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Authors: Carol Weston

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BOOK: Ava and Taco Cat
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Zara shrugged. “Finders keepers, losers weepers!”

seem like she was about to weep,” Pip said.

“She did,” Maybelle agreed.

“Kids, Taco is
cat,” Dad said. “We didn't make anything up.”

“But she didn't make anything up either,” I said. “And it wasn't her fault that her husband died, and her niece was a bad cat-sitter, and her cat jumped out the window. Cats are naturally curious.”

her fault she named him Amber,” Zara said. “She should never have done that to a boy cat!”

a terrible name for a boy cat,” Maybelle agreed.

“She could have named him Leo or Lightning or Simba or
else,” Zara stated.

“Lightning would have been good,” Pip agreed.

“On a scale of one to ten of boy cat names,” Zara said, “Amber is a two and Taco Cat is a ten.”

“Exactly,” Maybelle said.

Zara walked back to her spying spot. “I swear, something is seriously
with that lady! She still hasn't left! She's just sitting in her car, leaning her head on the steering wheel.” Zara shook her head. “Go away!” she said into the darkness. “Why are you still here?”

I walked toward the window. “There's nothing
with her,” I said. “She doesn't want to leave without her cat. I can't blame her for that. She

“Ava,” Pip said, “It's not
cat. It's

“He was hers first and for much longer,” I said, looking at Amber/Taco, who was now pacing by the front door even though he'd never before asked to be let out. He even meowed once. “He was hers first, fair and square. For four

“And now he's
, fair and square,” Zara said. “He probably ran away on purpose!”

“I don't think so,” I said quietly. “And it doesn't feel one hundred percent right for us to keep Amber.”

Amber. It's Taco!” Dad said. “And Sweetie, things hardly ever feel one hundred percent right.”

“I know but…” I picked up Amber/Taco, and slung him over my shoulder and tried to wear him like a scarf, but he wouldn't let me. So I held him in my arms, the regular way. “Is she still out there?”

“Yes,” Zara said. “She obviously has a screw loose!”

Well, maybe
had a screw loose, because next thing you know, I opened the front door, holding tight to Amber/Taco. I went down our front walk, looking both ways because Mom and Dad always say, “Better a second of your life than your life in a second.” I crossed the street and approached Gretchen's car and tapped on the window. My heart was pounding! She looked startled, but rolled the window halfway down.

“Here,” I said, lifting up Amber and tilting him in. He scrambled into her warm car. “He's your cat. He was yours first.” My throat was tight, and my eyes started to prickle. “I guess I was…borrowing him.”

Gretchen looked dumbfounded and said, “I don't know what to say.”

My voice was all shaky. “Just say, ‘Thank you.'” We looked at each other for what felt like a really long time, and I didn't know if I was doing the right thing or making the biggest mistake of my life. “If you go on any more trips, call us. We'll borrow him back and take really, really good care of him.”

Amber settled onto Gretchen's lap, and I reached in and stroked his head. I studied him one last time, his mismatched ears and wispy whiskers and taco-colored fur. I even mumbled, “Good-bye, Taco.” But he didn't look back at me. And to tell you the truth, my heart started breaking in two…then four…then a hundred little pieces.

“Thank you,” Gretchen said, “Ava, thank you very much.”

I was freezing. I hadn't put on my coat, and my nose and toes were tingling, and my hands were turning to ice, and my eyes were beginning to burn because I was beginning to cry. I didn't want to say, “You're welcome,” and I didn't want to burst into tears, and it was too late to change my mind, so I just turned and ran home.

Inside, I shut the door behind me and went straight to Dad's big brown chair and curled up. And there, in front of Dad and Pip and Maybelle and even Zara, I started to bawl my eyes out. Big, loud, pitiful, wracking sobs. I couldn't help it.

The only one who didn't see me sobbing was Amber/Taco because he wasn't ours anymore. I'd given him away!

To be continued because I really have to pee.

Ava, Admirable but

a little later, in my pajamas

Mom came home, and our living room was as sad as a cemetery. We told her everything, and she said, “Oh, honey,” about twelve times and handed me tissues and even offered to be on the look-out for another cat, “not right away, not this week, but soon.”

Zara kept saying she didn't get it. Maybelle just sat by me because she knew I felt miserable, and when you feel miserable, it helps if your best friend is with you even if she doesn't say a single solitary word.

After Zara and Maybelle left, we had dinner, and Pip barely said anything. I could tell she was really upset, and I felt bad because I hadn't thought about how much
loved Taco.

Now I'm going to bed. I hope I don't have nightmares.

A. W. in pj's

in the library
Dear Diary,

I'm skipping lunch and writing in you in the library. (I was afraid I might cry if I went to the lunchroom.)

I can't believe I gave Taco away! I guess I was trying to be noble or altruistic or mature or something, but really, I'm just a stupid moron. This morning Mom and Dad and Pip seemed depressed at breakfast. And of course Taco didn't come in and cheer us up and brush our legs and ask for

How could I have forgotten that even though Taco was mine, we
loved him?

Last night when I was trying to fall asleep, I could almost hear Taco padding into my room and almost feel him jumping onto my bed. I remembered a story from the Bible (not Aesop). It goes like this:

Solomon, and two different women were crying and saying the baby was hers and that the other lady had stolen him. “It's my baby!” they both said. “She's lying!” King Solomon didn't know who was telling the truth, so he grabbed a sword and said, “Tell you what. Let's divide the baby in two, and you can each have half.” The first lady said, “Okay, sounds fair,” but the second lady started screaming bloody murder and said, “Noooo! Don't kill him! She can keep him! Just let him live!” And that's how King Solomon, who was very wise, knew the second lady was the real mother, and the first lady was a liar. He handed the baby back to his actual mom, and they lived happily ever after.

Here's what I think: Gretchen may have been Amber/Taco's first “mom,” but I was his real “mom” too! Why oh why did I give him back??

Question: If I hadn't, would I have felt bad for Gretchen? Or guilty about keeping him?

Answer: Maybe. But not thaaat bad or guilty. Or maybe only at first?

Mr. Ramirez has been looking at me. I think he knows I'm upset. But he hasn't walked over because one of his rules is, “Never interrupt a person who is writing.”

Ava the Idiot

after dinner
Dear Diary,

I came home after school, and even though I knew Taco wouldn't be there, I didn't know how it would feel.

Here's how it felt: Awful.

Here's where Taco wasn't: He wasn't at the front door. He wasn't on Dad's brown chair. He wasn't on the armrest of the sofa. He wasn't by the fireplace. He wasn't hiding in Mom's closet. He wasn't on my bed. He wasn't anywhere.

Our house feels sad and silent and sorrowful. And more like a
than a

Dinner was pizza, but I could barely taste it. Mom started to tell a story about what happened at the clinic today, and some dog that had been peeing on the carpet and how the owners bought him “Tinkle Tonic.” But then she stopped because she could tell none of us wanted to hear it.

Ava, Catless


I didn't sleep well because the second I woke up, I remembered Taco was gone, and then I couldn't get back to sleep.

Ava, Exhausted

after school

I don't know why I even opened you because I don't have anything to say.

You know the expression “at a loss for words”? That's me right now.

Ava, Wordless


I noticed that Dad put a photo of Taco by his desk, Mom changed her cell phone photo to a picture of us with Taco, and Pip has been sketching more cats than flowers.

Dad, Mom, Pip, and I are very different, but loving Taco was one thing we all had in common.


after school
Dear Diary,

We had a spelling test and Chuck and I graded each other's papers and he said I'm amazing.

“I don't feel amazing,” I said. “I feel sad.” I told him I feel as sad as I felt on Tuesday.

“That's only three days ago,” he said. “It would be weird if you didn't still feel sad.” I nodded, and to be honest, that made me feel a tiny bit less sad.

Mrs. Lemons asked if I was okay. I shrugged because I couldn't bear to tell her about Taco, and besides, I was pretty sure Zara already had.

“Ava, you'll like this,” Mrs. Lemons said, and wrote this on the board:

“I love cooking

my pets and

my family.”

She asked our class, “What's wrong with this sentence?”

Well, I could have blurted, “It needs commas!” because on the board, it looked like the confession of a cannibal. But I let Riley answer because I didn't want to talk about pets or family.

After school, Dad said he wanted to try a recipe for “spaghetti and wheat balls.”

I said, “Please don't,” and (this is embarrassing) my voice got wobbly. Dad hugged me, and I started crying a little.

He said he'd make me regular bow tie noodles, and I nodded into his chest, which got the front of his shirt damp.

Observation: When you feel sad, you want regular food, not fancy food or experimental food. Right now, if Jerry Valentino told me to write about something “warm and comforting,” I might even write about bow tie noodles.

I wish I'd never written “The Cat Who Wouldn't Purr”!


You know what?

That's not totally true.

Confession: 1) I liked writing it, and 2) I liked that people liked reading it.

I guess what I wish is that Gretchen Guthrie had never seen Taco's photo in the newspaper. I can't believe I gave her back her cat—

She loves him, that's true, but I love him too.

I wonder how Taco/Amber is doing.

Here's how I'm doing: bad.


after dinner
Dear Diary,

I decided I had to
do something
, so I got out a piece of paper and wrote Gretchen a letter. After a few false starts and one really long, dumb practice letter, I finally settled with:

Dear Gretchen Guthrie,

I've been thinking about you and Amber (a.k.a. Taco). Can you tell him I say hi? And that my whole family misses him a lot?

Please write back. And please send a photo that I can frame. It doesn't have to be new, but if possible, I would like it to be of him as a cat, not a kitten, because that's how I will always think of him.

Thank you.

Ava Wren

I was going to draw a cat next to my name, but instead, I folded up my letter and tucked it into an envelope. Then I knocked on Pip's door and asked her to draw Taco on the back. She did. I added a cat sticker on the front and knocked on Mom and Dad's door. Mom took my decorated envelope and said she'd look up Gretchen's address and mail the letter this weekend.


Saturday morning, still in bed

I dreamed we got a big friendly golden retriever. He fetched sticks and chased balls and went on walks and seemed like he would never leave our side! But then he went swimming in a dark pond, and he came out and started shaking off the water. He was shaking and shaking, and suddenly he started fading away and disappearing! I tried to hug him, but he wasn't there.

I woke up crying! And now I'm the exact
of well rested.


Saturday afternoon
Dear Diary,

Dad is rereading a giant book called
. He says he “can't put it down.” It's so long and heavy, I don't know how he can pick it

He said he wishes he spoke Russian because it “probably lost something in translation.”

I said, “Do books ever
something in translation?”

He laughed and said he was going to have to think about that.

I was glad I made Dad laugh. And I wished I liked to read more because then I could be all involved in someone else's up-and-down life instead of just my own.

But I'm more of a writer than a reader. So far, anyway.

How long will it be until I feel better? I'm glad I have you.

Ava, Still Moping

after dinner
Dear Diary,

Pip drove me crazy tonight. Every fifteen minutes, she said things like, “It's vanilla, but it's not chocolate.”

Or “It's good, but it's not great.”

Or “It's silly, but it's not clever.”

Or “It's funny, but it's not amusing.”

Or “It's terrible, but it's not awful.”

Or “It's noodles, but it's not pasta.”

Or “It's speedy, but it's not fast.”

Finally I told her I didn't know what she was talking about and I was going to clobber her if she didn't cut it out. She said, “It's clobber, but it's not hit,
it's killing, but it's not murdering.” Well, somehow, just like that, I figured out that she was doing a word game about double letters.

So I said, “It's le
ers, but it's not sounds, right?”

“That is ind
d co
ect!” she said.

Not to be violent, but considering the gl
my m
d I've been in, Pip is lucky I didn't hack her up into i
y bi
y pieces.

Ava E
e Wren, Not in the M

P.S. I'm probably lucky Pip is even talking to me. If she'd given away our family's first real pet, I'd have a hard time forgiving her. Sometimes I do stuff that's well-meaning but boneheaded. Dad said that I'm “a little impulsive,” which I think means “not thinking enough.”

BOOK: Ava and Taco Cat
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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