December Holidays

Part I

The Holiday Kitten

December in Ballymore arrived by storm. Bartholomew watched through his front window as wind and sleet enveloped the small community. The sleet pelted the glass in tune with the wind blasts. Although most animals don’t, he enjoyed storms. He enjoyed being witness to the power of nature, the power of God. They also tended to put him in a philosophical mood.

‘From where do these winds blow? They come from eons past to remind us of our eternal life;

They announce their presence by rustling the browned leaves of the birch trees;

They rise and fall through the evergreens;

They ruffle the fur and feathers of all creatures;

The chilled sensation cannot be denied, and the natural course is to seek shelter;

But remember;

We are all one with the wind and its brethren.’

He smiled as he recalled a passage from a favourite book. Bartholomew took the well-worn volume from the library shelf and sat down in his rocker next to the hearth.

Most of the other residents of Ballymore also huddled by warm hearths, each in their own home. They were warmed not only by the heat from the flames but also by the shared experience of being with their loved ones and friends.

But not every creature was so fortunate. On the north side of the pond, not far from Petunia Porcupine’s cottage, a kitten shivered in the reeds. The unrelenting sleet fell on his already wet fur. The kitten cried for his mother, but she was nowhere to be seen. He was cold, hungry, and scared. He looked out through the storm for help. To his left, he saw only the whitecaps on the dark water. To his right, the land was empty of light and life. All he could do was mew weakly.

Dr. Brigit didn’t have the luxury of a warm hearth that late autumn night either. She had visited the moles to treat some flu-like symptoms, which had spread through the whole family. As she walked home along the pond, she was also shivering. She pulled her hood tighter to fend off the weather. What a night not to be out, she thought. She was looking forward to a hot bath and good book. The wind whistled through the trees. It was only during a brief lull that she thought she heard a cry. She stopped and listened.

Meow! Meow!

Oh my! It’s a kitten somewhere, she thought.

Meow! Meow!

She followed the sound to the very edge of the pond and began searching through the reeds. The thick reeds were wet and icy as she pushed them this way and that. Finally, she found a small, well-hidden hollow. Looking down, she saw the half-open eyes of a pitiful creature looking up.

“Meow! Meow!”

“Oh, you poor little thing,” she cried.

She scooped up the little ball of wet fur and nestled it to her chest. She must get him to warmth, she thought. Luckily, it was only a short distance to her cottage, and she ran to it.

When she got inside, she placed the kitten on her dining table, dried him, and wrapped him in a towel. He lay there quietly, looking at her.

“What you need, my little dear, is some special milk formula.”

She took a bottle of milk from cold storage and poured some into a pan. Then, she added a spoonful of a cream-colored powder and set the pan on the stove to warm. The kitten watched curiously. Meanwhile, she took an eye dropper from a drawer and made sure it was clean. In a couple of minutes, the formula was ready, and she filled the eye dropper with the warm milk. The kitten knew he was about to be fed and mewed.

“Now, this is similar to the way your mother feeds you. You suck on this end, and I’ll squeeze on this end.”

She put the tip of the dropper in his mouth. He was a natural, and soon it was empty. Before she knew it, he had sucked down five dropper-fills. That’s not counting what dribbled down his chin.

“Wonderful!” she exclaimed.

He looked up, and a tiny purr came from him.

“Well, now you’re looking better and feeling better too, I think.”

Brigit finished drying him with the towel. He was an attractive orange tabby with medium length fur, big ears, and intelligent hazel eyes.

“You have puffed out quite well,” said Brigit.

“Hmmm. That’s a good name for you. Puff! Puff Cat! What do you think?”

Puff Cat purred.

“Then, we both agree! Good! I think this storm is going to last all night. I’m so glad I found you. No one should be out in this weather. I think I’m going to take a nice hot bath and go to bed early. You should sleep also and regain your strength.

“I wonder where your mother is?”

She found a small basket and arranged a soft blanket. She placed Puff in it and set the kitten-filled basket next to the warm hearth. She leaned over and gave Puff a kiss. He immediately curled up and closed his eyes.

“Now, you sleep well. I’ll be close by in the bedroom.”

After a tiring day, it was time for her hot bath. Afterwards, she took a last look at Puff. He was sleeping peacefully with one paw covering his eyes. As she watched over him, she wondered how he ever ended up in the reeds on such a terrible night. Hopefully, the answer would come soon.

She shut off the oil lamp and found the way to her own bed in the dark cottage. The sleet and wind continued as she fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, she was awakened by a noise. Apparently, a branch had fallen against a window. She noticed that she was no longer alone in the bed. Puff had left his basket and somehow crawled up onto the bed. He was stretched out next to her and sleeping soundly. The noise from the storm had no effect on him. She smiled and stroked his soft fur.

When she awoke in the morning, Puff was still there. This is where he belongs, she thought. Dr. Brigit already loved him. If we don’t find his mother, he will live with me, she decided.

“Okay, Puff. It’s time for breakfast,” she coaxed.

Puff rolled over on his back, stretched, and yawned. He looked up at her and purred. She tickled his tummy, and he purred louder.

“Oh, you like that, do you, Sweetie. Okay. Let’s go to the kitchen. I’m sure you’re hungry.”

This time he sucked down seven dropper-fills of the warm formula. As he finished the seventh one, there was a knock on the door. It was Bartholomew. He was just stopping by for a morning visit and some tea.

Immediately noticing Puff, he asked, “What have we here?”

“This is Puff. Puff, this is Bartholomew Owl. I like to think of him as the great Ballymore problem solver. He is a best friend of mine.”

Puff smiled and purred.

Brigit told Bartholomew of the events from the night before.

“Well, you have certainly been through a lot, little one. You are safe now and in very good care,” he said as he pet the kitten.

After tea and further chatting, Bartholomew left. It didn’t take long for word about Puff to spread around Ballymore.

In the early afternoon, there was another knock on the door. It was Rachel and Rain Rabbit. Rain was carrying a small basket with a towel draped over it.

Rachel asked, “We came to see Puff. Is it okay?”

“Of course,” said Dr. Brigit. “Come in, girls.”

After meeting him, Rachel said, ”We brought something for Puff.”

She uncovered the wicker basket. Inside was a small pink dress and white bonnet. Dr. Brigit laughed.

“You know Puff is a boy cat, don’t you?”

“Yes, but could we try the clothes on him just this once?” pleaded Rain.

“Let’s ask Puff,” said Dr. Brigit. “Puff, would you like to wear the dress and bonnet this one time?”

Puff seemed to understand. He got up, climbed into the basket, and pushed his head into the bonnet. The children laughed. Then, they put the dress on him and arranged the blue towel. It was a very cute picture.

“Could we take Puff for a walk and visit some of the animals?” Rain asked.

“That’ll be fine, but don’t stay away for long. He is still a little weak. Also, please ask if anyone has seen a mother cat that looks like him.”

“Oh, thank you,” said both rabbits.

Rachel and Rain carried the basket with Puff out the door and down to the pond.

“Which way shall we go?” asked Rain.

“I don’t think it matters. Let’s go to Mrs. Porcupine’s. I think she would love to meet Puff,” said Rachel.

Petunia Porcupine’s cottage is right next to Dr. Brigit’s, so it was a short walk. Petunia was looking out her kitchen window and saw them coming. She opened her door and invited the rabbits and their basket in.

Rachel placed the basket on the dining table.

“What are you girls carrying in your basket this afternoon?” Mrs. Porcupine asked.

Puff was completely covered by the towel and wasn’t moving.

She opened the towel and looked in. A kitten in a dress and bonnet looked up and purred.

“Oh my! You precious dear!”

She picked up Puff and asked her name.

“Puff is a boy cat, but we didn’t have any boy doll clothes,” explained Rain. “Puff agreed to wear these just this once. We’re taking him around to meet some of the animals. We’re also looking for his mother.”

“I understand. When I was young, I dressed my dolls differently. It didn’t matter if they were girl dolls or boy dolls,” said Mrs. Porcupine. “I’m sorry but I haven’t seen any cats around.”

“How about some nice tea and cookies?”

Both rabbits eagerly accepted.

“Let’s move Puff to the counter, so we’ll have more room,” said Mrs. Porcupine.

She carefully moved the basket to the counter, and they enjoyed freshly baked jellied cookies and tea at the table. While they were talking, Puff was sniffing. Petunia’s kitchen was always full of the wonderful smells of baking. She had plum tarts, pumpkin bread, and blueberry muffins. On the counter near Puff were two warm apple pies. That was what he smelled and could not resist.

No one noticed as he crawled out of his basket and onto the top of the closest pie. He lay there quietly. It was a perfect location for him. The warm pie felt and smelled wonderful. Apple pie juice was seeping through the crust in a few places, and Puff found it much to his liking.

He enjoyed a few minutes of this bliss before Petunia noticed him.

“Yeow!” she yelled and ran to the counter. She gently lifted Puff off of the pie. He had pie juice dripping from his mouth and some on his fur. He was smiling and purring, apparently quite pleased with himself.

Rachel said, “Oh, no! I’m sorry, Mrs. Porcupine.”

“It’s all right. I’ll clean him up. I’m afraid that pie will have to be thrown away, though.”

“Oh, please don’t throw it away. Could we have it, please?” pleaded Rain.

“I guess that’ll be okay. Just make sure you remove the cat fur before you serve it,” said Mrs. Porcupine.

The girls laughed. It was time to move on. So, Rachel, Rain, and Puff left Mrs. Porcupine’s cottage with the furry pie to continue their stroll around the pond. They walked until they reached Grenby Groundhog’s hut. Grenby had begun his winter nap on 15 November and was fast asleep in the lower level. The rabbits decided to rest on his dock. It was a nice afternoon for December. Last night’s sleet storm had been replaced by sun.

The rabbits talked about the fast approaching holidays. Each described, in great detail, what they hoped to get. They also talked about the gifts they were making for others.

All this talking gave Puff another opportunity to explore. Grenby’s flagpole was only a few feet from the dock, and it immediately caught the kitten’s attention. He thought it would be a good time to practice his climbing, so he left the basket and was up the pole in no time.

Rain was the first to notice the missing kitten.

“Puff’s gone!” she exclaimed.

They looked around but saw nothing that was orange coloured. A loud meow from above announced his location.

As was his custom, Grenby left a single blue flag flying from the top of the pole during winter. Hanging from the bottom of the flag was Puff. Both flag and kitten were swinging in the breeze.

“Puff, you come back down here right now,” yelled Rachel.

Puff ignored her and continued swinging from the flag. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Shortly, the bonnet blew off and then the dress. Both flew into the pond and quickly sank. Finally, the now unclothed Puff climbed down the pole and back into his basket. What was the problem, he thought.

The rabbits were a bit frustrated by this, but Puff was just being a kitten. They decided it was best to take him back to Dr. Brigit’s before anything else happened. When they arrived, Bartholomew was visiting again. They told Dr. Brigit about Puff’s antics. She was not surprised and was happy that Puff was so lively. Rachel and Rain said goodbye and left for home with their furry apple pie. Puff went to his basket for a nap. For him it had been a good afternoon of adventures.