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.”