If our cats could talk to each other . . .
“It never fails,” said Marie-Antoinette. “About two full moons after they throw out the Great Needle Tree, just as I think the household is getting back to normal, the humans bring in this big thing that looks like the heart of a prey animal –-”
“I shredded one right in half,” Angelique said proudly. She was stocky and cream-colored, with grey stripes on legs and tail. “Just like one of my wild Siberian ancestors.”
Oreo sniffed. “Those hearts are cardboard, Wild Siberian. A kitten could tear those up. None too smart, to waste energy on that.”
“I wouldn’t talk,” Angelique retorted. “You ate chocolate from one of those hearts The Manservant brought us and threw up all over the rug.”
It was evening, and the cats were poised for dinner, sitting by their food bowls. As always, Marie was in the center of the row, with Oreo to her left and Angelique crouched to her right. At the other end of the kitchen The Servants chattered as they clanged pans and set them atop the stove. Meat sizzled.
Oreo flicked her whiskers and tried to look dignified. She was a small fluffy tuxedo cat, with a pink nose and green eyes. “It was on the counter right next to the pork chops. How could I help myself?”
“He didn’t bring it for us,” Marie-Antoinette corrected. Long-legged, with bushy black fur, she looked capable of handling whatever might come up in a cat’s life. “He brought it for The Maidservant. Sort of like our kitty treats.”
“Kitty treats,” Angelique repeated, in a dreamy voice.
“There’s a definite pattern here,” Marie said thoughtfully. “I’ve seen it many times. First, in the Cold Dark Time, there’s the Great Needle Tree . . .”
“. . . and all those nice shiny balls and toys they hang on it,” Oreo said. “Those are fun to capture.”
Angelique walked around Marie to rub her nose against Oreo’s ear in agreement. “But those big boxes with all that shiny paper they put all around the tree. Those boxes make it hard to curl up underneath it. I can’t tell you how many boxes I had to shred last year.”
“Or how many times The Manservant yelled at you,” Oreo said sweetly, and Angelique glared.
“. . . and while the tree is up,” Marie continued, “they often have a gathering of all their friends. They drink out of glasses and laugh like very young humans. And then, in the middle of the night, there are all those explosions outside.”
“Once I looked out the window during those explosions,” Oreo said. “It looked like stars were raining down.”
“Weird,” said Angelique.
The cats looked at each other. At the other end of the kitchen, The Maidservant put very thin yellow straws in a steaming pot.
“Then comes the business with the big heart and the chocolate,” Marie said. “After that, about when the weather starts to warm up, The Maidservant puts out a basket with eggs wrapped in thin metal, and sticks little pictures of rabbits and ducklings on the door.”
Oreo hooted. “Her first year, the Great Huntress over here thought they were real.”
“Did not,” Angelique said.
“Did too, and stalked and pounced on ‘em. You looked so surprised.”
Angelique fell to washing a paw. “They didn’t smell right,” she said sadly. “And tasted lousy too.”
“Pictures of ducklings,” Marie said. “Not real ones, which would be fun, and good eating too, but pictures! Why? . . . Then things are quiet for a few moons –”
“Don’t forget more of those explosions,” Oreo put in. “In the middle of The Hot Time, no less, and in the daytime so you can’t even see the stars raining.”
“The weirdest night, though,” Marie said, “is in the fall. Constant commotion, with the doorbell ringing, and The Servants giving something to small humans on the doorstep. And they put up pictures of me all over the house. Just the outline, with my back arched.”
“Those cats don’t look like you,” Angelique said loyally. “Your tail is much bushier.”
“Thank you, dear. But it doesn’t solve the mystery. And I can’t understand why they drag an enormous pumpkin in here, and The Maidservant gets The Manservant to cut holes in it and scoop its guts out.”
“Maybe they’re pretending to hunt,” Oreo suggested.
“Mm. Maybe. But I’d think the big meat bird they scorch and then carve up about a moon later would satisfy any hunting urge.”
Oreo showed her fangs. “Meat bird, hey? If they need help disposing of that, I’ll be glad to volunteer.”
“From the size of you,” Angelique said, “you’ve already volunteered a few times too often.”
“I won’t dignify that with an answer.”
“That’s because you have no answer, Tubby.”
“Stop it, you two,” Marie said automatically.
“Then, a full moon after the meat bird, The Manservant hauls in another Great Needle Tree, and they start playing with it all over again. I must admit I can’t quite make out why they do these things over and over again.”
“Humans,” Oreo said, and would have shrugged if she’d had shoulders. “What can you do with ‘em?”
by Celia Hornford
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