Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
The good-hearted citizens of Mossy Creek, Georgia are in a mood to count their blessings. Maybe it's the influence of the new minister in town, who keeps his sense of humor while battling a stern church treasurer. Maybe it's the afterglow of Josie McClure's incredibly romantic wedding to the local "Bigfoot." Or maybe it's the new baby in Hank and Casey Blackshear's home. As autumn gilds the mountains, town gossip columnist Katie Bell, has persuaded Creekites to confess their joys, trouble, and gratitudes. As always, that includes a heapin' helping of laughter, wisdom and good-old-fashioned scandal.
Source: Book Reviews
Reviewer: Jackie K. Cooper
If you have never entered the city limits of Mossy Creek, then you should go there immediately. The books of this series are among the most readable and enjoyable you will find anywhere.
Source: The Best Reviews
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Mossy Creek combines the atmosphere of an Anne River Seddons' novel with the magic of a Barbara Samuels' character study. The latest trip is worth the journey.
The Cat Nappers
The sign taped to the lamppost read: HAVE YOU SEEN OTIS?
My best friend, Patty English, and I put down our can of nails, hammers, and scraps of wood in order to stare up at the blurry, furry face in the black and white photocopy. He was ugly, like a cross between a sheepdog and Shrek, except we knew he couldn't be green. We were doing our best to remember this now-famous missing cat. After all, being kids, we knew most of the local pets by name or by reputation. Mostly the dogs. Some dogs like Mrs. Brill's golden retriever Sammy or Miz Beechum's little dog, Bob, were either naturally friendly or at least smaller than we were. Others, like Mr. Shaw's big Rottweiler over on Pine Street, had made us detour around his little corner of the world more than once.
But cats . . .now cats were more likely to ignore us than not. They seemed to have their own business to attend to and as long as we didn't do mean things like tie cans to their tails or worse, they stayed out of the way. And, we returned the favor. Only a few had impressed us enough to remember them, like Miz Reynolds' cat who hung out on the square in front of her store or Miz Caldwell's coon cat that was almost dog-size. But knowing what this cat, Otis, looked like could pay off. The rest of the sign offered a $20 reward for information.
"We must know something," Patty mumbled tapping the flyer with one dirty finger like Otis would speak to us if she got his attention. "We could use that money for the movies."
"Or to buy donuts from Beechum's," I added helpfully. Donuts were my new favorite things. Especially the chocolate covered ones. Every time we bought two, Miz Beechum would put an extra in the bag for us to split.
"Forget donuts, Nancy Bainbridge, our fort needs a roof," Patty announced.
The fort. That's where we spent every Saturday afternoon -- maybe Sunday if we could get away with it -- along with Janie Hughes, Teedie Wertz and sometimes her little brother Raymond. We called him Whammer because whenever he hit a nail or kicked a can or sneezed, he yelled, "Wham!" He learned it from TV and nobody seemed to be able to make him stop.
Anyway, we were building our fort - our secret fort - in an empty lot halfway between Church Street where we lived and Mossy Creek Elementary. The lot wasn't really empty. Way back off the road was an old broken down house that my mother called somebody's 'homeplace.' I wasn't sure how a homeplace was different than somebody's regular house except that it was old and empty, but I didn't ask her to explain. She'd already forbidden me to go anywhere near that house or - on the threat of having my backside tanned - going inside. Heck, there were plenty of places to hide and play without going inside the house. The yard had tall, bushy hedges - as tall as my daddy - that had taken over the front walk forming a natural tunnel, and the backyard was a jungle of bamboo so thick we could build a fort in the center of it and never be found if we didn't want to be. We called it Sha-La-La Land, like Frontierland at Disneyworld.
That's where we'd been hurrying to when the sign slowed us down.
"I bet we can find this ugly cat," Patty said. She looked around to see if anyone was watching, then tore the sign down and stuffed it into the pocket of her jeans. "Let's go get Teedie and Janie."
We picked up our tools and boards and trudged on toward Sha-La-La.
"Keep an eye out," Patty ordered as we passed fences and yards.
I did. We'd voted Patty our leader back when we'd first started to build. For one reason, she was almost a year older at ten than Janie and I - two years older than Teedie. And for another reason, she had nerve. She wasn't afraid of anything. Not right off, anyway. You had to convince her not to jump in the fire so you wouldn't be called upon to jump in after her.
"Hey, there's a yellow cat!" I pointed up ahead, eager to be the finder of the twenty-dollar Otis.
Patty dropped her board and pulled out the flyer. "Not enough hair," she said. "Besides, it must belong to the people who live there, it's in their yard."
"Oh, okay," I said, disappointed. "At least I saw one."
Two more blocks of fast walking and casual searching brought us to the faint path leading through the weeds to our secret world. We stopped and pretended to rest as a car passed us. One of the rules of Sha La La Land was that you couldn't let anyone see how you got there.
"Okay, let's go," I said, after the car turned at the stop sign.
As quick as rabbits we hurried off the street and disappeared into the brush. Halfway down the path I stopped to break a branch of sweet shrub and stuck it in my top pocket. I liked the way it smelled. Lots of it grew around the secret entrance to Sha La La Land perfuming the air like sweet apples and honey. I figured someone who'd lived in the old house must've planted it and like everything else, it got out of hand. My mother says a lot of the old plants do that - they take over when the people leave.
By the time we reached the leafy tunnel leading to the front door - or where the front door used to be - of the house I felt my usual shiver of excitement. I loved Sha La La Land. Every overgrown bush, every new, determined to spread, shoot of bamboo, every bird's nest and rabbit hole, and all the smells of old wood, rich dirt and autumn leaves. I loved it because it was secret and it was ours. We'd claimed the land when it looked like nobody else wanted it.
I didn't love the old 'homeplace' though. It's not like I thought it had ghosts in it, or anything. I'm too old to believe in ghosts. Just sometimes, starin' at the broken windows and the missing door made me feel like the house was starin' back. Grinning with no teeth like old Mister Rufus down at the hardware store. In the second place, ivy grew along the roof like tangled green hair and when the wind picked up it kinda whistled or sighed through the missing boards. My mother didn't have to threaten my backside to keep me clear of it. I didn't tell Patty and the others about being scared though. 'Cause, best friend or not, I was sure if Patty found out she'd have to march right across the rotten porch and through the hole that used to be a door and expect me to follow her step for step. As my grandma would say, 'into the belly of the whale.'
No thank you. I'd rather walk through fire or be a life-sized dog biscuit for Mr. Shaw's yard demon.
Teedie and Janie were waiting for us in the last sunny spot before the curtain of bamboo became a nearly solid wall. They'd brought their own assortment of tools and supplies. Janie had two plastic garbage bags, a ball of kite string, and a Tupperware bowl with no lid. Teedie had a rusty bucket with a frayed piece of rope tied to the handle, a pair of equally rusty pliers, and a flashlight with a cracked lens. Whammer was absent
In single file, we slipped through the small gap in the bamboo and followed Patty along the dim green tunnel too slender for any adults to get through. Above our heads the autumn-yellow bamboo swayed and creaked in the chilly breeze, but near the ground everything around us was still. Like walking through a box of giant chopsticks. When we reached Sha La La Land - the cleared center of our private world, we stacked our building supplies on the ground.
Patty looked over our contributions and announced, "We need more boards." She pulled the flyer we'd swiped off the pole and showed it to Janie and Teedie. "And here's how we get 'em. If we find this cat, we could buy all the stuff we need."
"Let me see." Janie took the flyer. She and Teedie stared at Otis's homely face. "Looks old. That cat must be from out of town. I don't remember ever seeing him before."
Teedie said, "That's why he's lost, silly."
"Otis could be a girl, ya know," I added.
The other three turned to stare at me for a moment. Then Teedie said, "So?"
I just shrugged. I'd run out of smart aleck replies so I moved on to brilliant ideas. "Since we don't have boards, let's go on a Otis hunt."