A Christmas Story
The cat rolled over in her bed and stretched. Her sleek black body shone in the sunlight coming through a nearby window. Boots had never known her 'owner' by any other name than Mamma and she didn't know she was 'owned' by anyone. She only knew her human fed her and, at Boots chosen time, stroked the cat's soft warm body. The cat always rewarded the latter with a subtle purr but acted distant and aloof all other times. Boots had earned her name by her body being jet black and her paws being lily white. Such things did not concern the feline as she rarely responded to her name unless there was food involved.
Boot's aloofness saddened the old woman who owned the fickle feline. She called herself Mamma when speaking to her cat on the rare occasions she was allowed to pet her. Mamma felt great loneliness as all her family and friends had passed into Jesus' arms leaving her alone at Christmas time. Every year she celebrated as best she could by putting up a lovely tree and setting below it her beloved ceramic nativity scene complete with a beautifully hand painted baby Jesus. This year she thought seriously about not putting up her tree as her heart was heavy in grief. With a sigh she arose from her perch and began the arduous task of digging out her ornaments from the hall closet where they had been stored the former year. After two hours of toil Mamma stood back and admired her work. The tree was beautiful, perhaps the best decorating job she had ever done. Below, atop the sheet she was using to simulate snow, sat her nativity scene each piece lovingly placed within its wooden niche. As she gazed at the fruits of her labor she became slowly aware that the tree was swaying! Looking closer she saw Boots gingerly climbing its boughs. An unintentional squeal ushered from her lips.
Boots had been enamored with the tree she saw in her living room. Being a cat she did not remember seeing the tree before and went to investigate it more closely. She knew, as she approached unseen by Mamma that other cats climbed such things, she had seen them do so from the window where she often sun bathed. Slowly she began to climb but suddenly wished she had not undertaken her adventure as the tree toppled crashing with a loud noise. As it landed the cat heard an unfamiliar sound. Quickly, trying to regain her dignity, she walked from the fallen briar into the living room and began to groom herself.
Mamma felt her heart sink as she saw her beautiful tree fall and heard the breaking of porcelain. Quickly she lifted the boughs of her fallen work and there lay her nativity scene intact except for the baby Jesus. Hot anger arose in her throat and she turned to see Boots contentedly licking her paws and washing her face seemingly oblivious to the heartache she had caused. Mamma began to yell at the tabby and to chase her with a wadded newspaper.
Boots was horrified! Had Mamma lost her mind? She easily escaped from the old woman's ranting and leaped onto the living room windowsill. As she did the screen fell out and in one leap Boots leaped to freedom.
Mamma ran to the window no longer angry. Her heart beat wildly in her chest as she saw Boots spring from the window and disappear. "Boots!" she called sobbing. "Boots, come back!"
Boots never answered Mamma when she called her name so why should this time be any different. Running as fast as she could she felt a rush realizing she was out of what she had occasionally felt was a prison and entered the world at large. Soon the cat slowed her pace to a confident and sassy walk, taking in all the sights and smells which assaulted her senses. Never had she felt so alive! Suddenly feeling tired she searched for a warm place to rest as the day was growing cold and the sky was gray, the clouds so low she felt she could jump up and touch them.
Mamma sobbed as she set out a dish of Boots favorite food and a saucer of cream hoping that her cat would return when she became hungry. Slowly she up righted the fallen tree and picked up the broken baby Jesus and began to pray for her companion to return to her. For now she was utterly alone.
Boots found herself growing hungry and cold. Snow had begun to fall in large heavy flakes. At first she found these to be a grand curiosity but as they began to accumulate she found herself beginning to wade through its ever-increasing depth. Suddenly the warm bed and fresh food of home seemed like a luxury. As she thought of Mamma she became aware of the affection she felt toward her and of Mamma's obvious affection for her. Quickly she turned and began her trek back home. "Yes that was it," she thought, "home."
Mamma had half-heartedly watched the snowfall. Would her tabby return soon? Only God knew. The Spinster set the nativity scene back in its place minus, of course, the baby Jesus that she had thrown into the trash. Somehow the loss of the porcelain doll no longer angered her. The nativity scene meant a great deal but some things, such as love, became paramount in her mind. As night fell she lay down in her bed and cried herself to sleep. She shivered a little as she had left the window from which Boots had escaped open, allowing the cold air of winter permeate her home.
Boots was grateful for the food her friend had left her. Quickly she ate it and jumped through the open window feeling a sudden rush of gratitude toward Mamma.
When the old woman awoke the next morning she felt terrible. It was Christmas Day and she felt more alone than she ever had before. Slowly and with no purpose she got out of bed, put on her robe and slippers and walked slowly into the living room to turn on the Christmas tree lights. As she plugged them in she became aware of a deep purring emanating from below the tree. She looked and saw Boots laying next to her nativity scene her tail lying motionlessly in the place where baby Jesus would have lain.
Boots realized the moment she had heard Mamma stirring that she loved the old woman.
Mamma cried new tears, this time tears of joy for here before her was the greatest Christmas gift she had ever received lying in the place of the one to whom she had prayed in desperation the night before.
Both cat and human reached out to the other and soon Boots was lying in the lap of Mamma with the human gently stroking her cat's fur. The old woman no longer felt alone and whispered, "Merry Christmas Boots."