by the cords of family ties and a common cause.
David Mousecovitz was a most valuable contact mouse for the mouse community, as he was on many of the inter-village mouse committees, and even had a seat on the Kmousett. That's where the experts in mouse law meet to discuss the finer points of proper mouse conduct and inter-community relations. Also, he was quite an accomplished violinist, and was often featured in the concert halls of Catropolis. He had even gained the respect of the cat community. His activities in the rodent liberation front were, of course, under cover.
David Mousecovitz was travelling, one day, from Mouseburg to the twin cities, Leicester and Double-Goucestershire, on his bicycle. In the basket in the front was propped his violin case, and strapped to the back was a carpet bag containing files, a couple of legal volumes, some sheet music, a change of socks and underclothes, a towel, a night-shirt and a toothbrush. In Mouseburg, he had just met with a subcommittee of the Kmousett, and now he was on his way to play at a concert in Double-Goucestershire.
While swerving to avoid puddles and rocks that jutted through the gravel road he kept his eyes peeled for a cottage of a certain description that someone had discretely passed on to him in the pub across from the Kmousett chamber. At one point, he stopped to ask directions from a sheep.
'Thatch roof? All the cottages down this way have thatch roofs, mate - delicious too, I might add if one can reach them. Green window boxes? There's two houses just up the road with window boxes, mate.'
'Thank you very much, sir.'
'G'day mate.'
That was enough for David. He went on his way while the sheep went back to his grazing. The house he wanted would also be surrounded by thick bushes and a hedge. The first house he came to had green window boxes, but it had a tile roof, not thatch. That's the last time he'd ask directions from a sheep! But the next house answered to the description perfectly.
David gave the secret knock, and soon the door was opened a crack by a squirrel whom David knew as Roary McNut.
'Ah, it is you, come on in!' said Roary.
David laid his violin case and carpet bag down by the coat rack, the sqirrel took his coat and hat, and directed him into a room joining the corridor. There was a fire roaring in the fireplace.
'Mr. Mouscovitz, good of you to come by on such short notice.' It was Rodenski, who was seated by himself at the end of the wooden table with a rat-pint of ale. 'I knew it must be you from that squeeky bicycle of yours. When will you get that thing oiled? Roary, be a good squirrel and get this gentlemouse a mouse-pint.'
'Half a mouse-pint, thank you,' said David. 'So, Colonel Von Ratsburg hasn't arrived yet?'
'Still on his way.'
'Have you given any thought to the question of the new order?' David asked, when Roary had left the room.
'What are your views on the subject?'
'Considering that the cat kingdom is a monarchy, and the abuses of power are readily apparent, it would be much simpler to rally the sentiments of the wider rodent community by declaring our new order as a republic, with the opportunity for all animals to be represented in a parliament,' answered David.
'There will be representation in any case. A king can have limited power, and preside over a parliament, with the additional benefit that he could act as a guarantor of democracy.'
'But that doesn't seem like such a sharp distinction as would a republic.'
'The distinction,' said Rodenski, 'is that we are rodents; they are cats. This is a war of liberation - of the rodents throwing off the shackles of cat rule. Once we have obtained our liberation, we can have a republic, or we can have a monarchy. Let the rodents decide that for themselves. That way, we don't have to be tied down by any campaign rhetoric. That's the beauty of it!'
David nodded, with a gleam of realisation in his eyes.
Just then, came the secret knock from the door.
'Ah, that will be Colonel Von Ratsburg,' said Rodenski.
Soon, the door to the corridor opened, and in strode Ivan Von Ratsburg, still in his great-coat, with a sword hanging by his side. The coat looked like part of a military officer's uniform from a bygone regime.
'What ho!' he said in his usual booming voice (booming to a rat or mouse, but still probably on the squeaky side to anyone else).
'Glad you could make it, cousin,' said Rodenski.
'Cheers, to be sure,' said David.
Another rat pint along with a mouse pint of ale were brought in.
'So what's this meeting about then?' said Von Ratsburg.
'Some ideas I have, but before we get into that, there's something I wanted to ask you about: The grape vine has it that the kittens of the Royal Feline University are sympathetic to our cause. Can either of you fill me in?'
'Ah, yes,' responded David. 'It appears that a certain Dr. Catrick Siswart has opened some of his pupil's minds by relating his war experiences, in which he was befriended by a mouse family somewhere in the region of Co. Mullen. It appears that the mice saved his life.'
'A-ha,' responded Rodenski thoughtfully. The look on his face showed that he didn't know what to think of a cat having any sense of appreciation whatsoever towards a mouse.
'When did this happen?' enquired Von Ratsburg.
'During the Wild Dog Campaigns.'
'Is the mouse family still there?'
'I would have to find out more, like their names and other details. There were many refugees from that area that the mouse councils had to account for. Some of them returned after the campaigns, but quite a large number resettled elsewhere,' said David.
'Perhaps,' said Von Ratsburg, 'Some benefit can be achieved by making contact with the kittens. Can they be made to work for us?'
'Against their own community?' said David.
'Very young minds can be made to do anything.'
'Mousecovitz,' said Rodenski, 'You have contact with the university. Why don't you try to feel them out and find out anything you can about them, and perhaps see if you can influence some of them.'
'In fact,' said David, 'Right after my concert in Double-Goucestershire, I'll be playing first violin at the university auditorium for a performance of the Nutcracker.'
'The Nutcracker!' snorted Von Ratsburg almost choking in his ale.
Rodenski was also taken aback, but it was he who brought calm. 'Come, come, Ivan, it's an opportunity. He has the chance to mingle with the enemy and forward our cause. In a war, one must stoop ever so low at times.'
'Yes, ever so low,' muttered Von Ratsburg with a leery glance.
'...like turning kittens against their own community,' muttered David in return.
The other issues were brought to the table, and after they were resolved, David excused himself and went on his way.
As the squeak, squeak, squeak of his bicycle faded out, Rodenski turned to Von Ratsburg, and said, 'He was of the opinion that the new order should be republican.'
'Is that the position of whole mouse community?'
'The mice are free thinkers.'
'What did you say to him?' asked Von Ratsburg.
'I said the issue is not republicanism versus monarchism, but freedom from cat rule, and that we don't have to be tied down to any doctrine. Once the rodents have achieved victory, let the rodents decide for themselves.'
'That's where you must be careful. You promise them a choice, and what will they choose? The mice are free thinkers, as you say, and of course they'll choose a republic. What about the squirrels? What about the rabbits?'
'The rats will be on our side, certainly,' said Rodenski.
'Ah, yes, the rats. Remind them of the past glories of the Ratsburg empire. They will rally. If it came to a show of force, the rats are the strongest of all the rodents by far.'
'Yes, in a fight, we'd win, hinds down. But let's hope it doesn't come to fighting with our fellow rodents,' said Rodenski.
'With your power of persuasion, Vladimer, and my military prowess, it won't, I assure you.'
There was a pause in which Rodenski wondered if his cousin believed it as firmly as he himself hoped it.
Von Ratsburg added, 'You can also rest assured that the Ratsburg throne will be yours at the outset -- with the condition attached, of course.'
'Thanks to the cats, no offspring will ever proceed from my body. As my nearest relative, the throne will pass from me to you, and on to your eldest son.'
'Here, then, is to the revival of the Ratsburg dynasty,' said Ivan, lifting his ale mug. Rodenski did likewise.
Then, it was Von Ratsburg's time to leave.
Outside, wearing his cocked officer's hat, he whistled. Out from the pub around the bend sprinted Pepe, his chihuahua. Von Ratsburg saddled him and climbed on to his back.
'Where, Señor Ivan?' enquired the Chihuahua.
'County Mullen,' he said, bracing himself.
At once, Pepe took off racing in the direction of County Mullen, barking as he went, Ivan expertly clinging to his back.
'Please stop the infernal barking, Pepe,' ordered Von Ratsburg.
'Sí Señor,' said Pepe.
* * *
David Mousecovitz played an entire violin concerto by Mousezart, followed by a couple of short pieces by Tchaicatzky rendered for the violin. The mice of  Leicester and Double-Goucestershire applauded and applauded, and after several curtain calls, he played, for an encore, Johann Mauss' Tails from the Vienna Woods, following which, they all called it a night.
David put up in the tavern, and by early the next morning, was peddling away on his squeaky bicycle towards Catropolis. It was still early for the performance of the Nutcracker, even the rehearsals, but David had been given an assignment. It would be best, he thought, to get right to the bottom of it with all the time he had.

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Robby

I live with my family, sometimes in Thailand where I was born and my wife is from, sometimes in Ireland where my dad is from. In Thailand, I teach English at a bi-lingual school. In Ireland, I work with software. In both places, I write. At this moment, we're in N. Ireland....

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Published Reviews

Jan.20.2010

...Mr. Charters has created a futuristic society very much like our own. The class system that separates the well-to-do from the poor is very sad. Raul's father Carlo is like many people who only see what...

Jan.26.2010

As one reads this book there are many different things that can come to one’s mind. When I first started reading the first thing I seen in the story line was a resemblance to the WW I and II, but as I read...

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