[Part two of a four-part story for Christmas. In case you missed it, here is part one.]
The next day was Saturday, and before anyone else in the house was up, Jeremy took the card table out of the garage and set it up in the middle of his bedroom. He scootered his brother’s high chair from the dining room to the hall closet where they stored the extra bedspreads and sheets, and climbed up to pull his favorite blanket from the second to the top shelf. He took the blanket to his room and carefully covered the table with it so that it reached to the ground on all four sides. Then he pulled his flashlight from the box of things he kept hidden from his little brother beneath his bed, grabbed some of his favorite books off of the shelf, and took them into his table-cave. He wasn’t there to read, though; this was just how he did his best thinking.
As Jeremy entered he saw that Smudge had already installed himself. It was never necessary to call Smudge, he just seemed to know when his quiet advice was needed most and made himself available. That’s not something just anyone can do.
Cats like that are hard to find.
Jeremy turned on the flashlight and balanced it on its base on the ground facing up, filling his cave with a warm glow. Smudge lay on his stomach cleaning his front paws.
“Peppermint,” Jeremy started in. “Dad’ll catch him this year.”
“But what about all of the toys?”
Smudge looked inquiringly at Jeremy, blinked twice, then let out the type of yawn that started at his tail and stretched all the way to his front paws. He settled himself again and looked as if he wondered whether his food dish was still empty or not.
Jeremy hunched his shoulders to his ears, then threw them back down. He grabbed his copy of Where the Wild Things Are and started flipping through the pages. When he was done, he picked up an old copy of The Little Engine that Could. Smudge continued his pensive stare.
“It wouldn’t be fair,” Jeremy mumbled. “I mean, keeping all the toys—it’d be like stealing.”
Smudge started cleaning his long fluffy tail in agreement.
“Well, I’m not going to tattle!” Jeremy hated it when his brother tattled and got him in trouble with his mom. And no one played with tattle-tales at school. Turning his dad in was out of the question.
Smudge looked away again, stretched the length out his body, then settled back down, and closed his eyes.
Jeremy frowned and flipped through more pages in his book. The gears of his mind were straining and creaking. Then a gear clicked over one small notch, finally into place. “We can’t do it,” he said. “It’s not right.” He slapped his book closed. “I’ve got to warn Santa Claus.”
Smudge rolled over on his side and opened one eye.
Another notch slid into place with a thunk. Jeremy grimaced. “But how? I’d have to find the real Santa Claus. Do you know how many fake Santa Clauses there are this time of year? Like the guy at the mall with the rubber band beard? There’s a bazillion of ’em! One at every department store, mall, and big toy store.” A sigh escaped his lips that sounded like the little engine’s last breath before topping the hill. This wasn’t going to be easy.
He looked at Smudge again. “Maybe Collin and Zach could help—but what would I tell them? ‘My dad wants to kidnap Santa Claus and keep all of the toys!’ They’d probably think it was a good idea!-No,” he shook his head, “I couldn’t do that.
“I could write a letter! Except my writing’s not so good,” he frowned again, wishing he’d paid more attention to Miss Murray’s lessons about the alphabet. “And Mom can’t help. She’d just say, ‘Mind your father.'” Jeremy shoved his face between his fists and rested his elbows on his knees.
Smudge stretched a little, yawned another champion cat yawn, arched his back, then settled down more comfortably. This was going to take awhile.
* * * * *
In the following days, Jeremy spent a lot of time in his cave with Smudge thinking about how to warn Santa: notes in bottles, Morse code flashes with a pocket mirror (which way was north?), an ad in the newspaper-smoke signals? Could you buy an airplane ticket to the North Pole?
Idea after idea came with enthusiasm, but then had to be tossed aside. Jeremy was beginning to realize that he would have to warn Santa face-to-face—and that there were only a few more days left until Christmas.
(To read on in Part 3, click here)