The Awesome Story of Tommy

by Nina Vigil, age 11
The Awesome Story of Tommy Nina Vigil is an 11-year-old writer who has a cat and a million and twenty journals.

“‘Seriously? The Awesome Story of Tommy? That is the worst title ever.’ Leave it to my cat to criticize me six seconds into writing this. ‘I like it!’ I protest. ‘Really, Tommy. No one would want to read a story called The Awesome Story of Tommy. Try this.'”

“Seriously? The Awesome Story of Tommy? That is the worst title ever.”

Leave it to my cat to criticize me six seconds into writing this.

“I like it!” I protest.

“Really, Tommy. No one would want to read a story called The Awesome Story of Tommy. Try this.”

My cat, Ariana, hops up on the table and picks up the pencil. She writes next to the title, in slightly wobbly handwriting, and Ariana.

“Of course this story has to involve you in the title,” I say.

In fact, The Awesome Story of Tommy and Ariana actually sounds a lot better, but I decide not to mention that.

“You tried to give the impression you dislike it,” Ariana meows. “But your expression suggests otherwise.”

Oh well.

“We can go with that for now, but we should see where the story goes before we decide on the official title,” I say.

“Sure,” Ariana agrees.

If you’re asking why I have a talking cat, Ariana was a lab experiment. They were attempting to make her live longer. Instead, she ended up as the only cat in the world with the ability to talk. She escaped from the lab, and we adopted her. Ariana has brown and white fur, and green eyes. She looks pretty cute, but don’t be fooled. She’s almost certainly the sassiest person I know, if cats count as people.

“Okay. So now what do I write?” I ask Ariana.

“You said you started this because you wanted to write an adventure featuring yourself. And me,” Ariana quickly adds. “So write it. Someone is trying to sleep here.”

She then plops down on the table and begins fake snoring.

“Thanks for the help,” I say, and start thinking of something to write for the story.

About half an hour later, I still have no idea what to write. You’d think writing an adventure story about yourself (and, possibly, your cat) would be easier.

I’ve always wanted to have an adventure like something out of a book: journeying across mountain ranges, finding out I have powers, defeating an evil supervillain, etc. Problem: Mom would never let anything like that happen. It’s not that she’s overprotective. She’s just a normal mom, and a normal mom would probably never, ever let her kid quest across another dimension. So I’ve settled for writing a story about something of the sort.

But I have no ideas for a story.

I start banging my head into the table. A few seconds later, I hear Ariana meow.

“Hey! Hey! Whatcha doin’? Tommy! Stop that!”

I look up and see her sitting on my piece of paper.

“No ideas yet?” she asks.

I shake my head.

“After at least a half hour of sitting here thinking of an idea for a story?”

“Yep.”

Ariana’s eyes flick over to the wall.

“There is a fly on the wall. Stand back, Tommy! I will protect you.”

She then launches herself off the table at the wall, misses, and falls onto the rug. Paper goes flying everywhere. I sigh. Cats don’t exactly make the best writing assistants.

***

By the time dinner is ready, I’ve officially given up for the day. I have no ideas at all. And besides, I could think of something to write tomorrow.

Dinner is pizza. Mom ordered the generic tomato and cheese. The pizza dude drops it off, and Mom brings it into the kitchen. I love pizza.

“I don’t understand why you humans like this strange, gooey substance so much,” Ariana comments. She usually sits on the table when I eat. Don’t ask me why. “It smells horrendous.”

“Ariana, it’s pizza. Everyone likes it,” I tell her.

“Actually, I know a bunch of people in town that hate it. I was walking down the road past Mina’s house and heard her saying, ‘Pizza? That stuff is disgusting,’” Ariana counters.

Well, that’s… controversial.

“You should try it,” I suggest. “You’d like it.”

I take off a small piece of the pizza. Ariana puts it in her mouth and chews on it. Then, she kind of choke-coughs, the kind of sound people make when they really hate the taste of something. Ariana leaps onto the counter and spits out the pizza into the trash.

“That was so gross!” Ariana sticks out her tongue. “It tasted like squished ladybugs mixed with slime!”

She then jumps back onto the table. “What other repulsive things do you humans eat?”

“Vegetables?”

***

Mornings. When you picture mornings, what do you see? The alarm beeping, you slamming your hand down on it, all that? Those are pretty much what my mornings are like. Except I have a cat instead of an alarm clock. You wake up to the alarm. I wake up to Ariana meowing her head off from my nightstand.

“Tommy! Get up! I don’t have all day, you know! Hello? Hellooo? Anybody home?”

“Yes, Ariana, I get it. You can stop meowing now.”

Ariana starts licking one paw. The morning from there is pretty normal. Breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth. Done. Now, I have the whole day to myself.

Little did I know what would happen in the next hour or so.

***

Ooh, suspense!

So, in the next hour or so, I go outside to see if I can think of anything to write about. Sometimes, I do that when I write short stories. I’ll be sitting on the porch when I see a lady walking her dog, and I’ll think, Hey, that dog could be evil and break off its leash and terrorize the neighborhood. Then the Super Cats can step in. And yes, I am writing a short story series called “The Super Cats.” There. I’ve said it. Sue me.

Getting back to the story, I walk to the door. Ariana pads along with me, sticking close to my left foot. I sit down and put on my sneakers. While I do that, Ariana sniffs one of my Nikes.

“Why on earth do you humans put these odd shells on your paws? They just slow you down!”

“We use them so we don’t get, say, thorns stuck in our paws-er, feet,” I respond.

Pfft. Everyone gets thorns stuck in their paws every once in awhile. It’s part of life. Get used to it.”

I keep trying to convince Ariana that things like clothes are necessary, or pizza tastes good. But each time, I end up feeling less convinced. I am slowly turning into a cat.

When I open the door, the first thing I see is my front yard. The second thing I see is that the sky was rapidly darkening.

“What the-” I start, but I am interrupted by a thunderclap, plus a lightning bolt thrown in for good measure.

Ariana comes out and leaps onto the railing. “What in the name of Fancy Feast is- Oh my god.”

I look up and see that the lightning is turning-

Green lightning?! That’s not normal, right?” I yell.

“Well, if it were, I think I’d know!” Ariana yowls above the wind.

Soon, the wind is so loud, I can’t tell what Ariana is yowling to me.

Just as I figure out that she’s saying, an enormous, green lightning bolt strikes right in the middle of the front yard. For a fraction of a second, everything is green.

Then we both die. The end.

***

Just kidding.

About one eighth of a second later, I am sitting in a random tree. Why am I sitting in a random tree?

That’s when I hear Ariana frantically meowing from somewhere off to my right. “Tommy? Where are you? Are you alive?”

“I’m alive! And as for where I am… I have no idea.”

Ariana’s head pops out of the leaves of a neighboring tree.

“So, you lived through the kamikaze green-lightning strike.”

“Don’t sound so surprised!” I say. “Do you have any idea where we are?”

“How am I supposed to know?” Ariana meows in an irritated tone. “We’re in a different **%^$#@ dimension!”

I look around. Hmm, let’s see… blue sky, clouds, sun, green grass, normal looking trees…

“Is it just me, or does this look a lot like Central Park?”

“Well, it’s not Central Park,” Ariana furrows her brow, if cats have brows. “Why would a freak green lightning bolt magically teleport us to Central Park?”

“Good point,” I say as I  jump off the tree.

Ariana leaps off her branch and onto my head.

“Okay, first of all,” I tell her, “Don’t do that. Second of all, let’s find out where we are and hope we get back home in time for lunch.”

***

We aren’t in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure.

I have been walking for awhile, and I’m now in an evergreen forest. I don’t know what else to say.

It is getting dark now, the kind of dark with no moon or stars. As a bonus, I hear weird noises. Yay!

Then, I bump into someone in the dark.

Yipe!” I leap backwards.

Was it a monster or something? I look around for the nearest weapon and settle for a stick.

A female voice says, “Hi, random person. Before you threaten me with your terrifying stick, here’s a flashlight.”

Out of reflex, I catch the flashlight and shine it at whoever is talking to me. Standing in front of me is a girl. She looks to be about thirteen. I am eleven, so she is a good several inches taller. The girl has black hair, and her eyes are a shade of blue that scream: Try me and you die.

I glance down at her feet and see three cats. One is black, with three purple stripes on her back, and has green eyes. Another is gray and has blue eyes. The third one is white with eyes the color of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

“Uh… hi, I’m Tommy. I’m from a different dimension. Oh, and my cat can talk.”

The girl grins, “I’m Shaye. These are my cats, who can also talk. The black-and-purple one is Chara, the gray one is Debbie, and the white one is Allie.”

“You’re serious about the talking?” I ask. “Because I am.”

“I am completely serious about the talking. I am also completely serious about that.”

Shaye gestures to Chara, who immediately whips out two slender, wickedly sharp, black blades.

“Your cats have katanas?!” I exclaim.

“Well, I do.” Chara replies. “Debbie has nunchucks, and Allie has throwing stars.”

Debbie and Allie show off their weapons, which flash even in the pitch-black woods.

“Your cats can talk, and they are ninjas,” I say. “Anything else?”

***

Ten minutes later, Ariana and I are following Shaye and her trio of ninja cats.

“Where, exactly, are we going?” I ask.

“Uh, duh? To my treehouse?” Shaye says.

“Why?”

“I am walking through a dark, evergreen forest in the middle of the night with a kid and a talking cat from a different dimension. Where else would I be going?”

Ariana rolls her eyes, “Tommy, you are clueless.” She then adds, to Shaye, “There are rare moments in life when Tommy says or does something sensible. But mostly, they happen at home.”

“Ariana,” I say.

“What? It’s true!” meows Ariana.

I sigh.

The rest of the walk to Shaye’s treehouse is mostly Ariana chatting with Chara, Debbie, and Allie. Shaye occasionally interjects a comment. I don’t say anything at all. Judging from the fact that her cats are laughing, Ariana is probably telling them more embarrassing stuff about me. Like the elevator incident.

No. I am not telling you what happened. I refuse. And anyway, it wasn’t my fault when the hotel elevator stopped. I was panicking and screaming for help the entire hour we were stuck in there. I was nine!

Wait. I just told you. Darn it.

Soon, we’ve arrived. I look up. In the highest branches is the dark shape of a treehouse.

“You live there?!”

“Yup,” Shaye nods.

“Just one question.”

“Yeah?”

“How am I supposed to get up there? There’s no ladder.”

“Did it not occur to you to climb the tree?” Shaye asks.

We’re climbing up the tree, and her head is a good couple inches higher than mine. The cats have gone ahead and are already in the treehouse.

Frankly, it didn’t occur to me to climb up the tree. But then again, it’s at least thirty feet tall and, therefore, towers above the rest of the forest. I decide not to tell her that, but instead ask her how she’d built the treehouse.

“I didn’t build it. Someone lived here before me. I was walking through here, I saw it, and I decided to live in it,” Shaye explains.

That explanation needs an explanation,” I say.

Without clarifying, Shaye pulls herself up the final branch and disappears onto the balcony of her treehouse. Or should I say porch? Do treehouses have porches? I pull myself up onto the balcony. It’s just wooden boards, and I am wondering if this is safe when Shaye opens the door of her treehouse and waves me in.

I walk in and look around. It looks pretty normal. A bed, a desk with a journal and pencil, and a cat bed in the corner. In the other corner, there are basic survival gear: a flashlight, a knife, a bottle of water, three pairs of identical camouflage shirts, and tan shorts, because apparently Shaye does not approve of shopping at the mall. Outside the window, which is really just a square hole in the side wall, I can see more of the same outfit hanging on a line.

Shaye removes her shoes and put them in the corner.

“Well, you can hang here until we find a way to get you back to your dimension.”

“Okay, then.”

I walk over to the corner, where Ariana is presently napping.

“Night, person. Wait, what was your name again?”

“Tommy, okay?”

***

I’ve never been a morning person. But when I wake up to Debbie banging a gong right next to my ear and yelling “Get up, you lazy human!” at four thirty in the morning… well, yeah.

I have to drag myself out of the treehouse, but I forget where I am and end up falling thirty feet out of the air. Ariana has to catch me. It is extremely embarrassing, especially since all the cats are watching. But Shaye isn’t, so I guess I’m lucky.

The first thing we do is get some food. While Shaye goes out to hunt and sends her cats and Ariana in a hunting group, I am supposed to gather berries and stuff. Why couldn’t I hunt?

Ariana says I’m not allowed to hunt the first day because I can be a bit of a mouse. That’s apparently cat slang for a baby. But she adds that I’m not nearly as bad as some people, so that’s a real relief.

I may not be an expert hunter, but I do know a little about plants. I pick some plants like blueberries (who knew blueberries grow in forests?) and leave the rest alone.

I know this is completely unrelated, but what’s in Caesar salad?

Ariana is shouting, “Beware the Ides of March!”

Yes, Ariana, I know. Can you please stick a sock in it?

And then I come across some kind of plant I’d never seen before. It looks like poison ivy. In that case, I’d better not step in it.

Then I think, It might come in handy later on. So I start looking around for a good stick. I find one right by my foot and carefully pick up the poison ivy or whatever it is.

Just as I do that, I see Allie bursting through the trees. Shaye said earlier that she’d send a cat to find me when she wanted me to return to the treehouse. I start after Allie through the woods.

We arrive back at the treehouse before Shaye and the other cats. I manage to get a little ways up the tree before they get here. Shaye walks over and is somehow right next to me before I can even move up another branch. How does she do it?!

I pull myself up another branch. Shaye climbs up another two. It turns into a sort of weird competition to see who can reach the treehouse first. Of course, Shaye wins.

When I finally get onto the porch, Shaye is sitting there with a couple of dead rabbits and a squirrel. When she sees my expression, she shrugs.

“I would’ve gotten a deer,” she says, “except I only hunt those when I’m really hungry. It’s difficult to climb a tree with a dead deer.”

I am too shocked, amazed, and impressed right now to reply. Is there a word for that?

“So, what’d you get?” she asks.

I take out the blueberries and drop them on the porch. They roll around like small, blue marbles. And then, hesitantly, I take out the poison ivy or whatever it is, with a stick, of course.

“Mint?” Shaye raises her eyebrows.

“Oh, this is mint? I thought it was poison ivy, and I figured it might be useful if I ever needed to get away from something, so…”

Shaye looks interested, and (could it be?) a tiny bit impressed.

“That’s actually a decent idea. And mint is edible. You’ve never seen mint before?”

“Well, I’ve only ever seen them on the fronts of hygiene products, and even then, they look kinda different.”

“Well,” Shaye responds, “It is edible, and that is all that matters. Now grab the blueberries, and let’s go in.”

“Does the five-second rule apply in this case?” I ask.

“What is this ‘five-second rule’ that you speak of?”

“Never mind.”

***

Inside, Shaye grabs a piece of wood, a little table thing, and a stick that looks like a match. She then runs outside. I run out after her, and watch as she climbs down and then jumps the remaining few feet. I just climb down.

Shaye comes over with a lot of dried leaves and strikes the match stick on the wood. Both immediately set on fire. She drops both into the pile of leaves and puts the table thing over it. I watch as Shaye puts the rabbits on it and hacks the squirrel into fourths with her knife, then tosses them over to where the cats are.

While we sit and wait for breakfast to be ready, I try to make small talk.

“So… uh… do you have any idea what to talk about?”

“No,” Shaye glances over at the cats, who are busy eating their little squirrel bites, then back at me.

The rabbits are ready then. Shaye takes them off and hands one to me. I cautiously take a small bite.

This is so good!

I then take a huge bite. Oh, this is delicious. Who knew that I, the kid who tried to convince his cat to eat pizza, am now eating a roasted rabbit as quickly as humanly possible?

I finish. Shaye is staring at me and cracks a grin.

And then I hiccup. Loudly. So loudly that the cats, who are now finished with their squirrel, run yowling into the forest with fat tails. So loudly that Shaye gives a start.

Oh no. I cover my mouth with one hand. This is so embarrassing. Ariana will tease me about it for the next decade of my life. And what will Shaye do? I don’t know, but…

Shaye bursts out laughing. I realize this is the first time I’ve ever heard her laugh. But it’s a good laugh. I start laughing too. And I notice, out of the corner of my eye, that the cats are back, and trying to steal Shaye’s rabbit.

***

After lots of laughing, chatting, and reprimanding the cats about trying to steal the rabbit, it’s about 8:30 at night. If I were back in my house, I’d be in bed by now. This did not go over well with Shaye.

“8:30? That’s so early! Who would be insane enough to go to bed that early? I stay up until 10:30 at the earliest.”

My jaw drops. 10:30 at the earliest?! I’d be willing to bet she almost never actually goes to bed that early.

I start considering staying up for another half hour or so. And yes, it’s a little bit because of the pressure thing. But for most of my life, I’ve followed the rules. This is my chance to finally break some. And I’ll gladly take it.

I end up staying up till approximately 9:35. Shaye is hunting to stock up for winter because as she said, “You can never stock up too early.” I eventually get into the corner and try to ignore the fact that Ariana is busy chatting with the other cats several branches down.

To help, I start thinking about how we first got Ariana. I was walking down the road when I saw a little cat crossing the street. She was bordering on underweight by then, but she wasn’t so bad. I went over as quietly as possible so as not to scare her, but when I tried to pick her up, she gave a start.

“Sweet mother of Garfield! Don’t do that! Jeez.”

My eyebrows shot up so high they almost went off my face. “What the heck?”

“Oh, yeah, I can talk. Believe it, buddy,” Ariana swished her tail across the ground.

“Why are you a talking cat?”

“Well, I was an ordinary stray cat before these scientist people picked me up and put me in this cage in their building thing. Then they came in with a needle and gave me some kind of shot. Then I could talk in their language and called them some very unflattering names. They started talking about not working and living longer and stuff. I was stuck in there for a couple weeks until they came in with another needle and opened the cage door.”

“For dramatic effect,” she continued, “I’ll go into detail. I was like, ‘Here comes the needle…’ and then I jumped out of the cage and started running for the door like, ‘Go, go, go, go, go!!!’ And yeah, I got out of there, and now here I am.”

I nodded, “Oookay. Any chance I could adopt you?”

“Definitely.”

When I brought her home, I admit to having been like, “Can we keep her?” Mom said yes, and I named her Ariana because why not? It’s a good name.

***

At 4:30 the next morning, Debbie wakes me up with the gong again. I’m beginning to wonder how Shaye functions on six hours of sleep at the most.

This time, I don’t fall out of the tree. Instead, I climb down really carefully for the first twenty feet, then I go down a lot faster. Today, Shaye meets up with me down there and gives me her spare dagger, which is smaller but lighter.

“You can find some plants, but if you see any small animals, go after them,” she says.

I take it, and we split up. I head for the spot where I collected the blueberries yesterday. Sure enough, there’s more there. I pick them so as not to accidentally burst one, although I do burst some a couple times and my hand gets covered in berry juice.

And then, I see a flash of brown out of the corner of my eye. A squirrel! I’m after it immediately. This will make the cats happy, and you’ll want three talking ninja cats on your side in an unfamiliar dimension.

The squirrel is headed right for a tree. If it reaches the tree, there’s no way I’ll get it. I pull the dagger out of my pocket and throw it as hard as I can.

Luckily, I have a fairly good aim.

I walk over to the dead squirrel and hesitate for a minute. I’m not sure about picking this thing up. So I first remove the dagger, then pick it up by the tail and hold it out at arm’s length while I go back to retrieve the blueberries.

I realize there’s a couple fewer than I had picked. Some animal must have eaten them while I was chasing the squirrel. With a sigh, I pick them up and put them in my pocket just as Allie runs up to me.

“Shaye wants you back at the — oh, wow,” she says.

I know she’s seen the squirrel.

I shake my head and smile, “Let’s get back, then.”

***

When I get back, Shaye’s waiting for me with the fire going.

“A squirrel? Nice. Just know, Chara really likes squirrels, so be careful of-”

Chara zooms right up to me and starts meowing excitedly. “Squirrel!”

Shaye snorts, “Okay, Chara. Yes, you’ll get it soon. Wait five minutes.”

Shaye takes the squirrel and the several crows she’s gotten this morning and puts them on the fire.

Then she says, “The dagger?”

I hand it to her. Shaye takes it over to a stream behind the treehouse I’ve never even noticed.

“I clean them back here,” she explains. “Otherwise, they get all sticky and don’t do as good of a job.”

I nod. Why do I find this so easy to understand?

While the cats enjoy their breakfast of a small mammal, we eat a couple crows. They’re not rabbits, but they’re still pretty good.

“You know, I should try this at home,” I say.

“I’d highly suggest you do. But do it for five minutes for the best results,” Shaye replies.

Then, I have a thought.

“Remember how you said you ‘came here”? Why did you say that?”

Shaye doesn’t say anything for a minute.

“I can’t lie on that one,” she finally says. “Not that I’d have any reason to. I really don’t know how I was born or anything, but I do know that when I was… six, maybe? I discovered the treehouse, and there was already all that stuff in there. Someone lived here before me. And now I live here with my cats.”

To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me. In books, people like Shaye always have a very shady backstory. The more strange they are, the more shady the backstory. And Shaye isn’t really that odd.

When I point this out, Shaye seems to think this over for a minute.

“I guess that makes sense. Maybe — oh my god.”

I turn to look and see the same thing happening from a couple days ago. The sky is darkening really fast, and the lightning is turning green. Ariana runs over. I stand up as quickly as possible.

“Get in the treehouse! Fast!” I yell to Shaye.

She gives a nod and climbs up the tree as quickly as possible with the cats behind her. Then, she looks down at me.

“I’ll see you around!” she yells, and runs inside the treehouse just as the lightning strikes right in front of us and everything is suddenly green.

Again.

***

When I finally find the way home, I really did not plan on falling three feet and face planting on the front deck. I stand up and notice Ariana on the railing.

“Well, that was awesome,” she says.

“Yeah,” I say. “And I just had an idea.”

I run inside and see my paper on the table. I sit down and grab the pencil, erasing the title. I then write at the top of the page in big letters: Untitled Adventure.

I begin to write a several page story about me and Ariana and our adventures in another dimension. Ariana takes a pencil and doodles funny pictures in the margins, like right next to the lightning strike that takes us to Shaye’s dimension, where she draws us as X-rays. It really adds something.

And just as I’m almost done, Ariana runs to the window.

“Look!” she exclaims.

I look out the window and see a girl and three cats in the backyard. The girl has black hair, and her eyes are a shade of blue that scream: ‘Try me and you die.’ One is black with three purple stripes on her back and has green eyes. Another is gray and has blue eyes. The third one is white with eyes the color of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

Shaye waves and yells, “Hi, Tommy!”

Before I go to the back door, I write on the paper just under the last sentence: The End.

 

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