By Larry, California
"It's Christmas Eve," Whiskers said. "Do you know what that is?"
Dirty Face turned her face towards her boyfriend Whiskers. Hers was a cute calico face that had a patch of dark fur which made it seem like her face was in constant need of a bath. "Yeah, it means tomorrow we eat like lions," she said.
Whiskers chuckled. "Yeah, that's true. But the holiday is much more than table scraps. It's an important human holiday, celebrated around the world by billions of people."
"Wow, that's a lot of leftovers," Dirty Face said while licking her chops.
"Do you always think with your stomach?" Whiskers laughed. "I'm talking a worldwide celebration of joy and giving. It's such an important day that even wars have temporarily been put on hold because of it."
"Wow. But it's still just a human holiday, though, right?" Dirty Face asked.
"Actually, we cats get involved too. All animals do, in fact," Whiskers explained. "You see, at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals can talk to humans. For a brief time, this annual miracle allows humans to understand us."
"You mean, for once they're not as stupid as they normally are?"
Whiskers burst out laughing at Dirty Face's blunt interpretation. "That's one way to put it. Perhaps by being nice and just taking the time to listen to each other, the humans begin to understand us as well."
"Will you talk to your human pets tonight? What will you say?" Dirty Face asked.
"I think I'll tell them I don't like that dried food. I want more bird in my bowl."
It was Dirty Face's turn to laugh. "Who's thinking of their stomach now? This 'great miracle' as you call it happens, and all you can think is to ask for food!"
* * * * *
Whiskers' pets returned home. He heard the jingle of the keys in the lock, and the laughing and singing as they and several guests entered the house. It had been dark for several hours already, but apparently this Christmas Eve service they attended required darkness to fully appreciate it. Something to do with candles, Whiskers had overheard. Silly humans and their rituals - but now the best part was about to start.
The woman of the house brought out several trays of food, one of which smelled extremely good to Whiskers, for it was loaded with lunchmeat. Another one was loaded with prawns. Whiskers rubbed against her legs, hoping that she would drop one of the trays, but she just laughed as she placed the trays carefully on the table.
The man of the house carried out a punch bowl. That was inconsequential to Whiskers for it held no meat, but several of the guests cheered and raised glasses in anticipation of some sort of holiday beverage. Whatever that drink is, Whiskers thought, it must be pretty festive.
And so it went. With midnight fast approaching, the party seemed only to get louder. Whiskers, tired of having his tail stepped on, hid under the couch, listening to the celebration around him.
Everyone was laughing and having a good time. One of the partygoers, someone addressed as Aunt Martha, was sitting on the couch fanning herself, tittering about how she hadn't had this much rum since Pete's wedding. Apparently, whoever Pete was, was supposed to be quite the 'party animal'. Whiskers didn't know what that meant, and even though it sounded like fun, it didn't matter, since no other animals were here, party or otherwise.
The clock struck midnight, and the party showed no sign of waning. Whiskers crawled out from under the couch, and seeing everyone else occupied, leapt up next to Aunt Martha, surprising her. "Oooh. Nice kitty," she exclaimed.
"I want some meat," Whiskers said.
"Oh, okay," Aunt Martha said, and handed a piece of pressed ham to Whiskers. He gobbled up the deli meat nearly instantaneously.
"I want some more meat and then I want to go outside," Whiskers said.
Unflustered, acting like having a talking cat was the most natural thing in the world, Aunt Martha gave Whiskers another slice of deli meat, this time turkey roll. Then, teetering a little, eventually she was able to make it to her feet. She staggered over to the back door, opened it, and Whiskers stepped out into the nippy night air.
Whiskers sat on the back steps, watching through the glass door as someone called out, "Martha? What are you doing?" It was the man of the house, concerned for his unsteady guest.
"I gave the cat some meat and now I'm letting him out. Just like he asked," Aunt Martha said.
"Come back inside, Martha. You've had a bit too much to drink, I think. Here, sit down, have a glass of water." The man of the house couldn't help laughing. "Imagining that the cat is talking to you!"
* * * * *
Christmas morning was a little more subdued than the previous evening. The child of the house was really no longer a child, now on the verge of manhood. He no longer came rushing out to tear open presents under the tree. Instead, he tiptoed past a snoring Aunt Martha, who was passed out on the couch, and quietly made a pot of coffee.
Opening the back door, he let the cat into the house. "Whiskers! Someone left you out all night?" he exclaimed. The boy opened the glorious refrigerator, which Whiskers thought of as his altar, the container of wondrous foods. The boy pulled out some deli meats, and laid it into Whisker's bowl. "Poor thing ... Here, have some of this."
Whiskers purred his contentment, not bothering to thank the boy since he wouldn't understand his speech now anyway. He plowed into the bowl, gobbling up the meat, enjoying his holiday breakfast while the boy fiddled with the coffee maker. Soon the delightful aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the entire house. Everyone, guests included, began to wake to the energizing fragrance.
Gifts were exchanged and, to the delight of the guests, Whiskers played with crumpled up balls of wrapping paper. He was in a lighthearted mood to entertain the friends of his pets, so he allowed them to dangle bits of ribbon for him to play with. After a spell, he grew weary of this sport. Wanting to get out of the way of tail-finding foot traffic, he crawled under the couch to take a nap.
* * * * *
Whiskers awoke to noisy cheers. The guests had turned on the window-with-no-smells machine that they called a television. There was some sort of sport being played on a big green surface. Whatever it was, it held the rapt attention of many of the guests. Stifling a yawn, Whiskers walked to the back door, letting out a loud and demanding meow. Someone noticed, and mumbling to himself, got up to let Whiskers outside.
On the back steps, Whiskers was immediately greeted by Dirty Face. "Merry Christmas," she said to him.
"Merry Christmas! Want to help me give out gifts?" Whiskers asked her.
"Gifts? Oh ... Did you get me something?" Dirty Face asked demurely.
"I have something very special for you. But first I need to give out the other gifts. I'm saving the best for last," he said. When Dirty Face showed a touch of impatience on her furry face, Whiskers added, "Believe me, it's worth the wait."
"Okay, I can wait - for a little bit, at least," she said.
Whiskers jumped down from the back steps. Hidden underneath a small piece of wood was a small jingly ball. He picked it up in his mouth and headed over to The Clone's yard. Dirty Face tailed behind him, leaping over the fence that separated the yards in time to see Whiskers deposit the little ball at The Clone's feet.
"Merry Christmas," Whiskers said to his adversary. Usually at odds with each other, The Clone was so named because he too was a large orange tabby, just like Whiskers. As they both matured, their similarities vanished, but the moniker stuck. "I got you this jingly ball. Now you don't have to chase bumblebees or parked cars anymore - just push this ball around."
"Um ... Merry Christmas?" The Clone said, suspicious at first. He touched his paw skeptically to the ball. When it jingled a little, he pushed it some more. The tiny bell inside the ball chimed a tiny ding again. That was enough to satisfy The Clone; he pushed it harder and started to chase it around the yard.
Content that his gift was well-received, Whiskers wandered over to a little-used, out of the way area of his yard. There he pulled out a large shiny ribbon. This he dropped off to the black and white, bushy-tailed George, also known as the neighborhood gossip.
"Oh, shiny!" George said. "Thanks!" He began to paw at it, intrigued by the sparkling colors it made in the reflected daylight.
"Merry Christmas," Whiskers said. Turning to Dirty Face who still tagged behind him, he said, "One more stop. Follow me, if you dare!"
"Why 'if I dare?'" Dirty Face asked.
"You'll see," Whiskers said.
Passing The Clone once more - who was still toying with the jingly ball - they climbed up and over fences until they got to Bowser's yard. There, when Whiskers jumped onto the wooden fence top, Dirty Face elected to clamber up a nearby tree where she could watch from a hidden limb.
"Merry Christmas, you mangy mutt!" Whiskers shouted down to Bowser, who was lying next to the fence, directly underneath.
"Why if it isn't the neighborhood flea-infested feline!" Bowser barked back. "Merry Christmas to you, too!"
Balancing on the wooden fence top, Whiskers walked over to the gate that separated Bowser's yard from the neighbor's yard, the yard that held Bowser's friend, the fluffy white poodle, Fifi. Whiskers stepped on the latch, allowing the gate to swing free. "Enjoy your Christmas!" he hollered to Bowser as the dog quickly dashed into Fifi's yard.
Whiskers left the two dogs alone to their private act of sniffing each other. Heading back to his own yard, he heard Bowser call back to him, "Thanks, furball!" That made Whiskers smile.
Dirty Face joined up with him again, leaping over fences, until they were back in their home territory underneath the familiar lemon tree. "Those were some very nice things you did today," she said.
"Thanks. Today is a day of forgiving past battles, even with your worst enemies." Whiskers said. "Gift giving is an excellent way to spread Christmas joy all around. But I have one more gift to give. Be patient, I'll be back shortly."
* * * * *
Aunt Martha opened the door to let Whiskers in, already convinced it was just her overindulgence the previous night that caused her to think he had spoken to her. The rest of the family and guests were already sitting at the large dining room table, feasting on turkey, ham, and some inconsequential vegetables. Why they waste their time with that other stuff is beyond me, Whiskers thought to himself. It's meat that matters, nothing else.
Still holding the door open, Aunt Martha said, "But what about the other kitty? Does the other one come in too?"
"What other kitty?" Someone at the table asked. "We only have one cat."
"The one under the tree over there," Aunt Martha answered.
The woman of the house got up to see. "Oh, that's just Dirty Face. She hangs out here, but never comes in. She's very skittish around humans."
In the meantime, Whiskers had clambered up onto Aunt Martha's vacant seat. From her plate, he grabbed a large piece of ham and, barely able to carry it, dashed out the still open back door dragging the ham with him.
"Oh my!" Aunt Martha exclaimed, and nearly fainted, but the woman of the house was there to steady her. When the concerned family members gathered around her, she said, "Oh my, I'm okay. Really now. But your cat really likes meat."
At such an obvious, yet seriously said statement, the family and guests began to laugh. Forgetting about - or at least forgiving it for the moment - Whiskers' indiscretion, they led dear Aunt Martha back to the table. She was given another slice of ham and the conversation returned to normal.
Outside, Whiskers laid the over-large piece of ham at Dirty Face's feet. Smiling, he said to her, "Merry Christmas, my purrty friend."