Dec 16, 1994
T'was the Night Before
He just wasn't getting it and that was starting to frustrate me. "Baby who not close doors have short life?"
"What do you mean 'not close doors? I was telling the story of the baby in the manger."
"Yes. Born in barn. People no close doors... you say they born in barn."
"Just call him Jesus."
"Jesus born in barn to mother. You say Jesus father not man who marry Mary. Not understand why poor people with no house and female mate with other males can be to look up to."
"It's a story, alright? Just look at it like it's a story that's a metaphor for what Christmas is."
"Story not make sense. What poor baby in barn have do with buy many presents and get bad letters from bank?"
It was plain to me that I was going to have to go the long route on Christmas for the meenzal. It had never dawned on me that Christmas would be a difficult concept for him, but then, he was a meenzal. His tradition was honor and accomplishment, and leaders who fall are mourned for the mandatory one day and then forgotten. At least according to the standards impose on ourselves. The meenzals had songs which celebrated Warriors, Artists, Engineers and others, but these were not sung in ceremony, but sung and hummed by mothers raising their kits. This is the way that history is passed, for better or for worse.
Because it was a holiday, I figured that I might immerse the cat into some christmas tradition. Going to the kitchen, I fetched the egg nog from 'fridge that I mixed with rum earlier. A quick pour into a couple of glasses later, I had the ground nutmeg topped tradition on the way back to the livingroom where Jab reclined on the couch.
"Try to follow this, ok cat? Now, back a couple thousand years ago there was this special baby. It was born to poor people, Joseph and Mary. There's a part of the story about them looking for digs and being turned away from the motels --or inns as they called them-- and had to take shelter in a barn. Mary was really pregnant with the child, who she knew was going to be spec...."
"WHAT THIS?" The cat had just taken a sip of egg nog and his eyes lit up brighter than the christmas tree in the corner. He raised the cup to his mouth and dumped the entire contents into his mouth in one motion, and swallowed it the same way. He held out his glass. "Jab want more of this!" I took his glass and refilled it, this too went by way and speed of the first.
"You better go easy on that stuff." I warned.
The cat was on his feet and headed for the kitchen. I called out for him to wait, but he didn't. Instead the door closed behind him and there was quiet ...for about three seconds. The cat read the label of the carton, and warhooped in joy. I should have known anything made of eggs would be an instant hit with Jab, they always were. He came wandering back to the living room and shook the container. "All gone. Jab want more heggogg."
"Looks like you could wring some more out of your fur." I said pointing to his chest. But that's it for the egg nog. I just bought one carton and you just finished it."
"Is very good heggogg. You go get more now."
"No, cat. That's enough for..."
"You will go get more now." he interrupted firmly. I looked at him and started laughing.
"If you want egg nog, go get it yourself. You'll need the ..." He wasn't listening, he was leaving. "Whoa cat!." I grabbed him and swung him in an arc that had him walking back into the living room. He noticed and wheeled towards the door. "Wait a minute, Jab. You can't just take off out into the night. We can't do with the questions a flying cat would bring."
The cat considered me with his head cocked a little to one side. Jab nodded to himself and headed off upstairs. He returned a few minutes later.
He was dressed in a red suit bordered by white fir. He had black boots on and I wondered how many pairs of socks he had wedged in there to hold his foot properly. His black nose protruded from a sea of white hair that rolled out of his muzzle to hang in a full beard. On his head was a regular Santa Hat, complete with the while pom pom at the tip.
I started laughing again. "That's pretty funny, cat. You look like someone dressed a man in a cat suit who then tried to disguise himself as Santa Claus." The cat snarled and left. A few seconds later the gutteral snarl and high pitched whine of a sled broke the quiet and the meenzal was off to find egg nog. "Good luck, cat." I mumbled to myself. "There's not very much open on christmas."
* * *
"Daddy! Did you see that?" asked Alice Deveraux from her bed. The five year old had been looking out the window as her father read The Night Before Christmas to her as a bedtime story. "I saw Santa!"
Richard Deveraux smiled at his daughter. "Of course you did, sweetheart. I told you that this was the night that Santa would travel the world leaving presents for all the boys and girls."
"I saw him!" she beamed proudly. The smile was still broad on her face as she slipped away to where the sugar plums dance. Richard rose and gave his daughter a last loving look and then crept downstairs to arrange the family gifts under the tree.
Bart and Derek lay in the back of the pickup truck and looked at the stars. Taking a swig from a bottle of Jack Daniels, Bart passed it over and told Derek he was damned if he could see any star that was brighter than the rest. The reply was that the star thing was just a big hoax --some trimming for the sales tree. In all, it was just windows dressing to get the suckers to part with more of their hard earned money. If the money wasn't earned, well, the hell with them welfare sitters anyway.
Derek got a elbow in the rib and choked a little on the mouthful of Jack D. he was holding. "Lookit up there, Der." A wavering finger pointed to the sky where a red suited man flew across the sky towards town. "What the hell is that?"
"Hellif I know. Let's shoot it."
Bart gave a nod and rolled up and over the siderails of the truck and staggered to the door and opened it. From inside, he took his trusty 12 gauge and his 30 caliber off the gunrack and slung them across his shoulder. From the glove box came a couple boxes of ammunition which was shoved, one on each side, into his jacket pocket. Going hand over hand along the painted side of the vehicle, he got to the rear, stepped up and rolled himself over the tailgate into the bed. If Derek was going to be shooting at anything, it would be some other time. He lay passed out and grinning up against the sandbags Bart kept for traction 'just in case.' When Bart sighted up the 30 caliber, the sky was empty. "Damn!" he swore and lay back against his friend's leg. Maybe he'd just catch a couple of winks...
Panji was the night clerk at the Seven Eleven, and the house joke as well. From his dark skin to his mutillation of the english language, he was the embodiment of the stereotypical convenience store clerk. When people didn't laugh was when they saw his paychecks. Panji worked any and all shifts, and had nine years seniority that translated to a very high hourly wage. It also had him in the position where they would either get him to join franchise management or turn him out to pasture. It was bad for morale to have good workers stay around, it annoyed the lesser clerks and motivated them to do even less.
But Panji was alone on christmas eve, he volunteered to take the store from 6pm to 3pm christmas day. A long shift, but one that would do the bankbook some good. He was singing to himself and thinking happily about making double time and a half when the Santa walked in.
"You have heggogg?"
"Yes. It is in the cooler in back I am so happy to be telling you." The Santa started off, stopped and looked at Panji before shrugging and making for the coolers. "My but he is ugly. It is so very good for him to be wearing a costume I am thinking." mused the clerk in a mumble. He turned back to wiping his counter.
The Santa paced back and forth in front of the glass cooler doors. He found the cartons marked Egg Nog and loaded his arms. He was a happy camper as he made for the door. "But wait! I am thinking you have made a small but terrible error in your shopping tonight." The Santa stopped midstride and turned to look at the clerk. "You have not been paying for the merchandises you have selected. If you would please to be coming to the counter I might serve you more completely."
Santa looked at the clerk and expanded to twice the size he was. Bits of red material bordered by white fur flew in all directions as the suit exploded. The cat-like thing that glared and snarled at Panji was awesomely frightening.
"Or it would please me if you would be so kind as to be accepting my gift of your selections of stolen food as a holiday gift from myself." The cat sniffed shortly but loudly and walked from the store. As he went, he tore the top off of a carton of egg nog and took a mouthful. Again the cat stopped in his tracks. The taste of rum was missing, --but the eggs were there. Ok, he'd let the storeclerk live.
* * *
"Where's Jab, Dad?" asked Ficus.
"Getting some egg nog, I think."
"At this hour? Where?"
"I dunno. Maybe the gas station up the road there."
"How come he went instead of you?"
"He was the one who wanted egg nog, that's why."
"He's having egg nog? That's a real bad idea, Dad."
"Well, according to those books on meenzeii culture you made me read, that eggs and alcohol are a bad mix for male cats. It makes them drunk and, well, something else."
"They get, uh, like really horny."
"So, what you're telling me is that I have a meenzal, probably drunk, all loaded up with an aphrodesiac and on a mission to get some egg nog?"
"Ohgood." I started to say. I was interrupted by the low chime of the personal commlink system.
T'was the Night During
As always, with Jab it was 'if it is egg, it is good,' but having tasted real grog nog, plain G rated egg nog wasn't making the grade. He knew two things. First, the really nice feeling that the nogs at home had given him was fading. Second, the missing ingredient was rum. It took the meenzal less than a nanosecond to decide the place he needed to go was a bar.
The Cumon Inn was a dark little place with too-small tables and a limited selection on the juke box. You got Hank Williams Jr. or you got Johnny Cash. If you wanted something else, you could go somewhere else. It was a sure bet that the men under the 10 galon hats would help you figure out which where you wanted to be. After four or five beers, these gentlemen had two things in mind, well, three. They liked to sing along with Ring Of Fire and they liked to fight. Yeah, there was that other thing too, but no self-respecting woman would get caught dead in a joint like Cumon Inn.
When the six foot cat stepped in from the parking lot carrying a couple of half-gallon cartons of egg nog, someone unplugged the juke box. Since the choir was in full bloom singing "...and it burns, burns, burns.." When the music stopped and they were subjected to the sounds of their own voices, they stopped wanting to sing and there was only one thing left. They would have started immediately, except one of their number peered at the cat with swimming eyes and yelled "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?" The query was repeated along the clutch of machismo for nearly eight seconds before someone threw a chair. It sailed across the room and hit Jab in the shoulder. Since it made him drop one of the cartons of eggnog, it also mad him mad.
The cat turned towards where the chair had come from, expanded to a full eleven feet, and snarled loudly. "Why you throw chair?" he demanded.
"What the hell are you, some kinda homo actor or did yer mummy forget to take of your animal jammies this morning?" It was a largish man in the back. He pushed his way up front and for the first time looked up at what he'd yelled at. The cat leaned down so he was face to face with the man. He breathed wetly.
"Wear this all time. You no like it?" He smiled warmly, showing his daggerlike fangs. The big man from the crowd didn't answer Jab, but he did answer nature's call, and in front of all his friends. Since he got no more objection to his presence, the cat moved to the bar. The bartender seemed happy to mix Jab's remaining egg nog with rum and serve it to him in a pair of milk shake tumblers. The cat shrank back to a sedate six feet and leaned on the bar. Someone plugged the juke box back in and things got to normal. Normal as normal can be until Johnny Cash started skipping and said "firefirefirefirefire..."
The ring of men who surrounded the cat meant business. They crowded up on the meenzal and started asking questions they really didn't want the answers to. Nobody really cared where he was from but they should have. If they knew where he was from they might also know the strength of the meenzal. But they didn't, and so had to learn the hard way. Four of them flew over tables and broke a few chairs before the rest of the crowd took a step back.
The sudden exertion excited the cat. Jab felt a drive and instinctual urging. The bar was missing the new object of his concertration and so he decided to leave. It was good that he did, in the back of the bar a couple of men were loading their hoglegs with blood in their eye. When they stood up to go find the cat, they missed him. All they heard was the whine of the sled as it sped away towards the town. Tomorrow, the congregation of the Cumon Inn would again convene and no one will say a word about the mass hallucinations they all experienced the night before. They'd seen stranger, that's for sure. Even Bo, the barkeep, would make sure his till came out right for the missing rum and no more about it.
The meenzal soared low above Coeur d'Alene and his cat's eyes only needed the brief glance it got as it passed above Bert's truck where he and Derek slept peacefully. Jab hauled the sled around and brought it down next to the pickup truck. What had attracted his attention was the bottle of Jack Daniels clutched at the neck by Derek's hand. Even passed out, his reactions and instincts kept the bottle upright and its contents intact. When the cat grabbed the bottle and snatched it away, Derek frowned and then put his arms around Bert. He smiled and was again sleeping soundly.
Jab was out of eggnog. but he did have alcohol. He drooled a little as he emptied the half full bottle of Jack, then staggered back to the sled and readied to take off. He halted his takeoff because a woman was standing in the way of his departure. "What'd you do, roll 'em?" she asked, hooking a thumb over her shoulder.
"Not move. Just take bottle."
"So I saw. You must have a hollow leg to put away that much booze."
"Not hollow." said the cat. It was more of a question. "I have only muscle in leg." He tapped on it to show it was solid.
"Sure looks it. Say, ummm. What kind of suit is that you're wearing?"
"Not suit. ...fur."
"You going to a party or something?"
"No. Looking for heggogg."
"No... don't know him. Well, would you like to have a party?"
"Party fun. We have heggogg?"
"What's with this Heg Ogg? Oh! You mean Egg Nog?" The meenzal beamed at her and nodded furiously. "Well then, sure, baby. We can have some egg nog. ...tell me lover, you got two hundred dollars?"
The cat looked at her questioningly and decided that she was going to make him pay to get egg nog. Since that was the case, he'd tell her a lie then get the egg nog. "Sure. Have lot of money." The girl took Jab by the arm and turned towards the sled.
"Is this your snowmobile?" she asked.
"No. Is sled. You sit on back seat." Emma Sills shrugged and climbed into the seat. She'd had to do some pretty weird things for her johns over the last couple of years. A guy in a cat suit with a smowmobile for a car was tame in contrast to a lot of others. For a girl of 26, she'd lived a lot.
* * *
I answered the personal comm page. It was Jab. "Come home with friend now."
Well, I had no idea who his friend was, but neither did I expect that the meenzal would stroll in the door later with a hooker on his arm and a big smile on his face. I didn't say anything, but watched him out of the corners of my eyes and he led his guest upstairs.
Six minutes later, his guest screamed long and loud. "Think he took her to bed?" asked my wife with measured nonchalance. In the morning, Jab woke up and found two hundred dollars on the nightstand.