Sunday, December 28, 2014

Short Story Hour: Holidays with Pickles, Part One

Happy Holidays from the Island of Misfit Toys! As this Buzzfeed article proves the Internet was designed solely for us to enjoy photos and stories about cats. Since I don't want to disappoint the Internet, I thought we'd close of 2014 with a story about Pickles, your favorite "fictional" cat.

The holiday season brings many things: cookies, a frenzied focus on shopping and card mailing, crowded stores, and of course, a twenty-four hour marathon of A Christmas Story. Depending on what you celebrate, you might also enjoy putting up a tree and decorating with priceless ornaments you've collected over the years. And who doesn't love getting packages in the mail? All the suspense of what's in them can be agony (in a good way) for some. Or annoyance for others.

Amelia was over the boxes. Her parents decided that this would be the Christmas they went on a cruise so they sent her box after box of gifts. Between their ten boxes (her parents were clearly feeling guilty about "abandoning" her during the holidays) and the few she received from friends and the boxes from gifts she ordered for others, she must have amassed at least twenty boxes in her small office. She hated taking out the recycling so they just sat there staring at her. Pickles seemed to enjoy jumping in and out of certain ones so Amelia decided to deal with them after her Christmas and New Year's celebrations with her friends. She was playing host for both parties this year.

She had never hosted both Christmas (she refused to call it Friendsmas as Natalie was doing) and New Year's in the same year. Usually she was gone until New Year's Eve so she always went out with friends or over to someone's house for a party. She had spent several weeks planning menus and cookie baking schedules. Christmas was going to be potluck style and New Year's was a fancier affair. Amelia purchased a tree for the first time ever. She had the most fun picking out ornaments and lights. And a wreath. According to her mother, it wasn't Christmas unless you had a wreath on your door. Amelia worried about how Pickles would react to the tree; she was always very well behaved when visiting her "grandparents" but their tree was fake so Amelia suspected it wasn't as enticing as a real one would be. Pickles mostly sat under the tree and looked cute. Amelia braced herself for climbing and ornaments breaking.

Pickles was mesmerized by the tree. It smelled like the outdoors and birds and squirrels (mostly in her mind). When she walked near the branches they scratched her little face in just the right way. She wanted nothing more to climb to the top and survey her kingdom like the regal cat she was. She knew that she would get in trouble for doing so (Pickles had learned much about getting in trouble this year) so she did not immediately scale the tree. She would bide her time and do it when her human wasn't around. She opted instead to sit under the tree like she did when they went to the other house and occasionally rubbed her face on the branches. It was her tree and everyone needed to know it.

Amelia was impressed with Pickles. No tree climbing had occurred and she hadn't gone near the water. She invited a few people over to help decorate the tree, other "orphans" who would be at the Christmas party too. Natalie was her oldest friend; Meredith was a work friend, and Danny was a friend of Natalie's who recently moved to the area. It was odd to bring together different friend groups but Amelia was getting good at it.

"So Pickles hasn't tried anything yet?" Natalie asked as she helped Amelia string the lights on the tree. Pickles was currently sitting on Danny's lap. She ignored everyone else in the room the second he arrived and had not left his side or lap since. He was stuck on the couch, directing decorating rather than helping.

"Nope. Mostly she sits under it. For the first few days, she just stared at it. Now she sits. And if she's not under the tree, she's in the office hiding in one of the millions of boxes that have accumulated. She's being so good. It's weird." Amelia looked over at the couch where Pickles was napping. "Sorry she's made you her pillow. She rarely takes to a person so quickly."

Danny smiled, "It's okay. Animals tend to like me. I don't know why."

"You can move her if you want to get up. It's fine. She'll meow at you and then resettled herself as if nothing happened."

"I'll keep that in mind. So she likes the boxes too? Have you considered making her a box fort?" Danny asked.

"A box fort? I hadn't thought of that. She always jumps in boxes so I just left them as is." Amelia liked the idea of a box fort for Pickles.

"I saw one online and it looked pretty fun. You know, for a cat. I could help you build it." Danny offered.

"Danny is our graphic designer and resident builder at work." Natalie chimed in.

"You should definitely build her a fort, Amelia. Think of how much fun she would have and you could maybe make her a famous internet cat." Meredith started unwrapping ornaments for the tree. "Wasn't the internet designed for cats?"

They all laughed at the idea and continued decorating the tree. By the end of the evening, Pickles had finally let Danny off the couch and the tree was transformed. Pickles settled underneath it and stared out at the group amid the shiny lights and ornaments. Amelia purposely placed plastic and felt ornaments at the bottom so Pickles could play with them without doing any harm. So far, she just stared and looked content. Amelia had also agreed to the box fort idea. Danny did a quick box inventory before leaving and said he'd email her an idea before the end of the week.

Pickles may have looked content and calm but it was just an act. She was plotting her ascent to the top of the tree. She just had to pick the right time and be extra careful as she climbed. While it would please her to bat the balls and toys off the tree, she knew she'd need to avoid them to avoid detection. She figured if all she did was climb to the top and avoided damaging anything, her human couldn't get too mad at her. After all, cats climb trees. If her human didn't want that to happen, she shouldn't have brought a tree into the house.

Later that night

After seeing her guests out and cleaning up the kitchen, Amelia got ready for bed. Since moving into the new apartment, she had made a habit of keeping her bedroom door open a bit so Pickles could come and go as she pleased during the night. Amelia didn't really know what the cat did so late at night but figured cats do cat things at night so she wanted to let Pickles roam. They had more space in this apartment and the cat should enjoy it too.

Amelia read for a bit before going to bed. So far the holidays were going well and she was excited for the parties and the construction of the box fort. Danny was a nice enough guy. She would see where this was going and hope that he at least came through for Pickles. She called to Pickles before turning out the light. The cat didn't come but that wasn't a surprise. "Just doing her cat things." Amelia said aloud. She settled in and promptly fell asleep. Decorating was exhausting.

Pickles was exactly where Amelia didn't want her - attempting to climb the tree. She knew she could wait until it was light out but Pickles felt she did her greatest work at night when her keen eyesight was at its best. She decided to approach her climb from under the tree; she could climb up and hopefully avoid as many of the balls and toys on her ascent. If she was successful tonight she'd do it again during the day so that her human could see her.

She started her climb with the skill of all of her cat ancestors, lithely moving from one branch to the next. She stopped about midway up to peer out from the branches. The living room looked different from this height. Pickles felt powerful and more catlike than she normally felt. She could just see the open door of her human's room. She had to move even more carefully as she moved closer to the summit of the tree. Pickles could see the top and it was beautiful. The star was so close she could almost touch it. Just as she was about to emerge from the tree to her triumphant perch at the top, Pickles began to feel the tree move and sway. It hadn't done that as she climbed but now that she was at the top, the tree couldn't take the weight. Pickles was only eight pounds but those eight pounds were throwing off the tree's balance. Pickles took one last look at her living room kingdom and held on as the tree crashed to the floor.

Amelia bolted out of bed at the sound of the crash. She immediately noticed that Pickles was not in the room and knew exactly what had happened. She turned on the living room light and found her tree on the floor and Pickles struggling to free herself of the tree and decorations.

"Pickles! You just can't help yourself can you?" Amelia picked up the cat and took her into the bedroom. She was ready to scold Pickles but the cat looked sort of guilty and sad. "You'll have to stay in here at night until after the holidays. You can't be trusted." She closed the door behind her and the one from the bathroom so Pickles couldn't escape that way. Amelia went back into the living room and began cleaning up the mess. She was able to put the tree back up and fix the few ornaments that had fallen off. Miraculously, nothing had broken. She straightened the lights and placed the star back on top of the tree.

"Please let Pickles behave through the rest of the holiday. Please keep her from knocking over the tree again especially during the party. Please let her be the good cat I know she is." Amelia turned off the lights and returned to bed where she found Pickles curled up on the end of her bed.

"You have to behave for the rest of the holiday or no box fort for you, Pickles. Or treats." Amelia rubbed the cat's ears and slowly feel back to sleep.

Pickles curled up next to her human. She was proud of herself for making it to the top of the tree even if the tree fell down. She would wait awhile before her next attempt. She didn't know what a box fort was but she knew what treats were. She wanted her treats so she would try to behave.

Next up: Does Pickles keep her promise of behaving for the holidays? Will she get her box fort? Find out in Holidays with Pickles, Part Two coming before the end of 2014.

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