Sunday, December 30, 2012

A cat on the fiscal cliff


Clem was getting a bit concerned.  There were all sorts of folks on the radio and television talking about it being the end of the year and were asking people to give stuff away because it was the end of the year.  Just a week ago there had been that big hooha about the end of the Mayan calendar, and whether it meant there would be earthquakes, hurricanes and all sorts of other disasters.  Well, this year had included all of those things.  There had been an earthquake up where the yarn lady’s sister lived just recently.  It was a little one, but it was an earthquake.  There was that hurricane this fall, followed by a blizzard, and then there had been several other big storms with trees torn up by their roots.  If that wasn’t disastrous, Clem did know what qualified as a disaster. 

Humans seemed to give away things when they didn’t need them anymore.  If you outgrew your clothes, you gave them away.  But money, why would they give away money at the end of the year?  It wasn’t like it was expiring or anything, and the humans always seemed to need it.  The fiscal cliff that Congress had built was going to make it so folks would need more money, at least in Clementine’s estimation.  She wasn’t sure, but it sounded like folks were going to need a lot of money because they’d have to take an expensive elevator to get to the bottom of the cliff, otherwise they’d fall off on their way down. 

This seemed like one of those horrible situations where folks didn’t talk about what was really happening, especially to kids and cats.  It must be that there was some disaster that would happen on Monday night or Tuesday morning and the folks who would be most affected by it were giving away their money, assumedly because they weren’t going to be around to need it.  When Clem arrived at that conclusion she began to wonder if the yarn lady had been giving things away more than usual.  She usually gave away the stuff she knit, so that didn’t count.  She also gave away, or at least took away, the things she baked.  She had been baking a lot more, come to think of it, but on the other hand she’d recently brought in all those huge bags of flours and sugars.  She wouldn’t have done that if she wasn’t going to be around to use them, right?

It seemed to be mostly about money, though.  Clem had no idea if the yarn lady had been giving away her money.  All the radio pitches and emails weren’t like folks who came to your door and begged for money.  The yarn lady would have used her checking account or credit cards to give her money away, so Clem decided she’d have to check those online accounts.  She knew the yarn lady’s passwords because every time she entered them she said them out loud.  She’d explained to Clem that it helped her remember them.  Something about multimodal learning.  See it, say it, type it.  So, Clem logged in to the bank account, and was immediately overwhelmed.  Debits?  Credits?  Pending transactions?  What did these all mean? 

She fiddled around on the website until she found a place that listed all the transactions in order from most recent to oldest.  Hmm, water bill, cable bill, electric bill, groceries, yarn, more yarn, property taxes, more yarn.  Boy, she bought a lot of yarn.  There didn’t seem to be any transactions at all that looked like she was giving her money away.  For one thing, they were all odd amounts, and not like what the emails and radio pledge drives were asking for.  She carefully logged out of the bank account and logged into the credit card account.  This one was a bit harder, as there were more steps.  Uh-oh, there was a security question.  “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Clem panicked for a moment and then remembered.  She carefully typed in “What do you mean, an African or a European Swallow?” and it let her into the account.  There weren’t a lot of transactions here, but some were for even amounts that could be donations.  But why would she put them on her credit card if she wasn’t going to be around to pay that card?  No, it didn’t look like the yarn lady was planning to not be around after the year ended.  Maybe some other people, but not her.

Since she was already on the iPad, Clem looked at the calendar.  Yup, this year would be over tomorrow at midnight.  A more careful look showed Clem that she’d already lived through the end of a year in 2011.  She hadn’t thought about it much at the time, probably because the yarn lady had made such a big fuss about Christmas and not the end of the year.  She’d also been much younger then – not even a year old, so it wasn’t surprising that she hadn’t thought about such things.  She’d been just a kitten and what kitten thinks about the world ending?  She’d thought about yarn balls and Christmas presents. 

Clem turned off the iPad and folded her paws in front of her and thought deep thoughts.  Even if the world did end tomorrow at midnight, was there anything that she, Clementine, could do to stop it?  She sighed; there wasn’t a darn thing she could do about it.  Therefore, why was she bothering to worry about it?  The only thing that Clementine had any control over was little kitty self.  So, Clem gave herself a bath and took a nice long nap.  Even if the world ended, she’d been clean and well-rested. 





Photo courtesy of Scott Denny - http://www.flickr.com/photos/elpollomuerte/226905584/

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

LT's Christmas Vigil

LT is sitting in the window in the living room, waiting.  The Daddy left last night and it's now getting dark again and he's still not home.  LT isn't worried about food, there's plenty of that and he knows the yarn lady will come by if the Daddy isn't coming home tonight.  She'll bring them a special dinner - he heard her tell the Mommy she would.  LT just wants the Daddy to be home.  

It's Christmas Day, but that doesn't mean anything to LT, especially this year.  There was no one cooking bacon to share with him this morning; no one cooking a ham or a turkey this afternoon and feeding him bites.  There's no company come over who will share bits of their supper with begging cats.  It's just another day, and not even as nice a one as usual.  

Most days this fall since it's become cooler LT has passed the evening in the house with the Daddy.  LT trots up to the house when the Daddy calls him, happy to come inside and spend time with his oldest and best friend.  Cold, damp weather is hard on LT; he's getting older and his joints are stiff in the cold.  It's a lot nicer to be inside sitting near the Daddy while he eats or reads.  It's heavenly to sleep indoors on a soft blanket in a toasty warm room. 

As it grows steadily darker LT sees headlights coming up the driveway.  They're low to the ground, so it's not the Daddy's truck.  He hears a car door open and close and sees the yarn lady approach the house.  She's calling his name, but LT sits quietly in his spot.  She'll find him eventually.  The back door opens and he hears her greet Miss Rudy.  There's the sound of food being spooned onto a plate and the plate being placed on the floor.  The yarn lady is explaining to Rudy how she cooked the chicken and rice and made the gravy and chopped it all up really small.  IT smells good, but LT knows the yarn lady will make a special plate and bring it to him.  

She moves into the living room, peering in the near dark.  The Daddy has put the light on a timer, so it doesn't come on when she turns the switch.  She carefully moves across the room and turns on the light in the corner but she still doesn't see LT.  After checking the other rooms she goes outside again and calls his name.  "LT!  LT!  Dinner time, LT."  

The yarn lady circles the yard, checking his summer house, the two winter houses, the Jeep and the warm hood of her car, since LT often will hop on a warm hood if he's outdoors.  Finally she goes inside again and rechecks the house, finally noticing LT perched in the window by the television.  It affords an unobstructed view of the driveway - all the better to see the Daddy's truck as he pulls in from his trip to Mary Land.  

LT doesn't turn when she greets him; he's waiting.  She knows better than to approach him.  He'd never scratch her, but she knows and respects his boundaries.  He likes the yarn lady just fine as long as she keeps her distance.  She fold her hands in front of her and asks if he'd like some supper that she's prepared specially for the cats.  He turns his head and looks at her, indicating that she could bring him something to eat.  

There's the sound of more food being put on a plate and the yarn lady brings it into the living room and puts it down near LT and steps away.  LT jumps down and gives the dinner and exploratory taste.  It's quite good.  It's obvious that she's just cooked this up.  The gravy is a little spicier than he's used to, but it's quite tasty.  It's a big portion, but LT works his way through at least half of it before resuming his post in the window.  

The yarn lady moves the plate into the kitchen and puts it alongside Rudy's.  It wouldn't do to have the Daddy step on a cat food plate because it was in an unexpected place.  She tidies up the mess she's made in putting out the food and pets Rudy, talking silliness to her before she comes in to say good-bye to LT.  The timer has turned the light on by now and the yarn lady turns off the other light.  She can just see LT in his corner, tucked in between the edge of the television and the window.  

"LT, he'll be home late tonight or maybe tomorrow morning.  He told me that when I was over here visiting the Mommy last weekend.  Don't worry about him, he's a careful driver."  LT turns his head and the two look at each other for a minute, remembering someone who went up the driveway earlier this year and didn't come back.  The yarn lady smiled at him.  "Merry Christmas, LT." 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No way Cat Herder's Day is really a holiday!

Clementine was highly insulted that the yarn lady had created an event on Facebook called Cat Herder's Day. It was wrong on just so many levels.  First and foremost, cats are not herdable animals.  Sheep were animals that could be herded, and that was primarily because they did not possess either the brain power or the personality to think for themselves. 

Even worse, the yarn lady not only created the event, she went and invited almost all her Facebook friends to this event, and asked them to post photos of their attempts to herd their cats.  It somewhat mitigated the insult that the yarn lady acknowledged that cats don't want to be herded, but the idea of multitudes of poor cats having their pictures taken being humiliated.  The idea that most certainly the yarn lady would be attempting to her her on Saturday and posting a photo of it was...well there weren't words to describe how Clem felt.  Although, she did like having her photo on the interwebs, and often did terribly cute things in order to have her photo taken, this was not an occasion for which she wanted to be photographed.  

She was seriously considering finding some place to hide and staying there all day on Saturday, simply to prevent the yarn lady from taking a photo of her that day.  I mean, honestly, any photo of a cat would suffice, since whatever the cat was doing could be interpreted as 'not being herded'.  So, she'd have to find a place to hide that even if the yarn lady found her, she wouldn't be able to take a photo of her.  That meant that her most comfortable hiding place, the linens shelf in the bathroom closet was out.  The yarn lady could take a photo of her by simply opening the door, pointing the camera and clicking the button.  

The best place might be the top of the cabinets in the kitchen all the way in the corner.  The cabinets were barely wide enough that she could squeeze all the way into the corner and not be visible from the floor, and even if the yarn lady *did* find her, she wouldn't be able to get a picture without climbing on something really tall, and the yarn lady avoided climbing on things, as she might fall off and hurt herself.  

She had a couple days to figure out the best place to hide, or maybe she'd really freak the yarn lady out and allow herself to be herded, therefore destroying the whole ironic atmosphere of the holiday.  She'd have to think about it....


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Considering the Feast of St. Nicholas



While reading about the Krampus, Clem had noticed quite a bit about St. Nicholas, since in the northern European countries Krampus was usually paired with the saint, and Nicholas’ holiday was the day after Krampusnacht.  From what she had seen, it looked as though St. Nicholas Day was kind of like “Christmas Lite”.  There were presents, but not a lot, candy, but not a lot and there didn’t seem to be any feasting tradition, so it was probably a lot nicer for the adults involved all around.  No one had to go roasting a goose or turkey, or baking giant hams or lasagnas.  And what kind of animal did a lasagna come from anyways?  

Clem went back to one of the websites she’d seen that described country traditions for the Feast of St. Nicholas.  It seemed that in Germany children put their shoes outside and their parents put little gifts in them.  Some websites said this was the precursor of Christmas Stockings.  Considering the size of most kids’ feet, the fancy Christmas stockings were definitely the way to go, from Clem’s point of view.  You could barely fit one small present in a child’s shoe, but those stretchy knit stockings?  You could fit a whole bunch of stuff in one of those.  She knew, because the yarn lady had filled one for her last year.  It had cat toys and all sorts of things in it. 

Several of the websites talked about how St. Nicholas might come with a counterpart named Black Peter, and he was the one who might discipline children by giving them coal if they hadn’t been good children.  It seemed like the Krampus was a messed-up version of Black Peter, perhaps by someone who really didn’t like children very much, but who had a lot of authority, perhaps in the church way back when, and the tradition stuck.  Clem much preferred the idea of a benevolent St. Nicholas who handed out little gifts to good children rather than a monster who whipped bad children and carried them off to hell.  You’d have to be pretty demented to prefer the Krampus to St. Nick, she thought to herself and snickered. 

As Clem surfed through various websites describing the celebrations, she noticed that in a lot of them the saint looked like a skinny Santa Claus.  As she thought that she said the name ‘Santa Claus’ in her head and thought how it sounded kind of like Saint Nicholas.  She wondered if maybe they didn’t just look alike, maybe they’d started out the same guy, but when he moved to this country and started eating fast food he’d gained weight, and the bennies, with their funny accents mispronounced his name until it became Santa Claus.  Clem shook her head.  Humans, they don’t get anything right. 

 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Krampuskatze

The yarn lady had left to take the noisy girl to class, so Clem decided to continue her research on the December holidays.  She was still having trouble getting into the holiday spirit, and last night the yarn lady had laughed a lot when she’d been looking at a website about something called a Krampus.  There were photos of people dressed in very scary costumes, and although it hadn’t appeared very funny to Clem, she thought she’d check it out, particularly since today seemed to be the Krampus’ own special day. 

Wikipedia was always a good place to start when she didn’t have any idea about a subject, and this was no exception.  There wasn’t a lot of information, but it was very much to the point.  The Krampus was the villainous companion to Saint Nicholas in the Alpine regions of Europe.  While St. Nicholas brought presents and candy to good children, Krampus grabbed bad children and carried them off to hell.  Sometimes he stuffed them in a bag, and other times he popped them into a washtub carried on his back in preparation for their trip to the nether regions.  He carried chains or branches that he used to whip the bad children with, assumedly before catching the children. 

Clem shook her head.  Why in the world had the yarn lady been laughing?  This wasn’t funny, especially the accounts of how in some countries people dressed up as the Krampus and roamed the streets looking for unsuspecting children to terrorize.  It was obvious why this had never caught on in this country.  The child psychologists and probably even the politicians would have raised a ruckus about how children would develop post-traumatic stress disorder from their encounters with Krampus.  She was pretty sure that in modern Krampus celebrations the folks who dressed up wouldn’t actually beat the children with the chains, but even so, it would be pretty scary to be singled out by one of these beasts.  Imagine being a small human child who was trying her absolute best to be good so that St. Nicholas would bring you presents and then be singled out by one of these human pranksters just because you were being escorted home from, say, your piano lesson.  You’d be convinced that your best just wasn’t good enough, and that Krampus would be back at bedtime to haul you off to hell.  Good grief. 

Although the Krampus legend wasn’t strictly historical the modern celebrations were tied to actual times and places.  It didn’t have anything specifically to do with cats, but perhaps she could visit one of those celebrations and try to convince the cats she’d undoubtedly find there that it was a barbaric practice and that they would irreparably harm the children in their families.  It was her civic duty to try to stop this horrible practice, wasn’t it?  Clem considered if it would be a good idea to try to visit one of these celebrations.  First she thought yes, and then no, and then she wasn’t sure.  She went so far as to type the web address of the site that seemed to take her to wherever she was researching into the address bar, but she hesitated to press the key that would open the site.  As she continued to consider her eyes started to get heavy.  Maybe she’d just take a nap and think about it later.  As she was thinking this, she nodded off for a moment and her chin hit the screen.  Her eyes flew open and she saw that it had hit the enter key.  The decision had been made for her…

Clem shivered as she landed in a snowbank.  She levitated, but unfortunately landed right back in the snow.  She glanced around, looking for somewhere that was dry, if not warm.  She was alone on a dark street, presumably in some European country, since there was no snow in New Jersey and it had been pretty darn warm there when she’d been on the sunporch this morning.  Well, at least warm in comparison with this place.  Clem worked her way into the street itself, where the snow was at least packed down.  It was cold under her paws, but she could hopefully dry off her fur if she could find somewhere warm to sit and groom off the excess snow before it melted and got onto her skin.  She carefully made her way down the street, watching carefully for both dogs and Krampuses.  When she found herself several blocks away, having seen no one and nowhere to get in out of the cold, she tried calling out for another cat.  “Hello, is there anyone there?  I seem to be lost…and cold…and wet….”

A voice came from under a bush up ahead.  “Of course you’re cold.  You’re covered in snow, doofus.  Don’t you know enough to stay dry when it’s this cold?”  A face peered out from the bush. 

Clem explained that she hadn’t purposely gotten covered in snow as she made her way over to whoever had spoken.  She told the other cat about her research about the website that took her different places and she began to talk about her research into the Krampus.  Before she could get out the second syllable of that name, the other cat charged out from under the bush and pounced on her.  “Don’t say the name.  Just don’t.  We don’t want to attract his attention.  I haven’t been a very good kitty this year, and I don’t want to be hauled off to the cat version of hell.  From what I hear, it’s a very dark and damp basement that you can never leave and the only food there is soggy and moldy crunchies.” 

That was too humorous not to react to with a laugh, and Clem nearly fell over as she laughed and slipped on the snow.  “Oh, come on.  It’s people who dress up in costumes to scare children, not a real thing that’s going to haul me to cat hell.”   She looked at her attacker, and saw that it was a half-grown kitten.  Well, that explained it.  Not only were the human children traumatized by this practice, but the feline youngsters were also being targeted. 

The kitten swatted at Clem’s tender nose and then hauled her back under the bush.  “You don’t understand.  Yeah, there are humans who dress up funny and scare children and have parties, but there’s a Krampuskatze, just like there’s a St. Nicholaskatze.  I know because some of the older cats told me so.  They even told me about a kitten who was hauled away last year and never seen again, except through the barred window of a damp basement.  I don’t want to end up there too.”  The kitten shivered in fright. 

It was apparent that the kitten wasn’t going to listen to reason, and that either Krampuskatze was alive and living as an urban legend here or some older cats were playing a trick on this poor kitten.  If there really was a Krampuskatze, Clem was sure she’d have found information about it on the internet.  She decided that she’d make it her mission to calm down this poor kitten and prove to it that there was no such thing as Krampuskatze. 

Calming down the kitten was the easy part.  Clem spent a few minutes introducing herself and talking about her home and began grooming the snow out of her fur.  The kitten, who was named Kasse, moved closer and began to remove the snow from the hard to reach spots.  Within ten minutes Kasse was calm and had told her about her humans and the other cats she knew.  It turned out that there was somewhat of a bully of a cat in the area and it was that cat, known as Rabauke, who had told Kasse about Krampuskatze. 

Kasse invited Clem to the local gathering place for the feline community, which happened to be the basement of a local tavern.  It was warm and dry and had easy access for the cats of the neighborhood.  The two cats worked their way across snow covered streets.  Clem watched her footing as Kasse kept an eye out for the Krampuskatze.  It was only a few minutes before Clem found herself staring at a gap in a basement stairwell.  Kasse disappeared into the hole and Clementine followed, hoping that the local cats would welcome her as Kasse had. 

She emerged into a dimly lit room that was toasty warm and apparently full of cats, all of whom were talking at once.  Clem sat down with a thump, overwhelmed by the number of cats and the cacophony of voices.  Kasse screeched, and the other cats fell silent – and stared at her in fear.  After a few moments, one asked in a hesitant voice if she was Krampuskatze.  Clem laughed and said that no, she wasn’t, and there was no such being.   

The other cats obviously did not agree because at once at least a dozen voices all began to talk about the beast.  Clem silenced them with a wave of her paw, and singling one out, asked what the cat knew of the monster, and where the information had come from.  She repeated this several times, and a pattern began to emerge.  The stories were all the same, and all of them had been told about this cat monster by Rabauke, or by someone who had originally heard the story from him.  

Clem looked at the assembled cats and asked where Rabauke was.  They all looked at each other, and finally they determined that he hadn't been seen all day, although it was very unusual for no one to see him for that long.  Clem smiled.  She guessed that either he was hiding out, preparatory to scaring the local cats as they left the tavern basement to head home, or was just hiding because he knew his story would be shown to have no substance tonight.  She was betting on the first one, though.  

Signaling for the cats to come closer, Clem shared her suspicions with the local cats.  Although some looked doubtful, others who had been bullied by him slowly nodded their heads.  Next Clem outlined a plan.  Kasse and one of the other half-grown kittens would leave, talking about how scared they were of Krampuskatze.  Meanwhile, the other cats would sneak out by another exit, and position themselves where they could see the route the kittens would take.  If they were waylaid by anycat, the older cats would come to the rescue.  Even if there were such a thing as Krampuskatze, there would be so many other cats that he wouldn't be able to carry any one cat away without being mobbed.  

Kasse was scared, but a pep talk from Clem reassured her that she wouldn't be left alone with the monster cat.  The two kittens and Clem were the only ones left in the basement within a brief time.  After enough time had elapsed for the other cats to get in position, the two kittens ventured out the regular exit.  Their voices shook as they talked about Krampuskatze - it was perfect.  They slowly made their way down the street, and Clem followed after a moment or two.  

One block, nothing.  Two blocks, nothing.  On the third block there were thick hedges on both sides of the road.  As they moved in between the hedges there was a roar, and a dreadful looking cat leapt upon Kasse.  The other kitten screeched and ran in fear.  Clem yowled an alert to the other cats (as though they hadn't heard the monster cat's roar) and ran towards Kasse.  

She was beaten to the spot by four other cats, who had the attacker pinned.  As Clem came closer, it became apparent it was a cat wearing some sort of costume.  There were horns coming up from the cat's forehead, and the rough black fur was wound around with chains that clinked and clanked.  One of the cats ripped the costume back from the cat's face, making it apparent that the attacker was in fact Rabauke.  The cats ripped the costume off him and shredded it with their claws.  

The eldest of the cats demanded an explanation from Rabauke.  With a sullen expression he told how his human had celebrated Krampusnacht for years, and had found a costume for his pet cat earlier this year.  The human's plan had been to take Rabauke to the party he usually attended, but the cat decided he'd rather act out his own version of the legend.  He'd started telling tales of how cats were carried away and imprisoned for life and fed foul foods, and began to plan how he could terrorize the local cats on Krampusnacht.  It should have worked, and Rabauke looked around to figure out what happened to ruin his fun.  Finally his gaze fell on Clementine.  She looked at him with narrowed eyes and explained how she'd gotten to this place and time, and that she obviously had been sent her by some spirit who really did exist and cared for the happiness and well-being of cats.  At this, Rabauke looked frightened, his gaze darting one way and another.  

As Clem continued to speak, telling him that cats were supposed to be loving and caring to younger or weaker cats, she noticed thickening fog.  Finally she couldn't see the other cats at all, and when the fog cleared a moment later, she found herself back on the bed, staring at a picture of an angelic looking cat on the iPad.  The cat smiled at her and winked, and the iPad blinked off into powersaver mode.  Her paw reached out to turn it on again when the sliding door opened and Clem heard the voice of the yarn lady.  "I'm home!" 



 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Contentment

Clem wandered around the house, wondering when the yarn lady would be home.  She'd left all dressed up earlier this evening, and it had been literally hours since then.  As she'd left she'd told Clem she would be back later in the evening, so at least she knew that the yarn lady wasn't going to disappear for days at a time like she had a couple weeks ago.  

That had been a horrible long time.  A nice lady had come over to feed her and play with her, but the nice lady wasn't the yarn lady.  She put out the exact same food, but somehow it hadn't tasted the same.  The dishes were the same, the packages were the same, but it didn't taste as good without the yarn lady there.  Clem had tried to play with the nice lady, but her loneliness and restlessness had caused her to scratch the nice lady.  She hadn't meant to hurt her, but she did, and then she felt absolutely terrible for scratching her.  Clem had gone and hid under the bed in embarrassment, but there had been no one to even notice she was hiding and coax her out.  

When the yarn lady had come back, Clem had stuck to her like white on rice.  Like a limpet on a rock.  Wherever the yarn lady had sat or laid down, Clem was there, either on top of her or stretched full length against her side or legs.  Preferably on top of her, that way she couldn't escape again.  And when the yarn lady had gone out...well Clem sat and stared at the door until she came home and then attached herself again.  It had taken nearly a week for Clem to feel confident that the yarn lady wasn't going to leave her again.  She knew it wasn't a rational fear.  The yarn lady had told her that she was going away and would be back in four days, but Clem hadn't thought at the time about how long four days actually were.  Now she paid close attention when the yarn lady left, and watched the clock until she returned.  

Even though she didn't feel the need to be physically on or snuggled right up next to her all the time, Clem found that she really did enjoy the physical contact with the yarn lady.  Instead of lying on her for a few minutes at bedtime and then going out to sit on her favorite blanket in the living room, Clem found that she liked to sleep stretched out against the yarn lady's stomach or back, depending on which direction she was facing.  It reminded her of when she had been a kitten, and she had slept curled up against her mother, or when her mother had been moved to another cage at the shelter, against another of her littermates.  The contact was reassuring, and the yarn lady seemed to like it too.  Throughout the night, as the yarn lady woke a little bit, her hand would move out and gently rub Clem's head or back in a brief caress.  She'd smile a little smile and fall back asleep, perfectly content. 

As Clem wondered for probably the twentieth or thirtieth time when she'd be home, the sliding door opened and Clem heard the yarn lady call out her name.  Clem stretched and jumped down from her favorite blanket and headed to greet her best friend.  All was right with the world now.  





Photo courtesy of Rachel Luxemburg - http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiatlux/27383497

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Researching the role of cats in Hanukkah

Clem decided she'd better do her own work to get into the holiday spirit, as the yarn lady didn't seem to be doing too well in her holiday endeavors and therefore wouldn't be an inspiration for Clem.  Today was day five of the yarn lady's cookie project, and the Thumbprint Jammie cookies didn't turn out too well.  It was a new recipe, and the yarn lady had thought there seemed to be a large amount of butter in relationship to the flour in the recipe.  Well there was.  The cookies spread out way too much and although they were tasty, they didn't survive the journey from cookie sheet to cooling spot, much less any attempt to store them or even transport them somewhere to be eaten.  The yarn lady dumped them in the trash and gave the garbage can a harsh glare.  There was no joy in Christmas Cookieville tonight.  

After dumping the cookies, the yarn lady grabbed her coat, kissed Clem and said she'd be gone for a couple of hours.  As soon as Clem was sure she was alone, she powered up the iPad.  Just because she hadn't seen any stories about cats and the December holidays, it didn't mean there weren't any.  If she tailored her search to the specific holidays she'd probably find lots of information about how cats had helped along holiday traditions.  Hopefully some of them would even be historically based, and she could try a time-travel experiment if she felt particularly brave.  

The first place to look was a calendar to determine when Hanukkah was this year.  Sometimes it was earlier in the month and sometimes later, as had been explained last year.  Well, it was early - and it started in less than a week, so that was the place to start.  There had to be stories about how the Maccabees had cats who had found the oil, or maybe the cats had protected the oil.  

A dedicated search found nothing to connect cats to the holiday at all, at least not in a positive way.  One story did say something about people who were about to eat their cats and dogs, but Clem quickly closed that site when she saw it.  There was one recent story about a cat who had all its fur on one side burned off by a menorah and how each of the children in the family had written about it for the same teacher when asked to write about a holiday memory.  When, years later the teacher who had read all these stories came to the house for Hanukkah, she wanted to know when they were going to light the cat, as though it were a yearly occurrence.  Clem thought that was mildly amusing, but not an event she'd want to actually visit.  Who knows, they might decide to torch her....

There was a story book for small children that described how a cat and a dog had helped save a family from starvation during a Hanukkah snow storm.  The dog had dug up some buried potatoes so the family could make latkes and the cat had found apples in a tree (even though it was long after apple harvest time) to make applesauce for the latkes.  That was a sweet story, but obviously fiction, and Clem wasn't about to risk getting stuck somewhere again.  

Other than that, all the search results seemed to be about things like costumes you could buy for your cat, cat toys for those inclined to give eight days of presents to their cats or cat-themed Hanukkah merchandise.  Clem wondered if perhaps the Maccabees had something against cats, but as she read a little further, it seemed they had enough trouble keeping themselves fed, and pets were the last thing they wanted to worry about.  

The more Clem thought about it, the more she felt it likely that there had been a cat guarding the supply of oil that was found, but the cat would have melted into the shadows, knowing the satisfaction of a job well done was more important than being memorialized for history. Although, Clem thought, there were a lot of awfully cute cat menorahs, so maybe someone had an idea of the role cats had played in the historical origins of the holiday.



 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's December again?

Clem realized late in the afternoon that it was the first day of December.  Last year at this time she'd been a young kitten, well at least a young cat, eager to learn about the holidays the humans celebrated.  They yarn lady had been grand about that.  They'd celebrated Advent and Hanukkah and Christmas and even that solstice thingy that wasn't quite a holiday.  The yarn lady had done so much for her and it had been so much fun to learn those new things.  

It had also been very special because it was the yarn lady's first year in her very own place all by herself.  She'd spent days and days folding those little paper stars and stringing them so she could hang them on the tiny tree she'd bought.  This year she'd just gone into the closet and picked up the tree from the shelf it had sat on all year and plunked it on top of the china cabinet her great-grandfather had made.  It looked as nice as it had last year, but it wasn't the same.  That was probably why the yarn lady had embarked on her cookie project.  She was going to bake a different kind of cookie every day until Christmas, or at least until she ran out of recipes.  So far she'd made chocolate crinkle cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies and pecan balls.  Well, she'd made some other cookies first, but they'd turned out horrible.  Clem even thought so, since she'd tried one after the yarn lady had left them on the cookie sheet overnight because she'd decided they were not very good.  

But this year December didn't seem very special.  Was it because she wasn't a kitten, enjoying the magic of the holidays for the first time?  She didn't know.  This required some serious thought on Clementine's part.  How could she make the month special for herself and the yarn lady?  It would be great if she could bring something back from her time travels, maybe something that had significance to the December holidays, but she hadn't found any historical events that had cats in them and had to do with Christmas, Hanukkah or even that solstice thingy.  

Well, meanwhile there were papers to knock off of tables and furniture to shred.  Thinking would have to wait a bit. 



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freya's Blue Kittens



The next morning Clem paced around the condo quite uncertain as to what to do about this time-travel thing.  Was it real?  She had brought back a mouse; the yarn lady had touched the mouse, so it had to be real.  Dreams didn’t produce actual physical things.  If Clem followed that logic, then somehow she really was going somewhere, and that somewhere appeared to be back into the past and far, far away from where she lived in New Jersey.  And, darn it, Clem liked getting out of the condo.  It could get boring when all you did was move between the bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom, with the occasional foray out to the sunroom and garage.  It was great to be able to watch all the birds out on the lake.  Most indoor cats didn’t have anything like that to watch every day but that wasn’t the same as being outdoors and able to actually chase a bird or catch a mouse.  Clem smiled at the thought of the mouse she had caught yesterday.  What a great experience! 
After the yarn lady had left to take the noisy girl to class and visit some friends Clem clicked on the iPad.  God forbid the yarn lady took it with her, as she sometimes did.  She’d have to try to use the desktop computer, and that one was a lot harder to navigate, what with the monitor, keyboard and mouse all being on separate shelves, two of which slid out from under the monitor shelf.   Clem checked her email and found responses from Rudy and Emma.  She was disappointed to find that none of the other cats had ever experienced the time travel she appeared to be enjoying.  Well, maybe she could fix that.  She copied the link for the website that seemed to send her wherever she was researching and pasted it into an email to the three cat families, and included an explanation of how it worked for her.  She even included a couple of the ideas she’d found that she hadn’t looked into yet, as well as the three she had explored.  Maybe one of them could verify that it occurred by reproducing her results.  That was the hallmark of scientific research, wasn’t it?  Making a hypothesis, testing it out, reporting the results and then seeing if someone else could reproduce them was what science was all about.  Who knows, maybe she could write a monograph about her experiences and have it published in…well, she wasn’t sure what scientific journal would deal with time travel; probably not one of the big ones, but perhaps a smaller one.   She asked the others to try it out and report their results to her.  She really hoped at least one would try it out.  It probably wouldn’t be Tatum, he was too much of a scaredy-cat.  Kid seemed like the devil-may-care type.  She might be up to time-travel adventures. 
Meanwhile, what should she try today?  She’d visited a very specific historical figure and event when she saw the Prophet Mohammed.  She’d tracked down the origin of the Lucky Cat story in Japan, and she had witnessed the kissing of the cat in 16th century England, although she wasn’t positive it was the 16th century.  For that matter, she wasn’t even sure it was England, although they had been speaking with accents that sounded nothing like how the yarn lady and her friends talked. 
Looking down the list she noticed the item about Freya and the blue cats who pulled her golden chariot.  Clementine wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought that Freya was mythological, which meant that she probably hadn’t ever really existed.  Could she go somewhere that wasn’t even in actual history?  A brief series of searches showed that Freya was the Norse goddess of war and love, which Clem thought was an odd combination.  She was the leader of the Valkyries, a bunch of women who decided who would live or die in battles and then carried away the slain warriors.  They didn’t seem to fight on their own, but they did sometimes support the warriors to help them win.  Clem purposely didn’t do much in searching anything specifically about Freya, as if she managed to pop into Freya’s life she wanted to have the experience and then verify if sources had the same information.   She snickered to herself and thought that it was also like reading the book and then seeing the movie.  She wanted to be surprised by her adventure and not just walk through a recreation of something she knew all about. 
Taking a deep breath, Clem clicked on what she now considered her time travel link.  There was a graphic of two large blue-grey cats who were staring out of the monitor at her.  Her glance moved from one to the other, and out of the iPad’s speaker came a voice saying, “The decision to travel to a place that is not firmly anchored in history should not be made lightly, young cat.  Are you sure you wish to proceed?”  Clem took a deep breath and replied that she did.  As soon as the words left her mouth she was surrounded by a dense fog and the temperature dropped so that her breath came out in puffs.  She could no longer feel the bed underneath her…

…and Clem found herself riding in a chariot with a large man who had red hair and a red beard.  He seemed to be struggling to stay awake.  The chariot swerved as his eyes opened and closed, and Clem could hear a lovely soothing song coming from somewhere off to her left.  After a few more swerves and a near miss with a large tree the man stopped the chariot, which Clem noticed was pulled by two huge goats.  This obviously was not Freya, and her knowledge of Norse mythology (or any other mythology) was nil.  The man climbed out and staggered in the direction from which the singing seemed to be coming.  In a sheltered area on the other side of a large rock a very large tomcat sat singing to a pair of blue kittens.  The man leaned on the rock, pointed at the tomcat and demanded that he stop singing. 
The cat pulled himself upright and said in a haughty voice, “Excuse me, but I am trying to get these kittens to sleep.  They have been awake for far too long, and I need my beauty sleep.  You have no idea how hard it is to raise kittens on your own.  My lovely singing had them almost asleep before your loud and offensive outburst. Begone, human.”
The red haired man pulled a large weapon that looked kind of like a hammer out of his belt, brandished it and announced, “Cat, I am no human, I am Thor, son of Odin, and am chief among the gods.  How dare you speak that way to me!” 
The cat replied that he dared speak that was simply because he was a cat, and cats do not acknowledge gods, chief or otherwise.  He then said that if Thor was such a powerful god that perhaps he could find some kind woman who would raise the two kittens, as they really required a woman’s touch to make them into something other than mangy tomcats, which would not be good considering that one was female. 
Thor thought about it, and told the cat about his daughter, Freya, who was the goddess of love.  Who could be better to raise these kittens?  The cat thought about it for a moment and replied that she might just do, but that these kittens were quite unique, being blue and they deserved an especially fine home. Would Thor please describe Freya’s childrearing philosophy?  Thor’s response was a thunderous yell about the cat’s insolence.  Freya was a goddess, no further references or authentification was necessary.  The tomcat jumped into the air, transformed into a bird and flew away, leaving Thor and the two crying blue kittens. 
Finding they had been abandoned the kittens began to cry even louder.  Although Thor could not understand them, Clementine could.  They were saying, “I want my mommy, I want my mommy” over and over.  The poor little things were lonely and now even the tomcat had flown away.  She jumped out of the chariot and walked over to them.  Maybe they would be able to see her.  As she neared them she realized that although kittens, they were larger than she was.  Everything was on a larger scale here – the chariot, Thor, the tomcat, even the kittens.  All were huge compared to Clementine.  She began to sing a silly song to them that she remembered her mother singing to her when they were in the animal shelter.  It was about hushing and birds and diamonds and all sorts of other things.  It was soothing and repetitive and the kittens perked up their heads as she began to sing, but didn’t stop crying. 
Thor, meanwhile stood there wringing his hands, wondering what he should do.  He had offered to take the kittens to his daughter, so he supposed he should do that.  The tomcat might not come back, and it would not reflect well on him if he left and the kittens starved, but they were crying so loud it hurt his ears.  Well, the cat had been trying to sing them to sleep, he would do the same thing.  Thor launched into one of the few songs he could remember.  It had to do with the strength of warriors and how many enemies they could kill in one sweep of their weapons.  It described the blood and the screaming of the battle, and it horrified the kittens.  They scrambled over each other to get as far away as they could from the large man who couldn’t carry a tune and sang about dreadful things, ending up pressed into the side of the large rock.  Clementine ran and stood between them and Thor, telling the kittens that she would protect them.  
It was comical to think of a single cat, particularly such a small one, protecting kittens from a god, but the kittens accepted her words and huddled together behind her.  Although Thor couldn’t see Clem, he did seem to get the idea that his singing wasn’t helping.  He gestured with his hands, holding them palm out and told the kittens that he hadn’t meant to scare them and that he would take them to Freya.  Clem told the kittens it was okay and to calm down so the man could take them to a lady who had lots of food and nice places to sleep.  She remembered from her own kittenhood that simple words and short sentences would more likely be understood by upset kittens.  They gradually quieted, although one kept mewling almost silently, “I want my mommy, I want my mommy”.  Clem vowed to stick close to that one if she could. 
Thor slowly eased towards the kittens with tiny steps (for him).  The kittens stared at him with wide eyes and even the mewling one became silent, probably in fear.  He scooped up one kitten in each hand and carefully walked back in the direction of his chariot.  Clem ran alongside, easily keeping up with his slow, careful steps.  When they reached the chariot, Thor put the two kittens on his seat while he arranged a fur robe to make a bit of a nest.  Clem jumped up into the chariot as he placed the two kittens into the folds of the robe.  She snuggled down between the two and resumed singing her silly song. 
If Clem had any doubts as to whether she was in the real world and just sometime far back in history, in a few moments those doubts were gone.  Thor called to the goats pulling the chariot, flicked the reins and the goats and chariot rose into the air and flew rather than taking the roadway.  It was a lot smoother ride than it had been before they stopped, but to see trees rushing alongside as they gained altitude was terrifying.  The kittens didn’t find anything to be scared about, and demanded that she keep singing, so Clem distracted herself and them with the song. 
Mercifully, the way to Freya’s by air was much shorter than it would have been by land.  Within a few minutes Thor commanded the goats to land the chariot, and it bumped down in front of a large wooden structure.  Thor bellowed, “Freya, come out here, I’ve brought you a gift.”  The kittens and Clementine cowered as the sound of his voice echoed off the building and around the valley.  That man had a very healthy set of lungs. 
A lovely blond woman appeared in the doorway, dressed in flowing robes.  “Papa, how many times have I told you to come in or knock on the door.  When you yell like that you scare all the birds and animals for miles around.  Now what do you have for me?”  She looked into the chariot and saw the blue kittens in the fur robe.  “Are these your gift?  Oh, they are so beautiful, and a matched pair!”  She scooped up the kittens, who nestled into her chest, purring happily.  “Thank you, Papa.” 
Thor told her how he had been given the kittens and about the tomcat, who might or might not come back for them.  Freya bristled at that and told Thor that the cat would have to tangle with her if he came back.  Clementine followed them all into Freya’s home and watched as she made a nest for the large blue kittens and settled them into it.  As soon as she put them down they began to cry and tried to climb out.  Clem jumped into the nest and the kittens butted her with their heads, which knocked poor Clem this way and that.  Finally they settled down with her in the middle, almost buried in blue kitten fur and Clem told them stories to keep them amused until they fell asleep. 
Freya and Thor sat at a table near the fireplace and discussed what would be done with the kittens.  Thor declared that if she would just raise them he would be happy to take them off her hands when they were full grown, as they would make marvelous guard beasts for his lands.  Shaking her head, Freya replied that she wanted to keep them.  If they were as large as adults as they were as kittens she wanted to teach them to pull her chariot.  Every other one of the gods had exotic animals to pull their chariots, and she had mere horses.  With blue cats pulling her chariot, she would be the envy of the rest of the Valkyries and most of the other gods.  Thor grimaced, thinking that two huge blue cats were a lot more impressive than his goats, even if they were magnificent creatures. 
As soon as Clem heard Freya’s declaration about the cats pulling her chariot she prepared herself, figuring that she’d quickly be transported back home, but minutes and then hours passed.  The kittens woke up and Freya fed them meats that had been cooked into much.  Clem snuck a bit of their food, the kittens didn’t seem to mind.  The kittens were shown a sand tray that they could use for a bathroom and Freya found some items the kittens could use as toys.  There were several balls of yarn, which made Clem chuckle, except for their size (they were as large as Clem’s head).   Freya also tied together a number of ropes in a huge tangle for the kittens to play with.  They seemed to like that one the best.  They played tug of war with it, one on each of the long pieces.  Freya would swoop in and pick up a third end and both the kittens would be lifted off the ground a few inches, squirming and growling.  Clem watched from their nest, wondering when she would get to go home.  She remembered what the cat on the website had said to her.  The decision to go to a place not firmly anchored in history should not be made lightly.  Did that mean she’d be stuck here forever?  Might she never see the yarn lady and her lovely house again?  Clem certainly hoped not.  At bedtime, she was still with the goddess and the blue kittens.  They were happy to share their bed with her, and pestered her until she told them another bedtime story.  She decided to tell them about Kid and Lemuel the turkey, figuring that no matter how long the kittens stayed awake she’d have something to tell them about.  Although they were mesmerized by the story, the kittens fell asleep long before the turkeys were saved.  Clem felt her eyes getting heavy and surrendered to sleep.  She just hoped she would wake up in her own bed.