THE CAT’S CHRISTMAS
It was springtime. While the days were getting warmer, it was still very cold at nights when you could see the stars, bright and twinkly in the sky. When I was a kitten I used to try and catch them. But now I am an adult cat I know I would have to jump very high to catch them, perhaps even twenty times my length- far too high for a cat!
I am not usually allowed in the part of the house where my people lived. Though I am sometimes allowed in, but I can see no reason why sometimes I am allowed in, but other times not. It is hard to work out what human people do. With cat people, it is easy.
My special human friend lives there with her parents. Usually we play together; sometimes we both cuddle up and sleep in front of the oven in the back room.
She is usually kind. Sometimes she oversteps the mark, but a thump with a paw or -occasionally- a slap with one claw across the back of her hand is enough to re-establish the limits. Well, you have to keep kittens in their place (even human ones) or very soon you would not know where you are!
The lady -the mistress- is kind enough to me and gets me food and water. Still, as she says, it is my job to kill any mice and rats that dare to enter her territory.
The master is different. Although he swears about me, he is really secretly very fond of me, making a fuss of me when he thinks nobody is watching. Although he tells the mistress off for feeding me too much, he secretly feeds me much more tasty morsels than she EVER does!
The master always talks to me, as he paces up and down in the back room. But recently he began to become more and more angry. I don’t mind this, but I do have to be very wary of his legs and feet and try to keep out of his way, whilst doing my best to look attentive.
I’ts a disgrace, cat! He shouted. How can we be expected to house all the hundreds of people who will be coming back to
Don’t tell me! –It’s because a stupid Roman thought up the idea. Mind you, cat, that’s all the Romans know about anything. Building straight roads through things, not round them like good, God fearing people, worshipping false idols and counting people for tax reasons, as if they were wine sponges to be squeezed!
I sat watching him. I know my part.
He suddenly bent down and ruffled my fur and gave me a piece of meat. I purred as I eat it, just to show how much I appreciate his acts of kindness. In a way, I suppose I like him best of all.
I was normally indifferent to the strangers who come. -I remember when I was a kitten I did not like them, but quickly I realised that humans kick you or tread on your tail usually because as their heads and eyes are in such a funny position they cant see anything in front of them properly! I Laughed when I worked this out. It seems such a sad deformity for them to be burdened with.
Also, I realised that there was a link between the people staying and how much food would be bought. The strangers came with money that the mistress used to go to the market and exchange for food in the market.
I used to follow her there every morning when I was a kitten, but I soon found that not everyone liked cats, so I decided to stay at home and wait for her, instead.
I began not to like the place so much as more and more people began to come and stay. There was so many of them that they even slept in the back room where mistress prepared the food -and that had NEVER happened before!
To stay out of harms way I began spending more and more of my time in the stable across the back of the yard with the sheep, goats and cattle. -Mind you, the master’s cousin and uncle had just taken the sheep up into the hills as they do every spring.
I was in the house late one evening -just waiting for an opportunity to retreat to the stable in a huff!- when someone -it was a man from some place in the North -wherever THAT is!- said; This is strange -its light outside, yet there’s no moon tonight. Must be an omen of some kind. Should we get a Rabbi, do you think?
If he can fit in here, said a young man with a gruff voice. Anyway, what would you do, hide beneath his beard?! Everyone laughed, but I could tell they were all a bit nervous, which made me worried, too.
As the laughing died down, there was a thumping on the door.
No! We can’t fit anyone else in. -Cant they read the notice you put on the door?
The master said; Maybe not. Not all can read. I’ll deal with it. Shouldn’t take me too long. I followed him to the door. -After all, I am a cat and it is in our nature to need to know what is happening. Besides, I like to greet and inspect our guests!
As he stood before the door I could see that he was working himself up to turn the latecomer away. As he opened the door the words seemed to die in his throat as we were met by a pitiful sight.
On the doorstep was a man who looked so tired that he lent on his staff, nearly ready to drop. He looked like a well-to-do craftsman, but he was covered with the dirt of many days journey.
But he was not really what caught our attention, for he was not alone. With him, a little way back in the road, was a young girl on a very tired donkey. As I looked at her I could see that she looked worn out and was heavily in kitten.
Please, the man sounded tired beyond endurance. I know you are full, but my wife is pregnant and we have come from
The master looked upset, for all his gruff ways he is a very kindly man.
I’m sorry, but there really is no room at the inn. -Why not try Zac’s place further down on the market street?
We did. He sent us to you.
The girl gave a little gasp. Joseph. -Please. Just take me to the edge of town. I think I must be near to my time. You’ll have to build me a little tent with your cloak.
You will do no such thing! Shouted the master. I am sure we can find a corner or... Suddenly he stopped. What am I thinking of? We have as much room as you could want and more, besides! -Come with me!
He went outside and if I hadn’t nimbly jumped to one side, he would have kicked me as he hurried round to the side gate which led to the yard.
He pointed to the stable; When I first started the inn, that was it. Guests and us upstairs, animals downstairs. We built the new place six years ago.
It’s not too bad. -The floors upstairs are too dangerous; otherwise you could have gone upstairs and used that. But there’s plenty of room downstairs, so long as you don’t mind sharing with the animals. -Still, the lads collected the sheep a week or two back to take them up to the hills, so there’s more room than there would have been.
Get your belongings sorted out and whilst you do that, Ill go and get the wife to bring you some blankets and some food. -I thought she was mad when she and some lad she’d hired to help her turned up with so much food from the market this morning. Told me she had a feeling that she should. Maybe she was right.
The man and the woman looked at each other and a smile passed between them as if they were sharing some secret joke.
As he strode across the yard the master said; normally can’t see a thing at night when the moon isn’t out, without a lantern, but there’s a big star or something up there, right above us. I suppose King Herrod’s wise men will be trying to work out what it means. -Much good it will do them. He’s not a patch on his Father, the old king, that one!
He left the couple in the stables and as he returned to the house I waited and watched the couple as they settled in.
There was something strange about the woman. -Strange but sort of beautiful. It was odd, but she was almost as beautiful as a cat.
Her husband and my mistress helped put her down on a bed of straw my master had hurriedly put together. He apologised for how rough it was, but she said it felt as if she was in a palace. She smiled at him and he went bright red, and coughed.
Not long after that, she gave birth. Now, I have seen my mistress drop a litter of human kittens –well, I say litter, but she only ever has one at a time!- and normally there is a lot of shouting and yelling, but the woman was very quiet and almost peaceful.
But when her kitten was born, he looked at me! I know he did. And he smiled at me. I stared at him and I felt all weak on my legs, like I had never felt before. But it was a good, warm feeling. Like when your mother cuddles you and licks you all over. That kind of feeling. They wrapped him up –I expect it was because all human children lose their fur, somehow, and laid him in a little box thing, called a manger. He seemed a lot more quiet than most human kittens, I thought. All the while, through the night there was a funny bright light in the sky. It did not make much difference to me (I can get by in the day or night with my sharp eyes) but it upset and intrigued the humans.
The man sorted out the Roman Census for him and his wife. Though there was a bit of confusion as the child had been born here in
Soon, everyone had gone back to their homes, everyone except our regular guests, a travelling salesman and our family in the stables. Master and mistress begged them to come in –their names were Joseph and Mary, but they said they were very comfortable where they were and did not wish to move again so soon! Mistress was worried she would look like a bad landlady, but I told her it would be alright, as I would look after them and keep an eye on them. The lads with the sheep came down to see the baby, they even bought a lamb with them. They said it could not have lived outside, but it wasn’t that cold out there. I think the boy with them just wanted to introduce his favourite lamb to the special human kitten!
It was one of these occasions when I was watching over them that I saw three very important looking humans on camels. In case you have never seen a camel they are like horses, but not quite. They were dressed in fine robes and they gave presents to the baby, but the mother and the father seemed anxious.
Then, as quickly as they came, the family went away again. Some important person came looking for them, a messenger from the King, but my humans were only able to say they had gone to
I am an old cat now, my whiskers are drooping a bit, my fur is going grey, my bones ache sometimes and me and master do not do very much now, but sit by the fire and we both purr, but I still miss that human kitten, the one they called Jesus.