Thursday, December 25, 2008

Don't Mess Around With Santa Claws!

Rudy and Peep knew they were in trouble. They’d been guarding the cat door all evening, because Fuzzy kept trying to come inside, and they’d had to repel him several times. The last time when there had been a rustle at the cat door Rudy had been at the end of her patience, and when the door opened, she savagely clawed at the intruder.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Fuzzy. It was black, but not a cat, and actually appeared to be of all things, a black glove. At first she thought she’d clawed some type of intruder, but then Peep had said, “Oh no, Rudy – you hurt Santa Claws!”

Rudy had jumped back and looked out the window that was over the cat door. Yes, there was someone standing outside in a red coat and hat with white trim, and he was looking at the hand he’d just pulled out of his glove. It was bleeding from several gouges, and he sucked on the injured fingers while calling out for a bandage. One of the reindeer carefully walked up onto the porch, holding a first aid kit in his mouth. Santa Claws took the kit, opened it and took out some antiseptic and several adhesive bandages. He carefully cleaned the cut and put the bandages on while Peep and Rudy watched from inside, their mouths hanging open in horror. There was no way Santa would leave them presents after they’d hurt him.

After Santa had finished bandaging himself he gave Rudy and Peep a particularly hard look, turned around and nimbly jumped over the porch rail and onto his sleigh. He then got off to reharness the reindeer who’d brought him the first aid kit. Santa threw several small packages he’d been carrying into the back of the sleigh and they took off into the sky.

Peep looked at Rudy, who was now staring at the floor. “I guess I’ve ruined Christmas for all of us. I’m sorry, Peep.” Rudy began to cry softly.

Snuggling up against Rudy’s side, Peep began to groom the crying cat. “It’s okay, Rudy. You were doing what you do best – protecting our home. How were we to know that Santa would try to come in through the cat door. And anyway – there’s no way he would have fit through that little door. I think he was just trying to tease us. Maybe Fuzzy put him up to it.” Peep was desperately trying to make Rudy feel better.

“No, it’s all my fault! I knew it was Christmas Eve – I should have been thinking. It’s all my fauuuult!” Rudy was wailing inconsolably now.

LT came running in. “What’s wrong? Is someone hurt?” When he saw Rudy wailing and Peep snuggled up close, LT settled on her other side to provide whatever support he could. “What’s the problem here, Rudy? You don’t look hurt. Are you sick?”

“I ruined Christmas, LT. Santa hates me now and will neeever leave presents for us agaaaain!”

Peep decided an explanation was in order. “We’d been keeping Fuzzy out all evening, and Rudy clawed Santa Claws’ hand when he reached in through the cat door. He just bandaged himself up and left, and didn’t leave us any presents. It wasn’t Rudy’s fault. She was trying to protect us, like she always does.”

“You WHAT? You hurt Santa Claws? I don’t believe it! We’ll never get another present as long as we live, and he’ll probably tell the Easter Bunny and the Great Pumpkin and the Higher Cat that we’re mean, evil cats. I can’t believe you did that Rudy!” LT moved away from Rudy, and looked at her with disdain.

Peep thought LT was totally out of line. Rudy needed support, not this ridiculous criticism. She jumped up and swatted LT in the head – hard. “LT, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Just go AWAY!”

Both Rudy and LT looked at Peep in amazement. She never attacked LT. He was the head cat of the household. Rudy was glad her friend stood up for her, but worried that LT would mop the floor with her. LT just glared at Peep and stalked off, tail held straight up in the air to show his displeasure.

Peep coaxed Rudy up onto the couch. Mommy and Daddy were asleep, so no one would bother them there. Peep gave Rudy a thorough bath, grooming her long ruff until it was soft and stood out like an Elizabethan collar. Rudy gradually calmed down, but was just so sad. She lay on the couch, saying nothing, but sighing every few minutes. No Christmas for any of them, and it was all her fault.

Finally, Rudy drifted off to sleep, but it was a sleep troubled by dreams, and they weren’t nice ones. In one dream, everyone moved away and Rudy was left alone, with only Harry for company. In another, there was no food anywhere in the house, and no mice or other small animals in the yard to catch. One dream involved giant mice chasing her – including one that wore a bright red coat and a pointed red hat with a white pom-pom. Finally, one dream began nicely. She was sitting on the couch, just where she’d fallen asleep, but she was alone. The house was warm and smelled like cooking bacon – her favorite smell. She heard a tap at the door to the deck and looked up. She saw Santa Claws standing at the door, gesturing her to come out. Rudy hesitantly walked to the cat door and went outside. Santa leaned down and scratched her head, paying special attention to her ears. Oh, Santa knew how to scratch a cat. He told her that he knew she’d just been protecting her house, and that she hadn’t meant to scratch him. Santa said that Rudy was on his ‘nice’ list, and that she’d stay there because she was such a good friend to the other cats and her people. He apologized for leaving so quickly before, but he’d been behind schedule and had to get to Thailand. He’d just now finished his rounds, and wanted to get back to Rudy before the sun came up. He told her that there were presents for all three of them and told her that she was a good cat. Rudy purred like a freight train and rubbed up against his legs for a moment before Santa said that he needed to leave. Rudy then went back inside and hopped back on the couch and settled down again. That was the last dream Rudy had before awakening to the Mommy and Daddy wishing them a Merry Christmas.

The Daddy brought something over and explained to Rudy and Peep, who was sitting on the floor, that Santa had left some special presents for them. He didn’t know why, but they’d been on the floor by the cat door. “Maybe it’s because we don’t have a fireplace, so he thought that cat’s presents would best be left by the cat door.” The Daddy then showed them the presents. Balls with jingle bells, fuzzy toys – all sorts of toys that they all loved. He left the toys with Peep and Rudy and went into the kitchen with the Mommy.

Peep looked at Rudy. “I had the strangest dream last night, Rudy. In the dream you were outside talking to Santa Claws, and he was scratching your ears and talking to you.”

Rudy looked at Peep in amazement. “I had that same dream, except I was the one outside talking to Santa. He said he wasn’t mad at me and that I was a good cat.”

Peep and Rudy just looked at each other. Were they dreams? Did Santa really come back early this morning? It must be so – there were presents to prove it.

Photo courtesy of rabbit57i -

At midnight on Christmas, the animals speak

It was Christmas Eve and the Millbrandt house was full. Oma was visiting, and both of the grown boys were home. Between the five humans and the five animals, the property was practically bursting at the seams, or so Benji thought. At least Sheep stayed outside. If he decided to come in, Benji decided he’d leave, or maybe just find somewhere he could hide and no one could find him.

Oma seemed to be the Growly man’s mother. It was hard to really tell, but she and the Growly Man both spoke the same language as Runa, the German Shepherd. B
enji had finally figured out that what they were speaking was called German, and not germ. The Lovely Lady had said something to Growly Man about her not understanding German, and that’s how she knew. Now it made sense that Runa only spoke German. If she was a German Shepherd, of course she’d speak German. It made a lot more sense than Runa speaking the same language as germs. Benji had never even seen a germ, much less heard one talk. There was no way that a dog, who wasn’t even as smart as the cats could learn the language of germs.

Everyone was a lot happier since the power had come back on and the furnace had gotten fixed. It was very nasty outside. There had been snow and today it had rained and everything was sloppy. Between the rain and the cold, Benji was so glad he had a house and people to feed him and give him warm places to sleep.

Benji wasn’t sure exactly what Christmas was, but it seemed to be something like Thanksgiving, where lots of people came over and stayed and there was really good food. Oma was even better than Lovely Lady about giving the kitties treats. Whenever she cooked something, little bits of it seemed to get into their bowls – even Runa’s.

While Benji was daydreaming about what Oma might give them to eat tomorrow he was joined by Krishna and Misty. The humans had all gone to bed, and it was almost time to sneak upstairs into their beds. Their beds were the warmest place possible on cold nights, particularly the Growly Man and Lovely Lady’s bed.

Krishna said, apparently apropos of nothing, “It’s almost midnight. We need to decide what we’re going to do about it.”

“Umm, go to bed?” That was Misty’s idea. She’d been awake for over two hours, and it was time for a nap. Benji nodded, as that seemed the best idea to him too.

Krishna gave them a look as though they weren’t quite bright. “It’s Christmas Eve and almost midnight. We only get one chance a year to speak to the humans so they can understand us. It’s an opportunity we can’t miss. Should we ask for better food? Special kitty beds?”

Misty was genuinely confused and a bit upset. “They can’t understand us any other time, why should they understand us at midnight on Christmas Eve? I think you’re making this up to make Benji and I look like fools. That’s not nice, Krishna.”

“I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with the animals who were with Baby Jesus in the stable when he was born. Since he had to be born in a stable, God let the animals be able to speak to him to welcome him to the world.” Krishna’s idea was a little short on details, but he had the basic idea.

Now Misty was convinced that Krishna was putting them on. “No way, Krishna. Jesus was a very important man who lived a long, long, long time ago. There is NO way he was born in a stable. Humans don’t get born in stables, especially not important ones.”

Misty and Krishna argued back and forth, each trying to convince the other. There is no one like a cat for being sure that his or her point of view is the only correct one, and when there are two cats involved, the argument can go on for days.

As the minutes ticked by, Benji slipped out of the room, and quietly climbed the stairs. When he got to the top, he went in the bedroom at the head of the stairs. He care
fully jumped up on the bed, after looking at the clock and seeing that it was, in fact, midnight. He navigated the down comforter to get as close as he could to Lovely Lady’s ear and very quietly said, “I love you.”

The Lovely Lady was very much asleep, but she half-woke at the sound of a strange voice, and seeing Benji near her, said, “I love you too, Benji. Merry Christmas.”

Did she really understand him? Benji decided she did, but she was too asleep to realize that she didn’t usually have conversations with her cats – at least where they both spoke English.

Photo courtesy of Zielony -

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's cold here in New Hampshire

Misty and Benji huddled under the sofa in the living room. It was bad enough that the outside was still breaking, but the indoors wasn’t much better. It was still dark all the time, and the only warm room in the house was the kitchen, and it had been invaded by a dog. Right before the storm, the Growly Man had brought home a German Shepherd. It was big and liked to sleep near the stove, right where their food bowls used to be kept. The Lovely Lady moved them a bit, or made sure that dog wasn’t around when they were fed.

Krishna sauntered into the living room saying, “Where are you, kittens? I know you’re in here.”

Misty answered from under the sofa. “We’re under here. The dog can’t get at us if we’re under here, and it’s too cold to go outside. I’m starting to think that maybe we should have found a different home. It’s cold and dark and now we’ve been invaded by a dog that doesn’t even speak English.”

“Well, you’re right about the dog. I’ve never met a dog that I couldn’t communicate with before. I thought that all dogs spoke the same language as us cats, but this one sure doesn’t. I heard the Lovely Lady talking to the Growly Man, and he said that the dog speaks germ. That makes no sense to me. I know what germs are. They’re little tiny things we can’t see that make people or animals sick. Why would a dog want to talk to germs?”

Misty and Benji didn’t have a clue about that, but they had heard the Growly Man say that the dog had come from a breeder and that she was tired, or something like that. “Maybe the germs are what made her tired, and so she learned to speak germ to get them to leave her alone? You seem to get along okay with her, Krishna. How do you do it?”

“Oh, I just gave her a swat or two on the nose when she growled at me. A growl is a growl, no matter what language you speak. Actually, I think she may be nice, for a dog, but it’s hard to tell, since we don’t share a language. I’ve started to try to teach her some English, but it’s slow going.” In fact, Krishna had been doing a lot of talking to the dog, pointing out things and telling her the word for them. She’d push something off the table and then say the word for it. It had taken a couple of tries for the dog to figure out what she was doing, but now she seemed to be picking up the words fairly quickly. If only she was a cat, Krishna would get out a book and they could sit together and look at pictures together and learn that way. The dog seemed nice, but Krishna wasn’t ready to snuggle down on the floor with a new dog.

“Krishna, why is so dark in here all the time now? It wasn’t like this before.” Benji poked his head out from under the sofa. It was safe to come out, since Krishna was there to protect them.

“Well, the electricity still isn’t working. That’s what makes the lights work. The ice storm knocked down the power lines, and they haven’t been repaired yet. I heard the Growly Man talking on the phone to someone and he said that there were hundreds of people trying to fix all the power lines around here. It’s been a week and they still haven’t been able to fix them all. Lovely Lady was worried last night that the pipes from the well might freeze, and then there wouldn’t be any running water until someone came and thawed out the pipes with a blowtorch, or even until spring. The Growly Man has been bringing water from the outflow from the pond every day to use for the toilets. It’s a lot of work. He even has to go and get wood to keep the stove going so they don’t freeze themselves. People don’t have good fur like we do to keep them warm in the winter. They need clothes and heat, or they freeze. I’m not sure what that means, but it has something to do with being very cold, and I know it’s not good.”

Misty peeked out from the couch. “Wow, I’m glad I’m a cat. My fur keeps me pretty warm, even if we’re out in the shed. I can fluff it out, tuck my paws in and put my nose down, and if I’m not toasty warm, I’m at least not too cold. The Growly Man has been wearing his big heavy sweater every day, and sometimes he’s even wrapped up in a blanket. Do you think we should be helping to keep them warm? When we snuggle together we stay warmer. Maybe if we sat on them, they’d be warmer.”

Krishna nodded. “I bet it would help. I know that they can make me warmer if I sit right next to them, so I bet we make them warmer too.”

Benji didn’t look too happy with this plan. “I don’t know, Misty. I’m still pretty shy with Growly Man and even with Lovely Lady. I’m not sure I’m ready to sit on their laps, or snuggle up with them.”

Misty looked at Benji steadily. “Lovely Lady has been taking care of us since the summer. She feeds us, and makes sure we have enough water and watches out for us. I think it’s time we stopped being selfish and did something for them. We can’t haul buckets of water, or bring in firewood. The only thing we can do is to help keep them warm. I know I’m going to try to do it. I’m still a bit skittish myself, but for Lovely Lady I’m going to try it. Tonight, when she gets home. Or, maybe tomorrow. But I’m going to do it.”

Benji looked quite crestfallen. He wasn’t really a selfish kitten, but this was going to be hard. He’d try, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it. Krishna saw his indecision and came over and started to groom him. “Benji, you’ll do it when you’re ready. You can’t force a flower to bloom until it’s ready. You’ll do it when you can. In the meantime, let’s keep each other warm.” The three snuggled together on the loveseat, cradled in the blankets. Yes, it was dark and not awfully warm, but at least they had each other.

Photo Courtesy of Amy Mo-

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is the world coming to an end?

Misty and Benji were huddled in the shed. Outside each time a breeze came up the icicles hit against each other with a musical sound. Unfortunately, if a stronger wind blew they broke and hit the ground with an explosion of ice shards. It was Sunday, and since Thursday the world had been encased in ice. It was bitterly cold and the two half-grown kittens snuggled as close as they could to try and keep warm.

"I think the world is ending, Benji." Misty was terrified, pupils so wide that her irises couldn't be seen. "First the trees all died. The grass died too, but that took longer. Then the water in the pond was turned into that cold horrible stuff that we can't drink, and the sky started shedding. Krishna said it was just like rain, but rain doesn't lie there on the ground! Now the whole world is covered in shiny stuff and it's breaking!"

"Maybe you're right, Misty. It's just gotten worse and worse for so long now. It was beautiful when I came here to live with the Lovely Lady. It was warm all the time, and the sun licked my fur every day. Even when it was dark it was beautiful. The stars twinkled happily at me. Now they are sharp and mock me. The sun, when it's even out doesn't warm me. I don't like it here anymore, except when we're inside." Benji was plainly miserable.

A gust of wind came up, breaking a branch off a tree outside of the shed. It fell to the ground and shattered against the coating of ice that covered the grass. Both cats jumped and ran to the kitchen door, scratching frantically.

The door opened, and the Lovely Lady let them in. They ran by her at full speed, both with their fur standing straight out. "Did that scare you Benji, Misty? This weather is terrible, isn't it? We haven't had an ice storm like this in ten years. I don't know when they're going to get our power back on, but I hope it's soon. You two should stay inside as much as you can. It's cold and dangerous out there." The Lovely Lady walked to the refrigerator and grabbed the food container off the top. It wasn't quite supper time, but the kittens looked like they needed a treat. For that matter, so did she.

They had been without power for three days now, and even with the wood stove going, it was pretty cold in the house. Then again, she thought, old houses aren't known for their insulation, so she shouldn't be surprised that the house wasn't holding the heat. She headed back upstairs to get under the down comforter and read for a while. If she was lucky, she'd fall asleep for a while.

Benji and Misty polished off their snack and headed to the living room to snuggle in the blankets there. They found Krishna already cocooned in one and joined him. It was cold enough that none of the cats wanted to fight for dominance. Warmth was much more important right now.

"Krishna, we think the world is ending. The trees died, the grass died, the pond got hard, the sky started shedding, and now the world is breaking. Tell us the truth - is this the end of the world?" Misty turned despairing eyes on Krishna, hoping he'd tell her it wasn't so, but sure that he wouldn't.

Krishna sat up and struck a pose. He cleared his throat and declaimed:

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

“That's a poem by Robert Frost, and I've been thinking a lot about it over the last couple of days. I never knew what it meant by ice being destructive, but now I do. No, kittens, the world isn’t coming to an end.”

Benji looked at him totally confused. “But you just said that that ice could destroy the world!”

“Yeah, but I didn’t say it was doing it right now, and it’s just a poem anyway. Poems are pretty words that talk about how things might be. Nope, the world isn’t ending. It’s just winter.” Krishna looked smug. He’d lived through several winters and felt quite superior to these kittens who’d never seen winter before.

“The trees didn’t die. They do this every year. The leaves fall off, but they grow back every year. I have no clue why they do that, but it’s true. Same with the grass. It turns brown, but in spring it gets green again. No mysteries there, just winter.”

Both kittens just sat thinking for a few minutes. Misty spoke up, “But why is the pond hard and cold? And what’s with the world breaking? If I go out there I could get hurt!”

“The hard stuff on the pond is ice. It happens to water when it gets really cold. Even a bowl of water will do it if it’s left outside. It can be kind of fun, if you’re brave. When it’s been cold for long enough, you can go sliding on the pond. You run down the bank and jump and when you land you can slide almost all the way across the pond. It’s way fun, but it has to be really cold for a long time, so that it’s frozen to the edges, and you have to stay away from the part where the beavers dam the outflow. That doesn’t freeze. We can do that together in a few weeks.” Krishna personally loved winter. He loved jumping in snow over his head, fighting his way out and then batting the snow around. It flew all over the place. When he got too cold, he went and snuggled with Sheep, if he couldn’t get in the house. Sheep was warm. He had been looking forward to sharing his winter fun with the kittens, but they looked so scared he wasn’t sure they’d ever leave the house. “The sky doesn’t shed, either. That’s snow, and it’s even more fun that ice. I’ll show you when we get enough of it. You’ll like it, trust me.”

As he was talking, the Lovely Lady came into the living room. “You three have the right idea. Keep each other warm for a little longer and the power will come back on and the heat will come back.” The kittens looked at her with a worried look. The loved Lovely Lady, but still weren’t completely trusting where humans were involved. “It’s just winter, kitties, along with a bad storm. The ice will melt and it will be safe outside. Summer will even come again, but not for a long time. I forget that you guys have never seen it like this. New Hampshire is cold in the winter. Your mothers probably told you about this, but it’s hard to believe until you see it. We’ll all be okay.”

Misty meowed at the Lovely Lady. She did love her, and felt she needed to trust her. If both she and Krishna said that this would all end, then it wasn’t the end of the world. With that settled, now she could sleep, so she did.