The Coop

'Twas XVIII: Lost And Found

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It's December 18, so you know what that means. Story time with many a rhyme. So sit back, use the bathroom if you have to, and get comfy. This one's a long one...

 

'Twas XVIII: Lost And Found

by
The Coop


'Twas a week before Christmas
and down at the vet,
Gary felt that this day
was the worst he'd had yet.

He waited for his turn
as he sat with his cat.
A tabby named Cally
who was quite old and fat.

He'd had her since he was
a boy of about nine.
She had grown up with him.
Their lives had been entwined.

He'd spent many a good year
with his feline friend.
But all those years together
were about to end.

The years had taken their
toll on his beloved cat.
She'd grown lethargic and
was so arthritic that

it had become harder
for her to walk around.
But those were not the reasons
he'd become vet-bound.

That morning, he hadn't
seen Cally anyplace.
He'd figured she was napping
in a comfy space.

Once dressed, he woke
his eight year old daughter, Heather.
Once she was dressed too,
they ate breakfast together.

He then dropped his child off
at her school and came home,
expecting to see Cally
attempting to roam

around the house in her
stiff and rather slow way.
But that's not what took place
when he got home this day.

He'd found her laying on
her side by her food dish
as he got out a can of
tuna and whitefish.

But when he went to give
Cally her morning meal,
a rush of great concern
was all that he could feel.

Her mouth moved as if she
had let out a meow.
But instead of her call,
she gone silent somehow.

He touched her soft fur and
felt that she had grown cold.
Sadness quickly took root.
He knew what this foretold.

He swiftly went and got
Cally a soft blanket.
He then gently wrapped up
his now dying old pet.

He looked up at the clock,
which read quarter past eight,
before he fetched his cat's
old pet carrying crate.

Within a few minutes,
Gary was on the road;
his mind and heart racing,
like they just might explode.

And now there he sat,
waiting for what was to come.
He looked down at Cally;
his expression was glum.

“Mr. Vayn?” came a voice
that pulled his attention
from his furry friend whose
life was soon to be done.

“We're ready for you both,”
the woman softly said.
Gary stood and approached
with a nod of his head.

Once in the exam room,
the vet didn't need to
ask Gary what was wrong.
Her sad smile told, she knew.

“It's her time,” Gary said
as he set Cally down
on the metal table with
a deep, saddened frown.

The vet looked at Cally
and touched the cat's cold fur.
The vet asked, “Would you
like a last moment with her?”

Trying hard not to break,
Gary nodded his head
as he pet his old friend
he knew would soon be dead.

The vet left the room to
get the things she would need,
as the sorrow in Gary
was finally freed.

Tears rolled down his cheeks
as he looked in Cally's eyes.
He told Cally he loved her,
and said his goodbyes.

Within just a few minutes,
his old furry friend
took her final breath as
her life came to an end.

He was asked what he wanted
to do with Cally.
Gary said he wanted
to bury her body,

but couldn't because
the property he had leased
had rules against burying
pets that were deceased.

The vet gave condolences
and let him know that
she would take care of
the body of his loved cat.

Gary just nodded and
said his goodbyes once more.
He then paid the vet's fee
and went out the front door.

He had the day off,
so there was little to do
except drive himself home
and let his sadness stew.

With his parents in France
and his friends out of town,
he sat in his study
with a deeply sad frown.

Everyone had gone away,
save for one, of course.
The one with whom he'd had
a bad, messy divorce

after he found her cheating
on him with some guy,
while Heather was asleep
in the bedroom nearby.

The end result was that
his ex-wife wanted no
part of him or their child.
She just wanted to go.

He disliked her greatly,
and she hated him too.
But all that he was feeling
still brought Gary to

wish how at that moment,
that he still had his wife.
For he'd never felt so
alone in his whole life.

Once he was home, Gary
tried to distract himself.
He vacuumed his study
and dusted ev'ry shelf.

He then watched some TV,
but it all was in vain,
because all he could think of
was the loss and pain.

But in time, it was nearly
quarter after three
and his daughter's school would
let out very shortly.

He gathered himself and
grabbed the keys to his truck
as he said to himself,
“This is going to suck.”

He hated seeing his
daughter cry or be sad.
But he knew she'd do both
with the bad news he had.

The ride up was quiet.
The ride home was not though,
as from Heather's mouth,
words about her day did flow.

He listened and nodded
until they got home, where
he said, “Honey, I've got
something I have to share.”

“What about, Daddy?” she asked.
“Cally,” he replied.
Taking in a slow breath,
“Honey, Cally has died.”

The smile that Heather had
from recounting her day,
faded rapidly until
it had gone away.

“She what?” Heather asked
as her eyes quickly became
filled with sadness and tears
as her dad's did the same.

A few moments later,
the two of them embraced
as each shed tears from
the grief that both of them faced.

From there, the rest of their day
was rather subdued
as each of them coped with
their very solemn mood.

Gary was there for Heather
as it was needed.
When her tears needed
to be dried, that's what he did.

When she needed a hug,
or to sit with someone,
he put his pains aside
and made sure it was done.

But as he did this for her,
no one had his back.
And once she was in bed,
he had his own attack

of sorrow and grief that
he had hid from Heather
so that he could do all
that was needed for her.

He teared up as he sat
alone in his study,
thinking of how quiet the
house was sans Cally.

But before too long,
the hour had grown a bit late.
And with work tomorrow,
he had much on his plate.

So, he retired to his room
and got into bed.
“I'll really miss you old girl,”
he quietly said

before he laid on his side
and shut his eyes so
he could get needed rest
from such a day of woe.

Over the next few days,
things slowly got better.
Gary made sure that he
was there for his daughter.

Yet as he was doing this,
what he couldn't tell
was that his child was
doing that for him as well.

She'd walked by at times and
could see that he was sad
as he sifted through the
pics of Cally he had.

That her father missed his cat,
was something she knew.
So with each hug he gave her,
she gave one him too.

But before long,
it was December twenty third
and Gary had made sure
that he had kept his word

to take Heather to see
Santa down at the mall.
And though the place was packed,
they waded through it all.

The line was long with
plenty of other kids who
hoped to get in a last
request for Santa too.

Gary took Heather's hand
and stepped into the line,
which moved slowly forward
toward the big Christmas shrine

where Santa had his seat
and a few elves who'd walk
each child up to Santa Claus
so the two could talk.

Gary looked to Heather
and was able to see
that she had begun to
look rather uneasy.

“Aw, it's OK honey,”
Gary smiled. “Don't be shy.
It's Santa you're seeing.
I hear he's a great guy.”

Seeing that his attempt
at humor fell quite flat,
he gave his daughter's
back a reassuring pat.

It took nearly an hour
before Heather's turn came,
at which point a female elf
asked for the girl's name.

Gary told the woman
as she took Heather's hand.
He then told his daughter,
“Over there's where I'll stand.”

He pointed to a bench
some twenty feet away.
“When you're done with Santa,
I'll be over there, 'kay?”

“'kay, Daddy,” Heather said
as she nodded her head.
He then went to the bench
to wait, just as he'd said.

The elf then led Heather
up a few steps to where
a jolly fat man was
waiting as he sat there.

Dressed in his usual
attire of red and white,
 his gaze drifted over
ev'ryone in his sight.

“Ho ho ho!” Santa bellowed
as he looked about.
“Who's the next child to see me?”
he smiled and called out.

“Heather,” replied the elf
as she and Heather drew
near Santa, and added,
“Heather's here to see you.”

“Well hello there young lady,”
Santa smiled. “What brings
you here to see me?
Perhaps to ask for some things?”

Heather nodded sheepishly.
Her shyness was clear.
“Aaw,” Santa said warmly.
“No need to be shy, dear.

“You're safe here with me, and
your father is right there.
There's nothing to fear, Heather,
so won't you please share

“just what it is that has
brought you here to see me?”
Santa asked with his hand out
to go with his plea.

Heather cautiously came up
to where Santa sat.
He gently took her hand
and gave it a soft pat.

“Would you like to sit on
my lap or stand instead?”
he asked Heather with a smile.
“Um, stand,” Heather said.

“Alright then,” Santa said,
giving her hand a squeeze.
“Now, will you tell me what
you'd like for Christmas, please?”

Heather said not a thing
for a moment or two.
“It's... not for me,” she said.
“Oh?” Santa said. “Then who?”

“My dad,” she replied.
Santa nodded with, “I see.
So what should I give him?”
She answered, “Our kitty.”

Santa smiled with a light laugh.
“I'm afraid that that's
a bit out of my league.
My elves make toys, not cats.”

“But my daddy lost his,”
she said. “He had Cally
for a really long time.
Even longer than me.

“He really misses her.
He's been sad and he's cried.
Can't you bring her back
so it's like she never died?”

Santa could see the
sincerity in her stare.
With a mournful smile, he stroked
the side of her hair.

“No, child,” he said softly.
“Even I can't do that.
I wish that I could,
but I can't bring back his cat.”

“Please?” Heather pleaded
as she became teary-eyed.
“That's something well beyond
my control,” he replied.

As a tear rolled down her cheek,
he wiped it away.
“Don't cry, sweetheart,” he said.
“Your dad will be OK.

“I know that your dad's sad,
and I know you are too.
But with Cally, there's really
nothing I can do.

“However, I can promise
things will be OK,
and that tomorrow will be
a much better day.”

Though her stare was still pained,
she nodded and looked down,
averting her eyes with
a deep, disheartened frown.

Santa looked to the elf.
“Not to be a bother,
but will you please take Heather
down to her father?”

“Sure,” the woman stated
with a nod of her head.
As she took Heather's hand
“C'mon sweetie,” she said.

The elf led Heather back down
the steps to the floor
and over to the bench
where her dad waited for

his little girl's visit
with Santa to be done.
But he soon learned Heather's
visit hadn't been fun.

“What happened?” he asked
as the elf and girl drew near,
and the sadness on Heather's
face became quite clear.

“She's alright,” the elf said.
“She got upset when she-”
“Alright?” he cut in.
“Doesn't look like it to me.”

Gary came quickly over
and picked up his kid.
As he looked to Heather,
“Tell me what Santa did.”

“Sir,” the elf said, “I promise,
your daughter is fine.
She got weepy when it
was her turn in the line.

“She got nervous, so Santa
leaned down a bit and
asked Heather what she wanted
while holding her hand.”

“So why's my daughter crying?”
he asked angrily.
The elf said, “Because she
asked to have back Cally.”

As the tension in the air
began to subside,
the elf finished up with,
“That's why your daughter cried.”

It wasn't long before
guilt began to erase
the anger that had been
so clear on Gary's face.

“Oh,” Gary uttered
as he stroked his daughter's hair.
“Sorry for getting so
mad for a moment there.”

The woman smiled and said,
“No need to say sorry.
I'd react the exact
same way if it were me.”

The woman looked to Heather
before she leaned in.
“Merry Christmas, sweetheart,”
she said with a warm grin.

The elf woman left
Gary and Heather alone.
“Let's go home, honey,”
he said in a somber tone.

The next afternoon,
saw Gary getting his pay
before he left work early
that Christmas Eve day.

He had the next few days off,
for his Christmas break.
And a chance to relax,
he was ready to take.

He wished ev'ryone well
then headed for his car,
set to make the drive home,
which wasn't very far.

He stepped outside into
the chilly rain that fell.
Coupled with the cold air,
it was dreary as hell.

Once on the road,
he chose to make a quick stop at
the Safeway that he'd pass
to pick up this and that.

Ten minutes later,
he pulled into Safeway's lot.
He parked near the store's front
and ran in like a shot.

“Merry Christmas, young man,”
said a man who was dressed
in the usual red
and white of Santa's best.

Gary glanced at him with
a wave as he went by.
But a moment later,
he turned to face the guy.

Gary looked at the man
for a second or two.
“Wait,” Gary said. “At the mall,
was that Santa you?”

“That is was,” the man smiled
before ringing the bell,
that so many patrons
knew very, very well.

“You work for the
Salvation Army?” Gary posed.
Santa smiled, “I had to do
something. The mall's closed.”

“True,” Gary grinned.
“Doesn't leave much time for rest, though.”
Santa laughed with, “I've got
the rest of the year, so...”

Gary chuckled a bit
and bid Santa farewell
before he went to get the
food Safeway did sell.

Some frozen snacks were grabbed,
as was some milk and bread,
which ensured he'd stay home
on his days off ahead.

With his food paid for,
he hurried back to his car.
In it, he used his smart
phone to check the radar.

“Figures,” he grumbled as
he stared at his phone's screen,
which showed his city
under a huge blob of green.

“Guess we're getting a wet
and not white Christmas day,”
he sarcastically said and
put his phone away.

He was just about to
start up the car's motor,
when a strange sound was heard.
A sound that did recur.

Gary was quiet as he
listened intently.
That was when it repeated
for time number three.

“What the-?” he muttered
with confusion on his face,
as the sound came again
from the car's engine space.

Though it didn't make sense
and he wasn't sure how,
what he'd heard sounded
much like a little meow.

He stepped back out into
the steady, falling rain,
and knelt down as he listened
for the sound again.

He checked under the
car's engine and what he found,
was a short, fuzzy tail
that hung down as the sound

of a small meow came
again for him to hear.
“Stay there, fuzzball” he said.
“Don't go and disappear.”

Gary ran back to the store,
past Santa who said,
“Slow down there, young man,
or you'll slip and hit your head!”

Once in the pet aisle,
Gary grabbed a small can
of Fancy Feast cat food
before he quickly ran

up front to pay for it,
then back out in the rain.
Once he opened the can,
he knelt down once again

beside the front of his car
and slid the can so
it was under the engine,
with a, “There you go.”

A full minute went by.
And soon, one became two.
“C'mon fuzzball,” he whispered.
“Where the hell are you?”

He heard and saw nothing,
but continued to wait
and hope what he'd seen would
take the Fancy Feast bait.

It took another minute,
but Gary soon saw,
a small fuzzy head drop down
with a little paw.

He smiled as he watched
the kitten sniff at the food,
thinking, Get it so I
can grab you, little dude.

With caution, the kitten
climbed down to the wet ground
and began to dig into
the food it had found.

Gary waited until
the kitten turned away.
He then quickly grabbed
for it without a delay.

The kitten let out a cry
as Gary took hold
of it and felt how its
soft fur was wet and cold.

“Gotcha,” he smiled as
he pulled the kitten against
his chest and felt how
the kitten's body had tensed.

“It's alright,” he said.
“Just relax, ya little shit.
Don't wig out on me so
I end up getting bit.”

With the kitten held firmly,
he got in his car
just as the kitten hissed
and growled, ready to spar.

“Yeah, yeah, you're real tough,”
Gary chuckled, then held out
the kitten to look at it
as it looked about.

The yellow and white kitten
was soaked to the bone.
Gary mumbled, “Why were you
out here all alone?”

The kitten meowed and looked
Gary in the eye;
fear in its stare as
it let out another cry.

“You're safe now,” Gary stated
while he looked over
the kitten some more and
saw that its rain-drenched fur

was stained in a few spots
with grease from the engine.
“I guess cleaning you up
is where we should begin.”

Gary looked to the store
then back at the young cat.
“Now where in the hell
can I keep you contained at?”

He looked around his car
and his eyes came to rest
upon what gave him a plan
that wasn't the best

idea to run with,
but given how things were,
it was all he could think of
for his guest with fur.

“You're really not going
to like this,” Gary said.
“But I promise you're not
going to end up dead.”

He opened the glove box
and set the wet kitten
inside with, “Sorry, but
I have to put you in.”

The kitten meowed just
as Gary shut the door.
With his guest contained,
Gary went back to the store.

“You alright, young man?”
Santa asked as Gary strode
by for the fifth time.
But Gary's pace never slowed

as he walked by Santa
and went straight to the aisle
where he could get the things
he would need for a while.

Gary came back out with
several bags of stuff.
“Done this time?” Santa asked
in a bit of a huff.

“I'm sorry,” Gary said
as he went by quickly.
“I need to get home,
so you'll have to excuse me.”

Gary continued on
as Santa said, “I see,”
then added with a grin,
“Merry Christmas you three.”

“Merry Christmas,” Gary called
and didn't look back
as the rain beat on him
 and each grocery sack.

A minute later,
Gary was out of the rain.
When he heard a meow,
“You'll just have to remain

“there for a bit longer,”
he said to the glove box.
“We'll be at my place soon
in just a few more blocks.”

He started his car and
got back out on the road.
Five minutes later,
he was back at his abode.

He didn't bother to put
what he'd bought away,
as he had things to do
for his little found stray.

He put the kitten
in the bathroom so it would
have a chance to calm itself
as best as it could.

In the kitchen, he grabbed
the small bottle of Dawn
that had gotten low with
some two thirds of it gone.

He paid the babysitter
what was owed to her,
then sent her on her way
and called to his daughter.

“Heather?” Gary called out.
“Yeah Daddy?” she replied
 as she came out to him
with a bounce in her stride.

He said, “Could you please
dry the wet spots on the floor?
I left quite a few when
I came in the front door.”

“'kay,” she nodded, then
bounded off to do just that.
He then said to himself,
“Now to wash off that cat.”

He went in the bathroom
and turned on the fart fan.
With the bathroom door shut,
“Now lets see if we can

“get this nasty grease
off of you,” he said as he
moved up to the bathtub
and got down on one knee.

He turned on the water
and got it good and warm
before he picked up
the kitten's small and wet form.

“Just relax,” he said as
the kitten let out cries
that mirrored the fear that
was clearly in its eyes.

The warm water soon soaked
into all of its fur,
and that was when Gary
could feel the kitten purr.

“See?” he smiled. “This bath
isn't so bad now is it?
You'll be all clean and dry
in just a little bit.”

Gary took the dish soap
and put some on his palm,
then washed the kitten gently
so it would stay calm.

The Dawn loosened the grease
that stained the kitten's fur.
But it took three washings
just to be truly sure

that there was nothing left
and the kitten was clean.
 That was when Gary put
the kitten in-between

the two halves of a towel
and began to dry
the kitten off gently
as it let out a cry.

“We're almost done,” he said.
“Just a bit more to do.
Hopefully what's next won't
scare the shit out of you.”

Once he had finished,
the kitten's fur was a mess.
It shook its small head
with a quick hiss of distress.

“Oh, a tough guy, eh?” he grinned
as he scratched his brow.
“Well I had to get that grease
off of you somehow.”

He set the kitten down
on the sink's counter top.
It hissed at him again,
to which he said, “Oh, stop.”

He then opened a drawer
below the bathroom sink
and pulled out Heather's
hair dryer that was bright pink.

He also grabbed his old comb
before he looked to
the kitten and uttered,
“Afraid these are for you.”

 He plugged in the hair dryer,
then took his comb and
held the kitten in place
with his free other hand.

At first the kitten squirmed
like a worm, as it were.
But as Gary ran the comb
through the kitten's fur,

a purr began to grow
as Gary combed its chin
“Enjoying this now, are you?”
he asked with a grin.

As the comb hit the kitten's
“hot spot,” he learned that
the stray thing he had found
was a young female cat.

“You're a girl, eh?” he smiled
as the kitten stood on
her tip toes and let out
a rather drawn out yawn.

Once he got the tangles
out of the kitten's fur,
he picked up and turned on
the bright pink hair dryer.

He thought she would freak out.
But much to his surprise,
she swatted at the air
as she squinted her eyes

from the warm wind that
blew directly at her face
as Gary dried her and
gently kept her in place.

Within a couple minutes,
Gary was all done,
while the kitten looked around
for her source of fun.

The hair dryer had given
her fur extra puff,
like she was in a dryer
that was set on 'fluff'

“Well don't you look like
a cute ball of fuzz,” he said.
The kitten stared at him
and tilted her small head.

He laughed a bit just as
a knock came on the door.
“Dad?” Heather called. “Why'd
you buy pet stuff at the store?”

Gary looked to the kitten
on the sink's counter
and said, “I guess it's about
time that we tell her.”

He picked up the now
rather fluffy kitten and
held her so she sat in
the palm of his right hand.

Gary opened the door and
Heather got to see
the kitten, which pulled from her
a smile and a squee.

“A KITTEN!” Heather yelped,
which startled the young cat.
Her eyes went wide as she
hunkered down where she sat.

“You scared her,” Gary said
as he gave the kitten
a reassuring scratch
on its soft, fuzzy chin.
 
“Can I hold it?” Heather asked.
“Her,” Gary replied.
“Where'd you get her?” she asked.
He said, “Found her outside.”

“Outside?” Heather repeated
as she reached up and
gently lifted the kitten
from her father's hand.

As she held the kitten
to her, Heather's dad told
of how he'd found the kitten
in the rain and cold

under the car at the store
that he had been to;
regaling her with the tale
of what he'd gone through.

“Can we keep her, Daddy?”
Heather asked. “Please, can we?”
Gary smiled and answered,
“We'll have to wait and see.

“We'll take her to the vet
after the holiday.
Let them check her out
to be sure that she's OK.

“And if she gets a clean
bill of health from the vet,
I don't see why we couldn't
make her our new pet.”

“Yay!” Heather exclaimed
as she looked to the kitten.
Gary said, “Now, give me a hand
in the kitchen.”

Gary and his daughter
unpacked all that he'd bought,
and got the bathroom
set for the kitten he'd caught.

A litter box was set up,
as were two bowls that
held the food and water
needed for the young cat.

Though there wasn't much space
between it and the floor,
a towel was rolled up
and stuffed under the door

to make sure the kitten
couldn't sneak out of there
and hide herself away
under something somewhere.

Once it was all set,
Gary put their furry guest
into the bathroom so
she could relax and rest.

It wasn't too long
before Heather's bed time came,
just as she and her dad
agreed on what to name

the kitten that he'd found
just a few hours ago.
“It's settled then,” he said.
“The kitten's name is Zoe.”

“I like it,” Heather smiled
as she nodded her head.
“Then c'mon, kiddo,” he said.
“Time to go to bed.”

“Aw, do I have to?”
she asked in a pouty voice.
“If you want your presents,”
he said, “you have no choice.”

She stood from the sofa
and kissed her dad goodnight.
“G'night, Daddy,” she said,
and he replied, “Sleep tight.”

Once Heather was in bed,
Gary let out a sigh
as he tilted his head back
and rubbed his left eye.

He went into his study,
sat down in his chair,
and just let the day's
craziness melt away there.

“What a day,” he uttered
before he fell silent.
A half hour later,
to his own bedroom he went.

He got changed and put on
a pair of sweat shorts and
was soon under his covers,
headed for dream land.

But just as he began
to drift off into sleep,
a crafty little kitten
was all set to creep

through the dark, quiet house
beyond the bathroom door
as she slid herself under
it along the floor.

Zoe'd pulled back the towel
that had been in her way.
Locked in that room was not
where she wanted to stay.

And though the space was tight,
she managed to get through
and began to prowl around
for something to do.

Though most of the lights
had been turned off in the home,
her little cat eyes
made it so that she could roam

through the near-black darkness
with great amounts of ease.
But her journey soon paused
when she heard Gary sneeze.

With her ears perked up,
she made her way down the hall
cautiously as she walked
closely along the wall.

Zoe soon reached the doorway
as Gary sneezed once more.
She stared into the dark room
for a time before

she came up to his bed
and proceeded to use
her sharp claws to climb up
as Gary tried to snooze.

“What the-?” Gary mumbled
as he sat up in bed,
only to look puzzled as he
saw Zoe's small head

pop up at the foot of
his bed with a meow.
“When did you get out?” he asked.
“Or better still, how?”

Zoe walked over the thick
blanket to Gary's lap,
where she laid down and got
ready to take a nap.

“That's not going to work
little girl,” Gary said
as he picked up Zoe and
laid back down on his bed.

He turned onto his side
and gently set down Zoe,
who came over and climbed
onto Gary's pillow.

Zoe began to knead herself
a bed in his hair.
Once she had finished with that,
she laid down right there.

Gary laughed a bit as
he closed his eyes to sleep.
The two then dozed right through
the night without a peep.

Christmas day was filled with
happiness for all three
as they opened their presents
by the Christmas tree.

Heather played with her new toys,
while Gary chilled out
and Zoe played with the wrapping
paper strewn about.

The next day, Gary took Zoe
to the vet and learned
that she was quite healthy,
but the vet was concerned

how Zoe might need shots
for distemper and whatnot.
And with Gary's go ahead,
that's just what Zoe got.

The kitten growled and hissed
at the vet, who laughed at
the display of fierceness
from such a little cat.

“I never liked shots either,”
Gary smiled as Zoe
took a swipe at the vet
when the vet let her go.

Ten minutes later,
he and Zoe were on their way
back home to relax for
what was left of their day.

With Heather at a friend's,
Gary took the time to
clean the house up a bit
and then check the mail too.

He returned with two letters,
then sat in the chair
that was in his study,
and Zoe soon joined him there.

She climbed up his pant leg
and stretched out on his lap,
then closed her eyes and purred,
ready to take a nap.

The first letter was from
the vet he was just at.
It contained a black paw print
on a small card that

also came with a note
which nearly made him cry;
that the paw print was to
remember Cally by.

He looked at the card
with a sad smile as he pet
little Zoe where she dozed
for a moment, then set

the small card on the desk
that his chair was next to.
With his eyes a bit teary,
he grabbed letter two.

To his surprise, it
had no return address or
so much as a stamp.
Just Gary's name and no more.

“Weird,” Gary uttered as
he opened it to find
something that brought him to
question his state of mind.

Inside, was a folded
paper sheet that did glow.
Gary took it out with a
somewhat baffled, “Whoa.”

With a bit of caution,
he unfolded the note
and began to read
what the unknown person wrote.

“Gary,” the note began,
“I hope that this letter
finds you in a mind set
that's a fair bit better

“than where things were for you
about a week ago
when your old and furry friend
had to be let go.

“The sadness left behind
when they have to depart
from your life like Cally did,
hurts deep in your heart.

“The pain that you felt
was great enough that Heather
came and asked me to help
you rather than help her.

“She knew how much you had
been missing your old friend
and asked for Cally back
to help your sadness end.

“As I told Heather,
that's far beyond my control.
But I soon recalled that
a good way to console

“a grieving heart is to
find a new pet in need.
A young soul to comfort,
love, and of course, to feed.

“That young soul's with you now
and I hope she's alright
after having to endure
that cold, rainy night.

“Let her into your heart,
just as you did Cally.
Merry Christmas to you,
from both Heather and me.”

The letter was signed Santa,
which puzzled Gary.
Just a moment later,
a bright flash came to be.

Gary let out a quick gasp
as the intense light
caused him to look away and
shut his eyes real tight.

With a hum-like sound,
the light came and faded out,
leaving him to open
his eyes and look about.

“What in the holy hell-?”
he had begun to say,
but stopped when he saw that
the letter'd gone away.

There was no paper
or envelope to be found.
His hands were empty
and with confusion abound,

Gary sat in his chair,
unsure of what to do.
Zoe's meow brought him back
and he smiled with, “Hey you.”

The kitten stood with a yawn
and stretched before she
turned around and purred as
she looked up at Gary.

For much of the morning,
Gary spent time with Zoe.
She followed him around
to wherever he'd go.

And when Heather returned
around lunch time that day,
he gave her a hug
and did his best to convey

how much he was grateful
for the kindness she'd shown
when her need to help him
was greater than her own

wishes of what she'd wanted
for Christmas that year.
He then said he loved her,
and she smiled ear to ear.

When night came around
and Heather had gone to bed,
Gary sat and thought about
the letter he'd read.

The flash of light it gave off
and how it vanished.
To know if it was all real,
was something he wished.

Zoe sat with him at first,
but in time she stood and
went into Heather's room
once she was in dream land.

Gary soon began to yawn
as the hour grew late.
His thoughts on that letter
would simply have to wait.

On his way to his bedroom,
he stopped and peaked in
on his sleeping daughter
and the brand new kitten.

Both were asleep, with Zoe
curled up at Heather's feet.
The sight made him smile.
It was peaceful and quite sweet.

Zoe couldn't replace Cally,
that much was quite true.
But what Zoe did was make
happiness grow anew.

Her life had been saved
on a dark and rainy night.
In return, she helped him
feel things would be alright.

Ol' Cally was gone and
he would always miss her.
But it was now Zoe's turn
with he and his daughter.

A smile came to him as
he took one more look at
the daughter he loved and
their new rescued young cat.

He then said softly as they
rested for the night,
“Merry Christmas you two.
And to both, a good night.”

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