Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Short Story Hour: Holidays with Pickles, Part Two

Enjoy the conclusion of Holidays with Pickles; Part One appears here. Other Pickles adventures can be found here, here, and here. Pickles will return to the Island sometime in 2015 along with lots of Lazy Movie Weekends, some updates on being a leading lady, and who knows what else. Happy New Year from the Island of Misfit Toys!

The office door was closed. It was never closed. Pickles did not understand why the door was closed. Was it because she knocked over the Christmas tree that one time? Was she being punished for that one small thing? Her human already locked her up at night (and by locked up Pickles meant that she was forced to sleep on her human's bed curled up and comfy). When would she accomplish her cat things if not under the cover of darkness? When would that stupid tree go away? When would this door be opened to her again? Pickles had many questions for her human but figured she'd only be met with pets on the head and sounds that meant nothing to her. She paced in front of the door until her human shooed her away. Pickles was distracted by her new toy; it smelled like heaven (or cat nip) and made noise when she threw it around the apartment. She played for a few minutes until she found a sun patch that was to her liking. She forgot about the door as she warmed herself in the sun.

Pickles had managed to stay out of trouble since the tree incident. Amelia was proud of her little cat. No more tree climbing had occurred. Pickles still sat under the tree but no more climbing. She hadn't even played with the ornaments at the bottom that were there just for her. Amelia had taken some great photos of her amid the gifts during the party. The cat had stayed out of the kitchen while party preparations went on and had stayed off the table. Maybe, Amelia thought, Pickles understood the words "box fort" and "treats" after all. The cat had become very interested in the closed office door but had not managed to get in yet. Danny, Natalie, and Amelia had been working on the box fort for a few days now. It was going to be a great present for Pickles. They should be done by New Year's Eve. Not only was that the day of the next party, it was also Pickles' birthday. Amelia hoped the fort would keep Pickles occupied while she and her friends enjoyed their New Year's Eve feast.

Amelia excelled at lists and dinner parties. In her mind, the two went together. You couldn't throw a dinner party without planning. She was excited to try a few new recipes as well as some old standards. There would be eight people for dinner. Amelia had a final shopping list, a chores list, and a plan for cooking the day of. Some of the menu, like the Italian Orange cake, were already made and other things were prepped, waiting to be cooked. Natalie and Danny would be over to work on the fort later today. While they did that she would work on the other things she could make in advance and start cleaning. New Year's Eve was just one day away and so far she was on schedule.

As she started on her chores list, Amelia sneezed. Not once, not twice, but six times in a row. Her allergies had been acting up again but this was not an allergy sneeze. Amelia could feel that she was getting sick. She opted to ignore it; taking medicine to stop the cold before it started but she was losing the game. Running around for the past few weeks had not helped. She hoped that the cold would stay at bay until after the party. It was only a few more days. She willed herself not to get sick and picked up her chore list. Pickles wandered into the kitchen and wound herself around Amelia's legs. Amelia gave her some treats, scratched her ears, and went about her chores. Pickles took up patrol at the window occasionally glancing at the closed office door.

New Year's Eve - Daytime

"Just stay on the couch. You need your rest and we're almost done. Keep Pickles entertained for a little while longer." Natalie pointed Amelia back towards the living room.

"I just want to see how it's going. I'm not going to do anything. I promise." Amelia appreciated her friend's concern but really wanted to help despite her horrible cold.

"Nope. I know you. You say you won't do anything but the second one of us turns our back you'll be gluing something or moving something around when you should be resting. Now leave."

"I would have a very pithy remark for you if my head wasn't so foggy." Instead, Amelia sneezed three times and continued to look miserable. "Also, don't blame me if either of you get sick." Before either Danny or Natalie could respond, she left and shuffled back to the couch.

Pickles tried to get into the office before Amelia closed the door but her human was too quick. Pickles followed her into the living room. The tree was still there but Pickles had decided against a second climbing expedition. She was going to try her best to be good for a few days; her human didn't feel well and Pickles knew that she needed to help her human feel better. She watched over her at night and stayed by her during the day just in case.

Amelia settled back on the couch under her favorite blanket. She turned on the Hallmark Channel; silly, saccharine holiday movies always made her feel better. The added bonus was that if she fell asleep during the movie she'd still know what was going on since all the movies were a variation of the same plot. She thought the current movie was about bakers competing against one another for something. Or it could have been that they were trying to save the community center. Pickles curled up on her lap and kept her company. The cat always seemed to know when she didn't feel well. If only Pickles could make tea.

"They won't let me help with your present, Pickles. I'm sure you'll love it. And I had to cancel the party. Not exactly the New Year's Eve/your birthday that we planned but I guess it'll have to do. I'm just going to close my eyes for a few minutes. Wake me up if anything interesting happens." Pickles purring put Amelia to sleep.

Danny and Natalie were just about finished with the box fort. The project had taken the trio (now duo) three days to complete. Natalie wasn't quite sure why she was so excited about doing this for a cat that generally ignored her but there was something about the project that made her think of her childhood and building blanket forts in the living room. She and Amelia had known each other since the second grade and had built many a blanket fort together. Amelia was always doing nice things for others so it was nice to do something for her. Obviously Danny liked her friend. She guessed this was why he suggested this project in the first place. Guys needed to learn to ask girls out and not do stuff like this. Oh well, Natalie wasn't going to tackle that conversation today.

"I think we're done. Nice addition with the treat dispenser and the water dish. I'm sure Pickles will love that." Natalie stood back to admire their work.

"I wasn't sure if cats were like dogs in the whole treat department but I figured it couldn't hurt." Danny adjusted the final cardboard doorway and stood back with Natalie.

"You don't know Pickles well enough. I'm convinced she knows one word and that word is treats. Amelia thinks that's why Pickles has stayed off the tree; Amelia threatened to take away her treats." Natalie laughed at the idea but was certain it was true.

"Should we go get them? Is Amelia sleeping?" Danny moved to clean up the last of their tools and the cardboard remnants.

"I told her to go rest. I heard a Hallmark movie so she's probably asleep." The pair finished cleaning up and left the office, closing the door behind them. Pickles perked up at the sound of the door. She could see the closed door from her guard position on the couch. Another missed opportunity.

Natalie didn't really want to wake Amelia but she did anyway. "Did I fall asleep? I promise I was just resting my eyes for a few minutes." Amelia sneezed a few times.

"I'm sure you were. The box fort is done. Do you want to let Pickles in now or later?"

"Let's do it now. It is her birthday and I want her to have plenty of time to enjoy her fort today. Give me five minutes to make myself slightly more presentable. You two can decide what to have for dinner." Amelia knew she was a mess. Her nose was red from the sneezing and she had the dazed look of someone who was taking regular doses of cold medicine throughout the day. The least she could do was brush her hair. Pickles followed her into the bathroom and perched on the sink. "Are you ready for your birthday treat?" Pickles meowed at her favorite word and headbutted Amelia's arm.

"I'll take that as a yes." Amelia picked up the cat and joined her friends in the hallway. "I think we're ready for this."

Danny opened the door and there was the box fort. Amelia had never really stood back and looked at the fort as she was now. What had once been a pile of boxes was now a castle for Pickles. Danny had designed an actual castle. It had a drawbridge entryway and turrets. There were walkways that looked out over the room. Some of the boxes had been reinforced with scratch pads and ribbons and feathers were hung in strategic locations to keep Pickles entertained. The castle fit in one corner of the room near the window so there would be sunlight and sun patches galore. Amelia also noticed a treat dispenser and water bottle.

Pickles had been squirming in her arms since the door opened. Amelia put Pickles down and the cat ran straight to the "front door". She sniffed at the boxes and rubbed her face on everything she passed. The feathers tickled her nose and she could smell treats somewhere in the depths of these boxes. Her own kingdom! The last rays of sunlight hit the top of the castle and Pickles made her way there. She looked regal and proud in her castle. She looked at her human and meowed her approval.

"A treat dispenser? We're never going to see Pickles again! I think she likes it; you got a meow of approval." Amelia gave Natalie and Danny hugs. "Thank you for finishing this. I'm sorry I wasn't very much help today."

""I was worried she might not like it." Danny said.

"It's boxes and treats. Those are two of Pickles' favorite things." 

Pickles jumped down to the first level of the castle and explored the rest of her kingdom. She found the treats and water and helped herself. There was a little blanket and some of her toys in the back too. She curled up on the blanket and fell into a contented sleep.

The three friends peered into the castle to see where the cat was. Amelia took a few pictures of napping Pickles. "Happy Birthday Pickles!," she whispered. Her little cat looked happy and that was really all Amelia wanted. They left the cat to her nap and went back to the living room to discuss dinner and movie options. Amelia left a desk light on for Pickles. "Don't stay in here forever, Pickles."

Pickles stretched and curled back into a ball to continue her nap. She had not expected such a wonderful treat. New adventures awaited Pickles and now she had a place to plan and plot in peace. There were new cupboards and closets to explore and bookshelves to climb and patrols to keep and her kingdom to protect.

Or maybe she would try to be a well behaved cat and not get into any more mischief. If a cat could laugh that's exactly what Pickles did at that moment. Mischief was her favorite. To mischief  and adventure!

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