Lee Ann Setzer


The Fuzzy Magic Series

Book 1: White Whisker Magic

Chapter 1

Jamallah blinked, rolled over, stretched her paw—and yowled in pain. She swatted away the black ball of fuzz that had just sunk his teeth into her left ear, right below her golden earring. Then she laid her ears back and hissed ever so slightly at the striped youngster creeping toward her, mewing noisily for milk. Jamallah finished her stretch, ignoring all her young. It was time—past time—for these little ones to have homes of their own.

The patchy one and the black one bounded after her as she nosed aside the loose board in the floor of the old caboose. She mewed at them to stay inside, where they’d be safe, but she had no confidence these two would obey. Definitely time.

Her front legs emerged into a forest of tall weeds. By the time her back legs left the caboose, her head was coming through her own little flap into the magician’s tent.

He was sitting at a small table carved in intricate patterns. She’d learned as a kitten that claws bounced right off this shiny table. Now he looked up.

“Ah, Jamallah! The maid servants thought you’d disappeared forever!” His long braid dangled by her nose as he reached down to scratch her in her favorite spot, right between and a little behind her ears. She knew better than to bat at that braid, but she watched its path, back and forth, back and forth.

She rubbed against his legs and purred. “Where have you hidden your kittens?” he asked. “I swear this time I looked everywhere.”

Just then, a large, black-mottled tomcat sauntered up to Jamallah.

The magician laughed. “Caddoq has missed you, too, though he won’t admit it.”

When Caddoq and Jamallah touched noses in greeting, Caddoq jumped as though hit by lightning, his hair on end. He laid his ears back and gave a hiss that ended in a yowl.

Jamallah ruled in the tent, and Caddoq knew it. She hissed back and swatted his nose, and he streaked away through the tent door.

The magician made a curious noise in the back of his throat. “Wherever you’ve been, you don’t smell good to your mate! Now show me!”

She would have loved to jump into his lap, or settle down to a well-deserved dish of cream. But she had one last motherly duty. She padded back to the flap she’d come through and gave a soft chirrup. He followed her and got down on his hands and knees. When he lifted the flap, she glimpsed palm and date trees and smelled water. She made a questioning sound.

He looked at her. “The king moved the camp while you were gone. That’s why those silly girls were so worried.” He rolled her tiger’s-eye earring between his fingers thoughtfully. “But I knew you’d find your way back to me!” He closed the flap. “Now show me your babies.”

She nosed aside the flap, then turned to look questioningly at him.

He shrugged. “You know I cannot fit through the little cracks you find. I’ll watch from here. Bring me your worst troublemaker.”

Jamallah meowed agreeably. She always did exactly as the magician told her—as long as she wanted to do it anyway. They got along very well.

When she nudged aside the loose board again, her nose touched a black nose surrounded by long, white whiskers. The other babies scampered toward her as soon as they saw her, but she stayed only long enough to snatch up the black one, by the scruff of his neck. Against his squeaky protests, she slipped back under the loose board and back to her own magician.

Back in the tent, the magician was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her flap, a stiff, old parchment in his lap. He was holding a crystal on a fine gold chain, so it hung before his eyes. Jamallah looked up curiously, but the black kitten with white whiskers climbed right up the magician’s arm and tried to bat at the shiny crystal.

He plucked the kitten off his sleeve and set him gently on the floor, then shook his finger at Jamallah. She watched the moving finger as the black kitten pounced after a dust mote. “You, my dear girl, have gone so far this time that I almost couldn’t find you. And how is it you can find me when I can’t find you? You’ll get yourself lost one of these days! Look here.” She put her paws on the parchment in his lap and watched the crystal swing. “You’ve gone right to the very edge of the astral map this time, Jamallah. Some magicians don’t believe there’s anything beyond this map!”

The black one with white whiskers, who’d gotten his claws tangled in a tablecloth, crashed to the floor, along with a large china pot. The magician started for the kitten, but suddenly all the china shards stood on end. The kitten put its bottom in the air and waited intently. The pieces began hopping around the room, with the kitten in hot pursuit of first one, then another. One piece burst into sparkling fragments, right by the magician’s foot, and he jumped out of the way, exclaiming loudly. Then all the pieces started exploding. Jamallah ran to hide inside the magician’s hems, but he shoved her out again with his foot. She scurried to a far corner of the tent. The kitten continued chasing sparks and shards. Then another pot burst to pieces, all by itself, followed by a large vase. Three golden charms on the magician’s desk stood up and started doing a lively jig. The kitten leaped into the air, trying to catch a flying pomegranate, which hit the magician squarely in the nose.

“Enough!” bellowed the magician. He raised both hands in the air and said a Word that hurt Jamallah’s ears. All the food, dishes, and pottery pieces suddenly stopped moving and fell to the floor. The kitten scampered around among them, looking for something else to chase and settling on an unfortunate beetle.

The magician looked at the kitten incredulously. “Even the Word didn’t stop him, Jamallah.” Jamallah blinked but stayed in her hiding place. He picked up the kitten and held it up before his face.

“No magician could stand to have you around, little one. And you’d cause disasters anywhere else you went.

“I’ve heard of this happening before,” he said, mostly to himself. “Sometimes a creature born in another world—even if its parents came from ours—either dies here, or causes havoc. Different magicians have different theories. Perhaps breathing strange air does it, or perhaps magnetic fields in the earth change them. No one really knows.” As he studied the kitten, Jamallah crept forward and nudged his free hand with the bridge of her nose. He scratched her absently on the cheek. “You know what this means, don’t you?” She purred as he went on scratching. “It means that your babies will have to grow up in that world—not this one.” Jamallah kept purring. She’d done her duty to these babies. They were on their own now...or soon.

“And you’ll need to take them to their new homes. We can’t go unleashing magical kittens on an unsuspecting world.”

As if agreeing, the kitten wriggled its toes, and the magician’s robes turned from black to bright pink.

The magician cleared his throat. “Yes. We must choose homes for them carefully.” He rang for a serving girl to sweep up the mess then sat back down on the carpet in front of Jamallah.

The black kitten squirmed and mewed and chewed on the magician’s thumb, but the magician held on tight and picked up the crystal on its chain again. After a moment, he frowned. “Oh, little one,” he said, “Your mother has brought you to a land where black cats are considered bad luck. Luck is what you will need...” His voice trailed off, as both Jamallah and her kitten watched the crystal swing to and fro.

Finally, the magician lowered the crystal. “This would be a great deal of trouble to go to for an animal—even you, my dear—if you didn’t teach me so much each time.” He put the white-whiskered kitten on the floor and shoved it toward her. “The magic they got from you will likely fade in the place that they were born—maybe by the time their eyes change color. Now, go take this fellow home.”

Jamallah picked up the squirming kitten in her mouth and headed for her flap. Then she thought of one last question. She turned her head and made an inquiring noise around her mouthful of kitten.

The magician shook his head sadly. “No, all they know of magic is garbled up in old tales. Little ones, be very careful.”

Chapter 2

The moment the bell rang, Chip scooped up his backpack and lunchbox and slipped out the side door of the school. Last year, his big sister Sarah had walked home with him. But she’d started junior high this year, so Chip had to make it home on his own. Luckily, he was a good walker. Coward, coward... He could never walk faster than that voice in his head.

Chip darted across the playground. He avoided the outdoor bell, since once it had rung right when he was standing under it and made his ears hurt for an hour. He’d made it across the grass before any of the other kids came out of the school. Though Chip lived on the other side of the school from the playground, some sixth-graders liked to hang out by the flagpole and tease the younger kids—especially Chip. Coward. So Chip crossed the whole grassy field, slipped through a gap in the chain link gate, and headed down Fern Street, in the opposite direction from his house.

The first day he’d walked home the back way, Chip had discovered that an enormous black dog lived on Fern Street. Its owner had it chained up that day, but it barked so loudly that Chip thought it wanted to eat him. So Chip turned left down Fern, turned right on Maple, then right on Plum, then walked all the way down Plum as far as the school block was wide. Then he turned onto his own street, Fig, walked past a white house that he used to think was haunted but fortunately now had a family with babies and preschoolers, and finally turned up the walk to his own house. He came through the back door, into the kitchen.

“Hey, Chip,” shouted Sarah without looking up from her book. She was reading, eating a peanut butter sandwich, and listening to the Turbo Sequins on her music player.

“You better turn that down,” Chip said, hanging up his backpack by the door.

“WHAT?” yelled Sarah.

“I said, you’d better turn that down,” Chip yelled back.

Sarah yanked one earbud out of her ear. “I can’t hear you.”

“If I can hear your music, you’ve got it too loud,” Chip explained. “You’ll damage your hair cells.”

Sarah ran her fingers through her spiky, yellow-tipped hair. “My hair’s fine.”

“No, the hair cells in your ears.”

“I don’t have hair in my ears. Grandpa does!”

“No,” Chip explained patiently. “These are way on the inside of everyone’s ears, and they help you hear. But you’ll hurt them if...” Sarah had put the earbud back in and stuck her nose back in her book.

Chip was getting his own peanut butter sandwich when his mom breezed in the door. “Hi, you two!” She scritched Sarah’s yellow spikes and planted a kiss on top of Chip’s head. “Guess what! The Highline house is under contract!”

Sarah pulled out one earbud. “Great, Mom!” Their mom sold real estate, and she’d been trying to sell a fancy house on the edge of town for months. Chip and Sarah knew that “under contract” meant “almost sold.”

“Are they preapproved?” Chip asked. They also knew that house sales fell through all the time.

Mom shook her head. “No, the buyers are waiting for their fancy house in Indiana to sell. But it’s under contract, and the people that want to buy that house are preapproved.” She tossed her purse in a chair and got herself a drink of water. “So it looks like we may finally get a commission from this one. I’ve worked at it long enough.”

Chip sighed. He didn’t much like how his chances of going to Disneyland next summer hung on whether strangers in Indiana could sell their house or not.

Mom drained her water glass then opened up Chip’s and Sarah’s backpacks. “Ack! Sarah! Your math teacher wanted this signed last week!”

“Oops,” said Sarah.

Mom scrawled her signature on Sarah’s progress report. In third grade, they would start cursive soon, but Chip already suspected his mother’s cursive wasn’t very neat. “How about you, Chip?”

Mom sorted through Chip’s school papers and came up with a bright yellow one. “What’s this? Wrestling signups at the community rec center...” She looked up at Chip. “Is this something you want to do?”

No. Coward. Yes. Chip had almost thrown the paper away so his parents wouldn’t see it, but then he’d left it in, so they’d ask about it.

The school was forever sending home pieces of paper for different sports leagues—soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the summer. Chip had tried youth basketball one year, but he was the slowest kid on the team. Even though he’d memorized the rules, he never quite seemed to know where to throw the ball, or when to shoot. And someone had whacked him in the head with the ball, hard, in the first five minutes of his first game. So Chip avoided team sports.

But wrestling... His dad had wrestled in high school. He had a big picture of the whole wrestling team, in their green and yellow “weirdo suits,” as Sarah called the uniforms. Dad called them “singlets.” In wrestling, it was just you and one other guy—not a whole field or court full of other guys. Maybe Chip could wrestle.

“Maybe,” he told his mom.

“’Kay.” She flipped through more papers. “Hundred percent spelling test. Doesn’t look like third grade spelling’s going to be any harder than second grade was.”

Chip shook his head. He’d seen Sarah’s seventh grade spelling words, and those weren’t hard, either. “Mom?”

“Hm?” She looked up from the PTA newsletter.

“Did you talk to Dad yet?”

“Oh! I almost forgot. Yes, we did talk, and yes, we decided that we will go and find a kitten at the animal shelter. Dad said we could choose without him, since the shelter closes before he gets home.”

Chip leaped up and whooped like an Indian. “All right!” He hugged his mom around the neck. “You are unquestionably the best mother who ever ever—”

“Gah!” said his mother, prying loose his fingers. “I don’t think the strangle hold is legal in wrestling.”

Sarah exploded out of her chair, sending backpack papers flying. “A kitty! A kitty! We’re getting a kitty! Mom, we also need a collar, and cat food, and a litter box, and a cat bed...” Sarah had been reading cat-care books for a month.

“—No cat bed. He’s sleeping with me,” Chip corrected.

“Or with me! Why shouldn’t she sleep on my bed!”

“You don’t know it’s a girl. I bet we get a boy. I want a boy cat.”

“That’s a ‘tom’ cat, Mr. Vocabulary.”

“And he’s going to sleep on my bed.”

“She’s going to sleep on mine!”

“Arg!” Mom yelled louder than either of them. Sarah and Chip had been known to start fights on purpose, just to hear Mom make “The Sound.” But now they clamped their mouths shut. “If you two had a fight scheduled, please don’t let me disturb you. Just finish up and let me know when you’re ready to go look for a cat.”

“We’re done now, Mom,” said Chip in a small voice.

“You sure?” Mom handed him the broom. “Why don’t you whack at each other for a while? I’ll get you the mop, Sarah...” She headed for the broom closet.


Mom blinked innocently. “I’d hate to interrupt...”

Sarah put her arms around Mom. “Mother dear, we solemnly swear that this fight is over and we want to go get our kitty right now!”

Mom looked around Sarah. “You agree, Chip?”

Chip gave the Cub Scout salute. “Yes, ma’am! Scout’s honor.”

“Okay!” Mom picked up her purse. “Let’s go to the pet store first, then the animal shelter.”

“Woohoo!” Sarah dashed for the door, but Chip beat her to it.