The Cat Who Came for Christmas

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A family takes in a lost kitten on Christmas Eve and she shows her gratitude.

Submitted: February 21, 2017

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Submitted: February 21, 2017

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The Cat Who Came For Christmas

by

Mike Roberts

 

On a cold and rainy Christmas Eve, in a small house by a large patch of woods, a small but close-knit family sat drinking hot chocolate and cider around the fireplace.  In the corner stood a modest Christmas tree, glowing with colored lights, glass balls, and tinsel.  Underneath the tree was a small pile of presents.  Outside, the wind soughed in the trees and rain pattered against the window, but the family was snug and warm in its little house.

There were just three of them:  a mother, a father, and a six-year old girl named Miriam.  Miriam was brown-eyed, with blond hair and a smile that showed a hint of sadness.  She was cherished in that house because her birth had been difficult and her mother could have no more children.

Though Miriam was generally happy, she was often lonely because they had no close neighbors and so nobody for her to play with.  She played with her mother and father, of course, but she secretly wished for a friend.

The night drew on.  Pretty soon all three of them were quiet and sleepy.  And then from the door came a faint scratching sound.  At first, they weren’t sure they’d heard it.

“Did you hear that?” Mother asked.

“Hear what?” asked Father, who’d been dozing by the fire.

The scratching began again, this time accompanied by a plaintive “meow.”

“I heard it!” exclaimed Miriam excitedly.  “It sounds like a kitten.”

She got up from her rocking chair and went to the door.  She opened it and there on the threshold was a small gray tabby kitten with white paws and a white breast.  The kitten was very thin and weak.  Its fir was wet and bedraggled.  The poor thing was shivering, and droplets of rain sparkled in its fur from the light of the Christmas tree.

“Oh!  A kitten!  Look Mama, a kitten!” said Miriam.

The little girl knelt by the wet, shivering creature and began stroking it.  She could feel its tiny ribs through its fur.  As she stroked it, it began purring.

Mother looked on in sympathy.  “The poor little thing,” she said.  “It’s cold and wet and probably starving.”

“Can we keep it, Mama?” asked Miriam, a plea in her eyes.

“Well, we’ll see,” said Mother doubtfully, repeating the same thing to her child that parents have from time immemorial when presented with an unexpected request.  She hadn’t really planned on getting a kitten.

“Daddy!  Please!  Can we keep it?” Miriam pleaded.

The father, still bleary and tired from his nap, mumbled something about asking the mother.

Miriam and her mother went into the kitchen and got the kitten a bowl of milk to drink.  The kitten followed close behind and drank the milk thirstily.  Then the kitten followed Miriam back into the living room.  When Miriam sat in her rocker, the kitten jumped into her lap and, purring, went to sleep.

Miriam’s heart was filled with joy.  Here was the friend she’d been longing for.

“She likes me, Mama,” she said quietly.

“How do you know it’s a ‘she’?” asked Mother.

“I just know,” said Miriam.  “She’s a she and I’m going to name her ‘Kittykins’,” said Miriam.

“Well, she’s certainly made herself at home,” Mother observed a bit wryly.

“We saved her life, Mama.  And she’s very thankful,” Miriam whispered, stroking the sleeping kitten.

That night, when Miriam went to bed, Kittykins climbed up on the bed with her.  The kitten slept beside Miriam all night long.

The next day was Christmas Day, and Miriam and Kittykins woke early.  Together they went down the hall.  The Christmas tree lights were on, as they were every Christmas.  Miriam and Kittykins wrapped up in a blanket and sat by the dying fire and waited for Mother and Father to get up so they could open their presents.  The family also always ate a big breakfast on Christmas morning, and Miriam was looking forward to that as well.  The kitten climbed into Miriam’s lap, under the blanket, and purred contentedly.

After a while, Mother got up and came into the living room.  She built up the fire and put on a pot of coffee.  Miriam was sitting quietly, her kitten on her lap, a look of happiness on her face that Mother had never seen before.

After a while longer, Father came out.  He smiled at Miriam and said, “Oh, the cat is still here, huh?”

“Yes, Daddy.  Can we keep her, please?”  Miriam looked hopefully into his eyes.

“How do you know it’s a female?” he asked.

“Oh, she told me,” Miriam said.

“Hmm, let me see.”

Father picked up the kitten gently and looked, and sure enough, it was a female.

“And what did you name her?” he asked.

“Her name is Kittykins,” Miriam said, with a nod of her blond head.

Now up to that point, the father had been planning to tell his daughter gently but firmly that she couldn’t keep the cat.  But when he looked into her eyes and saw the happiness and hope there, he hadn’t the heart.

“I don’t suppose she’ll be too much trouble to keep.  What do you think, Mother?”

Mother looked from Miriam to her husband, then to Miriam again.

“Well, I suppose it will be all right,” she said.  She looked at her husband again and he nodded very slightly.

Miriam was overjoyed.  She jumped up and hugged both of her parents.  They were very pleased to see her so happy, for they doted on their child and had been worried about her loneliness.

And so Kittykins became the fourth member of the little family.  She grew into a small but energetic cat that followed Miriam wherever she went.  It was as if each had found the friend they were looking for.  At night, Kittykins slept on Miriam’s bed, often playing with her feet under the covers before finally laying down beside the girl and falling asleep.

But little girls grow up, and cats grow old, and one day it was time for Miriam to go off to college.

By this time, Kittykins had become an elderly cat.  She spent most of her days lazing in the sun.  Sometimes she forgot that she had been fed, and would pester Mother or Miriam, if she was home from school, to feed her.  All during Miriam’s time at college, Kittykins enjoyed good health.  She was always glad to see Miriam when she came home.  Kittykins always slept on Miriam’s bed with her.

One day, while Miriam was away at school, Mother noticed that Kittykins had not gotten up to eat.  She found the cat curled up on Miriam’s bed.  Kittykins raised her head and gave a weak meow, but she was clearly not feeling well.

Miriam was expected home in a couple of days for Christmas vacation.  Mother and Father agonized over their dilemma.  Should they let nature take its course and allow Kittykins to pass away?  Or should they take the old cat to the vet and see what could be done?  In the end, they took Kittykins to the vet.  At the vet’s, they were told that Kittykins’ kidneys were failing.  The vet said Kittykins might last a couple more days, but he couldn’t promise anything.  He gave the cat some medicine that might keep her going a while longer.  Mother and Father took Kittykins home.

At home, they gave Kittykins the medicine prescribed for her and tried to get the sick cat to eat.  Kittykins drank a little water and nibbled a little food, but that was all.  Mother called Miriam at school and asked when she was coming home.  Miriam said she was coming home the next day.  Mother told her not to delay, for Kittykins was not feeling well.

Miriam, alarmed, asked, “Is she dying, Mama?”

Mother told her truthfully that yes, Kittykins appeared to be dying.  Miriam said she would come home as soon as she’d taken her last exam.  That night, Mother placed Kittykins in a basket beside the fireplace where it was warm.  Together, they stayed beside the fire all night.  When daybreak came, Kittykins was still alive, though barely.  It was as if the cat was waiting for Miriam to come home.

All during that day, as Mother went about preparing for what would most likely be a sad Christmas, Kittykins slept by the fire.  Mother kept the fire going so the old cat wouldn’t get cold.

That afternoon, a car pulled up in the driveway.  It was Miriam, home from school.  She hurried up to the door and let herself in.

“Mama!” she called, “I’m home!”

Mother appeared in the doorway to the kitchen.  “Welcome home and Merry Christmas, Miriam,” she said, a little sadness in her voice.  They embraced warmly.  Miriam saw the box by the fireplace with its small still form inside.

“How is she,” she asked quietly.

“Nearly gone, poor thing,” Mother said, tears coming to her eyes.

“Oh Kittykins,” Miriam said brokenly, picking up the cat gently and sitting down by the fire.  She stroked the cat’s head and kissed her.  Kittykins responded with a faint purr.

For the next several hours, Miriam held the cat in her arms while Kittykins sank lower and lower.  Father came home and helped Mother with the Christmas preparations.  At around six, Miriam came to the kitchen with tears running down her face.  Mother knew right away what had happened and embraced her daughter.

“She was a good cat,” Mother said.

“We saved her life,” Miriam said.

“Yes we did, and in return, she gave us years of friendship,” Mother said.

“She was a good mouse catcher,” Father said.

Now Kittykins died on the day before Christmas Eve, and it was already dark, so Miriam wrapped her up in a blanket and placed her in her box for burial the next day.  Christmas Eve dawned clear and cold, and after breakfast, Father and Miriam went to the edge of the woods and dug a grave for the cat.  They placed Kittykins into the hole, still wrapped in her blanket.  Father filled in the hole and Miriam put a wooden marker on the grave that read, “Kittykins, beloved cat and friend.”  Mother joined Father and Miriam, and the girl said a few words for her friend, then they returned to the house.

Inside it was warm, and the smells of Christmas cooking filled the little house.  Mother had baked a pumpkin pie, and there was roast chicken and dressing and biscuits and hot chocolate.  The family sat down to eat, a little sad because Kittykins wasn’t there to share the meal, but consoled by the fact that the cat had had a good life, was loved and loved them in return, and had been taken care of with respect and care.

After dinner, as they had so many times before, the family retired to the living room to sit by the fire, talk, and admire the Christmas tree.  Miriam found herself looking at Kittykins’ ornament, a small ceramic cat painted to look just like Kittykins.  It had hung on the tree every Christmas since Kittykins had come to live with them.

Pretty soon, as had happened so many times before, Father was snoring in his chair.  The fire was burning low.  It was time for bed.  In the morning, there would be the Christmas breakfast and the opening of presents.  Mother woke up Father and the two shuffled off to bed.  Miriam stayed up a little longer, thinking about her beloved cat and saying a prayer of thanks for having the cat as her friend for so many years.  But Miriam grew sleepy as well, and after a while she went to bed too.

Miriam fell asleep quickly, slipping into a dreamless slumber.  The hours passed.  And then, in the wee hours of the morning, she turned in her sleep and thought she felt something beside her on the bed.  It was only a passing thought and she began drifting off to sleep again.  But then she felt something, something with small paws, walking on her bed.  Miriam frowned in her sleep and mumbled, “Kittykins, settle down and go to sleep.”

Instead, something began playing with her feet under the covers.  Miriam tried moving her feet out of the way, but whatever it was followed them and continued jumping on them.  The girl, half-asleep, said, “Kittykins!  Leave my feet alone and go to sleep!”  But something kept bothering her.  Finally Miriam felt a sharp stab of pain as something bit her toe through the blanket.

This woke her up.  Miriam sat up in bed.  She peered around the dark room, but could seen nothing.  She turned on her bedside lamp and looked.  She was alone.

It was then she smelled the smoke.

She threw the covers back and went out into the hall.  As soon as she stood up, she encountered a layer of smoke along the ceiling.  The smoke was coming from the doorway to the living room down the hall.  Miriam rushed down the hall and gasped when she got to the oorway.

The Christmas tree was on fire!

It was not fully engulfed yet, but it would be, soon.  Miriam turned and ran to her parents’ bedroom.  She threw the door open and screamed, “Daddy!  The Christmas tree’s on fire!”

Father, jolted awake by the sound of Miriam’s voice, immediately got out of bed and ran down the hall to the living room.  By this time, the Christmas tree was fully involved.  The flames were licking along the top of the ceiling toward the drapes on the window.  Very soon, the fire would be beyond putting out.  Smoke had already filled the room.  Father looked at Miriam and said, “Go get your mother and the two of you get out of the house!”

Miriam obeyed.  She and Mother put on slippers and robes quickly and went out through the back door.  In the living room, Father grabbed the fire extinguisher he kept by the fireplace and began putting the fire out.  It was difficult, because the flames were well established by the time he started.  He wasn’t sure that the fire extinguisher would last long enough to do the job.  But gradually, with judicious use of the extinguisher, Father brought the fire under control and finally put it out completely.

The fire was out, but the house was filled with smoke.  Father opened all the doors and windows to let the house air out, and then joined Mother and Miriam in the yard.

“What in the world happened?” Mother asked.

“I suppose some of the old lights on the tree short-circuited and ignited the fire,” said Father.  “We should have replaced them a long time ago.”

“It’s a good thing Miriam was up,” Mother said.  “Otherwise we could have all burned up.”

“But I wasn’t up, Mama.  I was asleep,” Miriam said quietly.

“Then how did you know about the fire?” Mother asked.

Miriam thought for a moment.  She knew how it would sound if she told them that Kittykins had bitten her toe and awakened her, but she decided to anyway.

“Kittykins woke me up,” Miriam said.

“Now Miriam,” Mother said, smiling sadly at her daughter, “we know that you loved that cat, but you know that’s not possible.”

“But that’s what happened, Mama!  Kittykins started playing with my feet.  She tried to wake me, but when it didn’t work, she bit me hard on my toe.  I sat up in bed and smelled the smoke.”

Mother still looked doubtful.  Father just looked perplexed.  Miriam looked at both of them a little defiantly.  She knew what she knew, and Kittykins had awakened her.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, Miriam saw movement.  She turned to look and, at the edge of the woods, near Kittykins’ little grave, was a small, gray tabby cat with white paws and a white breast.

“Look!” she said, pointing.

Father and Mother looked, and just as they did, the small gray tabby turned and walked into the woods.

“Well, what do you know?” Father said.

Mother, looking up at Father said, “Do you suppose it really could be…?”

Miriam looked at her parents and said, “We saved her life once, and in return, she saved ours.”

Mother shivered, “Well, I’m freezing.  Let’s go inside and clean up.  Maybe we can still make a Christmas after all.

The little family went back inside.  They spent the rest of the night cleaning up the mess.  The Christmas tree was completely burned up, ornaments and all.  Father took it outside and left it on the burn pile.  Mother and Miriam swept and mopped and cleaned, and before long the house was back in fairly good order.  There was still a slight smoke smell in the air, but that would fade in time.  Father built a fire in the fireplace, and Mother made hot chocolate and coffee.  Dawn was breaking when the family finally sat down in the living room to rest.

As they drank their coffee and hot chocolate, Miriam noticed something on the floor underneath the chair that had sat close by the Christmas tree.  She got up and reached under the chair and brought out a small ornament, a ceramic cat painted to look just like Kittykins.

“You see,” Miriam said, holding out the ornament.  “She’s still with us.  Kittykins is still with us.”

To this day, Kittykins’ ornament hangs on the family Christmas tree every year.


© Copyright 2018 Mike Roberts. All rights reserved.

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