FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas, Conclusion, Dec. 19th, Meowy Catmess!

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Well, this gift didn’t keep giving quite long enough but we hope you enjoyed it and everyone has happy holidays! 

“Who asked you to stick around?” Hank asked as they left.

“Nobody,” I said. “But I’m going to anyway.”

“So you can see what they do to me? Like those females?”

“They won’t do it right away,” I said. “They’ll give you your shots and probably trim your mats—they might wait till they put you out to do that though.”

“Put me out? You mean like put me to sleep? Like the long sleep?”

“No. Not kill you. Just help you go to sleep so you don’t feel any pain when they do the snip. It makes your legs not work right for a while and you walk funny, but it’ll be okay. They’re just trying to make you healthy. And really, you don’t need to make any more kittens. You could have stopped with me, as far as I’m concerned.”

“This is so unfair. I am a leader among cats, father of my race, a mighty warrior . . .”

“You’re more a deadbeat dad than anything,” I said, then remembered another part of the seasonal stories I’d been seeing on TV and the internet. “Think of me as the spirit of kittens past. La Toya’s baby is kittens present. And if you keep on doing what you do, before long there will be so many orange kittens and cats, there won’t be any more prey, and wild cats like you will be eating each other to survive. They usually eat the old feeble cats first, I hear.” I was just making that up, but somehow I needed to convince him that changing his ways, however involuntarily, was a good thing—or at least the lesser evil.

“You are awfully damn sure of yourself for a kid,” he said.

“My mother saw to it that we have a safe home with Darcy—my lady who took La Toya. I’ve had a good education. Not all of your kits are going to get that chance.”

“Thank Bast. One of you is enough.”

“Is that so? Then why didn’t you stop at one?”

“Son, my seed spreading is not a character flaw. A tom’s gotta do what a tom’s gotta do.”

“All the more reason to retire, Pop.”

“My clowder won’t respect me anymore.”

“Maybe not, but when they get trapped, you can let them know it’s not the end of the line for them. Like I’m trying to do with you.”

“Why? I thought you hated me.” He had stopped snarling now, and his ears had gone from laid back to kind of flat out to the sides of his head, sad-looking really. His voice was a little whiny, but I figured that was understandable, under the circumstances.

“No, Pop. I don’t even know you, really. But maybe when you get back to the clowder again, we can help each other out sometimes.”

“Help how?”

I think I actually put him to sleep telling him about me and Darcy and the vampire, Renfrew, Maddog, the deer and everything. I at least shut up the lady cats, who stopped bawling at him to listen to my story. Eventually I put me to sleep too. But we awoke once, and my old man had put his nose up to mine. He was purring, finally. “You okay, Dad?” I asked him.

He ignored my question, saying, “You ever caught a fish with your paw, Junior? When this is over, come down to the dock, and I’ll show you.”

“It’s a deal,” I said.

I stayed with him till he met Dr. Ginny later that afternoon. Always the ladies’ man, he took a shine to her. “You go home and make sure your little sister’s okay, Spam,” the old man said.

When Ginny put him in her car to go to the clinic for his snip, she gave me a lift home. I was just in time to play with the boxes and the crinkled balls of wrapping paper with my brothers, until I finally fell asleep again in one of the boxes.

Father Christmas family

Meowy Catmess from Spam, Marigold, La Toya, and Hank as well as Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and K.B. Dundee.

THE END

FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas, 6th Installment, 18 Dec. 2014

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Tomorrow will conclude the serialization of Father Christmas © by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and K.B. Dundee, with illustrations by Karen Gillmore. We hope you’re enjoying the story and will share the links so your friends can too! The digital book or a print copy may be purchased from any of the usual online outlets, and all proceeds support the Humane Society of Jefferson Co, WA. 

As they left, I skinned out the door with them and hopped into Deputy Daryl’s car and onto Darcy’s lap. Deputy Daryl had been present during my final showdown with the vampire when I had to save Darcy, so he didn’t question my motives any more than Darcy did. I got some extra petting on the way. The car warmed up before we reached the end of the block.

The lady from the house with the manger was waiting for us, the big cage set beside her, and a smaller carrier on the other side. Both cage and carrier had colorful fleece blankets thrown over them so the cats could have some privacy. Daryl let us in the shelter. The minute we were inside La Toya began crying, and the old man’s cage rocked furiously as he scratched, tore and pounded at the heavy wire. While the people were talking, I stuck my nose under the blanket of La Toya’s carrier. She and the kitten were inside, the kitten nursing, but she was panting heavily, stressed. “Oh, Spam, what’s going to happen to us? Will they take my kitten? Will we be killed? Who are these humans and why did they take us?” Her cries were growing shriller and shriller.

“La Toya, shush. All this yelling isn’t good for the baby. You’re going to scare her too. Don’t worry. My human lady knows the man here, and I’ve found out a little more about this place. They only want us cats to be looked after, make sure we get food and water and don’t get sick or anything. Lots of times cats who come here find new humans to live with. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Who needs them?” she said. “Hank said I’m better off living wild and free with his clowder.”

“Yeah, well, Hank told you a lot of things before, didn’t he?” I asked, guessing that Hank must be the name my old man used.

“I’m so afraid,” she said with a small piteous mew and a shiver.

Darcy knelt down, removing the blanket and petting me as she checked out La Toya and her baby. “Spammy, that kitten is going to look like you and your brothers when it’s a little older,” she said. I wished I could tell her who else the kitten would look like too. “Would it be okay with you if we take these two home with us so I can make sure the kitten gets what she needs? They’re a little fragile to stay here with the rest of the cats all night, especially by themselves. I’d have to put them in the office.”

I purred. Normally the office was off limits to the other cats, being my territory, but the truth was, now that I had my own entrance, I wasn’t in there as much as I used to be.

I turned back to La Toya, “Darcy—that’s my lady—wants to take you home. You’ll be okay. There are lots of other cats there.”

“What if they hate me? What if they try to kill my baby? I’ve heard that happens sometimes!”

“I’ll be there, and my mother too. We’ll see to it that you’re treated right. They’re a good bunch.”

“LET MEYOWWWWT!!!” The old man—Hank—hollered at the top of his lungs, rocking the cage back and forth.

I poked my nose under his blanket, and almost got it sliced as he tried to bend the wire like Superman. “Cut it out,” I said. “You’re scaring the baby.”

He growled and snarled like a wildcat, but I was stern—it was easy to be with him inside the cage and me out. “I mean it, Hank. If you’ll shut up for a minute somebody will put you in a bigger cage and . . .”

“I don’t belong in a cage!” he roared. “I have to be free! The minute they open this I am out of here.”

He wasn’t, of course. It might have been harder if the other cats hadn’t chimed in. “Will you look there, Myrtle? It’s Prince Charming himself!” One of the lady cats sneered.

“Oh yeah. Hey, handsome, do you ever see any of my kittens anymore? You sure haven’t been back to see how we were!”

“Yeah, I got kicked out of my house because you knocked me up,” another one complained.

“They dumped me in a parking lot to die,” said another one. “It’s all your fault.”

“Not my fault,” he cried back, this time on the defensive. “It’s those humans! You should never have trusted them.”

“Humans don’t give you kittens, Slick. Tomcats give you kittens. Well, I hear they fix that in here.”

What?” he jumped—and landed in the new cage, where Daryl, Darcy and Amanda meant for him to go. The capture cage was decorated like a Christmas tree with clumps of his matted fur and streaks of blood.

“You’re getting snipped, Stud,” Myrtle, a calico with one red eye, told him, lashing her tail.

“Snipped?” he asked.

“Don’t let them scare you, Hank,” I told him, suddenly a little sorry for the old man in the midst of all of these vengeful queens. “It doesn’t amount to much. All the males at my house have had it done, and it doesn’t really make any difference. You just can’t make kittens anymore.”

“How do you know my name?” he demanded suspiciously. “Wait—wait, I know you. You said you were my kid. I met you down at Sea-J’s, trying to move in on the clowder’s fish franchise. Is this your twisted idea of revenge?”

“No,” I said.

“Spam, we’re going now. Are you coming?”

I looked back at Darcy, who had the carrier with La Toya and the kitten in her hand. La Toya wasn’t crying now. In fact, I think she was laughing—probably at Hank’s predicament. But terror rolled off him like an incoming tide, and the females were not making it easier, of course. They were imagining what his surgery would be like in gory detail while he wailed and railed against them.

When I trotted back to Darcy and rubbed her legs he squatted in a corner bawling.

“I gotta get out of here,” Daryl said. “Poor old guy.”

I jumped up on the second tier of cages, where the old man cowered, and sat on top of his cell, which wasn’t very comfortable, since it wasn’t a solid surface. Darcy took off her sweater and shoved it on top of the cage for me to lie on. “Spam wants to stay with him.” She caressed my head and ears with her hand. “We’ll be back for you in the morning, sweetie.”

FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas, 5th Installment, 17 Dec. 2014

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Looks like I’m going to run out of book before we run out of countdown days. The sections will be a little shorter to draw it out so you have it all closer to the target date, but probably only a couple more days. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and will share! E.A. Scarborough, K.B. Dundee, and Spam the Cat.

According to the Critter Channel there were too many kittens already, and a lot of them didn’t survive infancy. But those kittens weren’t ones I was taking care of. I purred as loudly as I could to reassure the little thing and worried myself into a doze. Then I really had to pee, so I jumped down and poised to go on the floor of the carport.

The owl sailed into the enclosure and perched on the side of the manger, cocking his head first to one side, and then the other, studying the kitten, who was kind of bumbling around like It in a game of hide and seek. I was frozen. This was it. After all we’d been through, I wasn’t close enough to reach the kitten before the owl could eat her. I started to growl, but then instead of slashing at the kitten with his beak, the owl, put his beak to his own wing and plucked out a feather, allowing it to drift down onto the kitten’s ear. The little one raised a feeble paw, tried to bat the feather, and fell over.

The owl said, in a formal kind of way. “I’m sorry I tried to eat you. The coon explained to me that it’s unwise to eat someone born on such an auspicious day, and furthermore, bad luck. That the custom is to give them gifts instead. So here’s one of my personal feathers. Should you ever need me at any time, just lick the feather, and I’ll help you however I can—and won’t eat you before, during or after.” He bent down and winked at me. “You explain it to the kid when she’s old enough, okay? You cats have a nice day.”

I was about to hop back into the manger when the door opened behind me, and a woman wearing a puffy purple jacket over pajamas and gardening boots bustled out and headed to the cage in the back yard, without seeing me or the kitten. I returned to the kitten and waited, and pretty soon, here she came, hauling the cage. She’d put a blanket over it. I sat up and meowed for her attention, pawing at the air just in case she was deaf.

“Hello, handsome. What’s the matter? You didn’t climb aboard before the door shut?”

Father Christmas Marigold's feather
She set down the cage to pet me—and maybe add me to her catch, I don’t know, and I moved aside so she could see the kitten. La Toya mewed piteously, which could almost be heard.

“Oh,” the woman said. “Oh, dear. Well, this is different. We’ll have to go inside and sort this out.” She picked up the kitten and stuck her in one of the jacket pockets and picked up the cage again. I decided I had done about all I could do and that I didn’t have time to get taken into custody and released again. It was Christmas, and according to the older cats, there were treats and new toys to be had at home.

Home seemed a very long way away however. The woman didn’t grab for me, but held open the door so I could go inside too. I guess she had decided I wasn’t feral because of the very brave and confident way I acted with her. I declined her gracious invitation, and before she had the carrier inside, had hit the sidewalk and was two houses away.

I was very tired. I had not had my customary five or six rejuvenating naps that night while staying alert against possible threats to La Toya and her kitten. Had it not been so cold, I’d have found a nice little spot to curl up and sleep. But it was cold, and Christmas morning was here. I pattered up the sidewalk, but confess my tail had less than its usual perky curl, and the light hurt my eyes. It’s not surprising that I missed noticing what was not there, under the circumstances.

Nelda’s little herd stood grazing at the edge of the woods.

“Oh, Spam,” she said, her tone in my mind a bit whispery. “The coyote didn’t get you. Good.”

“Thanks for the backup,” I said, a little sarcastically. The coyote might be a supreme predator, but the deer were bigger and had very sharp hooves—and Buck had antlers. They might have helped a little.

“You’re very welcome. Good thing we were there to warn you.”

I felt sorry for being so grouchy and rubbed against her slender front legs. “Thanks.” They were deer, after all, and almost always bolted at the least threat. “Rocky took care of the coyote.”

“Oh, good.”

Gelda said, “You are a tired kitty, aren’t you? A long night?”

“You know it. I’ve been on the move, busy all the time, since I saw you guys last night.”

“Want a ride?” she offered. The deer had let me ride them before in an emergency, but had made it clear they were not a cat taxi service. “In honor of the reindeer and the manger.”

I jumped onto her back, my front paws around her neck, my back ones straddling her back. And I was out of it until, almost at the upper edge of the woods, I heard Darcy calling me. “Spam! Spammy! Come and get it, kitty! There’s goodies!”

I said, “Merry—uh—hay manger, Gelda!” and started to jump down, but she said, “Wait, cat. The street is dangerous. I am bigger. Let me cross.” And she carried me over saying, “Merry Manger to you too, cat.”

Darcy stood at our door, clutching her sweater tight around her. I started to jump into her arms, but noticed one of her hands was occupied—a tattered brown box with bubble wrap poking out. She caught my look and bent down and picked me up, juggling her package. “Just because you can go out whenever you want to doesn’t mean you should stay out, Spammy. I was worried.” She kissed my head between my ears and buried her face in my fur. She smelled nice, and I knew she was fresh out of the shower. I started the arduous task of marking her with my scent all over again, starting with cheek rubs.

She carried me inside, dropping the package on the table, and me on the floor. I made straight for the food dish. The kibble was low. I looked up at Darcy, who was messing with her package and wearing a puzzled expression.

Deputy Shelter Dude walked into the kitchen from the living room. “Anything the matter?”

“No, Spam’s back, but—there was a package on the stoop, kind of beat up. My cousin in Minneapolis sent it a month ago and gave me the tracking number. It should have been here two weeks ago.”

“That is one messed up package,” he said. “Maybe it got lost in the mail, or shredded in one of the machines . . .”

“But nobody delivers on Christmas Day,” she said. “Hmmm.”

“Maybe it went to a neighbor by mistake and they dropped it off.”

“Yeah, probably.”

Somewhere, a dog barked. It turned out to be in DSD’s jacket. “Sorry, I gotta go,” he said. “Don’t suppose you want to come with me?”

“What’s going on, Daryl?”

“Three new cats coming in—a very small half-frozen female and her newborn. Amanda Baker says it’s a wonder the kitten made it since somehow she trapped the mother, but not the baby. It would have frozen, but another big fluffy cat was curled up with it in the manger in the nativity scene in their carport.”

“I wish she had a picture of that!” Darcy said, casting a quick look at me. She knows from personal experience that I have skills not possessed by my siblings. “You said three cats?”

“Yeah, a big male, definitely feral. Badly matted coat. Ginny’s going to come in tomorrow morning and do his surgery and shots.”

His surgery? The old man was not going to like that.

FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas, 4th installment, Dec. 16th

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This is the 4th installment in the free serialization of FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas. Please return tomorrow for more of the story by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and K.B. Dundee and more of the wonderful illustrations by Karen Gillmore.

“You planning on grazing here long?” I asked Nelda.

“It’s nice grass,” she said. “Still green and moist under the snow.”

“Could you wake me up before you go or if an owl comes, or a coyote?” I asked. “I really need a nap.”

“Of course, Spam. When you wake up, it will be Christmas morning, and we may be flying off into the sky with the reindeer. But I’ll be sure and let you know first.”

I can sleep anywhere if I want to, and I decided to rest on top of the fake camel. I forgot to say there was a fake camel, but there was, and I slept between his neck and his hump.

A pungent, and yet oddly familiar scent awoke me, I’m not sure how much later. But Nelda and her family were not there, as they’d promised, and my old man with his matted, tattered coat was peeing on the perimeter of the makeshift manger and chatting up La Toya.

“So, sweetheart, just one kitten, eh? I’m slipping. Used to get five or six at a whack every time.”

“You told me you were fixed! And now my people have abandoned me and our daughter!”

Dad laughed. “It’s not all that bad. Come with me. Join the clowder. My other mates will show you the ropes, help you take care of the kitten, and you’ll be just fine without people. Take a break now, and I’ll tell you all about it. See, there are lots of ways to get fed when you’re wild and free without having to put up with people. I can show you one if you come have breakfast with me.”

He turned tail and headed for the back yard. Looking over his shoulder at her he called, “Come on, honeybunch. Lately they’ve been serving a regular buffet here for all us homeless kitty cats. Sonny boy, you stay here with the kid. It’s about all you’re good for since the humans got a hold of you.”

“Maybe I’d like to eat too,” I said. I didn’t feel I was cut out to be a mother, or even a kitten sitter.

La Toya looked at me pleadingly. She’d told me she hadn’t eaten in days, and she’d need to in order to feed the kid. I knew where my

Father Christmas Hank

kibble bowl was at home, and if I acted really pitiful, could probably get Darcy to break out the good stuff.

I shrugged my whiskers. With a little growl at the smug and very male hind quarters of my old man, slinging his excess baggage under his tail, I jumped up in the manger, and she jumped down. “I’ll watch the kid,” I told her. “Hurry back.”

I curled up next to the doll in the manger with the kitten between us. It squalled a couple of times, and then tried to nurse in my long fur. Most of the kitten was buried in my coat, which kept it warm at least. It kneaded and kneaded, its tiny little paws massaging my side. Soothing. Maybe being a mother wasn’t such a bad job. I grew a little drowsy. La Toya and the old man were sure taking their time about eating. I hoped what was keeping them wasn’t what I feared might be keeping them. Poor La Toya hadn’t been fixed yet, and she still had one kitten to raise—could she even START a new litter before this baby was out of the nest? I licked the kitten on the part not buried in my belly fur. “I’ll try to talk her out of it, kid,” I told the baby. “She wouldn’t like the rough life he leads, and would spend a lot of it trying to protect you from those other females he thinks would take care of you. He knows how to make kittens, and that’s it. My human would probably take you two in if I got your Mom to bring you to the door. Maybe it would be best if I carried you, and she just came with us. I mean, you can’t do without your mother, but if I was carrying you in my mouth, and pawed the door and looked up at my human with big sad eyes, what’s she going to do? Resist me and a baby kitten and a pretty young queen? I don’t furry think so. Not my Darcy.” Okay, it was kind of a one-sided conversation. But it’s never too early to instill family values in the young.

I was actually talking to the kitten to try to keep myself awake. It seemed like hours since the old man and La Toya took off for the back yard. The night was clearer and colder, I was exhausted, and the kitten was actually quite a soothing little thing. It was very . . .

“Coyote!” Gelda cried, and the deer scattered. At almost the same instant, from the back yard, there was a loud “Clang!” and the spitting, hissing, yowling of angry cats. I hoped the coyote would eat the old man first, I thought, believing it was the cause of the commotion behind the house.

So I was looking the wrong way and didn’t really see the coyote until it was eye-to-eye with me.

I must have jumped back, the kitten still attached at the mouth to my fur.

The coyote licked its chops. “An entree and dessert all on the same plate!” the coyote said, slavering.

There had always been someone between me and coyotes before. Bubba the police dog, Rocky . .

Somehow I hissed, snarled, and caterwauled for, “Rocky!” at the same time.

The coyote leaped for me, snapping its jaws where my head used to be. I sat back on my tail, ready to snatch up the kitten and head for the shoulders of the nearest statue.

The coyote lunged again, giving me a whiff of his rancid garbage breath. The wind from his snapping jaws blew back my fur, which was sticking straight out from all my follicles.

The kitten suddenly lost her grip on me and tumbled out the back of the manger onto the porch step.

New plan! I flew in the face of the coyote, going right for his nose and eyes with all claws deployed and raking.

The coyote snarled in return, and I gave him another smack on the nose. Then suddenly he flew into the air, bawling, “Kiyi! Kiyi! Kiyi!”

He snapped, growled and squirmed, but it had nothing to do with me.

Behind his head I saw the transformed batlike ears of my roomie, the vampcat—or catpire, take your pick—Rocky, who had been a creature of the night ever since he bit the vampire who was invading our house. With his supernatural strength, the battered old tom held the coyote by the throat in midair while he drained his blood with really rather disgusting slurpy sounds.

I jumped from the manger to the step to comfort the kitten, who was okay, except for staggering around saying, “me, meep, me, meep!” looking for me or her mom.

Rocky bore the coyote to ground, sucking away until the doggy creature was quivering and cowering and crying. I was no longer worried about Mr. Coyote. Since Rocky had become a catpire, the predators who had once scared the poop out of him when he was on

Father Christmas Coyote

his own in the wild were now his very favorite prey. He loved seeking them out to harass and feed on at every opportunity.

He gave the one at his feet a clout on the nose, and said, “Get outta here. I’m not gonna kill you on accounta there’s children present. But find yourself some new territory, hound dog, because if I ever catch you near another cat, I’ll finish what I started.” As an afterthought, he added, “Mewaahahahahahahah.”

Father Christmas Rocky

The coyote cringed.

I spat at him and washed my shoulder as if flicking off the spot of bother he had caused me before meeting my friends in high places. He skulked off as fast as he could go with his tail tucked between his legs.

With a lash of his tail, Rocky went airborne again, and for a moment hovered in front of the bathrobed human with the wings at the top of the carport. “Any more trouble, just sing out, kit,” he said to me.

“Thanks, pal,” I replied. “You’re a life-saver.”

He melted back into the night.

The deer gingerly tip-hoofed their way back toward the yard. I picked up the kitten as gently as I could by the scruff of the neck and turned toward the back yard to see what was left of La Toya and the old man. I didn’t know what the yowling and clanging had been about, but I was sure if La Toya were still alive she’d have come when I started snarling in her kitten’s defense.

Good thing the kitten didn’t have her eyes open yet so she wouldn’t have to see her mama all messed up and bloody. Except—wait. There was no smell of blood, only angry but healthy cats. All was, in fact, quiet now in the back yard. A big rectangular box sat on the lawn under the bird feeder. Cat snores rattled the wire front. Carrying the kitten closer, I saw the latch at the bottom. It would have made a clang when it slammed shut.

My old man and La Toya lay together in a furry puddle near the back of the cage. The scent of salmon still perfumed the air, but not a scale remained inside the cage.

I set the kitten down on the grass, and she clung to my leg, trying to nurse on my toes. A skim of snow covered the ground with the grass spiking up through it. I rowled at La Toya, but she didn’t wake up. See if I ever kitten-sat for her again! I rowled again.

She thrust one paw out, then the other, stretched forward, then put her rump up and stretched back. Her eyes opened, and I think it was then that she remembered she was a new mother. Or maybe it was when her back end went in the air and she realized it was still sore from giving birth.

“How did my kitten get out there?” she asked.

“The question is how you got in there,” I told her. But I thought I knew. I had heard Darcy’s new boyfriend the shelter dude/Sheriff’s deputy (who was not a vampire) talking about the live traps Olympic Mountain Rescue set out for feral cats, baiting them with food and letting the cats enjoy the chow for several days before setting the trap to spring. The wily old con cat who sired me and half the kittens in town had finally been conned himself. Good. And it might be a good thing for La Toya to be taken to the shelter and let her rest up and get some food—except that if she weren’t there for this newborn kitten, the baby was for sure gonna die, because Uncle Spammy did not have the required equipment to help her out.

Small as the kitten was, it was too big to stick through the wire mesh of the cage door. I hoped the people would come soon and pick up the trap. They wouldn’t take me, or if they did, they wouldn’t keep me because I had a personal ID chip that also let me in my personal entrance to my personal home. But I wasn’t sure the kitten could survive in the cold this long.

The kitten was shivering badly now from being out in the air. The sky was lightening, and I could see a thin fuzz of ginger among the white fuzz on her. She was going to be another orange tabby, like me, and like the old man would have been if he weren’t such a matted mess.

La Toya didn’t help matters. She started crying and crying and crying. She woke up the old man, who started cussing in cat, which sounds a lot like crying, only louder. “Maybe you two could shut up?” I said. “You’re safe from predators, but the kid and I aren’t . . .”

La Toya shut up, and with a final growl, so did my pop, though he continued to pace and mutter furiously.

“The snow isn’t good for the baby,” I told them. “I’m taking her back to the manger. Then I’m going to shred that door, and wake up those people to come out and get the trap and the kitten.”

Father Christmas kitten
I snuggled next to the kitten letting her warm up in my fur again and pretend to nurse. She shivered for a long time. After all she and her mother had been through, and now with them separated, I began to worry. What if she didn’t make it?

STAY TUNED! Another installment tomorrow.

FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas, Dec. 15 (3rd installment)

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“Hello there,” I called. “Where are you? The owl’s gone, at least for now. I scared him away.”

“Meaa?” The sound was weak and faint. Another voice, maybe responding to the alarm in the mother’s voice, added, “Me me me . . .” Okay, a queen with a kitten. But where?

I crawled out far enough to look around. “Do that again,” I prompted.

This time there was another growl. And without the owl in the way, I smelled the blood, and my lips curled up. The sound and the smell both came from a rickety wooden step joining the bottom of the house to the ground. I looked around, didn’t see the owl, and in a flash faster than Renfrew could empty a kibble dish, made a four-point landing in front of the step. Hunkering down in the gathering snow, I slunk on my belly to the shallow opening. I stuck my nose in and jerked it back out again, narrowly avoiding the slashing claws of the cat inside.

“Whoa!” I said. “I’m on your side. What’s going on? Did the owl try to take your mouse?”

“Mouse?” she asked.

“Meep!” a small voice squeaked. It wasn’t claiming to be a mouse. It smelled new and catty and bloody, and its cry was puny and shrill. “This is my kitten,” the queen said proudly. “There was another one, but it died. I just had this one, and I will tear you to shreds if you try to hurt her you—you tomcat, you.”

“Why would I do something like that?” I asked. “Some of my best friends used to be kittens, back when I was one. Please, may I come under there too? I don’t know how long that owl will stay gone.” She didn’t say anything, so I scooted a claw length forward with each paw and asked, “Why are you and your kitten out here? It’s snowing.”

“Is that so?” she asked. “Do you think we wouldn’t be inside if we could be? This used to be my house. I’m no stray. A family with a little girl came to my mother when I was a baby and brought me here to live with them and be a friend for the little girl. She dressed me up in doll clothes. I really hated that, but I wouldn’t mind one of those doll blankets now, I can tell you. My poor baby is so c-cold.”

I heard rat-like scrabblings next to her and an occasional meep as the blind kitten stumbled. Its cries were quavery. “If you’ll let me come in, I’ll lie beside you and warm your baby. You can tell me all about it. And I’m not exactly a tomcat. Darcy took me to the vet as soon as I was old enough so I can’t make kittens.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “The last cat who told me that fathered this one!” Her eyes widened as I blocked some of the light, pulling myself inside, and lay down with my head facing the opposite direction from hers so my tail wrapped around her front and her kitten. The hole went all the way through beneath the step so I could see out the other side.

“You look a little like him, as a matter of fact,” she said, shifting her kitten to a position more comfortable for her. She was a gray-brown tabby whose fur was still matted with rapidly freezing blood and other fluids from giving birth. I snuggled in so that the nursing kitten was sandwiched between us, causing it to “meep” again. “His fur wasn’t as nice though. You do have a lovely coat.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I think I know the cat you’re talking about. He’s my father too. Your kitten is my half-sister.” It may be hard for humans to tell the sex of kittens, but I could smell it. “He makes a lot of kittens, and most of us look like him. I’ve met him though. Kind of nasty.”

“Not if you’re a female in heat,” she said. “Not at first. He got a little rough later, but I sent him off with a nose full of claws. Then my people decided to move. I think Maddy, my little girl, had convinced them to take me with them when they moved; but then when I got pregnant, they just went off and left me. Maybe if they come back and see I only had the one kitten, they’ll take me with them.” Her voice broke, and she disguised her distress by licking her kitten. “They’ve been gone a really long time, and don’t seem to have told anyone else to look after me.”

I was so busy listening to her, feeling sorry for her, wondering if I should tell her what Rocky told me: that her people were probably gone for good and wouldn’t be back, that I didn’t hear the wings until what to my wondering eyes did appear? Long claws of an owl, entirely too near!

New mother cat

New mother cat

The new mom shivered, but I puffed up as big as I could within the confines of the hole and growled. “I thought I told you to hit the clouds, bird! Pfssst!”

The owl didn’t answer this time, but his claws vanished for a split second—then I heard them overhead, on the step, ripping at the rotting wood. One splintering moment later his large eye peered down at us through the hole in the stair. “More than one way to skin a cat,” he said.

“I can’t believe you said that in front of the children!” I scolded.

“I only see the one tender little kitten,” he said. I was glad owls couldn’t lick their beaks and drool, or he’d have been doing that, and it was disgusting.

“She’s not even a beak-full to you,” I said, letting my mouth do the sparring while I figured out what to do with the rest of me—and him. “She’s just newborn and hasn’t even opened her eyes yet, so she can’t be properly terrified of you. Her mom has had a hard time.” It had worked with an eagle I met earlier to tell her about how bad I’d be for her and her babies since while I’m organic I am not exactly additive free, but the owl wasn’t raising babies, and he didn’t give a hoot.

He inserted his talons into the hole and ripped a strip from the stair. I was at a loss for the first time in my young life, really. I am a very clever cat, but he was a very large bird, and I was more impressed than ever with his claws, seeing them at such close range. I could slip outside and attack him, but I hardly had the advantage of surprise. Plus there was nothing to stop him, once I moved, from snatching both the kitten and her mother out of the hole and flying off with them before I could wriggle all the way out from under the stair.

“I want you to think about this carefully,” I told the owl. “You have the reputation for being a wise old bird.” Inspiration struck. “You do realize this is Christmas, don’t you?”

“Why, yes. And as soon as I smelled your friends there, I thought to myself, “Merry Christmas to who? Me!”

“Well, you’re not doing it right,” I told him.

“What?”

“Christmas. Wise creatures aren’t supposed to eat babies for Christmas.”

“Is that so? I would settle for adult housecat if you keep getting in my way.”

“You, you, you. You’re messing up the story. Think about your place in history.”

“How’s that?” At least he didn’t ask “who?” He looked genuinely curious. As I suspected, owls didn’t get wise by declining to acquire new data.

“Wise—uh—things, are supposed to bring presents to babies at Christmas. Check those scenes in some of the yards around here if you don’t believe me. You go on and check it out. We’re not moving.”

He wasn’t that full of scientific curiosity though.

“Yes, I’m afraid you are. Keep talking though. The hot air you’re spouting will give my wings extra lift when it’s time to carry you to my nest.”

He ripped another strip off and looked at my beautiful gold striped body with what struck me as an unwholesome appetite. “You’re a plump one. If I take you, I can come back for the other two later. Nothing personal, you understand. We’re all hunters here, yes?” He jerked back suddenly, flapping and whirling in a feathered storm. “Who? Who’s there?”

“Hey there, big bird, but have you seen a cat around here? Maybe carrying a doll or dragging a box?”

The owl flapped and sat back on the step he’d been destroying so that some of his tail feathers tickled my nose, and I sneezed.

“This is my lucky day,” the owl said. “Cats of all sizes, and now a big fat raccoon.”

“Hey!” Renfrew said. “Be nice! I am worth way more than a meal. I have treasures. Shiny treasures. Like this!” The owl moved away, and I could see out a hole that had opened in the side of the step when the top of the step was ripped open. The snow had stopped, and bright moonlight now reflected alluringly from the surface of the freshly washed metal box thingy in the coon’s paw.

The owl was on him—or on where he had been—in one hop. Renfrew, however, was out on the sidewalk and halfway up the street squealing his head off.

I hollered too, and the mom cat hissed, “If you’re going to carry on like that, get away from us.”

“I’m calling for help,” I told her.

“I’ve cried and cried for help, and all that I get is things that want to eat me,” she mewed.

That didn’t discourage me, but I didn’t argue with her. I’d come to help her after all, hadn’t I? “Can you carry your kitten?”

“Of course I can! I’m her mother!”

“We need to find a better hiding place for you,” I said with a meaningful look at the stars shining down through the hole the owl had ripped in the step. “Maybe under the house?”

“I can’t go there,” she said. “I thought of that when my people first left. There are big rats in there—bigger than I am. They would kill my kitten.”

“Mrrr,” I said, thinking. “Pick her up and walk with me. Well, trot if you can. We need to cross a couple of yards.”

Renfrew had either been eaten by the owl, or had eaten the owl, or both of them were really busy picking through his new treasure. They weren’t in sight as we crossed the darkened yards. The queen tottered with the kitten and had to stop twice to rest, but refused my offer to carry her baby for her.

Finally we made it to the carport, which was where I thought maybe they would be safer, under the roof, amid all of the stone people, who might scare the owl, and up off the ground in the horse trough thing.

I was surprised now to see Buck’s antlers alongside the lit-up deer in the yard, and Nelda and Gelda grazing beside him.

It made me feel better that friends were there. Not that they could be depended upon to defend the new mother. They’re pretty shy. Still, I said, “Hi, deer—uh—Merry Christmas. Good to see you here. This is, uh—”

“La Toya,” the mother cat said through a mouthful of kitten.

“La Toya and her new kitten. An owl has been after her, and so I thought if she got up in that thing—”

“That’s a manger, Spam,” Nelda said. “It’s where the hay was in the original story. The hay the reindeer seek every Christmas as they fly through the sky following the star.”

“Yes, the manger.” La Toya needed a little boost to help her jump up into the hay—there was real hay—but she managed it and laid down, exhausted.

I wanted to do the same thing, but felt like I needed to stand guard at least until morning.

FATHER CHRISTMAS (Spam the Cat’s First Christmas) 14 Dec.

FatherChristmas5web

“Found it where?” I asked.

“Just laying around,” he said. “There’s all sorts of stuff just laying around right now, Spam. You wouldn’t believe the things people put in these boxes and leave on their porches. I’ve noticed a lot more of them lately, so I brought some back to see if there was anything inside. There’s been food in some of them. Here—” he reached a paw back and picked up a piece of something dense and colorful. “Do cats like fruitcake? Didn’t care for it myself.”

“Renfrew, I hate to tell you this, but they don’t leave those boxes laying around for coons to find. They’re calling you the UPS bandit!”

“I’ve been called worse,” he said, dropping the fruitcake and flinging the white box aside in disgust before tearing into another, unopened package.

“You’re taking peoples’ Christmas presents!” I told him.

“They put them outside, Spam. Honest. They didn’t want them.”

“They didn’t put them outside. The delivery guys brought them to the houses and left them outside for people to pick up when they came home. Except you got there first. There’s more of them now because people are ordering Christmas presents delivered.”

I put a claw through the plastic covering the box with a lady doll in a fancy dress inside. “This is some little kid’s dolly.”

He gave it a glance then went back to rooting around among the boxes. “Yes, well, you can’t tell from the outside, can you? A lot of them haven’t had anything shiny or good to eat, but lots have too!” He stuck his paw in a box and held up a sleek silver cell phone. “Look! I have a new phone. It’s all mine.”

I read the label on the torn edge of the box. “No, it’s not. It belongs to this Bert Smashnik guy.” I patted the dolly box. “And this is for—Mrs. Angela Atkins. I bet it’s for her little girl. Her main Christmas present.”

“And your point is?”

I was tempted to extend all of my points and let him see what they were, but didn’t for two reasons. One is that he also has sharp claws and teeth, and is maybe a pound or two heavier than me. The other is that he is my friend and he can be useful. I just had to appeal to his better nature. If only I could find it.

“Renfrew, you don’t even know how to use this stuff!” I told him, patting an iPad still in its package inside its box with the lid ripped off.

“I can feel it and wash it and make it shine!” he said. “And some of it looks like computers, and I can work computers better than you!” He flexed his hand-y paws at me.

“You can plug stuff in, but you can’t really make them work,” I told him. “Not out here in the woods. You need accounts and passwords and all kinds of stuff Darcy and Maddog and Bubba’s partner have already.”

“I could use the ones at your house,” he said.

“Right. Of course you can. So why do you need to take somebody’s Christmas present? I’ve spent my entire life learning how to use a computer, and there is quite a learning curve. Honestly, I don’t think your—uh—temperament is suited for that kind of dull geeky stuff. I’ll tell you what. If you’ll help me return all these things before morning, I’ll help you make a YouTube video showing how cute you are. You’ll be a star.”

He frowned, grumbled, and looked around at the litter with a very territorial gleam in his eye. “I don’t think so, cat. This is mine. I stole it fair and square.”

There was so much there, and I knew he’d lose interest before tomorrow, by which time it would all probably be ruined.

“Let me take the doll at least,” I said. “She’s not shiny, and you don’t really want her, do you? Some poor little girl is going to be really sad tomorrow, and will probably grow up to hate Santa Claws thanks to this childhood trauma. She may even belong to a family that feeds raccoons now, but will become a hunter because she somehow suspects what became of her Christmas doll.”

He stopped fiddling long enough to growl at me. “What do you care, cat? Why should you care if humans get what they want or not? You haven’t seen what I’ve seen. There are cats and dogs wandering all over town, making nuisances of themselves, whose people abandoned them and moved away.”

“Oh no! Why didn’t you tell me? Is it vampires again? Are there more taking other people like the Vampire Marcel took Darcy?”

“I wish. No, they leave because they want to, and they abandon little Fluffikins or Fido because they want to.”

“Renfrew, you’ve changed. You didn’t used to hate humans.”

“I don’t hate them, but I’ve seen some stuff lately that—well, let’s just say I don’t care if they have a special happy day where they keep all their toys and I don’t, even though they just left them on the porch.”

He was justifying his selfishness by making it all someone else’s fault, just like the bad guys on TV always did. I knew times were hard for humans. I’d heard Darcy on the phone to her friends talking about how tough it had been for people to get gifts, or even food for their families this year. It was on the news too. Some people may think it’s un-catlike to care about that stuff, but I have always prided myself on being a good kitty. If nothing else, it makes me stand out from the crowd.

“You’re just being a Scrooge,” I told him.

He looked up. “What’s that?”

“It’s a mean old man in a story. He keeps seeing these ghosts, see . . .” I couldn’t quite remember the whole thing, or which was the right version because since Halloween I’d seen the same story done about twenty different ways.

“What’s a ghost?”

“Kind of like a vampire only deader, and without a body. They’re very scary.”

“Why if they don’t have bodies? That’s silly, being scared of those. Was the Scrooge scared of them?

“No, but they reminded him of stuff. Like some were—uh—the ghosts of the past. That was—er—animal friends who’d either died or been left behind come back to tell him to stop being such a jerk. Then there were the ghosts of Christmas present. I think those were people who found out coons were stealing the Christmas presents intended for their families. They all had ghostly guns. And then there’s the ghosts of the future, and you don’t even want to know what they did.”

“Well, I don’t know any ghosts. Just one noisy cat who’s mad because he didn’t like his present, and is trying to give it back. You can have something else if you want it. I’ve got lots. I’ll even wash it for you to make it shinier.”

“No thanks. I’m taking the doll, and then I’ll be back and return the rest of the things where you got them,” I told him. That was a lot easier said than done, however.

I picked up the package containing the doll box swimming in a shallow jumble of packing peanuts inside the wrapping. The address on the shredded outer cardboard was on Blair Street. That was mostly downhill, so I could drag the dolly, who was about as long and big around without the packaging as my tail. With the packaging, she was clumsy and caught on things, at least until I got out of the trees and onto the snowy path, where the box slid down to bump my nose and front feet as I tried to walk backwards.

I had just made the street when a striped blur waddled past me. “Change your mind?” I shouted after him, dropping the doll box. “How did you get this stuff to your nest anyway? It’s heavy!” Some of the boxes in his stash were much bigger than the doll’s.

He ignored me until he was way ahead of me on the sidewalk along Blair heading down toward the lagoon park. “Minions,” he said. Then he turned, and I saw the shiny metal box he carried in one paw. “Needs washing,” he added, with a white sharp grin under his black mask.

It was just so wrong. My assistant detective apparently had henchcoons in his UPS bandit gang. This was really going to be bad for my corporate image as feline head of the premier interspecies detective agency of Port Deception. Mutiny! That’s what it was. I wasn’t about to let him get away with it! I dropped the doll box behind a convenient picket fence and took off down the sidewalk after the ring-tailed mutineer.

The snowy sidewalk was slick, so I jumped a fence and ran alongside it in the adjoining yards, jumping other fences when I needed to. I passed three dark houses and four with lights on them, fake trees lighted up, real trees lighted up, Santa and his sleigh with the—er—reindeer following the star heading for the hay. And in the next yard, there was the little farmyard scene I’d seen a few other places, with all the people in their bathrobes, clustered inside a three-sided carport. A fake star decorated the roof of the carport, and another bathrobed figure with wings hung above everybody else, plus some fake sheep, a fake donkey, and a horse trough-looking thing holding a doll. Maybe I should put Renfrew’s doll in there?

The yard up ahead was dark. No car sat out front or in the driveway. A low fence separated the lit-up house from the dark one. I crossed into that yard and the next one, also dark, and sat to rest and reflect by having a wash beneath an overgrown hedge. Renfrew had no doubt already made it to the lagoon and ruined the shiny boxy thing’s function, whatever it had been. I couldn’t save all the presents. If I turned around now and went back to his nest and moved them all—took some of them home and stuck them in the house—that would save some of them anyway, and he wouldn’t be there to stop me.

That seemed like a good plan. If the owl had been sitting in a tree when it saw me, which is, I understand, the way owls usually spot someone tasty to eat, I wouldn’t have heard it and would have been a dead cat on a one-way flight to an owl’s nest. But he was on the ground, watching, and when he spotted me and came after me instead of the less accessible prey he’d been hoping would come out and play, the other prey found her voice and let out a long, low growl. The noise tipped me off, my excellent feline instincts for avoiding air strikes kicked in, and I dived for cover deeper into the hedge.

The owl flapped and hooted a little, and I made myself very big, slitted my eyes, arched my back and sprang right at his wide-open eyes.

Oh, yeah, he had talons and a razor sharp beak, but he generally used them on animals dangling helplessly from his talons, not head-on. “Back off, bozo!” I spat at him.

The owl blinked at me, taken aback, his head retreating while his body stayed in the same place. I guess he wasn’t used to his snacks talking back. “I beg your pardon,” he said. “I mistook you for someone else. No need to get huffy. I have to eat too, you know.” And with a ground-dragging unfurling of his massive wings, each of them at least as long as I am from nose to tail tip, he was airborne.

I didn’t trust him to stay gone, not for a moment. But I wasn’t about to stay inside the hedge all night, and I wanted to find the other cat who had warned me of the attack.

Father Christmas Owl

FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas serialized through Dec. 24

fathchrisfbcov

Dear Readers,

Happy Holidays! Over the next two and a half weeks, culminating on Dec. 24, I will be serializing FATHER CHRISTMAS, Spam the Cat’s First Christmas,  for your entertainment. If you like humor, cats and oddball takes on the holidays, I think you’ll enjoy it. It is on sale for $2.99 as an e-book or 9.99 as a paper book.

At the bottom of this note is the link to the book on Amazon but you need not buy it if you want to read it all here. I loved writing this and I want to give more people and their cats a chance to love reading it. All proceeds from purchase go to the Humane Society of Jefferson, Co. WA, where I found K.B. Dundee. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (with K.B. Dundee)

http://www.amazon.com/Father-Christmas–Spam-Christmas-Adventures-Emancipated-ebook/dp/B007307Q52/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418509638&sr=1-1&keywords=Father+Christmas%2C+Spam+the+Cat%27s+First+Christmas

Father Christmas

Spam the Cat’s

First Christmas

by

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

with  K.B. Dundee

Gypsy Shadow Publishing

All rights reserved

Copyright © January 2012, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Cover Art Copyright © 2012, Karen Gillmore

Gypsy Shadow Publishing, Inc.

Lockhart, TX

http://www.gypsyshadow.com

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coin-cidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and email, without prior written permission from the author.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61950-27-3

First eBook Edition: January, 2012

Second eBook Edition: May, 2012

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012933715

Print ISBN: 978-1-61950-052-5

Published in the United States of America

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Print Edition: February, 2012

Dedication

This story is dedicated to Kerry Greenwood and Karen Gillmore, whose encouragement has kept me writing and whose friendship made the holidays happy.

Father Christmas deer

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring; not even a mouse. Rats! While I’d been out chasing vampires and zombies, my furry housemates had hunted all the fun prey. Now my fourteen feline roomies were all asleep, our human mom Darcy was gone for the weekend leaving us on our own with just a cat-sitter coming in to feed us, and I felt restless. I was nine months old, and this was my first Christmas.

It felt like something ought to happen. It felt like something was going to happen, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be in my boring house with my boring friends and relatives.

On the other hand, it was snowing outside. We were having a white Christmas. Bah, humbug. Bad weather is what it is, the kind that clots white cold stuff in your paw pads. Unacceptable. I would wait until the weather humans came to their senses to go out, I had decided.

That was before I heard the prancing and pawing of each little hoof, apparently coming from up on my roof. I sat down to think, curling my tail around my front paws, my calm pose betrayed only by a slight flick at the creamy end of my plumy appendage. There were stockings hung by the propane stove with care, but a trip down that chimney would be disastrous for anybody, since they’d just end up inside the stove and wouldn’t be able to get out. I considered waking my mother for a further explanation of the powers of Santa Claws. But then I thought that if anyone would know what was going on, it would be Rocky. I jumped onto the kitchen counter and stood against the corner cupboard. I am a very long cat, even without taking my tail into account. My front feet could just reach the top cabinet, where Rocky liked to lurk during the day. Inserting my paw beneath the door’s trim, I pushed. It smelled like vampire cat in there, but not as though the vampire cat was actually in there. Rocky was out. Well, it was night. He wouldn’t mind the snow.

Some more scrabbling on the roof, and I suddenly thought, what if Rocky has Santa Claws and is feeding on him? He might. He was my friend, but he was definitely no respecter of age, gender, or mythological belief system.

I bolted out my private entrance. Only Rocky and I were able to come and go through that new cat flap that had been installed for me since my last adventure. I had a chip in my neck that activated it. Rocky had my old collar containing a similar chip, the one I’d worn before I went to the vet and got tagged.

The cold air hit me with a shock, and the snow wet my pink paw pads, though the heavy tufts of fur between them formed natural snowshoes. I was a very convenient breed of cat for this climate, actually. Maine Coon cats, or their undocumented relatives like me, were built for cold and wet and according to the Critter Channel, used to be ships’ cats on Viking vessels. I didn’t mind a nice trip around the bay on a nice day, but this snow stuff wasn’t my cup of—well, snow.

I dashed into the snow without the benefit of any sort of vehicle, responding to the clatter, and from a safe distance, gazed back at the roof to see what was the matter. Other than snow.

The feel of the air shifted behind me, and I glanced back to see five deer step out of the moon shadows beneath the big apple tree. Nelda, Buck, and some other deer I knew fairly well—as well as a cat can know a family of deer, anyway—stood behind me, whuffing steam from their nostrils and looking up toward the noise.

I saw nothing special up there. Just weathered red tiles, our smokeless chimney, and snow falling on it.

“You guys weren’t just up there, were you?” I asked Nelda.

“No, silly. How would deer get on your roof?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “You know—it’s Christmas and everything, so I just wondered . . .”

“What’s that got to do with Christmas?” Nelda asked.

“Oh, grandma,” the young doe Gelda said, “Don’t you know anything? Spam is under the impression that all deer are like those horned ones who pull that sled across the sky.”

“What sled?”

“The one that’s on half the lighted windows downtown.”

Nelda shook her head, flipping off snowflakes melting on her muzzle. “Christmas is very confusing. I’ve been through several now and it never makes any sense to me at all. Why is there a sled with captive deer pulling it?”

“It’s simple, Grandma,” Gelda said. “The sled is magic, and the deer are pulling it through the sky, following a star that will show them where there is a manger with fresh hay. There are humans involved too, but that part isn’t clear to me. The lights in the windows symbolize the star, I believe.”

“Spam, that is species profiling, thinking we’d get up on your roof just because it’s Christmas. Just because we live in this wet climate doesn’t make us rain deer, dear,” Buck said, snorting at his own pun. He’s hilarious sometimes. Nelda and the other deer I’ve met are mostly as refined and classy as they look. I love deer. Most cats do, I think. They smell great and they are the prettiest creatures alive, other than cats. They have charisma—animal magnetism. It’s a little lost on human gardeners; but we cats appreciate it, though Rocky says it’s only because if we were a little larger, or they were a little smaller, we would find them tasty instead of merely tasteful. Okay, maybe they’re a little hazy on some of the holiday mythology, but they are terrific critters.

Even Buck is handsome enough, if you like that sort of thing, and a lot of the does seemed to. But he was on the rowdy side and too big for me to be anything but wary of all that head tossing and prancing and showing off his antlers. Fortunately, he had respect for his mother, and she seemed to have decided to like me.

“You must have heard something too!” I said. I don’t like being laughed at. “Otherwise, why were you looking up there?”

“There were strange noises,” Nelda said. “And strange scents.”

Just then, outlined against the snow, a masked face peeped up above the ridge of the roof.

“Renfrew?” I asked the coon. Who else would it be than my friend, sometimes assistant detective, and frequent moocher? “What are you doing up there?”

The coon opened his mouth to reply, then threw up his front paws, dropping something that clattered down the half of the roof facing me before sliding down the back. “Renfrew, wait!” I called, anxious to see what he was up to.

He didn’t answer me, and I ran to the house to try to catch up with him, but he had slid off the roof and left a coon-shaped bare patch in the snow before waddling off toward the woods.

“Renfrew!”

“Merry Christmas!” he called back. In raccoon, of course, which sounded more like, “Iiiiiiiiiriii chirrit-termaaaaw.” But mostly, interspecies, we read thoughts for any real communication—sometimes you just can’t say what you mean with barks, tweets, growls, or neighs—or other sounds. Meows, of course, and other cat language, are quite eloquent; but other species don’t seem to be able to master the accent.

What had that silly coon been up to that he didn’t even take time to stop and beg some kibble? What had he dropped? I thought he meant it was supposed to be my Christmas present. It was caught in the gutter. Double rats! Very inconvenient.

But I didn’t want to miss out on a gift, so I raced around to the back of the house, where the scrap wood box was, and leaped up on it, thinking to mount the roof myself.

I jumped onto the steeply pitched part of the roof and slid much faster than I’d planned to down to the gutter, to the amusement of my deer audience. The snow had made the roof very slick, even with all my claws extended. I put a paw into the gutter, but it rattled and creaked alarmingly, so I pulled my paw back and tippy-toed along the edge until I spotted the gleam of silver and red.

Most cats would wonder why a raccoon would have a packet of batteries. I knew raccoons liked anything shiny. But in Renfrew’s case, he might have wanted them for what they were made for, to power a phone or a radio or camera or something, at least until he decided to wash it. Renfrew was very clever with such things, which had come in handy when we were fighting vampires together.

It was really nice of him to give them to me, in that case, but other than batting them around the floor, I didn’t have a lot of use for them. I’d just tell him this was the package I’d got for him for Christmas and give them back to him. No use wondering where they originally came from.

 Father Christmas Renfrew

Biting down on the edge of the package, I jumped down from the roof. It’s easier to get down than up. Carrying the battery packet in my mouth, I trotted to the edge of the driveway. The slight skim of snow seemed to have discouraged any cars that might normally be on the road this time of night. Understandable. It was pretty slick. Getting colder by the minute too. I cast one look back at my nice warm house. I could go back whenever I wanted to, have a nibble and a drink and settle down in my favorite office chair for a nap. Off to the right, the deer picked their way across the snowy brown grass, then paused. One of Nelda’s legs hovered, suspended bent over the ground. Her head was up, watching the sky, or the stars, and Gelda and Buck followed her gaze. Then they moved on again, crossing the front yard of Bubba’s house and on down the block.

Renfrew doesn’t have a permanent address, being a raccoon of no fixed abode, as Bubba, the retired police dog next door would say, but he did have a general territory, though it was not his exclusively because there were too many raccoons around. He’d tried living under our house for a while, but said the upstairs neighbors were too noisy.

I didn’t have to look hard for him though. A trail of packing peanuts and the noise led me to a tree near the one where we’d first met a couple of months before. Somebody was singing “Silent Night” with a lot of hissing and buzzing and an overlay of a football broadcast kicking in once in awhile that made the night anything but silent.

His den was a dump of more packing peanuts, torn up cardboard boxes, bubble wrap (ooh, fun to pop with your claws! I wondered if I could sneak a piece out of his stash and take it home to play with), and newspaper. Nestled among the packing stuff were various items that the Critter Channel does not usually mention when talking about raccoon habitat.

Renfrew did not look up. His paw hands were busy turning the noisy shiny white box over and over, looking for a way inside.

I dropped the batteries at his feet with relief. My teeth ached from clutching the plastic. “Here,” I told him. “Merry Christmas. These are for you.”

He could have said thank you. Instead he mumbled to himself—raccoons do a lot of mumbling and grumbling, I’ve learned—and kept fiddling with the box.

This gave me a chance to paw through the opened packages, sort of checking to see if there was one I might want to try on for size. A half-torn label was on the largest one, with an address, a Christmas sticker, and a UPS logo. Suspicion dawned.

“Where’d you get this?” I asked Renfrew.

“Found it,” he said, finally looking up with big masked bright eyes full of innocence and wonder.