The third and final installment of The Christmas Caper: read the first, second, and other Fiction Fridays here! Happy Christmas!
The plan to use Tree as a perch to spy on and stop the intruder’s inevitable attempt on the kitchen’s goodies was swiftly put into action. After carefully calculating the distance between herself and her target, Marmalade was just about to practice jumping from the couch into the upper branches of the tree. She hesitated, crouched, as Molly reminded her that it was time for Second Afternoon Nap. Knowing their senses would be more heightened for the night ahead if well rested, Molly and Marmalade opted for the nap in lieu of Tree climbing. We can practice later, Marmalade assured herself. Each orange and black spotted cat chose a spot under Tree, curled into a ball, and tucked her nose under the tip of her tail.
Marmalade woke to the sounds of the Girls returning. After Molly had departed with somber goodbyes, Marmalade started preparing for the long night ahead. Outside, it was already dark, which meant the intruder could arrive at any moment. Every quiet scratch of a branch, every rustle of Family’s feet, every car outside, they were all sending Marmalade into panicked scurries. She tried – unsuccessfully it would seem – to warn Family of the imminent danger when they were gathered in front of Tree by using her most desperate voice. They didn’t seem alarmed at all, only continued to pet the cat like any normal day. Marmalade increased her volume, her intensity. Again, she received a measly reaction.
She tried another approach: Marmalade knew it was paramount to the operation that she be stationed in the tree before the intruder arrived. The element of surprise was key to keeping the food safe. Again, though, Family did not grasp the urgency of the situation. Each time Marmalade poised herself on the couch, ready to launch into the upper branches of the tree, someone would grab her and put her back on the floor. “Fine!” Marmalade meowed loudly while sulking under Tree. Once there, she rested her head on her paws and watched the lights twinkle outside, thoughts of how she would pounce on the intruder danced in her head.
An intense, almost unbearable, sting of peppermint made Marmalade’s pink nose twitch. A blast of cold air and her eyes flew open. Fear caused her paws to tense, her claws digging into the carpet. I fell asleep! Marmalade screamed to herself. She estimated she had slept for three to five eternities, based on the quiet in the rest of the house. The cold air had stopped, so the intruder was already inside. Not in the top boughs were she should have been perched, the cat froze under the tree, peering out from the top of some big boxes now occupying the space under Tree.
Before Marmalade saw them, she felt the vibrations of massive boots getting steadily closer to her less-than-optimal hiding spot. With her senses so heightened with the present and immediate danger, she suddenly realized with terror she could also hear scuffling from the rooftop. Now that she had noticed it, the sound was much too loud for just a few transport squirrels – no matter the capacity of their magical powers. They must be giant squirrels. Marmalade was so terrified by the idea of massive, mocking, mangy squirrels on her roof, her instinct to flee took over.
Orange, black and white fur streaked from under Tree and between two lumbering black boots, big legs clad in furry red. BAM! Marmalade had run straight into a massive sack, towering over her, filled with what was obviously bricks. Dazed, her little paws crossed in front of her and she stumbled. Now was the time for panic. She meowed and meowed loudly for help, and suddenly she was soaring through the air, large human paws around her soft belly. She scrambled, but the paws were too large to escape. Then, she was looking into the eyes of her enemy, the acrid smell of peppermint so strong now, Marmalade nearly fainted.
Instead of the soulless eyes and guilt ravaged face of the average food bandit, however, Marmalade saw only twinkling eyes, and rosy red cheeks. Not at all the mask of death Marmalade was expecting. When the bandit let out a jocular, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” the peppermint stick in his mouth nearly fell on Marmalade’s head. The intruder scooped the cat into one arm, while adjusting his black leather belt over his wide girth. Marmalade was surprised to find herself at ease when the white-bearded giant gazed down at her and scratched her chin. Purring against her will, Marmalade leaned into the man’s chubby paw. Still in his squishy arm, the cat watched as the man unloaded some boxes from his bag and set them beneath the tree.
Incredible! Thought Marmalade, he’s leaving us snacks, not stealing them! Before Marmalade had worked up an apology appropriate for the magnitude of her and Molly’s mistake, the jolly fellow had deposited Marmalade on the couch. With a wink and one last chin scratch, he replaced his fur trimmed hat and disappeared from sight. Moments later, Marmalade distinctly heard a voice from outside call, “Merry Christmas to all! And to all, a good night!”