Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas

Home > Fiction > Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas > Page 10
Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas Page 10

by Sheila Norton

  ‘I wish we could let him in,’ Caroline would say, but Laura shook her head and reminded her that her father would be cross.

  I still hadn’t seen any sign of the father, despite Martin and Sarah saying he was the only person who lived there. Obviously they didn’t know as much as I did about who lived where in the village. Or perhaps the father was just a made-up person, like this Father Christmas they all talked about.

  And then came the day when it was so cold my fur was almost growing icicles. As I stood outside the glass doors meowing to Caroline, something very unusual happened. Laura went out of the room, and for a few minutes Caroline stayed where she was on the sofa, watching me. Then suddenly she pushed her blanket off and got up. Very slowly and unsteadily, holding onto the furniture, she made her way over to the big doors, turned a key and opened one of them – just wide enough for a little cat like me to squeeze through. All this time she was looking over her shoulder, making sure Laura wasn’t coming back. Well, I have to admit I hesitated for a moment. Wouldn’t anyone, in the circumstances? But I was so cold, and the fire in that room looked lovely and warm, and Caroline was whispering urgently to me:

  ‘Come on, little cat, quick! Come in while she’s not looking.’

  And I did. I ran in as fast as my little legs would carry me, dived onto that sofa and huddled under the pink blanket. Despite the fact that my heart was pounding with anxiety, I couldn’t help purring at the same time because the blanket was so soft and warm. Caroline took longer to return to the sofa herself. She was breathing hard as if she’d been chasing birds round the garden for hours, and when she sat down and pulled the blanket back over her, I climbed onto her legs and I could feel them trembling. I found her hand and gave it a little lick, and she giggled.

  ‘What are you laughing about?’ Laura said as she came back into the room.

  I stopped licking, my ears up, on full alert. Was I about to be thrown out?

  ‘Nothing,’ Caroline said, giving another little giggle.

  ‘Well, it’s good to see you happy. I know you’ve been bored, but perhaps later this week I’ll start putting up the Christmas decorations, and you can watch me.’ She stopped, then asked sharply, ‘What’s that noise?’

  Oh dear. I’d started purring again without even realising it. It was hard not to, the warmth and comfort was so lovely after being outside in that icy cold.

  ‘Just my tummy rumbling. Sorry,’ Caroline said, giggling again.

  ‘Are you hungry? Well, that’s a good sign. Shall I just finish reading you this story, and then get you some soup?’

  ‘Yes please.’

  There was a rustle of pages, and Laura started to read. It was a story about some Dalmatian puppies. It was quite exciting and I was just starting to get into it when she suddenly broke off and said, ‘The little cat went away again, then?’

  ‘Yes,’ Caroline said, giving me a little nudge with her arm. I snuggled up closer to her and licked her hand again, and I could feel her trying not to laugh.

  ‘What are you grinning about now?’ Laura said, with a smile in her voice.

  And then I made my big mistake. I was so enjoying my cuddle with Caroline, I climbed right on top of her tummy and started doing the turning-around-and-pawing thing. And I was purring again. I knew it, I just couldn’t help it.

  ‘What’s that?’ Laura said more sharply.

  And of course, the next thing I knew, the blanket was being pulled off us both and Caroline was saying, ‘Sorry, Laura. He just looked so cold, and he’s so cute.’

  Needless to say, I’d jumped off the sofa as soon as I felt the blanket being lifted. I ran to the big window and stood by it, yowling my head off. If there’d been another door open, I’d have run out of it by now, without even thinking about where I might end up. I think I’d even have run up the chimney if there wasn’t a fire in the grate.

  But suddenly, in between my frantic yells of fear, I realised I could hear Laura laughing.

  ‘All right, all right, little cat,’ she said, coming over to me and bending down. ‘I’m not going to hurt you.’ She gave me a stroke and looked at the disc on my collar. ‘Oliver,’ she said. ‘What a nice name.’

  I stopped yelling and glanced over at Caroline. She was smiling back at us.

  ‘I thought you’d be cross,’ she said to Laura.

  ‘And I certainly should be. But between you and me, I can’t see the harm in it. He’s a lovely friendly little thing. He obviously likes you, doesn’t he – coming back every day like this. Well, you’d better not breathe a word of this to your father, all right? Or I’ll be in big trouble. And you really shouldn’t have got up and walked across the room without me helping you. You’re still very weak. You could have fallen over.’

  ‘I was careful.’

  ‘Good. Well, perhaps I should be pleased that you managed to find the strength in your legs to do it. Now, I’m going to heat up your soup, and if you want me to keep Oliver’s visits our little secret, you’d better promise me you’ll try to eat it all up.’

  ‘I promise. Thank you, Laura,’ Caroline said. ‘Can Oliver come back on my lap?’

  ‘After you’ve had the soup. I’m not being responsible for you spilling it and scalding yourself, on top of everything else.’

  With that, she gave me another little stroke before she went back out of the room. Some humans just can’t help themselves – they just love us cats, even if they pretend not to. I lay down on the rug in front of that lovely warm fire, and Caroline talked to me in her quiet gentle voice, telling me how much she wished she could have a little cat of her own. Laura brought in a bowl of something steamy for Caroline, on a tray, and to my surprise, a bowl of milk for me, which I lapped up enthusiastically. And when we’d both finished, she picked me up and put me on the blanket with Caroline, who was having a nap. I turned around a few times, settled myself down, and was so contented I dozed off almost immediately, all thoughts of angry cat-hating fathers banished from my mind.

  * * *

  After that, whenever I arrived at the big window, Laura let me in, and together we’d entertain Caroline with one of the usual games so irresistible to us cats – balls being rolled across the floor (and under the sofa) for me to chase, feathers being used to tickle me and get me rolling on my back with my paws in the air, strings dangled to make me jump up on my back legs – all giving me some good exercise and getting Caroline laughing her head off at the same time. Then we’d have our refreshments, and finally I’d be allowed to snuggle down with Caroline while we both had our naps. When she woke up, Laura would let me out of the door again and I’d scamper back to my foster home.

  The second time, on my way back I ran into Tabby. For once, he was on his own – no sign of Suki anywhere – so I stopped to say hello.

  ‘You’ll never guess where I’ve been,’ I said, desperate to show off my news.

  ‘Go on. Where?’ He didn’t sound overly interested.

  ‘The Big House. I go there every day now.’

  ‘You’re more of a fool than I thought you were, then,’ he snapped. ‘I warned you to stay away from there, didn’t I? You’ll end up being beaten with a stick by the angry man, and then you’ll be sorry.’

  ‘No, listen, it’s not like that at all,’ I insisted. ‘There isn’t any angry man. He must be a myth, like Father Christmas.’

  Even as I was saying this, there was a little voice in the back of my head reminding me of the things Laura had said about Caroline’s father. But I ignored the little voice. I didn’t want to believe it.

  ‘Father Christmas isn’t a myth,’ Tabby retorted. ‘Who told you that?’

  ‘The human kittens at my foster home. They say he isn’t real, but they pretend to believe in him, so they can still have presents.’

  ‘That’s rubbish. You’ll believe anything, Ollie. You’re so naïve.’

  ‘No I’m not! I’m telling you, I’ve been to the Big House loads of times now, and there’s no angry man there. There
’s just a woman called Laura and a girl with no fur on her head who lies on a sofa.’

  ‘Oh, for mewing out loud, Ollie. Have you been at the catnip again? You’re either seeing things, or you’ve got a very active imagination.’

  ‘I’ve been inside now,’ I shouted at him. ‘They play with me and give me milk, and I snuggle up with the girl on the sofa. Laura says I’m cheering her up.’

  ‘Yeah, right. Pull the other paw,’ he said disdainfully. ‘If you’ve got any sense, you’ll stop going there, and that’s all I’m saying on the subject.’

  I was furious with him for not believing me. What was the matter with him, anyway? He looked like he’d just been told he had an appointment at the vet’s.

  ‘You’re in a bad mood, aren’t you?’ I said. ‘Where’s Suki? Has she dumped you?’

  There was a long silence. He was looking the other way, making little growly noises in the back of his throat. I wasn’t sure if he was about to snap my head off, or burst into mews.

  ‘What?’ I demanded again. ‘Has she dumped you, then?’

  I mean, fair enough, I’d try to be sympathetic if he was really upset. I’d never had relationships with females myself, but it seemed to matter enormously to Tabby. And although he’d been mean to me recently, we had been friends for a long time.

  There was another silence. I was just about to give up and walk away, when he said, in a strangled kind of voice:

  ‘I wish she had dumped me, Ollie. If only she had, before we got so – you know – carried away with each other.’

  I didn’t know, to be honest. I counted myself lucky that George had taken me to the vet when I was a kitten and got me done, as they called it. From what I’d seen, having relationships with females only ever led to trouble, to say nothing of the kind of stupid showing-off behaviour I’d seen in Tabby recently. Why would I want to bother with it? But I gave him a little head-rub of sympathy, even though I had no idea what he was on about.

  ‘You really don’t get it, do you, Ollie?’ he said. ‘You’re not a victim of your hormones like I am.’

  Well, thank goodness for that. It sounded most uncomfortable.

  ‘She hasn’t dumped me,’ he went on, looking like all his nine lives were over. ‘She’s pregnant. She’s going to have kittens. She’s saying it’s my fault, and now she keeps on moaning and complaining about it. It’s putting me right off her, to be honest. I mean, she’s a nice-looking cat, but I can’t stand all this bad-tempered yowling – I have to turn tail and run away from her when she starts. Know what I mean, Ollie?’

  I didn’t. But as I did my best to comfort him, I’m ashamed to say all I could think about was that maybe now he’d stop being such a pain in the neck and be my friend again.


  So I now had human friends and cat friends who were expecting babies – and none of them seemed very happy about it. By the way, Charlie, I noticed you looking a bit apprehensive when I mentioned George taking me to the vet’s for that little operation. Honestly, it wasn’t because George was being cruel to me, even though at the time I admit I was frightened out of my life.

  ‘Ollie,’ he said in his kind, reassuring voice, ‘I’ll never know exactly what happened to you when you were very tiny, but when you were handed in to the people at the Cats’ Protection League, you were starving, and lucky to be alive.’

  You can imagine how I shuddered to be reminded of this, but he quickly went on:

  ‘Your mother was probably a stray who had lots of kittens and, sadly, whoever found you and your brothers and sisters didn’t want you. There are lots of poor stray cats in the world, Ollie, all of them homeless and hungry and having lots of unwanted kittens that nobody looks after. If I didn’t have you neutered, we’d just be adding to the problem. It wouldn’t be your fault – you’d just be following your instincts. But I want to be a responsible cat owner, and do what’s right.’

  At the time, although I was moved by what he said, I didn’t fully understand. But I loved George and knew he would never do anything to hurt me. And it’s never bothered me, about having girlfriends. What you’ve never had you’ve never missed. So if your humans make the same decision for you, don’t be frightened. Look at me – I’ve turned out fine, haven’t I?

  It was different for my human friends, Nicky and Daniel, of course. Humans tend to stay in their pairs, and keep their human kittens with them and bring them up together. Well, so I’ve been led to believe, although it doesn’t always seem to work out that way. It seems a good arrangement when it works out well, though, and because Nicky and Daniel were such nice humans, who obviously loved each other, I was sure they would stay together and be good parents if only they weren’t so worried about money.

  One afternoon, as I passed the place outside the village shop where the pram-pushing females always stopped to chat, I overheard the one called Louise saying:

  ‘It’s all very well, this idea of looking after each other’s children after Kay’s retired. But I work five mornings a week. Everyone else who works part-time seems to do two or three whole days, so there’s no one available to cover all the hours I work. I’ve asked my boss if I can change to a different arrangement, but it’s no good – he specifically needs me in the office every day. He says I could do less hours each day if necessary, but that wouldn’t help at all. I’d still have no one to look after Freya and Henry, and I’d be earning less money.’

  ‘What are you going to do?’ Hayley asked her.

  ‘I have no idea. I’m worried I might lose my job. My mum might be able to come over a couple of days a week, but it’s asking a lot. She doesn’t drive and it’s a long way on the bus. I’ve written an advert, actually, appealing for a nanny. I couldn’t afford a live-in one, and anyway it’d only be for twenty hours a week.’ She waved a piece of paper at her friends. ‘I’m just going to put it on the notice board. But I doubt I’ll have any luck. I can’t think of anyone suitable in the village.’

  ‘No. Maybe you should advertise in the local paper. You might get someone from Great Broomford, or one of the other villages,’ one of the other women said.

  ‘Yes. I’ll do that. Thanks.’

  Louise went off with her pram, looking tired and worried. I followed her to the notice board and watched as she pinned her paper up.

  ‘Oh, hello, Oliver,’ she said, almost tripping over me as she turned back to the pram. ‘How are you?’ She bent down and gave me a little stroke. I didn’t mind. I’d got used to the pram ladies. ‘I wish I had your life. No worries, just a nice warm bed and someone to feed you. Lucky old you.’

  Actually I could have argued with that. After all, I’d been through enough worries and trauma to last me all nine lifetimes, hadn’t I. But it was true that I was quite comfortably off these days and was certainly beginning to be aware of how difficult life could be for some humans. I walked round her legs, giving her a little head rub to console her, before scampering off after a couple of sparrows who’d caught my attention, hopping about under a nearby hedge.

  * * *

  That same evening, Sarah and Martin were talking about Nicky and Daniel again. They obviously so badly wanted to help them, and I really wished there was something I could do, too.

  ‘I know the local mums are getting this child minding rota organised,’ Martin said. ‘But are you sure there isn’t anyone in the village who might prefer to pay someone – someone well-qualified like Nicky – to look after their kids?’

  ‘Not as far as I’m aware,’ Sarah said with a shrug. ‘And I’m not being funny, but not many people around here really know Nicky yet, let alone know she’s a nursery carer. If she comes to a WI meeting, I can introduce her to people and perhaps everyone can put the word about for her, but you know what she said – she earns top dollars at that nursery in London and … what is it, Ollie? Do you want to go outside? Go on, then, the cat flap isn’t locked.’

  Sometimes, Charlie, I wish so badly that we could talk Human as well as bein
g able to understand it. It can be so frustrating wanting to tell people something important, when all they can think of is our toilet requirements!

  * * *

  I waited till the next time I saw Daniel outside the cottage. It must have been a Saturday because he was carrying the rucksack he brought me home in that very first day, and was heading off towards the woods, whistling. He always did that when he went hunting for firewood. I think he enjoyed it, a bit like us hunting mice, but easier of course because humans are pathetic hunters.

  ‘Meow!’ I said to him. ‘Meow, meow, meow!’ I tried to make it sound as urgent as possible.

  He stopped and looked at me. ‘What’s up, Ollie? Didn’t any of us give you your breakfast this morning?’

  Honestly, if it isn’t our toilet requirements, it’s our stomachs. I suppose we should be grateful, but don’t they realise we do occasionally have thoughts that don’t concern our bodily functions?

  ‘MeOW!’ I shouted at him, and stalked down the road a few paces in front of him, twitching my tail and looking back to see if he’d got the message.

  ‘You want to come to the woods with me, boy?’ he said, still standing on the spot staring after me.

  No, for mewing out loud, I’m going in the opposite direction, I thought with exasperation.

  ‘You want me to come with you?’

  At last! Finally, he caught up with me and I bounded ahead to where the notice board stood outside the wreck of the village hall. I have to say, it took several frustrating minutes of walking round and round the posts supporting the notice board, several walks around Daniel’s legs and then back to rub my head against the posts again, before he started looking at the notices.


‹ Prev