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The Cat Who Wasn't There
by Linda Newbery
When a white cat comes into Vincent’s painting shed, he thinks it’s his beloved pet, Snow. But Snow died a year ago. So who is the mischievous newcomer?
Linda Newbery wrote her first novel during the summer holidays from her job as English teacher in a comprehensive school. Now a critically acclaimed full-time author, Linda has written over twenty novels, been shortlisted twice for the Carnegie Medal, and is the winner of a Silver Medal Nestle Children’s Book Prize and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Linda does much of her work in a writing hut in her garden but is often distracted by her own four cats ...
Visit www.lindanewbery.co.uk to find out more.
THE CAT WHO WASN'T THERE
If you asked Vincent if he was happy, he’d have to think about it for a moment. Then he’d say yes, he supposed he was.
No one did ask, though. It wasn’t the sort of question anyone thought of. Not even Vincent himself. To anyone else who knew him, he seemed to be exactly the same from one year to the next.
There was nothing, really, to make him unhappy. He had everything he needed. He lived in the same small house he’d lived in for years. He had friends. He had a little garden to sit in on warm days.
Most of all, he had his paintings. At the end of the garden was his painting shed, and there he kept his easel and his paints, his pencils and his crayons. It was warm in winter, cool in summer. Hours and hours he spent there, mixing and thinking, flicking and dabbing.
Every December, Vincent’s art club held a special exhibition at the town hall. Vincent always had half a wall to himself, with ten or twelve or fifteen of his paintings on show. They were for sale, and most of them would be bought. Sometimes, if he’d painted something very special, he put a blue sticker on its frame, which meant NOT FOR SALE.
Of course, that would be the painting everyone wanted. That was the way it went.
Vincent painted all year round, but from summer onwards he was thinking about the art club show. He painted and painted and painted. Every morning he went down to his shed, turned on the radio and hummed to himself while he mixed his colours. After a while, he’d stand back and squint at his easel, and know that he was painting well.
He could paint lots of things – but the one thing he just couldn’t do was people. Any people he drew looked like untidy bunches of sticks. He’d tried and tried, but could never get any better. So he didn’t put people in his pictures at all.He painted woods, beaches, parks, houses, gardens and empty streets.
This year, though, he wasn’t happy. Each day he started a new painting, but he knew it wouldn’t turn out well. He stood back and stared; he tutted and he frowned and he scowled. He mixed new colours; he swished and he dabbed, he worked and worked and worked and then gazed at what he’d done.
Always, till now, his paintings had been admired. “You could almost walk across that grass,” someone would say, or, “I can smell the roses!” or, “That lake looks wet enough to swim in.”
This new lot of pictures, though...
They were flat. Dull. No breath of life in them. Something was missing, and it was the most important thing of all.
Day after day Vincent worked. He made himself finish the pictures. But he didn’t like a single one of them.
He stared and stared, trying to work out what was wrong. He mixed more paint, and had another go at the picture on his easel. He squidged and he smudged and he scraped, but only made more of a mess.
“I’m losing it, that’s what,” he said to himself. “Too old, that’s my trouble. Might as well give up.”
But the obstinate heart of Vincent wouldn’t really give up. He found a new piece of board and put it on his easel. Then he stomped indoors to make a cup of tea. To cheer himself up, he opened a packet of biscuits.
As he walked along the garden path, back to his shed, something caught his eye.
It was a small white cat, lifting its paws carefully over the damp grass. It paused. Bright eyes looked straight at Vincent.
For a moment he could hardly breathe. Then he whispered, “Snow?”
The cat’s mouth opened in a silent miaow. It stepped towards him. Stiffly, Vincent bent, holding out a hand in welcome. The cat butted him, and a purr spread warmly through its body.
“Snow, Snow!” said Vincent, almost in a sob. “My good old friend! You’ve come back!”
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