The Misadventures of Hobart
Hucklebuck - An Excerpt
by Stan Swanson
200 pages, Paperback and Hard Cover
1st Printing: October 2007
Retail price: $9.99 (paperback) $16.95 (hard cover)
It happened so
Hobart doubted even a fortune teller like Delphenia Dragonwart would have seen
The cats came
out of nowhere!
At least that’s
the way it seemed. And exactly how Pickwick Prattfall knew he was going to be
there that morning — well,
Hobart never did
Cats darted out
from every conceivable direction. They seemed to spring out of every crate and
carton stacked and scattered about the alley. They dashed from drain pipes,
blossomed out of barrels and bounded out of boxes.
It was a
consisted of every breed imaginable. Cats of every conceivable color and
creation seemed to emerge out of thin air. Nefarious Nosenibblers,
White-Whiskered Wagtails and Palidromium Purrfects darted across his path. Not
to mention two or three Stringtailed Stubbies.
Hobart tried to
keep his balance as his airskates attempted to adjust to the situation and
navigate the clutter of cats. The skates jerked him to the left and yanked him
back to the right. He soared over the top of a huge orange cat and somehow
managed to remain upright.
The last cat in
the batch was just a kitten, but ironically, it was his downfall. To be
precise it was nothing more than a tiny three-toed tangerine tabby. His skates
arced up into a dizzying loop to avoid the obstacle.
butt bounced off the cobblestone pavement and he cartwheeled flat-faced into
He gasped for
breath. It seemed like every ounce of air had been forced from his lungs. He
lay there stunned. He knew he was alive by the moans escaping from his lips.
He jerked his
arm away as something brushed by. He slowly (and a little painfully) opened
his eyes and gazed around. Cats continued to zoom around the alley. They
Hobart of cardboard cutouts in a carnival shooting gallery. Even in his groggy
condition, he knew they were not behaving in normal fashion. Not that anything
cats did was normal as far as he was concerned.
The truth was
that Hobart Hucklebuck was not fond of cats.
No, that wasn’t
quite true. Hobart Hucklebuck was deathly afraid of cats. He had never figured
out the reason, but felines of every kind scared the bejeebies out of him.
He watched in
horror as dozens of the animals raced frantically around the alley.
slowed and after a few more long minutes, they resorted to being typical cats
doing typical cat things. Not that this diminished
fear. The only thing that could do that would be the disappearance of the
little monsters. Unfortunately for
that did not come quickly.
Some of the
critters yawned and stretched while others simply hissed at each other. A few
sat down to lick themselves, but cats being cats, far too many of them seemed
curious about the young boy sprawled on the pavement.
As far as
concerned, this was not a good thing.
approached him tentatively, but he knew their curiosity would soon get the
best of them.
frantically about the alley for an avenue of escape, but the cats were
everywhere. He shivered uncontrollably. There were easily a million other
places he would rather be at the moment. Maybe a million and one!
He would even
choose be locked in the
Tribulation than trapped in his current surroundings.
took a deep breath and sat up. His aches and pains were forgotten for the time
“Big deal,” he
whispered to himself. “It’s only a few little animals. All I need to do is
talk my feet into cooperating and get the flooglesnort out of here. Just move
nice and slow. Yes... nice and slow...”
Hobart lost it
completely the moment another feline brushed up against him. He yelped and
tried to stand, but a wave of dizziness swept over him. He plopped back down
on the cobblestone pavement nearly squashing a White-Whiskered Wagtail in the
Not trusting his
airskates, he pulled them off. He stood up slowly, balancing against a garbage
can and pondered his predicament. Maybe he could scare them off with a
the fingers of his right hand and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and
concentrated and felt a familiar tingling in the palm of his hand. But before
he could complete the process, his concentration was shattered.
“Afraid of a few
little kitty cats, Hucklebuck?”
A shadowy figure
stood at the end of the alley leaning casually against a street sign. Could
things get any worse? Had someone actually witnessed the whole ordeal? But
then he finally recognized the figure.
“I should have
muttered, wiping a splotch of blood from his cheek.
It was Pickwick
Hobart took a
step forward, still a little unsteady on his feet. He touched a bump forming
on his forehead and sent Pickwick a scathing scowl.
the law to enchant stuff unless you’re certified, Pick. It’s also against the
law to enchant living creatures.”
bully asked innocently. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Enchanted
cats, you say? My, my, that would be devious. And quite an achievement, too.
Of course, using magic to accomplish anything would be an achievement for you,
“You can deny
it all you want,”
shot back out of anger. He was hurt more by Pick’s words than getting bounced
around on the cobblestone pavement. “I don’t see anyone else around here. And
those cats certainly didn’t behave in a normal fashion. You had to have cast
an enchantment on them, Pickwick Pratfall!”
“It’s your word
against mine, Slowbart. Or maybe that garbage can could be a witness for you.
Maybe it’s just a full moon or something. Who knows? Besides, whoever heard of
anyone being afraid of a few little kitty cats?”
“Well, Maybe I’m
not fond of cats, Pick, but I’m sure not afraid of you,” he said.
“Oh, yeah? What
are you going to do? Throw a few feeble energy balls at me? My kid sister
conjures up more powerful blastballs than you. And she’s only two years old.”
thinking about using blastballs, Pick,”
replied as he formed a fist.
immediately took a step back. He was a year older than
but being older and bigger doesn’t always translate to being brave. He was
your typical bully. Lots of nastiness and teasing, but never quite ready to
Hucklebuck!” Pick shouted. “There’s a cat sneaking up behind you!”
Hobart jumped to
his right and smacked his head on a “Watch Out For Bumps” sign. That, of
course, resulted in another lump forming on his already tender skull.
And, of course,
there was no cat.
into a fit of giggles and guffaws.
The two boys
glanced towards the end of the alley.
Pick said, “if it isn’t Rosie-Posie, too-darned-nosy.”
Rumpleskirt knew Pickwick Prattfall was trouble. She stood there with hands
firmly on hips, her foot tapping impatiently as she waited for an explanation.
Hobart of a
miniature version of Flora. Under different circumstances the image might
have seemed quite humorous.
hesitated. He had briefly considered taking on
but Rosie Rumpleskirt was another matter. With hair pulled back in a tight
ponytail and a touch of dirt on her cheek, he didn’t want to tangle with her.
The last boy that had teased her ended up with a black eye.
The girl glanced
Hobart?” she asked.
fine. Pickwick was just leaving. Weren’t you, Pick?”
grinned revealing two missing front teeth.
replied casually. “I wouldn’t want to be around when another pack of ferocious
felines attack. Maybe you’d better let your girlfriend walk you home,
Hucklebuck. Maybe she can kiss your ‘owies’ for you.”
“She’s not my
He felt bad
about the remark when he noticed the look on Rosie’s face. He knew she had a
small crush on him. He didn’t really mind. Of course, he’d deny it with his
last breath if ever asked. Rosie was actually pretty when she cleaned herself
up and she was a blast to hang around.
again. He stuck out his tongue at Rosie to pretend he wasn’t afraid of her and
then strolled casually up the street towards Twirlin’ Merlin’s Enchanted Toy
Hobart. She reached out to inspect the scrape on his cheek, but he jerked
“I just wanted
to see how bad it was,” she said. “You look like you were attacked by a wild
snapped as he struggled to regain his composure.
I’m just trying to help!”
“Who said I
needed any help!”
battered body and wounded pride, Hobart Hucklebuck found himself in no mood
A rare tear
rolled down Rosie Rumpleskirt’s face. By the time
reacted and properly scolded himself for acting like a jerk, she had turned
and began walking away.
quickened her pace not even acknowledging she had heard him.
He picked up his
airskates and hung them around his neck. He was in no hurry to put them on.
You never knew when another cat might pop out of a drain pipe. Besides, he was
too sore to bend over and buckle them.
He limped out of
the alley and tried not to think about his numerous bruises, bumps, scrapes
and scratches. He would contact Specks when he got back to the magic shop.
hoped his friend would understand.
He hobbled back
Druid Lane wondering when he was going to start enjoying spring break.
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