Book Seven is begun! So far I think it’s pitched more at the 10 end of the 8-10 spectrum, but we’ll see how it unfolds.

It was a beautiful starry morning, but Chris didn’t know that because when he woke up he was in a house with no skylight, and anyway there was a cat on his head.

“Urmph,” he said.

“Mrau?” the cat replied, carelessly flicking its tail. Evidently it didn’t think there was anything unusual about going to sleep on someone’s head.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been unusual if the cat had belonged to Chris, or indeed anyone else in his family. But it didn’t. The cat belonged to the lady who lived next door, in the house that looked like it couldn’t decide what it wanted to do with itself.

Chris made a face, which was a bit pointless given nobody could see it (there was nobody else in the room, and the cat was in the way), and began the task of wriggling out from under the beastie without alarming it. He had a fear of being clawed in the eye, which was a pretty reasonable fear when you had something with claws sitting on your head. Less terrifying when wearing a helmet, though.

He had got about half way down the bed, with the duvet all scrunched up around his knees and the sheet half off, when it occurred to him the cat had moved as well. This was not part of the plan.

He was lying with his knees up on his chest, idly wondering what to do, when the cat yawned and stretched, then wound itself around his head even more tightly.  This would solve the problem in the end, he thought, because it would probably cut off circulation to his brain before he even got downstairs for breakfast.

Chris decided to stop worrying, and got to his feet. Then he looked in the mirror, where his own reflection was plainly visible.

It looked a bit like he was wearing a fur hat, with bald patches.

“Nice hat,” said Chris’s little brother, who was sitting at the kitchen table hoovering down chocolate breakfast cereal at a rate of knots. He always ate at a rate of seafaring measurements, although nobody was sure why.

Chris’s little brother was called Charlie, and he didn’t even like chocolate breakfast cereal all that much, he just didn’t want their sister to have any.

Thanks,” said Chris, sarcastically. Charlie, who was seven, didn’t seem to notice.

“I’d take that cat of my head if I were you,” their father suggested, reasonably. “Before it wakes up all confused and claws you in the eye to get its bearings.”

Thanks,” Chris said again, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Of course he had, which you already know if you were paying attention to the first bit.  But he was still learning sarcasm, and this was too good an opportunity to waste.

“Don’t be sarcastic,” said a small voice beside his ear, “it’s the lowest form of wit.”

Charlie stopped eating all the cereal in order to stare at his brother in a confused sort of a way. His face did the same thing as it did when he was trying to memorise the 9x table.  Not that he had ever been asked to learn the 9x table, but he was the sort of boy who like to know these things, just in case.

“Your hat spoke,” Charlie said.

Chris shrugged, as if this sort of thing happened all the time, even though they both knew perfectly well that it didn’t.

“Must be one of the cats from next door,” said their father, barely looking up, “better take it back round there.”

“What, now?” Chris said, “I’m still in my pyjamas!”

Dad peered at him over the top of the paper. Then he put the paper down flat on the table, which relieved the need for peering and was altogether more civil.

“Well,” he said after a moment, “if you think you can change into a T-shirt when you’ve got a cat on your head and not get shredded, be my guest.”

He was the sort of dad who believed in letting his children take risks in order to teach them valuable life lessons, such as how not to get shredded by angry cats.

Chris, however, was not much of a risk taking type.  So, with a melodramatic sigh, he pulled on his dad’s wellies (which lived by the back door in all seasons and were worn by everyone in the family but their owner) and made the long journey down the garden path and into the house next door.