Protection can come in fuzzy, furry packages.
|She had lived a rough life, the calico, the last few months. Her humans had tossed her out, like garbage, in a trash bag when the man brought home dogs. She managed to get herself out and was forced to find food on her own. She found shelter in the empty house next door, where she saw them happy with their new pets.
Like most females, she found herself pregnant, and gave birth to a litter of tuxedos. She found more food, eating enough to keep her six kittens healthy. When the Humane Society found them, she was on her last legs, too skinny to feed them.
Two months of being in the Society “pound” saw her not be adopted, most people loved her kittens. On a beautiful spring day, she and her last two kittens were caged and brought to an “Adoption Day” at a pet store.
“Oh my God, she’s perfect,” the human female cried when she came upon the fuzzy calico. “She’s perfect.”
“She has one kitten left,” the adoption clerk told her.
“That’s fine. I’ll take them both home.”
And that’s how we came to be being pet parents to Candy and Cookie.
It was Christmas Eve, and Candy the Calico was curled on the bed with my wife, both sound asleep, both loved to go to bed early. Cookie the Tuxedo and I were downstairs watching as my son played video games, unable to sleep, like most 12-year-olds who knew they were receiving massive amounts of presents the next morning and day. I sat in the easy chair and tried to read but Sam’s frequent swearing at the game interrupted me. His vulgarities upset Cookie who left the living room in a huff and headed upstairs to join his mommies.
This was the first Christmas Eve I didn’t tell him one of the ghost stories about the house, the ones my grandfather told me when he owned it. They were scary but harmless tales, just short stories about the daughter of the original owner who died on Christmas Eve when she fell on ice and hit her head and the silhouette of the next owner’s wife, who died when no one heard her screaming as coal was piled on her in the coal bin. I had a perfect one to tell him this year: The spirit of a 1930s murderer who died when he tripped over the family cats as he tried to kill the then owners.
I finished a rather boring short mystery from the year-end anthology and noticed the time. It was almost midnight. I had promised my wife that our child would be in bed long before midnight, so I could bring down the presents and get a few hours of sleep before he woke us up.
“Time to go to bed, kiddo,” I told him while I bookmarked my place. I took a gulp of Dr. Pepper and steadied myself for the inevitable fight. He surprised me.
“Just saving right now,” was his only comment. He successfully performed the task and turned off the game system. Sam stood and held out his arms, ready for a “dad hug.” He took a few steps before he stopped.
For the last hour or so, I had seen out of the corner of my eye the tree swaying. Slight movement, subtle swaying, usually occurring as a heavy car or truck passed by. When Sam took a few steps towards me, though, the tree moved violently, as if someone didn’t want it there.
“Dad,” was all he could say. A few ornaments flew off, a few hit him in the head.
“Go!” I told him, pointed to the staircase.
“What are you going to do?”
“Pray for help.” And that’s all I could do. I knew which ghost it was, and I didn’t have a clue as to what to do, besides praying to the ancestors and saints for help and guidance.
“What’s going on?” my wife screamed from the bedroom.
“It’s bad,” Sam answered her. He ran up the stairs when the tree lifted off the ground.
“No Candy,” he warned. But it didn’t work. I heard he loud growl. She rushed past him and into the living. Cookie followed silently.
They stopped on the edge of the rug and crouched down, readied themselves to pounce. I tried to move, go to the dining room, but an unseen and cold hand grabbed me. It was tight. It was strong.
Candy hissed, and the hand released me. I fell backwards, onto my ass. I felt the presence, the evil spirit of the murdered, had to be, coming towards me.
Cookie mewed loudly before I saw his momma pounce like a big cat. She hovered mid-air, clawing at an unseen figure, neck level. Cookie followed suit, hovered higher, as if he was on the head.
An unearthly scream echoed through the house as the cats swung around, back and forth, as if someone was trying to remove them. Candy fell but quickly launched herself back up. This time, the shriek was one of great pain.
They floated out of the living room and into the kitchen. I heard them fall, followed closely by the crash of broken glass. I rolled onto my feet, slipped to the threshold to see the two pets seated, staring at the back door.
Candy turned to me and grunted before she started to clean herself. Cookie quickly ran out of the room and up the stairs.
The presents were placed under the upright tree. My wife was asleep, Cookie lay in my spot. I went to check on Sam. Candy was sleeping on top of him, both on their backs.