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CaliClaus and the Christmas Contraption
By Valerie Hart
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Valerie Hart
All rights reserved.
The old barn stood deserted in a huge field overgrown with yellow, blue, and pink wild flowers. It had been abandoned years ago. No one repaired it because it didn't belong to anyone. What once was the large door for horses to go in and out was now completely covered with ivy and moss. The cars that sped by could not see the small opening in the far corner that led inside to the wonderland where CaliClaus and her faithful felines were preparing for their Christmas miracle.
Huge baskets filled with clusters of catnip dangled from a thirty foot high ceiling. Twinkling lights from the rays of the sun danced on their green leaves through skylight windows, and the tiny cracks in the roof dripped just enough rain to make them grow until they almost touched the floor.
The barn was sectioned off with everything a cat needed for a happy life. Squeaky fur mice, dangly string toys, and assorted colored balls filled huge boxes. Comfy beds and pillows made of denim and velvet, wood scratching posts, litter boxes and perfumed cat litter were sorted into bundles. And hundreds of bags of dry kibbles and canned wet food were piled in the center of the floor surrounded by kitty treats.
Cali counted her workers. There were eight in total. They were her pilot team, well- trained and reliable. They had gathered enough food, bedding, and toys during the year to accompany two hundred cats and six dozen kittens on their journey.
Bombie and Angie were the leaders of the team. They traveled together as a pair. Bombie, the gentle, well-mannered, elegant black cat that resembled a panther from the jungle, had eyes the color of copper pennies and was a purebred Bombay. Angie, the long-haired white Angora, could trace her breed back over four hundred years to 1600. She was strikingly beautiful and danced like a ballerina. Both were highly intelligent and believed that every human deserved a special cat to love and be loved.
OK, commanded CaliClaus, Is our team ready?
Yes indeed, answered Bombie and Angie, as they moved toward the door together.
Yes indeed, purred Bali the Balinese, who always had something to say. Yes indeed, sang Ragamuffin, the affectionate cat that loved everyone. Yes indeed, chirped Munchkin, trying to stand tall on her short legs. Yes indeed, cooed Dollie, the large mild-mannered combination of the Persian and Siamese cat that became the Ragdoll breed. Yes indeed, lilted the Scottish Fold twins in their soft voices, their little ears folded tightly into their heads.
When there were no cars in sight they ran across the highway one at a time so as not to be noticed by any passersby. In the distance, they could see the animal shelter where stray and unwanted cats were taken.
The Shelter was tightly secured with wire fencing and a gate that had a combination lock. Using a pair of wire cutters, CaliClaus clipped an opening for them to squeeze through. Then they found a window that was slightly cracked open.
Dollie, since you are the largest of us, wedge underneath and push the window open. The 16 pound obedient Ragdoll did as she was told and, with a huge effort, pushed the window upward just enough to let the others through.
What they saw caused them to stop in their tracks. There were cages from floor to ceiling filled with cats and kittens. CaliClaus whispered, Over half of them will be put to sleep before the week is over. The Scottish Fold twins wrapped their paws around each other, holding each other tightly.
Why can't we take them all, and set free the ones that can't live with people, mewed Bali, who always had something to say.
Because they will only be killed by cars or be attacked by raccoons or foxes or Bobcats, meowed Bombie, her penny colored eyes half closed with sadness.
Enough of this! We have to choose 200 cats and six dozen kittens to place in homes tomorrow night. It's time to interview and bring them with us as quickly as possible, commanded CaliClaus.
It was a difficult job. Most of the cats chortled, Take Me, Take Me, while the kittens just cuddled together sleeping peacefully. But there were also a large number who said they were street cats or wild Feral cats and were happy living together but not with people.
Then there were the old cats and the sick cats. They were in a separate area, waiting to be put to sleep. Every cat in the team stayed away from them, while they slipped open the bolts of the cages and grabbed the chosen by the scuffs of their necks with their mouths to drop them down to CaliClaus. All except Ragamuffin. She tiptoed past the others, stopping to look into a cage that held a single black and white old male Tuxedo cat.
You look like me, said the gentle, affectionate Ragamuffin. Are you a thoroughbred?
No, I'm just a mixture with good markings. I'm twelve years old. The elderly lady who loved me died and there was no one to take care of me. I have arthritis in my legs and back and I move very slowly. They are going to put me to sleep tomorrow morning. I do not mind, really. I will be at peace because I have had a very happy life and miss my human.
That's terrible, replied Ragamuffin. If you share part of my blood line, you didn't come into full growth until you were almost five years old. You could live at least five more years. And, saying that, she ran back to CaliClaus to ask if there might be a home for this unfortunate feline.
CaliClaus looked at her list and found a sad old lady who had no family and no pets. She sat alone all day in her rocking chair because no one came to visit. Ragamuffin ran back to the cage, unlatched it, and helped the old fellow out. Then she pointed her paw at Dollie. Please, Dollie, he cannot walk a great distance by himself. Will you carry him back to the barn on your back?
When they returned to the barn with all the cats and kittens, Bombie and Angie wrote the names of the family or persons to whom each cat was to be given and tied them around the necks of the cats and kittens they had chosen. When they finished, they saw it was almost Christmas Eve and they had not yet rounded up the dogs to pull the Contraption.
The back part of the contraption was a huge crate made from the wooden planks that had once separated the horse stalls. This would be filled with the heavy supplies that would require eight strong and loyal dogs to pull.
The front was put together with pieces of the wire fence that once surrounded the field. The cats and kittens could look out while CaliClaus kept a watchful eye on them. The entire odd-looking structure was attached to a brand new shiny Harley that CaliClaus borrowed from the motorcycle showroom when no one was looking. It was quite simple to do. She quietly strode into the outdoor area where the bikes were lined up, jumped on the seat as though she were going to take a nap and then, with a quick stab of her front claw and her magical meow, the bike lifted into the air and sped away.
They worked all night, loading the beds and toys and food into the back of the contraption and the cats and kittens into the front.
All right, Ladies, announced CaliClaus, let's find the dogs. We need to go to private homes to recruit the strongest and smartest to do this job. Sharpen your claws to protect yourselves in case of attack.
One by one, they exited through the little door and lined up by the big oak tree. One by one, they stood on their hind legs and furiously scratched the heavy trunk. Then they scattered in different directions to find the dogs.
One hour later, they returned. Bombie and Angie brought the leader of the pack, a huge Rottweiler with a strong body and mean muzzle, and a Doberman Pinscher they chose as his running mate. The Doberman immediately attacked the Rottweiler, growling that he was going to be the leader. The Rottweiler bared his teeth.
Don't you guys dare bring your baggage into my barn, commanded CaliClaus. We felines are about to embark on a magical miracle mission. So, get rid of your macho aggressiveness or go home. Do you understand? Rott and Pinch sat down.
Now, the rest of you: Raise one paw when I introduce you.
BEAGLE: As a hunting dog, you are a tireless runner, if not always the brightest bulb in the chandelier. A paw went up.
BOXER: You are a great runner with your lean, muscular body and strong legs. You are also sensitive and proud, but tend to be very stubborn. A powerful paw went up.
DALMATION: You were bred to run with the horse and carriage. You have super power and energy. You have been a hunter, firehouse dog and circus performer. Don't get goofy or even think about tearing apart my contraption. A spotted paw went up.
YORKSHIRE TERRIER: Although you are a tiny fellow, you are highly intelligent. You are difficult to train because you are self-important and want your own way. Your original job was in the coalmines getting rid of the rats, so you are clever and confident. A fluffy paw went up.
SAMOYED TWINS: You have endurance and power from your days as reindeer herders in Siberia. You are gentle and dependable. Try not to bark too much and don't chase my cats. You will be at the back of the line to push the others on. Two paws went up.
Excerpted from CaliClaus and the Christmas Contraption by Valerie Hart. Copyright © 2013 Valerie Hart. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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