It was one minute past six in the evening. Normally Solomon would be prowling in circles around his bowel mewing: “Come on Katie, what kind of cat lover do you claim to be? Have you forgotten about my dinner?”
But there was no Solomon to be seen. Katie went out into the garden and called, “Solomon, Solomon, dinner time! Come on you greedy cat, where are you?”
But there was no sign of Solomon. In fact, some blackbirds were hopping around the lawn, something they would never do if a cat was to be seen.
“Oh, well, thought Katie, “he’s probably eating out tonight. Maybe there’s a naughty neighbour who feeds him on the sly. He’ll be back home sooner or later for seconds”
When Solomon failed to show up to his silk pillow later that night, Katie began to feel more worried. She lay awake thinking for a possible reason he might be upset. You see, Solomon is a very thin-skinned cat, and he can take offense at the slightest thing.
Only a day ago, her mother had shouted at Solomon for scratching his claws on the back of her wishing chair. And he had not been at all pleased when they had given him Turkey KittyChunks instead of his favourite Goodlife for Cats Organic Atlantic Salmon. He had also been upset with Katie over something she said about a news photograph of Princess Petronella. At the weekend, Katie and Isis had been scrolling through Instagram when they saw the princess’s sixteen birthday picture — and Isis had said: “She’s so pretty,” and Katie had replied, “If you ask me, she’s got evil eyes like a cat’s.” Solomon took off in a tremendous huff, but at least he slunk back for dinner that time.
But what had happened this time? Why on earth was Solomon staying away from her? She really could not think.
In the morning, when Solomon still had not come back through the cat flap, Katie tried to trace him using her mother’s crystal ball.
“Mum,” she called out, “Can you help me find Solomon? His paws are not showing up in the crystal.”
“Oh dear,” said her mother, who was in a hurry to go to work at her shop, “He must have gone incognito.”
Witches and cats can go incognito when they don’t want anyone to trace them. But Katie knew that there could be a more sinister explanation too — something dreadful might have happened to Solomon.
There was nothing for it. Katie would have to put up reward posters asking for information about Solomon’s whereabouts. She quickly printed off ten sheets of A4 showing his catty mugshot and a message to contact her in case of a sighting.
Although her school was over a mile away from her home, Katie had a witch’s hunch that somebody there might know something about what had happened to Solomon. On Monday morning, she pinned a poster to the board outside the assembly hall and stood back to assess her work. While she was standing there, Jessica came up alongside her.
“I saw that cat!” she said.
“You did!” Exclaimed Katie. “Tell me!” But somehow, as she spoke, she knew that Jessica was not going to say anything helpful — or if she did, it would be very out of character.
“If I tell you, will you give me the reward?” asked Jessica.
“Fair’s fair, if you help me find my missing cat, I’ll give you the reward.”
“Well,” said Jessica, “I saw him, but you won’t want to know how I saw him, because it’s not good. Your precious cat is no more.“
“You’re lying!” said Katie.
“No, I’m not! You’re just too mean to pay up!” hissed back Jessica.
Kate turned her back.
“Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!” Jessica called out as Katie walked away.
Katie knew that Jessica could not have been speaking the truth. Coincidences like that don’t happen in real life — you don’t just put up a poster and a minute later someone comes along and recognises your missing cat — not unless they are lying, that is. Even so, she couldn’t help shedding a few tears in the girls’ loo. It’s not nice when somebody hints that they’ve seen your cat in a bad way.
Her best friend Isis was much more sympathetic and promised to help her search for Solomon. They wandered around the streets that evening, calling out his name,
“Solomon! Solomon! Here Kitty Kitty, Dinner Time!”
But to no avail.
Three weeks went by, and Katie had almost given up hope of ever seeing Solomon’s pointy face again. But one Friday, Isis called her in a state of great excitement.
“Katie, Katie, I’ve just seen Solomon!”
“Really? Are you sure? Where are you? I’m coming round right now. Hang on! Don’t lose sight of him!”
“It’s not like that, Katie, I saw him on YouTube.”
“YouTube? What do you mean you saw him on YouTube?”
“I mean I saw him on YouTube. He’s got his own show. Only, instead of calling himself Solomon, he’s got a new name. He’s now called Aristotle. And he does magic tricks. Well, some of them are just cat tricks, like opening a door handle with his paw, riding a skateboard and doing a loop-the-loop, but some are definitely magical. Like, well, he pushes three cups round with his paw and people have to pick which one has the toy mouse underneath it. Whichever they choose, it’s always wrong.”
“That’s an easy trick,” said Katie, “Even a cat can do it.”
“Well, he does. And there’s another video — it’s had seven million views already — in which he demonstrates how a cat can use the toilet and flush the handle. And his sponsor is KittyChunks…”
“Well now I know, it can’t be Solomon, because he hates KittyChunks.”
“See for yourself. When they offer it to him, he says, “Meeow, Yes, Please.”
Katie scrolled through her phone and found Aristotle the Cat’s Podcast Channel. Sure enough, she knew in seconds that Isis was 100 percent on the money. That show-of showbiz cat was Solomon! She would know him anywhere!”
“But how did this happen?” She asked Isis. “Even magical cats can’t edit videos and upload them! Somebody must be helping him. Who?”
“Don’t ask me. I’m just telling you what I’ve found. Aren’t you glad? At least he’s safe and sound.”
“Hmmm. Seems like he’s doing rather well for himself,” said Katie. “I feel a bit silly that I was so worried about him.”
Katie was so perplexed that she could hardly sleep that night. Why hadn’t Solomon told her he wanted to be on YouTube? Why had he run away and done this behind her back? What had got into him? Normally he was as lazy and unambitious as a cat can be. And above all, who was helping him to do this?
She did not have to wait long to find out an answer. At school, nobody can keep a secret for long.
Samantha had a new android phone — not just any phone — but a brand new one that looked like a pretty shell-shaped powder compact because the screen folded in half. Her name and a large heart shape were engraved on the gold-plated exterior.
Jessica and several other girls were admiring this new highly expensive status symbol. One of those girls was Isis who said:
“You’re so lucky, Samantha, my dad wouldn’t buy me one of those phones even if I got A Star grades in everything.”
“This was different,” said Samantha, “I earned it! In fact, I made so much money over the Summer that he should have bought me a Porsche, only I’m not old enough to drive yet.”
“How did you make all that money?’ Everyone wanted to know.
“It was easy-peasy really,” said Samantha, “If you’ve got talent like I have, that is. I trained my cat Aristotle to do magic tricks, then I filmed him and created his own YouTube channel for him. We’re getting millions of viewers and subscribers and Dad signed a deal with KittyChunks to sponsor him.”
The other girls were green with envy apart from Isis who was furious. “You sneaky thieving catnapper,” she exclaimed, “I’ve seen those videos. That’s not your Aristotle doing those magic tricks. It’s Katie’s cat, Solomon. I’d recognise him anywhere!”
“How dare you lie like that about me! He might look a bit like Katie’s cat to you, but there’s an important difference. Katie’s cat is stupid, and mine is a genius! He’s got star quality and I talent-spotted him and built his career! Katie’s done nothing to make her cat famous, and even if she tried, she wouldn’t succeed, because her cat hasn’t got what it takes to be famous!”
The bell for lessons rang before the argument could become even more heated.
Isis wasted no time in informing Katie that it was Samantha who was exploiting Katie’s cat to make loads of money advertising KittyChunks, which he didn’t even like.
That evening, the two girls went round to Samantha’s house and rang the doorbell. Samantha’s mother answered, and they asked to see her daughter.
“Sammy,” she called out, “There are two girls here who say they go to your school.”
Samantha came down the stairs. “Oh, it’s them!” she said, “Well I suppose you want to see Aristotle, but you can’t because he’s gone out for his walk.”
“Solomon you mean,” said Katie. “Look, I’m not going to accuse you of stealing Solomon, because all I want is for you to give him back so that we can forget about this incident.”
“I’m not giving you Aristotle in a million years! He’s a valuable animal. Look, Katie, I’m sorry that your cat left you, but to speak truthfully, I’m not really surprised. If I was a cat I wouldn’t want to live with you either. Cats are intelligent animals and they don’t like living with uninteresting people. They get bored easily.”
“Wow!” said Isis, “you’re a real charmer.”
“Hmm,” said Katie, “we’ll see about that.”
She was about to put a spell on Samantha’s house, to make it so nasty that any cat would want to leave right away. But then she remembered that Samantha kept a rabbit and a guinea pig, and she didn’t want to upset them too. After all, they were innocent animals.
So she said, “I can see there is no point in this conversation. I’ll just have to call the police, and report you for catnapping.”
The two friends headed back for Katie’s house, more furious than ever. But do you know? Who do you think was sitting on the doorstep when they returned.
You guessed it.
“Wow!” said Katie, “Why did you decide to come back? I mean, I’m glad to see you, but I thought you had started a showbiz career with Samantha!”
“It’s true, I have star quality,” said Solomon, as Katie sat down next to him and searched him behind the ear the way he liked. “But I soon realised they were exploiting me. I demanded that they give me half the money from the KittyChunks deal. 50-50 is more than fair, seeing that I’m the talent. They said that a cat can’t sign a contract in law and can’t open a bank account. Fine, I said, in that case, a cat can’t have a YouTube channel. So I upped and left. It’s a cat’s prerogative to say no, you know. They threatened to sue me as I left through the window — but I just laughed at them — he-he-he — ‘Cats can’t be sued’, I said!”
“No one can’t be replaced. I’ll get another cat!” Samantha shouted as I walked across the rooftop.”
“Fine,” I called back, “Even if you could find another witch’s cat, which I doubt, he or she wouldn’t be so dumb as to work for free.”
“So you’re back home where you belong!” Said Katie now hugging him. “I couldn’t be more pleased. What do you want for dinner?”
“Not KittyChunks,” said Solomon. “I can’t stand them. They stink like mouse poop.”
And Katie promised never to give Solomon, KittyChunks for dinner again.