Guest Post by Beth Cato
As I grew up, my dad set an absolute rule: no cats in the house. My parents were pretty consistent about rules and expectations, but on this point my mom disagreed. She let us bring our beloved cats into the house, and feed them, and let them generally have the run of the place. The vital thing was that all evidence—the cats included—be outside before Dad came home from work. Dad was very strict. There was a looming fear that he would take the cats to the pound if we broke his edict.
Our outdoor cats were extremely well-behaved in their brief time indoors, especially our cat Adventure. Adventure was more like a sibling than a cat. He was a gentlecat, the very definition of regal. He did not walk. He strolled. He welcomed us home from school and escorted us to the door. His purr could be heard from rooms away. He loved being carried like a baby, or perched on a shoulder, or cuddling in a lap for hours on end. In the summer time, with me and my brother home all day, Adventure truly ruled the roost.
Which leads me into my Christmas story.
I always set up our artificial tree the day after Thanksgiving. We were always excited for that Monday after, for the official “blessing of the tree.” Adventure would amble inside, sniff all the lower branches, perhaps attempt to gnaw on one or two. He would then make a perfect nest on the white cotton blanket beneath the tree. He was like a perfect tabby pillow, formed into a cozy circle. We took pictures of him like this some years, and always took care that we developed the film and Dad never saw it.
I have always loved Christmas. I often started making crafts and buying gifts early in the year, so once the tree was up, I had ready things to wrap and place beneath the tree. I made sure that there was a space for Adventure to make his nest right among the presents.
One day, Dad arrived home from work. I can’t recall if he was early, or if we had simply been doing other things. But right away, we realized we had a problem.
“Did you get the cat?” Mom whispered.
“Did you get the cat?” I asked my brother.
“No, did you?” he asked.
Dad had walked right in the front door, with the tree and sleeping cat not two feet away, and passed right on by!
Dad went to the bedroom to change out of his work clothes. My brother yanked a very surprised, sleepy cat from under the tree, and I held the garage door open so they could make a quick exit.
Our beloved cat, always a gift and blessing, had appeared as just another present beneath the tree. For us, that was very much a Christmas miracle.
Beth Cato is the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.
(The photo associated with this post on the front page of my blog is from https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/213617428/christmas-pet-hoodies)