But first, the paraprosdokian for this season –
Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they’re at home when you wish they were.
Since we are nearing Christmas, I am reminded of —
The Christmas Cat
It was decided, by whom I have no idea, that the kids would get a cat from Santa. I, who had never had a cat and did not like cats, who was, after all, a “dog” person – who had happily gotten the dog about whom Jamie said, “I think we’ll call him Charlie,” and as far as I knew Jamie had never known anybody named Charlie, and possibly never even heard the name before — was sent to pick up the cat.
The house, no address, turned out to be a clandestine hideout for a member of the FBI or CIA. I was fingerprinted, subjected to search, and interrogated for three hours in a 2×2 room under hot lights, with lie-detector attached, questions being asked over a speaker hidden in the wall above the one-way mirror. No Dr Peppers. Suddenly, the voice stopped, the lights went cold and I sat in darkness. My life, short as it had been at that time, passed before my eyes, though without the lights, I only got a few glimpses of the brighter spots.
Finally, the door opened. I didn’t know what to expect, and was ready for it. Instead, blank sheets attesting to what I had no clue, were thrust under my nose (or perhaps my hand, I am no longer sure) and I was ordered to sign each and initial the back of the first one next to the initials of my interrogator, though his were in invisible ink and I might have actually put mine initials on top of his.
And then, the cat was released into my custody.
Little did I know, it was actually a suicide feline, barely out of commando training, who had never been in a car before. With the cat safely inside the car, I had backed up no more than ten feet when Kamikaze Kat was racing around the car, flinging itself against the glass, tearing at the seats and slashing at the driver.
In one of the most incongruous scenes ever video taped by the Agency, the cat-unfriendly driver can be seen trying every seducing, soothing, baby-talking line known to mankind in the futile effort to calm down the run-away cat. Finally, by the end of the first block of a 5,000 block trip, the killer kitten settled down, still scared, but feeling somewhat secure by anchoring its claws into the top of the driver’s head. And it remained there for the remainder of the trip
Christmas morning, the terrorist-cat had transmogrified into a small, tame kitten. The kids were thrilled.
But the cat was about to get a comeuppance, or a comeapartness. At last, Kristi (after all, the youngest is always last) got her chance to hold the kitten. Being no more experienced than I was, she grabbed it, got the kitten’s neck in the crook of her arm and locked her hands to her chest. The kitten, hanging down, but firmly secured by its head, immediately yelled for help. Older and more experienced sister Kelly came to the aid of the kitten-in-distress. She tried to take the kitten. Kristi was not about to have her turn commuted to such a short time. She held tightly. Kelly pulled mightily. The kitten got longer. Only when an adult (who knew a thing or two about kittens and just how long they could be stretched) came to negotiate, did the kitten get off the rack.
Giraffe, Stretch, Longfellow, and The Cat in the Rack were names proposed by the adults. I don’t recall what the kitten was actually named by the kids.
The kids loved the kitten and learned to take special care of it as it grew into a cat. This was definitely a Christmas to remember. And to the day he/she died, I’m sure the kitten remembered it also.
James R. Callan, 2016
The Silver Medallion, A Crystal Moore Suspense