Carol Mays wrote a self-help book, 103 Crazy Ideas for Surviving Suburbia. She also co-wrote Escape from Sunny Shores with her husband, William. Her new novel , NEVINS, is about a cat who adopts a homeless boy.
Nevins, a black cat, is sophisticated, tech-savvy, and wealthy. When he sees Clay, a homeless boy, in the park, he feels sorry for him. Read the first chapter.
Merry Christmas, you say? For you maybe, but not for me! I mean, who ever heard of one of Santa’s elves getting arrested and having to do community service? That’s the mess I’m in now! You see, I’m an elf -- a real elf -- who just so happens to have made one little mistake and now I’m sentenced to 60 hours of community service during the Christmas season at this stupid mall as -- get this -- are you ready? An elf -- helping the imposter Santa at the Picture Gallery. It’s a mind numbing nightmare. On top of my 60 hours, I have to go to anger management sessions with this complete idiot -- some psychologist, named Dr. Phil. He kinda looks like the Grinch with his bald head and beady eyes. And, really I shouldn’t be here. The mall, I mean. It’s kinda all your fault -- well, maybe not yours but people like you. You see, most people think elves live at the North Pole, are short, eat tons of sweets and make toys all day long. WRONG!!!!!
Elves are everywhere doing all sorts of jobs -- not just toy making and baking. I don’t have tons of time to explain this to you but let me see if I can. There are two kinds of elves: Green Hats and Red Hats. Green Hat elves are construction workers, plumbers, electricians, you know -- skilled labor stuff. At the North Pole they do the baking, card making and any sled repairs needed. Red Hat elves, which is what I am, make toys at the North Pole, and are often teachers, doctors, nurses, writers and stuff like that everywhere else. I used to be a top Red Hat Elf before the Incident. I made simple things which kids used to want for Christmas: blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, and my best of all: Sock Monkey. That’s been popular for a long time until that bitch stole it from me and mass-produced Sock Monkey -- and not very well made I might add. I found out about it when Spike -- oh, you don’t know him. Do you? You might. He’s a Red Hat hot-looking elf with spiked blue hair, edible piercings, and a tattoo of a red hat on his right arm. Well, Spike makes wild, cool, crazy cool toys that do amazing things. He invented pop rocks, exploding volcanos, motorized scooters just for kids, well just about anything that explodes or flies. He’s so cool. Well, Spike is the one who told me that Candy Land -- the bitch -- stole my Sock Monkey and changed the look to get away with it. She thinks she is so wonderful just because she’s from the wealthy and famous family who invented the game -- Candy Land. She’s used to getting her own way and when -- oh, yeah she’s a Red Hat elf too if I failed to mention that but I guess you could’ve figure that out. Oh, where was I? I get so mad I forget what I’m talking about. Oh, yeah. She stole my pattern of Sock Monkey off my desk and instead of him being the usual brown sock she made all different variations of Sock Monkey -- that part was fine -- all she had to do was ask me. But the part that is not o.k. is that she makes them talk and say some nauseating, high pitch-voiced phrases that when you pull the string it makes a: pooshk sound and says, -- “Candy Land is my favorite game! Pooshk -- Candy Land is where I want to live! Pooshk -- Candy Land is fun for you and me!” It’s selling at an over-priced store ironically at this stupid mall.
Well, I got so mad that I confronted her at one of our Christmas parties. It was such a perfect party too. Chocolate fountain, pizza, a crystal ball and rock- n -roll Christmas music. Spike was playing the electric guitar and singing. Oh, he’s so hot!
“Candy!” I yelled. “What the hell do you think you’re doing stealing my Sock Monkey and making it your own?” She turned and looked at me with her perfect grape eyes -- all the guy elves love purple-grape eyes -- I have chocolate-brown eyes but you can see that -- and in her annoying fake-whisper sweet voice she had the nerve to say, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I checked and your Sock Monkey didn’t have your name on it. You didn’t register it. So, I just perfected it and made it more up-to–date and cool. Oh, and my Sock Monkey -- registered in my name -- has accessories. So, I don’t know what you’re talking about Peppercane.” She patted me on the head -- because she’s taller than me. I snapped. I completely lost it. On her. I never lost it like I did at that party. I can remember Spike yelling, “Way cool! An elf chick fight!” I kicked her knees then, I punched her face making her red velvet Louis Vuitton Hat sail across the room and land at Santa’s feet. Candy’s eyes rolled back, then she hit the floor with a wobbly thud. Santa looked at me with a grave expression.
You can guess the rest. Rudolf couldn’t keep a secret if his red nose and Christmas depended on it. I was arrested, booked and put in a cell across from the real Grinch -- not Dr. Phil. There were some others there on the naughty list. I can’t believe I just snapped like that. I really can’t explain myself. I’ve been taking it from her all my life and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Dr. Phil says I’m a disgruntled elf and says I should, “just let thangs go -- invent somethin’ new and register your inventions from now on.” I wanted to punch him when he said that, but I just smiled and said, “Thank you, I will do that from now on. I am so fortunate to have your help.” Santa bailed me out and is giving me a second chance.
Well, I guess I better get back to work my break is almost over. I see a long line of kids waiting to tell the fake Santa what they want for Christmas. I hope it’s not Candy’s stupid talking Sock Monkey. Wait -- I’m getting a text. It’s from Spike! He’s asking me to the annual Christmas Ball! I guess it’s a Merry Christmas after all!
NEVINS, by Carol Mays, tells the story of Nevins, a proper domesticated short-hair cat. He is no ordinary talking cat. He is tech-savvy and wealthy. He has a staff. Even so, the world is prejudiced. A lot of people don't like the idea of a cat adopting a human
Nevins Davenport, a proper British domesticated cat, sat on the windowsill of his three-bedroom two-bath white bungalow house as he always did at three in the afternoon. His tail swished left and right as he watched the children play with the various playground equipment at the Botanical Gardens. The sun sparkled on Nevins’ black fur, creating a beautiful blue hue.
Today was obviously one of those special days, because the tables were set with bright blue plastic tablecloths, which kept blowing off the tables and interrupting the mothers’ conversation. Nevins watched them desperately chase the cloths. The wind blew one over a mother, making her look like a blue ghost. Nevins chuckled. Finally, the mothers anchored them back on the tables using an ice chest and treat bags. Red, yellow, orange, green, and purple balloons tied with string and tethered to a small tree danced in the wind.
On one side of the field, two boys were throwing a ball to each other and when one of them caught it, the other would yell, “Good catch!” Near the swing set, one girl hung upside down from a bar, her long brown hair blowing like fringe in the wind. Others played hide-and-seek, darting behind large rocks and tree trunks, then running fast to get to base which was a giant metal pirate’s treasure chest.
Nevins found the human customs endlessly fascinating, but, one thing in particular caught his keen, yellow-green cat eyes. A young boy stayed by himself in the clubhouse and never played with the other children. Come to think of it Nevins had seen him in the clubhouse before.
The clubhouse, the latest edition to the Gardens, looked like a miniature pirate ship. Volunteers had spent weeks building it using recycled materials. Four, heavy eight-foot fence posts were sunk in the ground and an old red wooden row boat was perched in the middle attached to the posts by sturdy iron hinges. Recycled pine wood was used for the walls, door, and roof. Tree-log steps with a wooden pole railing led up to the pirate’s clubhouse door. A black and white skull and crossbones flag hung from a plastic pole at the front of the boat.
The boy sat alone watching the other children play. He didn’t interact with anyone and seemed invisible to everyone.
“Ok kids, come sit down!” one of the mothers yelled. “The pizza is almost here. Let’s light up the cupcakes and sing happy birthday.”
Nevins watched this strange custom. He thought humans did the strangest things, but this was the strangest. He wanted to get a closer look and smell, so he jumped off the windowsill and went out his cat door which was a small square hole covered by a thick plastic flap attached to the heavy oak front door.
As he emerged on the big front porch, a red Pizza World van with a giant globe on the van’s roof pulled up to the curb and stopped. It played music just like an ice cream truck. Nevins thought it sounded like the music box his human used to play every night. A teenager wearing a red t-shirt with a globe on it that said PIZZA WORLD hopped out of the truck. He carried three large boxes to the children and placed them in the middle of the table. A frenzy of arms reached into the boxes, grabbing slices. They ate fast and talked with their mouths full. Nevins thought the children devoured the pizza like a pack of wolves. No self-respecting cat would eat like that,he thought as he twitched his whiskers.
Deciding to stay on the porch and watch this show, he jumped on the old wicker rocker which had been his human’s favorite place to sit. The momentum of his jump caused the rocker to move back and forth. Nevins had to balance, which is no problem for a cat. He sniffed the air. There was a smell of rain mixed in with the heavy scent of pepperoni pizza. A gusting wind blew his black fur forward. Bad weather was coming.
“Presents time!” The mother announced, her arms loaded with brightly colored packages.
“Yes!” the birthday boy exclaimed, shoving an unopened box of pizza and a cupcake box to a bench. Then he jumped on top of the table and sat down in the middle with his legs crossed. Unbelievable! Nevins thought to himself. My human would never have tolerated such bad behavior!
As the birthday boy ripped the wrapping paper off the gifts at a frenzied pace, the wind blew a blue plastic tablecloth over one box of pizza and cupcakes. The boy in the clubhouse, who was watching the whole scene from the pirate ship’s window, smiled when he saw the cloth cover the food. Why?
The wind kicked up fiercely, and it ripped the paper. Nevins’ ears went back with every RIP, SCRUNCH, and SWOOSH of the paper. A small fragment of brightly colored paper blew through the air and landed on Nevins’ shrubs. How annoying.
The parents rushed in to pick up their children. Each was given a party bag, but one fell under the table. Nobody noticed— except the boy in the clubhouse. The birthday boy’s mother frantically swooped up as much of the wrapping paper and trash as possible and threw it in the trash. But she forgot the pizza and cupcakes covered by the tablecloth. Then, she and her son carried the gifts to their brand new black minivan and loaded up the loot in a side door that opened with just a push of a button. The birthday boy ran back to the tree with the balloons, untethered them, and scurried back to the minivan. They drove off in a hurry.
The boy in the clubhouse carefully walked barefoot down the log stairs. His blue jeans were torn on both knees so that each step he took down the stairs made his knees protrude from the holes. He wore a dark green t-shirt, which camouflaged him whenever he sat in the grass. He walked over to the bench and picked up the pizza box and cupcake box that had been covered by the tablecloth. He carefully placed them on the table, and ate slowly, chewing the pizza and wiping his mouth with a spare clean napkin. That is what I call proper manners. Exactly how a proper housecat would eat. I like this human.