“Owww!” Chance Martin put his hammer down and sucked on his finger. The month before Christmas was the busiest time of year at Lenigan’s Restorations, his stepfather’s furniture business. This year was even worse, thanks to his brother Lucky’s recent wedding interrupting the carefully dovetailed schedule.
Taking aim, he whacked the last nail in place on a cedar chest lid, then moved onto the cracked veneered panels on a nineteenth century sideboard. The highly figured walnut fragments had to be fitted together like a puzzle to follow the natural grain of the wood.
After everything was aligned with precise care, he stirred the pot of hide glue and prepared to painstakingly piece each fragment back onto the board.
“Yeow!” A large orange cat leaped onto the sideboard, and with a swish of his tail, displaced all the cracked pieces onto the workshop floor.
Chance dropped the glue pot, spilling the hot steamy mess over his workbench and lunged at the horrid critter. “Out, out. Who left the door open?”
It was probably his forgetful brother, who was still hanging on cloud nine after his beach wedding and honeymoon. He was a writer and dabbled at woodworking—making toys instead of the serious stuff Chance worked on.
The cat, aptly named Mr. Klutz, jumped across the workbench and landed in the sink where Chance was soaking the strands of cane he needed to re-cane a Chippendale chair.
“Drat you, cat.” Chance chased the clumsy animal who splashed his way over to the varnish stand. “Oh no! Oh, no, you don’t!”
Oh, yes, he did. The wretched creature belly-flopped all over a set of freshly varnished cabinet doors before scratching his way from the sticky mess, leaving wisps of fur and long claw marks over the Georgian-style china cabinet.
Chance threw a shop towel at the tomcat who leaped onto a shelf full of custom colored varnishes stored in glass jars.
Crash! The monster cat of the Garfield-weight-category sent every jar flying to the shop floor. The various shades of browns, oranges, and reds bled together amongst shards of broken glass.
Chance rushed to open the shop windows to let the volatile fumes out, when the giant cat pounced onto his shoulders and launched himself with a squall out the window.
Too bad his shop was on the first floor. The despicable pest landed on the soft bedding of redwood needles, which stuck to his sticky, matted fur. He turned and glared at Chance, his green eyes flaring before walking off with his tail held high, as if to say, I can eff with you anytime I want, and there’s not a thing you can do about it.
“We’ll see about that.” Chance shook his fist at the foul looking hole at the base of the cat’s tail. “Next time I catch you, I’ll feed you to the crocodiles.”
Not that there were any crocodiles in Christmas Creek, a Northern California hamlet of redwoods and tiny streams which had at one time been a logging center until the timber industry collapsed in the late twentieth century.
No crocodiles, but as Chance surveyed the mess in his shop, he had no choice but to confront Mr. Klutz’s owner. It didn’t matter that she was the sister of his brother’s new wife. Nor did it matter that she seemed to be afraid of him, hiding every time he happened to visit his brother and sister-in-law. Nope, it didn’t even matter that his stomach felt funny and his heart flopped like a fish out of water whenever he chanced to catch a glimpse of her with her golden brown hair and pretty, all-American looks. Most of all, it didn’t matter that she was disabled with cerebral palsy.
She had no excuse not to watch over her trespassing cat. If she couldn’t handle him, she should send him to the shelter, and he’d be happy to take him there. It was time he gave her a piece of his mind, and he wasn’t going to be nice about it. Nope, not Chance Martin, former inmate at Folsom Prison outside of Sacramento. No one would ever mistake him for Mr. Nice Guy. Ever.
[End of Excerpt]
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