Editor's note: In this chapter from the book 'The Stories Julian Tells,' an older brother's tall tale backfires, and his father unexpectedly saves the day.
"Well, Huey and Julian," my father said, "today is the big day. The catalog is here."
"The catalog is here! The catalog is here! The catalog is here!" Huey said. He was dancing and twirling around.
I was thinking about going someplace else.
"What's the matter, Julian?" my father said. "Don't you want to see the catalog?"
"Oh yes, I - want to see it," I said.
My father had the catalog under his arm. The three of us sat down on the couch.
"Open it!" Huey said.
My father opened the catalog.
Inside were bright pictures of flowers and vegetables. The catalog company would send you the seeds, and you could grow the flowers and vegetables.
Huey started turning the pages faster and faster. "Where are the cats? Where are the cats?" he kept saying.
"What cats?" my father said.
Huey started to cry.
My father looked at me.
JTC "Julian," he said, "please tell me what is going on."
"Huey thought catalogs were books with cats in them. Catalog cats," I said.
Huey sobbed. "Julian told me! Special cats - cats that work in gardens! White ones - they dig up the dirt. Black ones - they brush the ground with their tails. Yellow and brown ones - they roll on the seeds." Huey was crying harder than ever.
"Julian!" my father said.
"Yes," I said. When my father's voice gets loud, mine gets so small I can only whisper.
"Julian," my father said, "didn't you tell Huey that catalog cats are invisible?"
"No," I said.
"Julian told me they jumped out of catalogs! He said they jump out and work in gardens. As soon as you get the catalog, they go to work."
"Well," said my father, "that's very ignorant. Julian has never had a garden before in his life. I wouldn't trust a person who has never had a garden in his life to tell me about catalog cats. Would you?"
"No," Huey said slowly. He was still crying a little.
My father pulled out his handkerchief and gave it to Huey. "Now, blow your nose and listen to me," my father said.
Huey blew his nose and sat up straight on the couch. I sat back and tried to be as small as I could.
"First of all," said my father, "a lot of people have wasted a lot of time trying to see catalog cats. It's a waste of time because catalog cats are the fastest animals alive. No one is as quick as a catalog cat. It may be that they really are visible and that they just move so quickly you can't see them.
"Catalog cats love gardens, and they love to work in gardens. However, they will only do half the work. If they are in a garden where people don't do any work, the catalog cats will not do any work either. But if they are in a garden where people work hard, all the work will go twice as fast because of the catalog cats."
"When you were a boy and had a garden," Huey said, "did your garden have catalog cats?"
"Yes," my father said, "my garden had catalog cats."
"And were they your friends?" Huey said.
"Well," my father said, "they like people, but they move too fast to make friends."
"There's one more thing," my father said. "Catalog cats aren't in garden catalogs, and no one can order catalog cats. Catalog cats are only around the companies the catalogs come from. You don't order them, you request them."
"I can write up a request," I said.
"Huey can do that very well, I'm sure," my father said, "if he would like to. Would you like to, Huey?" Huey said he would.
My father got a piece of paper and pencil.
And Huey wrote it all down:
1 dozen catalog cats all varieties
wants to come
From the book THE STORIES JULIAN TELLS by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell. Text copyright 1981 by Ann Cameron. Illustrations copyright 1981 by Ann Strugnell. Reprinted by permission of Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Pub Date: 8/30/98