A Drift of Quills: Writerly thoughts by writerly folks

When cats fly, A Drift of Quills has to get in on the action. Cats with wings aren’t a sight you see often! Glide right in and see what we’ve discovered!

As always, we’ve got one picture inspiring three different tales. Parker has chosen this picture—Learning to Fly—by Adrian Baluta on ArtStation for us to base our stories on:

“Learning to Fly,” by Adrian Baluta @ ArtStation

Fiction Shots #8: When Cats Fly

Oh, the places we can go with our wings and a little imagination…

Flash #1: Learning to Fly

By Robin Lythgoe

Striped Chasca, Seventeenth of the beloved and revered Fluffy, picked her way delicately down the garden path. She held her ears up, chin at a haughty angle, and let only the very tip of her tail twitch—just the way she’d seen the senior members of the clan do. Every dozen steps or so, she paused to preen, using the opportunity to sneak backward glances at her magnificent wings.

“Whatever are you wearing?” cheeped Apichu from a branch overhead. The tiny titmouse fluttered down a level or two so he might better view his feline friend.

Chasca arched her back proudly. “Wings, of course. Just like yours. Princess Leria has given them to me.”

“And that thing on your head?”

“A helmet and goggles. Are they not handsome?” She turned this way and that, posing. The strap for the goggles squeezed her head uncomfortably, but that was the price one had to pay for fame and glory.

Apichu quirked his head one way, then the other. “They are not,” he announced, and gave a sharp peck to the branch upon which he perched. “Are they useful?”

Learning to Fly, A Fantasy Short Story by Robin LythgoeChasca twitched her tail dismissively. “They will be. Leria has promised to teach me how to fly.” Nose in the air, she resumed her parade down the path.

Undeterred, Apichu flitted overhead. “I’ve seen the wings of the human flyers. They have devices to make the wings move. How can you fly without that?”

“Leria said I must learn to glide first.” 

The perky tuft of feathers atop Apichu’s head stood straight up. “Peter-peter-peter!” he whistled, laughing. Titmice had a very distinctive song. “A lot of good gliding will do you when you’re down and need to be up.”

“I suppose you just hopped out of the nest and flew perfectly the first time.” Chasca wished her friend was as pleased about her exciting future as she was.

“Lots of exercise made my wings strong before I flew.” He bounced along the ground next to Chasca, all fluffy feathers, energy, and curiosity. “What do you want to fly for? Cats don’t belong in the air.”

“Says who? When I learn to fly, I will be a hero!” Images of glory chased away the sting of insult. Chasca’s eyes glowed. “I will patrol the skies far and wide, keeping the princess and her family safe!”

Apichu twisted his head to look up at the brilliant blue sky, then back at his friend. “If you say so.”

“You could help.”

“How?”

“You know how to fly. What advice can you give me?”

“Make sure there’s a good pile of hay under you when you jump off the wall.” Peter! Peter! Peter! And away he flew.

Chasca took his counsel seriously, and went to the big, creaky barn. The loft held piles and piles of hay. Climbing up into the timbers presented no problem at all. Her little claws sank into the wood and up she scooted.

She checked her gear, pawed the goggles down over her eyes, and leaped. Cats are quite good at leaping, so that gave her no trouble, either. The whole gliding bit proved much more difficult to grasp.

Poof!

Thump!

Tumble!

Again and again, she tried to glide from one side of the loft to the other. Again and again, she failed. She was quite cross. She’d seen Apichu and his siblings glide across the yard hundreds of times. Surely her friend could have given her better advice than finding a soft place to fall!

Spitting a stalk of hay out of her mouth, she stalked back to the beam to try again. Gathering herself to jump, she paused.

The sound of shrieking and wailing came to her. It sounded like half of Apichu’s family and—and Leria! In a flash, Chasca dashed across the loft, bounded down the steep stairs, and rushed to the princess’s rescue. She found her near the high stone wall encircling the garden, sitting in the grass hugging her knees and sobbing pitifully. Apichu and several of his siblings flittered and fluttered in the branches overhead, chirping their agitation.

“What is it?” Chasca asked. “What happened?”

“Oh, Chasca!” The little girl clutched the kitten close, hugging her tightly. Her tears fell on Chasca’s paws. “I was playing with Papa’s ring, and the bird stole it!” she wept.

Chasca wriggled about until she could breathe. “What bird?” Surely it wasn’t happy, friendly Apichu.

“Tapunaki the Thief!” Apichu answered, indignation making his feather cap stand straight up.

Tapunaki was a magpie, and he was just plain mean. He flashed about in his coat of brilliant white and black, bragging and stealing and insulting everyone. The only friends he had were other magpies. And they were all awful.

“He took it up there in the tree and dropped it in Old Owl’s nest.”

Old Owl was only a story to Chasca. He had died before Chasca’s birth. The elders in the clan frightened misbehaving youngsters by threatening to drop them into Old Owl’s nest—a hole in the tree trunk said to be blacker than night and deeper than a well. As if that weren’t scary enough, Old Owl’s ghost lurked at the bottom.

Chasca wasn’t sure what sorts of things a ghost might do to her. She shivered.

“You could fetch it,” Apichu said, hopping boldly up to Princess Leria and the capped and be-winged cat.

“So could you,” Chasca shot back, looking up at the hole in the tree with wide eyes.

“Can’t see in the dark.” He twitched this way and that as if he couldn’t sit still for longer than a moment. “Can’t carry the ring back up, either. Too heavy.”

Chasca wanted to argue with him, but the titmouse was awfully tiny. “But what about Old Owl?” She wanted to stay right where she was, petted and squeezed a little too tightly by her princess.

“Old Owl doesn’t live there anymore,” Leria said, setting Chasca down and wiping her nose on one sleeve.

“But his ghost does. He eats foolish kittens!” She’d been told so dozens of times. Not that she was an especially mischievous kitten in need of such warnings…

“Have you ever even seen a ghost?”

“Well, no…” She didn’t want to, either.

“Princess Leria can’t climb up,” Apichu said sharply. “She wouldn’t fit inside if she could. And I can’t fetch the ring.” He pecked the ground three times. Hard.

“Papa will be so maaaaad at meeee!” Leria wailed, burying her head in her arms again.

“This is a job for a cat. A heroic cat.” Apichu’s shiny black eye glared at Chasca. His feathered cap pointed at her like a scolding finger. 

Chasca eyed the inky hole. Shadows cast by the tree’s branches darkened it further. Heroic cats probably had to do scary things. Things besides flying through the skies, scouting for danger. She swallowed. “A-all right.”

“Good!” Apichu hop-hop-hopped around her. “Up you go. No, wait. You’ll never get into the nest with those wings on.”

Leria helped Chasca out of the harness and headgear, sniffling and wiping uselessly at her tears. “You can do it, I know you can.” She smoothed Chasca’s fur and gave her a kiss. Getting to her feet, she picked up the cat. Apichu helped to find a rock sticking out of the wall. From there, it was the matter of a little scrambling to the top of the wall. The bark of the tree was easier, she thought, and in no time at all Chasca found herself on a level with the doorway to Old Owl’s nest. An irregular hole, it was longer than it was wide—and it wasn’t wide at all. Chasca looked back at Leria. The little princess waited below, fists pressed against her chest and hope shining in her eyes.

A Drift of Quills: Fiction Shots #8— It’s flash fiction! Three different stories inspired by one picture. This round: cats with wings—or not. (robinlythgoe.comPeter-peter! Apichu twittered from a nearby branch. “I’ll wait for you right here.”

Cautiously, Chasca poked her head through the opening. Her whiskers brushed either side. She felt ahead a little, then pulled herself up and wriggled in. It was a tight fit. Sharp claws helped her keep her balance until her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Easing herself downward helped. The light blocked by her body flooded the opening.

Much to her surprise, the space wasn’t deep at all—perhaps two cats high. It smelled woody and musty. And there in the bottom, nestled into grass and feathers, the missing ring gleamed.

Snatching it in her teeth, she backed swiftly out of the nest and bounded to the ground, victorious and happy. She forgot to arch her back proudly. She forgot to twitch the very end of her tail.

“You got it!” Leria exclaimed, clapping her hands. “Thank you!”

Apichu bobbed his head and whistled. “You make a most excellent cat.”

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein)


Flash #2: Welcome to Sky

P.S. BROADDUS

P.S. Broaddus, authorAuthor of The Unseen Chronicles
Parker’s website

 

“My dad could eat your dad.”

“Not if he can’t catch him first.”

“He’s one of the best fliers we have!”

“He still can’t outfly my dad. No cat can outfly a bird.”

“Bet I could outfly you.”

“Not a chance.”

The nestling and the kitten eyed each other. The kitten broke the terse silence. “I’m Starbucks. I was named after-”

“I’m Boeing!” The nestling interrupted. “I was named after the fastest flying machines of the old gods.”

Starbucks huffed. “As I was saying before you interrupted me, I was named after the elite fuel of the old gods.”


Flash #3: Huckleberry’s Whimsey Day

PATRICIA REDING

Patricia RedingAuthor of the Oathtaker Series
Patricia’s website

His muscles aching and his wings tattered, Huckleberry tumbled through the air, his four legs akimbo, before finally righting himself. Looking down, he spotted a branch below, largely clear of brush. He aimed for it, confident that like all kittens, he would indeed land on his feet.

Keeping his knees loose, his paws touched. He bounced up, and then aimed yet again for another, even clearer branch, just below. On arrival, he teetered. Regaining his balance, he heaved in a deep breath in an effort to still his wildly beating heart. All the while, he contemplated on how his panic…

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As you can see, wondering what happens when cats fly led us in some wonderful and creative directions! Want to read more short-short fiction we’ve written? This link will take you there.

This is such a fun way to write a story. We hope you enjoyed reading our flash stories as much as we enjoyed writing them! This is a regular feature for us now. Do you want to join in? Comment below with a title or a picture to inspire us!