A tabby soothes the Christ child and earns a reward.
The tabby cat had only been living in the stable of the Bethlehem inn for a few months. She’d been given in payment by a travelling merchant for a room for the night. She had been heavy with kittens when she arrived.
While taking a break from her sleeping little ones, Gabriella, as the innkeeper’s wife had named her, heard the innkeeper talking to some new arrivals. Since the inn was small, it had filled up rapidly as people flooded into the town in order to be register to be taxed.
“We have no rooms left,” she heard him say.
“But my wife is with child, she can go no further,” the desperate voice of another man said.
“There is room in the stable, fresh straw and the animals keep it warm. You are welcome to stay there.”
Gabby watched from a shadowed corner as a man led his young wife carefully into the stable. He made her a bed of straw and laid his cloak down on it. Suddenly, her little ones were calling her, so Gabby had to return to them before she could find out how humans had babies.
A little later, the cat heard a loud crying of a kind she had never heard before. Since her little ones were replete and back to sleep, Gabby crept out to see what all the noise was. The little one was wrapped in swaddling bands and laying in the manger. It continued to cry lustily even after the mother picked it up to rock it.
Gabby crept closer. Soft footed, she jumped into the mother’s lap and settled in. She began to do what she did for her own babies to soothe them. Her rumbling purr soon made the human baby stop crying too.
“Do you see that, Joseph?” the woman whispered to the man who stood behind her.
“Yes, Mary, truly a gift from God!” he replied.
Once the baby was fast asleep, Gabby obligingly jumped down to the floor so Mary could to put the baby back in the manger once more. After that, Gabby made regular visits to the little family. They had many other visitors too, but Gabby managed to keep an eye on the little human, who was so much more helpless than her own children.
Shepherds came from the fields to gaze in awe at the child and tell the tale of angel choirs. Then, came three men of wisdom who travelled from afar following an especially bright and beautiful star. They brought the babe rich gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
All these visitors Gabby saw come and watched go, always with one eye on the babe in the manger, making sure he was safe. Occasionally, she climbed into the manger, curled up beside him and purred him to sleep.
When the young family eventually left the stable, Gabby saw them off. Wrapping herself around her own sleeping kittens, she fell asleep for several hours. When she awoke, hunger and thirst drove her to the inn kitchen.
“Gabriella, where have you been? We have had a lot of excitement this night!” the innkeeper’s wife told her.
Gabby blinked slowly at her, then meowed plaintively.
“Our little mama is hungry then? So you should be, raising six little ones!” the woman said kindly, as she bent to pick her up. Gabbie looked her in the eyes.
“My goodness! What has happened to the fur on your forehead!” the woman cried. The innkeeper’s wife stroked the area gently.
“It looks like a letter M,” she decided finally.
“I wonder where that came from?” she asked the cat as she set her down to a dish of milk and another of fish tails.
Gabby knew. It stood for Messiah and was given to her by God for her kindness to his Son. In fact, all tabbies from then on have had that mark. But of all those cats, only Gabby was there that miraculous night.
663 WORDS CHRISTMAS STORY 2022 12/24/2022