By Jenny Kalahar
Dear friends and relations across the country:
Greetings of the season to everyone! This has certainly been a busy year.
Let’s see … back in January I had a litter of five delightful and beautiful kittens. They were here visiting for a whole week. (Sorry if, at first, you thought that I’d had kittens myself—we all know I’m far too old for that kind of thing, and I’ve been fixed for many years.) They were the most rambunctious little things ever! Mrs. Mildred from down the block had to go away to her niece’s wedding in Georgia, so the kits and their mother stayed with us while she was gone. It made me feel like a regular grannycat to have those balls of fur tearing around this quiet old house, let me tell you. I have no idea how their mama stayed so calm and cool while her striped and calico babies climbed all over her from head to tail, play-biting her ears and wrestling with each other!
February was cold. I kept to my usual spot by the heat register all that month, lying on the new bed I’d gotten for my birthday. It’s one of those plush, round things with raised sides. I love it, but—in case you hadn’t heard—I’ve now got to share it with a dog. That’s right. The family got a woofer. A howler. A barking maniac with four feet and a yard-long tail that always seems to end up in my face no matter what direction I’m facing when I settle down for a nap. His name is Inspector. I suppose that’s because he’s always sniffing around for clues. Or dropped food. He’s a menace, always curious about what I’m doing, night and day, and asking the most personal questions, like, “Why do you like canned food better than kibble?” and “Has your tongue always been bumpy?” It gets tiresome. Still, when he’s fast asleep with me in my bed, I guess you could say he’s rather adorable. In a doggy sort of a way, I mean.
March and April were exceedingly rainy. The view from my front room window never seemed to change. Puddles everywhere. Had I still been living without Inspector I probably wouldn’t have let it upset me too much. However, because he has to go outside to tend to his business, it means he comes back inside smelling like a wet dog and wanting to cuddle up with me to get warm again. Ugh!
June, July, August: what a heat we had this summer! I abandoned my usual bed for one in the den in front of the air conditioner. And it’s actually a bed. It’s half of the ottoman Jake sits on when he works at the folding table on his model airplanes during the weekends. Inspector is not a fan of the air conditioner for some reason, so we had a nice, long summer break from being right on top of each other like we had been in the winter and spring.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson from Ann Arbor visited us in August. Mrs. Johnson claimed she had a cat allergy, so for those two days I was made to stay in the master bedroom behind the door that was kept the entire time the Johnsons were here. I could hear them talking through the door, occasionally, and I heard when she made over Inspector like he was the best darn doggy on the planet, and as cute as a button (which doesn’t actually sound like a cute thing), and so sweet and well-behaved, and wouldn’t he like to go home with her. Okay, folks. I’ll admit it. I was sort of jealous when all of that praise was being laid on the dog. And I’ll also admit to having a wave of pure panic when she asked if he wanted to be her pup instead of ours. What if he’d said yes?
September. Inspector didn’t go away with the Johnsons, after all. I resumed life in front of the air conditioner well into September, until it was switched off completely near the end of that month. Jake had his ottoman back all to himself, then, and I took to staying up on the windowsill day and night. Sometimes Inspector whined out of loneliness for me during the night, so on those times I joined him on the “forbidden” sofa. He was glad to have me, and he tried to make sure he kept his curious questions mostly to himself so I wouldn’t hop back up to the windowsill.
October was cooler, and the view outside my window changed quickly from mostly green at the beginning of the month to mostly orange and red and brown. Jake and Mister raked leaves while Inspector snooted and rooted around in their piles, searching for woolly bear caterpillars and other assorted autumnal bugs to bother. I finally gave up the windowsill when the first frost hit overnight. The furnace clicked on, which instinctively signaled a return to my round, plump cat bed by the heat register.
November saw a number of visitors from around town and beyond. Inspector was naturally overjoyed every time the doorbell sounded. He, I suppose, thought it would be Mrs. Johnson again, coming back to heap more praise upon his eager ego. But, no—the Johnsons stayed up in Ann Arbor while a lot of other people I don’t know came and went. Then, as always, a huge feast was prepared toward the end of the month. I mean huge! There were odors of all descriptions, and the kitchen was lovely and warm from the oven being on from early in the morning until the late afternoon. Four strangers came to watch football and then stayed to dinner. Candles were everywhere, from the mantle to the top of the TV. Inspector was so hyper all day that I thought he might actually keel over if he wasn’t given samples when the dishes were set out on the dining table at last. He got his samples, and I got mine. Well, the ones Inspector didn’t out-right steal from me, that is.
And so here is December. It’s been snowing off and on, but then it melts and no one actually needs to shovel the walk or driveway. The maples are empty of leaves, and the grass is partly green, partly brown. Inspector comes inside from a walk smelling fresh and earthy, and I think I’ll be able to tolerate him again all this coming winter when he’s snugged right up against me in my bed, even if his tail does keep getting into my face. Last week a fake pine tree was set up next to Mister’s chair, and Missus put Jake and Mister to work stringing lights around it and balls and garlands. Some wrapped-up boxes are underneath now, but Inspector says that none of them smell like they’re for us yet. I guess the family is worried that the dog might tear open any packages put out for us this far before the morning the rest of them get revealed. Carolers came by last night. They were invited in to warm up by our fireplace, where Inspector and I were snoozing, and they were so jolly that they broke out into a song right there in our den! Inspector barked the whole way through. I complimented him after they left. I thought he harmonized beautifully.
Have a wonderful new year, and keep warm and safe, my dears!
Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. She is the author of a fantasy novel about teens stuck with the worst-ever magical power, This Peculiar Magic. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog.
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