Friday, December 22, 2023

Ghosts at Christmas-time


Christmas was an exciting time at the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium. The staff and residents enjoyed the holiday season; the mood was light and happy, and there was always something to do, whether it was a special meal in the dining room, games in the exercise room, visits from dignitaries and celebrities or - everyone’s favourite - story-telling in the Auditorium.

 


Dr Bellen was looking forward to the evening’s story-telling more than usual. He was also a little apprehensive. It was a big moment for one of the new residents, and he hoped it all would go well. As he walked through the corridors of the residence, he could tell others were in an expectant mind.

 

“Good afternoon, Dr Bellen.” Neville, his shaggy grey fur now returning in length after his most recent haircut, greeted the sanitarium’s director as the latter passed by the former’s room.

 

“Good afternoon, Neville. Are you coming to the story-telling tonight?”

 

“Oh yes,” mumbled Neville, standing diffidently in his open doorway. “I understand that Brazil will be telling a tale…”

 

“Yes,” answered the doctor. “You’re not worried about him being a ghost any more.”

 

“No…” the cat replied carefully. “He is not obtrusive. You know I prefer other residents not to be obtrusive. I don’t care for obtrusion.”

 


“I have noticed that. I want to thank you for being accepting of Brazil’s presence. It took a while, I know…”

 

“I am always most accepting, as long as a cat isn’t, well, you know…”

 

“Obtrusive?”

 

“Yes…”

 

“I will see you in the Auditorium, then.”

 

The staff had done a good job of decorating the sanitarium. The greenery, interspersed with bright colours, looked very festive and added to the mood. Some of the preparations were still in progress; he observed his assistant’s assistant, Imogen, supervising the placing of some evergreen boughs above a doorway.

 


“Higher,” she directed the workers. “Some of the younger residents will still be able to get at them. Oh, hello, Doctor. How does it look?”

 

“Very nice, Imogen. I think they will be safe there.”

 

“I hope so. We don’t want another incident like the tree in the Hall. Or the tree in the lobby. Or the tree in the infirmary.”

 

“Simple high spirits, I think, Imogen. There was no real vandalism meant.”

 

“We were lucky the whole sanitarium didn’t catch fire, Doctor. It could have meant the destruction of all your work and the deaths of hundreds…”

 


“I think that’s rather a dramatic interpretation of events,” suggested Dr Bellen dryly. “But you have done an excellent job here. Are you coming to the story-telling?” Imogen looked sidelong at the human, who added, “Now, I know you and Brazil don’t get along right now, but coming to his big night will encourage him. It’s what he needs. It’s a matter of confidence, you know.”

 

“Will you be there?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Imogen nodded slowly and, as if just deciding then and there, said, “I’ll come. Can I sit by you?”

 

Dr Bellen smiled and replied, “Yes, you and Renn will be sitting beside me.” Dr Bellen’s brow furrowed. “Where is Renn, anyway?”

 

Imogen’s black fur shrugged and she said, quietly, as if not wanting to divulge a secret, “I think he’s having a nap. He’s been very sleepy lately.”

 


“That’s all right. We’ll wake him in time for the story-telling.”

 

Imogen nodded, satisfied, and returned to her supervision, telling one of the workers to be careful with the fir branches; they were highly combustible, you know.

 

Outside, it was snowing lightly. It always snowed for Christmas in Idylland - but not too much: enough for snowmen to be built but not enough to pose a danger for automobiles, or to isolate anyone in need. He saw one of the newer residents romping among the light and fluffy flakes.

 

“Oh! Oh! Dr Bebben! Hebbo, Dr Bebben!”

 

“Hello, Theodore. Where is Chiff?”

 

“Hew I am, Doctor!” Miss Chiff burst out of a cone of snow that her brother had piled on her. “Isn’t the snow wondewful?”

 

“It is, yes. Don’t you two get colds being out in this weather,” the doctor warned. “”You should have scarves on, at least, or mittens.”

 


The two youngsters exchanged glances and hung their heads, looking quite melancholy in the descending snow. The human asked what the matter was.

 

“We wost our mittens…” Miss Chiff admitted.

 

“We looked ebwywhere,” added Theodore.

 

Dr Bellen sighed, but explained, “Well, talk to Miss Silky. She’s give you another pair each. And a scarf or two, as well. Fortunately, we have bins of winter clothing for such as you lot.”

 

“Wew we still get pie for the stowy-telling?” asked Chiff, concerned.

 

“Yes, you’ll still have pie - after you clean your dinner plates…”

 

“Hoowah!” cried the kittens, scattering snow everywhere. “Pie for dessewt!”

 


Crossing the snow-covered Square between the residence and the administration building, Dr Bellen encountered Aurora. She was only a few weeks older than Theodore and Chiff, but considered herself much more mature than the siblings, especially since she was growing into a big girlcat.

 

“Isn’t it a beautiful day, Doctor?” Aurora was usually in a good mood, and her purr could be heard across the Square. “The sky is completely white, snow is falling, but it’s not too cold to be playing outside. Maybe later they’ll serve hot chicken broth in the dining room?…” The torbie sprawled out in the snow, scattering the flakes about her.

 


“I think that can be arranged,” answered the doctor with a smile. He knew that, in fact, the chef had prepared large cauldrons of chicken broth as refreshment for tea-time. “Are you ready for Brazil’s story?”

 

“I am!” exclaimed Aurora. “I hope he does well. He’s a good friend of mine, you know.”

 

“I do. Brazil has worked hard to make friends with everyone. I am very pleased at his progress.”

 

“Then what’s with him and Imogen?” Aurora wanted to know, as she rolled about on the ground.

 

The doctor sighed and said, “With some cats, as with some people, relationships take a little longer to develop. I am confident that they will at least grow tolerant of each other with time.”

 

“Well, that’s all right, then.” Aurora stood abruptly, ran about and then plunged into another mound of snow. “I’ll see you tonight at the story-telling!”

 

Dr Bellen left Aurora with a smile, and walked into the administration building, knocking the snow off his shoes before proceeding down a corridor to his office. He found Renn outside its open door.

 

“Renn! I thought you were napping.”

 

“I was, but I woke and wanted to see if you needed anything. I…I sometimes feel like I’m neglecting my duties as your assistant.”

 


“You shouldn’t feel that way, Renn. You are still the best assistant I could have. And you’ve instructed your assistant, Imogen, very well indeed. She is a credit to you.”

 

Renn purred but couldn’t repress a yawn.

 

“But what I need you to do now,” the doctor continued, “is to get some rest. We’ll need you alert to make sure everything goes well tonight.”

 

“Rest? Oh, yes, I can do that. Er, you’ll wake me in time for tonight?”

 

“I will see to bringing you to the Auditorium personally.”

 

Dr Bellen rubbed the cat’s head. Renn purred a bit more before gratefully ambling off down the corridor, heading for his own quarters. The human watched him toddle away, then entered his office. He immediately had the feeling that he was not alone in the room, though he couldn’t see anyone.

 

“Brazil?” A shuffling sound came from behind a closed closet door. “Braziiiiiillllllll… Come on out… It’s all right…”

 


Slowly, a long, lithe orange cat emerged from within the closet. He blinked at the doctor, who held out a hand. Brazil slipped over to the man, who rubbed the cat’s fuzzy face.

 

“Are you nervous about tonight?”

 

“I am,” Brazil confirmed in a small voice. “What if they don’t like me?”

 

“They all like you. The kittens love you like an older brother, and Renn lets you snooze right up against him, doesn’t he? And even Neville accepts your presence - and that’s no small matter!”

 

“Do you think I’ve improved then?”

 

“Immeasurably. And tonight will prove it. Do you have your notes?” When Brazil nodded, the doctor asked, “Did you want to go over them with me?”

 


Brazil nodded again, and took a deep breath…

 

The sanitarium’s auditorium was, considering its size and capacity, rather homey. A great benefit were the two large fireplaces that not only provided the extra warmth that cats - and many humans - enjoyed, but gave atmosphere. Enough chairs had been set out by the maintenance department for all the residents and staff, but there were not many extra. Dr Bellen didn’t want Brazil to think that empty chairs meant few wanted to attend.

 


Dr Bellen was seated near the front, with Renn - commendably awake and alert - on one side and Imogen on his other. There was a drone of conversation and purring; everyone was happy and eager. At exactly seven o’clock, Dr Bellen rose and addressed the assemblage, thanking everyone for coming and making a few jokes at which the audience was kind enough to laugh. Then he introduced the evening’s story-teller, and sat down.

 

It took a few minutes before Brazil appeared on the low stage erected for him. In fact, it took so long that the audience started to become confused, and Dr Bellen feared that Brazil had decided not to go on. But at last, he slinked onto the stage, and the assembled cats and humans applauded politely. Brazil cleared his throat several times, sat down nervously and began in a tiny voice. Dr Bellen made a gesture indicating that Brazil should speak up, which he did.

 

“Tonight’s story is a Christmas ghost story…”

 


There was a slight disturbance in the audience. Theodore and Chiff, curled up together in one chair, hugged each other more tightly and appeared frightened.

 

“Oh, but don’t worry,” Brazil said hastily, gaining confidence from alleviating the others’ anxiety; “it’s not a scary story. In fact, it’s the ghost who was afraid. He’s friendly - at least he wants to be. This is a story about how a ghost…turned out not to be a ghost, but just a cat who was new, and wanted to be friends with everyone, but didn’t know how…”

 

Another hum hovered over the audience as they expressed their collective gladness now to hear the tale. Everyone settled in to his chair, as Brazil’s small voice grew stronger, and the story began.

 

Outside, the snow continued to fall, past the lighted paths kept clear for bare, padded feet; past leafless trees and tall roofs; past glowing windows full of warmth. Nothing was heard in the white-coated world - nothing, that is, until some minutes later, loud applause broke out in the Auditorium, rolled on for some considerable time, and at last changed into immelodious but honest voices singing ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’. This eventually became ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Still, Still, Still’ and, finally, ‘Silent Night’.

 

Christmas had come to the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium, and it was a merry Christmas indeed.


20 comments:

  1. A very merry Christmas to you, John, and everyone at the Feline Sanitarium.

    And tell Brazil I gave him a standing ovation.

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  2. Very Merry Christmas to all living in the wonderful Feline Sanitarium! All deserve a round of applause for contributing their bit to Brazil's story. May you all have peace and calm at home.

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  3. Merry Christmas to all, John. Your writing paints such a lovely world, a world that I suspect many of us would like to be real.

    May the holidays be peaceful and cosy, filled with light and warmth.

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  4. Merry Christmas to all of the dwellers in the Cozy Apartment and to Dr Bellen along with his residents so dear. And warm words of praise to Brazil for his courage and his sweet story time as his gift to everyone. Please tell him that Katie and I are entranced and we will always smile and remember his story always.

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  5. What an enchanting story. Brazil was very brave to tell his story to everyone, and surely even Imogen must have been impressed.
    Merry Christmas to all of you.

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  6. What a wonderful Christmas story. (But then I love all of Dr. Bellen's stories.) May Dr. Bellen and all the inhabitants of The Cosy Apartment and Feline Sanitarium and the readers of I Have Three Cats have a joyous, blessed and peaceful Holiday!

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    1. Thank you Roberta. And the very same wishes back to you and your household...human and furred.

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    2. Yes, indeed, thank you. A most wondrous Christmas to you and the furry ones of your family.

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  7. That was most fabulous, hooray! Merry Christmas!!!

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  8. So wonderfully written; I felt as if I were there myself.
    Merry Christmas!

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  9. Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful crew. Your story is just wonderful and brought tears to my eyes. Home is quiet this Christmas without miss Poppy . Give everyone a festive pat and scritch from me. Xxx

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    1. I wish Poppy could have had one more Christmas with you, but then I'd want her to have one more summer, then one more Christmas after that, and so on. May the memories of the beautiful life you gave that grey girl warm your heart this Yuletide.

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  10. Merry Christmas John! I wish you and all the cats and kittens a joyful day. I'm sure it will there will be some excitement too.
    Thanks for sharing another wonderful story from the Cozy Apartment Feline Sanitarium.

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    1. I share those wishes from Saku. I love the story and always look very eagerly forward to them.

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  11. Merry Christmas from me to you, hope you have a good one

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    1. I think it will be a fine Yuletide here. I hope yours is, as well.

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  12. Meowy Catmas guys, and we hope mew have an epically epic festive season! πŸŽ„πŸ˜»πŸΎπŸΎπŸ˜»πŸŽ„

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  13. Merry Christmas, Willy, and a blessed new year.

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  14. Wonderful story!! And a happy one, too just right for:
    Merry Christmas!!!

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