Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Domino, by Kia Heavey.
Greenwich, CT, Unfiltered Creative, January 2016, trade paperback $11.95 (267 pages), Kindle $3.49.
Domino is a large black-&-white barn cat on the Browns’ farm, encouraged to roam it for rodent control. He is unneutered to make him more aggressive. He is complacent as one of the socially dominant cats in the nearby residential neighborhood prowl, along with his best friend Flufferdoodle and others such as Tiger, Cricket, Mister, Lady, Rudy, and Izzy.
Then two new cats enter the neighborhood. Celine is a black field stray who likes a free life, living outside of being a housecat. She becomes Domino’s equal, supporter, and eventually mate. Socrates is a supercilious but charismatic Siamese intellectual who spellbinds most of the other cats with the philosophy that all animals are transcendent – they can transcend their feral instincts if they only try. They all have souls and similar emotions. The cats all have humans who feed them, so they don’t need to go hunting for prey. Domino is amused at first, then alarmed as he sees more and more of his friends listening to Socrates. He is gradually isolated and sidelined as a social boor and killer of helpless wildlife. Domino suspects that Socrates and his housemate, Max the dog, have an ulterior motive, but he can’t figure out what it is.
Then Socrates introduces the rats.
The cover by Damon Bowie shows that either Domino is a small cat, or those are large rats. Domino is a very large cat.
Heavey writes clever dialogue:
“The rat’s back end was invisible in the sharp shadow alongside the wall, but its front end was starkly lit in the harsh midday sunlight. It was still panting from its recent dash for its life, but with its would-be killer safely in sight, it soon regained its typical arrogance. ‘Well, well, not so fast today, are we, cat?’
Domino’s sensitive ears flicked at the squeaky tones of the rat’s voice. ‘I’m not the one who was so scared I pissed myself,’ he replied. While he spoke, his eyes scanned the scene, seeking a way to approach the creature.
The rat laughed. ‘Maybe so, but I’m not the one who ran through it. Even now, I can smell my piss on you. When you bathe later, enjoy the taste,’ it taunted. ‘That’s what you like anyway, isn’t it?’
‘And you little sociopaths wonder why we kill your species whenever we get the chance.’ As Domino bantered, his mind raced. If only he could gain the shadow, he could slither along the base of the tumbledown wall. He took a tentative step closer.” (p. 3)
“‘Come here, you’ve got to meet the new guy,’ said a tabby cat with the predictable name of Tiger.
‘Looking forward to it,’ said Domino. Since Socrates had not moved, he allowed himself to be led to the odd cat. ‘Welcome,’ he meowed when he reached him.
Socrates didn’t look at Domino so much as he evaluated the way the other cats treated the barn cat: with deference and respect. His eyes narrowed before he finally returned Domino’s look. ‘Nice of you to join us,’ he said finally. He did not come down from his strange sitting up position.
‘I know you’re new to the neighborhood,’ began Domino, ‘but around here, we greet by touching noses.’
‘How quaint.’” (p. 15)
“As Domino watched, a smaller creature emerged from the woods, ghostly pale and eerily calm. It was Socrates, trailing along behind Max to see that Rudy was properly dispatched. Domino’s fur bristled so hard it made his skin hurt. Socrates sat and watched with cold eyes as Max finished with the body and dropped it, eventually lost interest, and sniffed his way to a nearly tussock, lifting his leg to urinate on it.
Socrates was innocent, Domino remembered Rudy saying. But certainly not now, he thought. That cat is as evil and corrupt as the meanest rat ever born.” (p. 151)
Domino builds slowly, but once it reaches its climax, there does not seem to be any way for Domino to survive. The climax is a shocker. The novel’s ending, while pleasant, is a bit of an anticlimax. But don’t miss the book’s first 259 pages.