Series Notes #11 – Flame and Hope: an African Adventure – Excerpt

I had opportunity to chat to a Marcha Fox online who is in the process of releasing an audio book for one of her latest novels, A DARK OF ENDLESS DAYS – Star Trails Volume II: “Actually this one is conspiracy/paranormal as opposed to sci-fi. Lots of Native American stuff, murder mystery, government corruption, oil & gas business, etc. Quite different from my other stories”.  Marcha explained. So, I thought about all her words of wisdom and decided to try getting everything in place for the creation of an audio book.

So, with that in mind, I did a short excerpt from Flame and Hope’s chapter called, “he Unwelcome Visitor”. Those of you who have read the book might remember that a large rat came to visit the children’s timid pet rat wanting to seize her for his bride . . .

Excerpt: Flame and Hope: An African Adventure, Book 1

THE night was well along and all the animals on the porch were fast asleep. Only RatX and I – night creatures – were still awake and my thoughts were muddled. It’s been difficult for me to have RatX live on the porch, but Clement feeds me daily, so there’s never a need for me to go hunting. Besides, I’m living in Fauna Park. Just as well RatX doesn’t know what I’m thinking, being such a timid rat. Oh, hopelessness . . . in or out of Fauna Park, I still can’t hunt with a broken wing! Am I just Hope the Hopeless . . . or Helpless Hope?
My ears twitched suddenly, and I put my dark thoughts aside when unusual activity near the porch woke Flame with a start. His left ear did that thing again – he’d heard something. Right away he was on the alert, turning his left ear slowly in the direction of a soft, shuffling sound. There it was again, a slight scratching. Scrape, s-c-r-a-p-e, scratch-scratch, s-c-r-a-p-e, scratch-scratch-scratch.
Flame yapped to his friends, but they were in dreamland – even the rabbit didn’t wake up. He looked up at the pet rat in her cage. She was restless, going around inside her exercise wheel. Until that night, RatX had been quiet – except when she did her exercises or giving ideas, but now she squeaked as loud as her tiny voice allowed her, calling, ‘Flame! I know you’re very tired and need your sleep, but I really need your help. His Handsomeness King Rat is outside and he’s tapped out a clear message. He wants me to be one of his brides, and he’s trying to scrape a hole underneath the doggy trapdoor. Please let me stay here with you and your friends!’
I wasn’t surprised when Flame, despite his tiredness, turned to her, yapping, ‘You’re our friend now. So, we help one another whatever happens. Have you forgotten our mottoes, RatX? Run as fast as you can on your wheel. Don’t worry about the rat outside – just repeat our second motto. WHATEVER THE WEATHER, WE HAVE RECOURSE. FRIENDS STICK TOGETHER AND FINISH THE COURSE!’
I wondered, Could Flame, brilliant attack-and-defence planner stop such a nasty rat? His brave actions on the anni’vers’atree day saved Bella Black Hen and her chicks when he wrestled with a martial eagle and when he apologised to the stubborn goat, Plump-Grump, making good his promise. Yes, my hero was dog enough to solve RatX’s problem. So, he showed Rocksy to watch the doggy-trapdoor and thump three times if there was any movement from outside.
Staring at the cheeky rat – the bush creatures called him, Horridness – I whispered under my beak, ‘You can be so happy that I’m not my old self. If I could fly and use both eyes, and if I were not in Fauna Park, keeping The Promise, I would’ve solved RatX’s problem without batting a pink eyelid.’ Focusing my good eye on the big rat whose fur was an unusual straw-yellow colour, I turned my head and watched closer. I noticed that he looked tasty: a mean critter and pestilent rodent – handsome on the outside and delicious on the inside – catching indeed . . . Grudgingly, I had to admit that for a rat, he was quite handsome, having the longest tail a rat could possibly have to climb up any electric cable, fence or tree faster than any monkey could.
Come to think of it, if I were a rat, I’d probably call him Handsomeness rather than Horridness too. Yet, there’s a very ugly trait hidden deep inside his body. Besides, the big rat proudly gave himself the name, His Handsomeness King Rat – such vanity! It’s best to call him Deliciousness – a name which suits him perfectly: definitely handsome on the outside and tasty on the inside, I thought, drooling and swallowing fast.
While the big rat was befuddled by the chanting animals, Flame belly-crawled around the side of the porch to within a yard of the rat’s tail, growling, ‘Don’t move unless you never want to move again, Horridness!’ His Handsomeness King Rat swung around, and his eyes grew larger than Maisie’s big dinner plates when he realised he was cornered because Dolly had dashed forward, closely followed by her kitten, Katse, sitting to his left and his right, flicking their tails from side to side, meowing and hissing. Meanwhile, Flame gave him a stare which could have curdled even a stubborn goat’s blood, but the rat wasn’t nicknamed Horridness for nothing. He pulled his thin lips back, grinning and baring his yellow-brown cracked teeth. Clearly, he was no pushover, resting on his long monkey tail, leaning slightly backwards and cleaning his face with his front paws – slowly and relaxed – just as if he didn’t have a care in the world, he snarled at the cats with a defiant sound.

ILLUSTRATION ORPHANS King rat
‘Do you piddling, petty, pussycats think for a moment you scare me? Is this pampered puppy dog your . . . hmmm . . . Let me try again. Is this itsy-bitsy doggy really a watchdog – or watch puppy – watching the door for food? Oh, I feel so scared. Someone save me, purry-purlease!’ He grinned and teased with a shiver in his voice, rolling over and holding his stomach, laughing at the three animals. He even found courage to leap boldly towards Flame, pushing his narrow, smelly snout right into Flame’s left ear!
That night, His Handsomeness King Rat, outdid himself with words, but in the end, it was pointless because the trio meant business. What happened next, was difficult to describe even for a bird like me, who whistled stories all the time. Flame and one of the cats jumped on him, pinning him down while Dolly looked at him with narrowed, amber eyes, purring sweetly, ‘Horridness, do you really think I’m a petty pussycat?’ She flicked her striped tail back and forth, groaning inside her throat. Then, she bit his tail, clenching her teeth tightly around it, and hissed, ‘I’ll show you “petty”!’
As King Rat turned his head, Katse Kitten, still at her spot to the left, leaped forward, opened her claws faster than a striking snake, and scratched him twice across his nose. While the rat squealed, she tried to make her voice sound as grown-up as possible and gloating, she whispurred, ‘Where’s your sound now? I don’t see any help for you and you don’t have any mates – shame . . . Oh, I do so love your sticky, muddy fur! Is this the latest rattish fashion colour?’
The rat looked slit-eyed at Katse Kitten. Somehow, during the skirmish, they had overturned the dogs’ water trough and now he lay on his back, his lovely straw-coloured fur full of mud and dust. It seemed that he’d lost. With Flame’s left paw firmly on his chest, he found it difficult to breathe, or use more rude words. So, he pretended to give up and snivelling in a whiny voice, he squealed, ‘You keep your friend. I won’t come here again. There are prettier brides. Just let me go!’ and RatX squeaked, ‘Thank you, for saving me. I wish I could repay you somehow.’
End of excerpt from His Handsomeness King Rat – “An Unwelcome Visitor”.

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