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The Vine: December 28, 2012

Submitted by on December 28, 2012 – 8:06 AM17 Comments

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I could use some help on this, please. It's a short children's story (I think I found it in an English/Literature textbook when in 7th grade) about this fairy/elf-type being whose job it is to design the sky (or at least his assigned portion of it) every day — colors, clouds and the choreography therein. He loves the work, but it's a job and so has rules. The biggest one is that he can't write messages in the clouds.

After a time, he grows used to (though slightly disgruntled by) his work going unnoticed and unappreciated by humans (who just sits and watches the sky all day?). But then there's a girl who starts noticing. Daily, she walks to a park and climbs the tallest hill to lie down and watch the sky. She delights in it, for hours on end (she's either still pretty young or just quirky). Finally the artist has an audience. The elf is happy for once.

Now things get fuzzy for me. I think she had a brother who went with her to the park; maybe something happens to him or maybe the family decides to move, either way a countdown starts to her final day of sky-watching at the park. This majorly bums out the elf. As sad as he is, he wants to do something big for her. On her last visit to the park, she's shocked to look up and see writing in the clouds that somehow seems meant for her (no recall of what it said). The elf gets demoted or transferred or otherwise punished, but he's fine with it.

Other points that might help:
– Fairy/elf is the feeling I have about what this cloud painter is, but I'm not certain those beings were identified as anything magical.
– The sky-creating business was like an architecture firm — there was some type of hierarchy and the sky designs were plotted out on plans that had to be turned in to a supervisor (for final approval) the night before they would be used.

Any help would be much appreciated!! I really connected to this story as a kid and would love to read it again. Thanks!

Nicole

*****

Hey Nation!
I need help tracking down a sci-fi short story. It's an older one, I probably read it in an anthology, probably a "Best of," and my love of those centers on the older stuff, '70s and back.

From what I remember, there was a dude on a spaceship, and they had a cat. And they were under attack by, as I recall, evolved rats. The dude puts the ship's cat in an escape pod and hurls it at a wormhole or black hole or something. The something is some sort of wibbly wobbly time thing, and the cat evolves and a whole squadron of evolved space kitties show up in their own ships to fight off the rats just in time.

Science fiction's love of cats being what it is, Google has been less than fruitful. It's not "Spacetime for Springer," although I always think it is and then I read it again and it's not.

Bonus round: I'm also looking for a short story about a house in love with the woman who lives there. The floors are happy when she walks on them. The bathtub gets all excited about her taking a bath instead of a shower. Everything is jealous of her husband. I have no clue when I read this or where, but it stuck with me. It's not like a house with artificial intelligence, it's the actual house.

I hope everyone loves a challenge!

Thanks,
Bubbles

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17 Comments »

  • Angharad says:

    Bubbles: For your first book, are you thinking of 'The Game of Rat and Dragon' by Cordwainer Smith? The enemy creatures are seen as dragons by humans and as rats by cats, but, other than that, everything seems similar.

  • Lindsay says:

    When I heard "evolved cats", I thought "Red Dwarf", but that isn't it. I hope someone finds the lost stories, because I'd love to read all of these!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Lindsay, I thought "Red Dwarf!" for the first and "Treehouse of Horror!" for the second, but that just proves I'm overexposed to pop culture.

    "Isn't that the voice that caused all those suicides?"

  • Cat says:

    "MURDER-suicides", Jen S. (as you can see, I am part of your team!)

    When I think cats in space, as I obviously do *ALL* the time, my mind goes to Mercedes Lackey's SKitty, although I think that's genetically engineered cats. I also don't recall that particular plot, but I know SKitty short stories were included in a few anthologies, including at least one volume of Catfantastic. So maybe that's a place to check?

  • Allie says:

    I feel like I've read the house story. Bradbury or Philip K. Dick, maybe, since I'm not much of a short story person, and those are collections I've read…

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Bradbury wrote a great story called The Haunting of the New, but it doesn't fit the parameters of the mystery story (you see what I did there?)

    And it's not There Will Come Soft Rains because that involved an entire family…

  • Bubbles says:

    It's not "Game of Rat and Dragon", but I have read that one and recommend it! Also not Red Dwarf, though I do have much love for Cat. I haven't read any Skitty stuff (as far as I remember), but I'll give them a shot. Nothing wrong with a few more cats in space!
    I'll give my Bradbury a re-read, Allie. But you might be thinking of There Will Come Soft Rains, a Bradbury short about a smart house going on after the family is gone.

  • Beth says:

    Nicole: I know this isn't terribly specific, but your story sounds a lot like a story I read in a really big book of children's short stories I had as a kid, something like The 100 Best Short Stories Ever. If that's it, maybe someone else will be better able to pin it down?

  • Kim says:

    Who knew "cats in space" was so deep a genre? Not I! But I do remember being fascinated with Andre Norton's "Star Ka'at" series as a kid. A superior cat race from space flies around in ships AND rescues plucky orphans! They're for younger readers, but they tapped directly into my personal zeitgeist of Star Wars/kittehs/when-will-my-real-parents-the-magical-fairies/spacefolk/royalty-come-and-get-me in the late 70s.

  • cjw says:

    The first book is C.L.O.U.D.S. by Pat Cumming! The author came to my school once — I loved this book!

    http://www.amazon.com/C-L-O-U-D-S-Pat-Cummings/dp/0688046827/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357080462&sr=8-1&keywords=c.l.o.u.d.s

  • dracjr says:

    Bubbles, I heard something a lot like your house story once on the Podcastle podcast. Is it this? http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20060213/copley-woods-f.shtml

  • Gillian says:

    Bubbles,

    I think the story is "The Crime and The Glory of Commander Suzdal", also by Cordwainer Smith. Trigger warning for transphobia/homophobia, but still – brilliant as all Cordwainer stories are…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crime_and_the_Glory_of_Commander_Suzdal

    http://bookre.org/reader?file=284288

    – Gillian

  • Gillian says:

    "This is the day of the year of the promised age. And now come cats!"

    …that line still give me chills :-)

  • sienamystic says:

    I was sure that the "house in love with the owner" story was one of the Nina Kiriki Hoffman books, titled A Red Heart of Memories – the house eventually becomes a person – but it was a novel, not a short story. Throwing it out there anyway, because she's awesome.

  • Jen says:

    Damn, I was hoping the house one would be answered for sure, because I totally want to read it based on that description!

  • Nicole says:

    Oh my gosh, thanks SO much cjw! I can't wait to read it again :)

  • Bubbles says:

    Jen, I hope you check back, because Dracjr nailed it! Thank you thank you! I knew this story existed.
    And Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal sounds right for the other. Oh my god. Thank you, Nation. I have been going nuts over these for quite some time now.

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