Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 7 Home for the Holidays

What is all this jazz about Christmas? Everybody gets really nervous and screams at each other. The smells coming out of every corner are indescribable: the forest, hot chicken, hot bread and beef. All the members of my human family, and even a few we don't know, are around and driving Mamoo crazy.
It all begins when the weather starts to cool down and the leaves start covering up the chipmunk holes. People put out large, round, orange vegetables they cut to look like faces. The candles they put in the hollowed insides glow when lit. On a dark and windy night we sit out on the steps and wait for nasty little creatures to come by to get handfuls of candy. These little people smell familiar but look terrifying, with knives sticking out of their heads and with faces that are melted. One of them came with a squirrel tail hanging down from his head. I would have liked a long conversation with him; he seemed to know something I didn’t.
Mamoo puts on a mask and tries to scare the little monsters. Sometimes she does and they run screaming away from the house. I like that part. I also like the candy. Especially the ones in wrappers. You get to eat the wrapper and then what’s inside. Sort of two for the price of one.
The next day we spent the time washing marks off the car and the windows. Sometimes the trees had paper streamers hanging from the branches. It also seemed to mark the last day of the squirrel season. After that they stayed inside during the good times of the day.
A time of frenzy came a few weeks later. The kitchen was the main room for this “go-round.” It’s the place to be - slippery or not. The odors coming out of the kitchen would drive a dog crazy unless he had an understanding human like I have. There were tasty tidbits morning, noon and night. The children hung around the house even more than usual which always brought with it a constant uproar. Mamoo wanted things done the way she liked and this seemed to be what started the quarrels. I don’t see why they wouldn’t let her alone, but they pulled on her from all directions. It looked like my new job was to protect Mamoo from being consumed by her young.
I even put up with Ashley, Patsy’s shaky sheltie, twitching and twisting around me for a week. That took stamina because that bitch is definitely neurotic. First of all, she is pigeon-toed and her hair comes in many colors.
“I’m scared of everything. I hate loud noises and strangers and I hate all the boyfriends Patsy has,” said Ashley. “I really don’t like being a dog, but I like being cared for. Cars make me nervous and Mamoo scares me so I can’t help pooping in her car. She gets mad at me all the time.”
This goes on for hours. I can’t imagine a dog who doesn’t like riding in the car. That’s what dogs do. That’s one of the definite canine perks. Ashley is constantly changing her mind. I have heard it is a woman’s prerogative to do this, but there are limits. Even her face couldn’t make up its mind what to be: part of it was dotted blue, white and black and the other half was plain black and white. Mamoo said she is a harlequin.
Ashley spends most of the time under the bed, afraid of something or another. The rest of the time she spends pushing me with her nose to get me to entertain her.
“Tell me stories. Let’s chase up and down the stairs. Get under the bed with me and give me ear kisses.”
Excuuuse me! I have a lot more important things to do . I have no time to play “wrestle, wrestle” under the bed. Now if it were Celia ... ummmm, I hadn’t thought of her in a long time.
Patsy and Ashley are pretty much alike. Sometimes Ashley is called Grandpuppy, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Must be some inside joke.
Back to my story. This cooking went on for days. P.J. came to get in the way and told everybody he wanted a special bowl of mashed potatoes all for himself. Meanwhile, Patsy put the things humans use to eat with on the big table in the dining room. I forgot to tell you that humans eat sitting down like cats and use sharp sticks to put food into their mouths. Those sticks are made out of metal and they clink and clank on the plates. The humans also talk and sing as they are eating. I guess they aren’t worried that someone will take the food away before they eat it.
Patsy is a big help to Mamoo sometimes, but the rest of the time she is very nervous. Mamoo says it has to do with the fact she isn’t married yet. She is a pretty girl -- tall and slim, with very dark hair and hazel eyes.
Each human, in his or her own way, to wants to be the boss but doesn't know how. They constantly scream “mine” and “gimme that” until Mamoo screams back, “You all are over thirty years old, act it.”
The big “pig-out” arrives and the family, and a few extra people Mamoo calls hostages, sit around the table watching each other until Mamoo brings out the biggest turkey bird you’ve ever seen. They clap and hoot until it is put down on the serving table in the corner. They all hold hands and look down at their plates for a minute and then start passing bowls back and forth like crazy.
Sheila makes them laugh because she and P.J. are the most comical. Patsy never says much. She waits until everything is over and bedevils Mamoo in private, telling tales on everyone who was there. All the guests are friends of Mamoo’s children because they are all much younger. It seems that Mamoo constantly puts on dinners and entertainment for her children in order to keep them together and to keep them from fighting. They are like puppies fighting for her attention. She needs help. MINE.
I laid down by the fireplace because I was finished eating. I didn’t have to share like they did. I had turkey and stuffing and livers and cheese. Could anything be better? The fire was warm and I dozed off, full and happy. Hopefully, Ashley is under a bed somewhere and I can nap in peace.
The day after this huge meal, eight hours of non-stop football on the TV and P.J.’s gigantic helpings of warmed-up leftover mashed potatoes my guarding job is back in full swing. The humans get into their cars and we drive to a gigantic building with hundreds of cars parked in row after row.
“Guard the car. Guard the car.” That’s all I hear when they leave. I nap until they come back with large paper sacks filled with things they put it in the storage place in the back of the car. Then, off we go to do it all over again at another gigantic building.
Sometimes a strange face will look in the window while I’m napping, but a growl from me moves him along pretty fast. When we get home, Mamoo has supper for us. You guessed it! Leftover turkey bird and spaghetti casserole.
This is not the best time for dogs because of all the paper and boxes. It’s everywhere - piles of stuff on tables and chairs, desktops and sofas. If I take a teeny, little nap in the middle of one of the piles, you will get the rolled-newspaper treatment. Ashley is over here a lot now and the two of us spend a lot of time under the beds -- in different rooms, of course.
Each of Mamoo’s children takes a walk in a different way. Sheila loves to walk, but hates to take me. She walks very fast on purpose thinking I won’t be able to keep up and then she can take me home and go out by herself. HA! But I fool her. A speedball, that’s me. She puts on this long fur coat which used to be a raccoon. I wonder if she killed it herself? Then come the scarves, mittens and boots. We walk to the park. We walk downtown. We walk everywhere and she never, never gets tired. Guys in cars whistle at her because she is very beautiful, tall and slim, with red hair blowing from the wind and blue eyes sparkling win the cold.
With Patsy it is the opposite. She will only walk with me if she has a friend go along, and then, only around the block. Or else, she will stand outside while I do my thing and then dash right back inside where it’s warm. Patsy likes to sit in front of the fireplace or crawl in between the covers on the couch and read. She hates to miss out on anything happening.
Probably the best day during Christmas is the day the tree comes. Two men bring a tall pine tree into the house and set it up in the big room over by the fireplace. It sits in a metal holder which sits in a pail of water. The humans bring down strings of plastic ropes with little glass beads on them and then they argue about who does what and how they should do it. Patsy and her latest boyfriend, Andrew, get upon a ladder and hang these strings all over the tree.
Ashley, who has seen this before, is prepared for the next miracle. P.J. plugs all these ropes together, sticks one end into the wall and the strings burst into life with light. Some twinkle, some are in different colors and some are bright white. The effect is totally mesmerizing. WOW!
Then the humans take turns putting decorative things on the branches - stars, balls and all kinds of little figures. Brightly wrapped packages go under the tree in different piles, one pile for each person. There is jingle bell music playing and they all stand back and “ooh” and “aah” their work. With something as beautiful as this, I wonder why they fight this much while they do it.
For a while I thought all of this activity was because of Patsy’s birthday. But it turns out that she was born during this season and gets the benefit of all of the decorations. Ashley told me that she came to Patsy when the tree was in the big room and the house was full of people.
Before Mamoo has a bunch in to talk and eat, she sees that I go to the Vets. Not to Dr. R but to Donna, who bathes me and makes me look presentable with a red scarf around my neck like a cowboy. If it is for a real fancy party, she paints my toenails. Black of course, I’m not a fruitcake.
For Patsy’s birthday, there is a fat man who plays the ivory teeth that live in a wooden cabinet. He makes loud, fast music and the guests dance with each other. Friends of Patsy’s come to sing “Happy Birthday” and drink stuff like Bubba did. This stuff doesn’t make them sad like it did Don, but rather happy and silly.
One man put little candles all over a beautiful cake before we could eat it and would you believe, set it on fire, right there in the house. The smoke was awful. Bertha and Hugh, some more of Ella Mae’s children who came to help Mamoo with all the party people, had to open the windows.
One man tried to pat me and even though I positioned myself as good as I could, he kept falling over and missing me. Most of them were in the same condition -- supposedly the sign of a good party. But as for me, I would rather be in bed.
Contrary to what you might think, party time is not the best time for extra treats. None of the guests seem to want to give theirs up. The colored water in the glasses smelled terrible and the people passing food would not let you get close. The smoke from the cigarettes some of them sucked on gave me a headache, I sneaked away upstairs to bed to clear my lungs.
Later, during my first prowl of the night, I found two of Patsy's friends still lying on the couch drinking out of a large green bottle and rolling toward each other. The next morning they were gone and I never saw them again.
Now for the real mad house - the Christmas Eve party for the family and about everyone else in town. Bertha and all her brothers and sisters come and cook for days. The house is clean and I'm clean. It is sickening. A little dust never hurt anyone.
There is an additional problem. They keep forgetting I have to go out to the bushes every once in a while and, with all the extra goodies, I have to go out more. What is a country dog to do? I need walks!
P.J. says he did take me already (but he is known for lying). Mamoo says she doesn’t have time. Bertha is scared of me and Sheila says I walk too slowly. In the meantime, I still have to go. If I bark and whine enough, Ella Mae will let me out the back and wait for me to finish but it only knocks off the edge.
The long-awaited day finally arrives. The tree has great glittering balls and lots of packages underneath. A bird must be stuck somewhere in its branches. I hear it until it drives me wild, but I can’t find it. I almost knocked the tree down looking for it as it chirps away morning, noon and night.
Patsy’s favorite toy is the little barn with the miniature animals which she puts inside. There are some miniature people as well as camels and sheep with the appropriate human to go with them. She plays with this for an hour, then sets it out and everybody else gets a chance to putter with it. There is a loud discussion about which side of the barn “Baby Jesus” sits on.
My ears are sensitive and jarring noises make my head ache. When the man comes to fiddle with the white teeth in the wooden chest, there is nowhere to go to escape from the racket. Mamoo understands. “The piano has to be tuned or it will sound worse, Sammy my boy.” Even in the attic closet I can still hear it.
I stay in the attic closet a lot while everybody is getting on their fancy clothes. It's best to stay very quiet when Sheila is in front of her looking glass doing things to her face in case she makes red mark on the wrong place. She brushes and brushes her long hair until it shines like the setting sun and she spends a lot of time painting her face. She draws eyebrows and lips, then paints on eyelashes.
Patsy paints her fingernails bright pink and worries about her nose. I am fascinated by all my women. I am used to men who smell sour and never take a bath, but now I am surrounded by sweet, flower-smelling girls who love to pet me and feed me lots of little treats. They spend a lot of time on their appearance. I’m lucky: a tail nibble and a chop lick, and I’m ready to go.
The house looks wonderfully different. The tables are covered with bright shining balls and waxy, tall candles are on every windowsill. Greenery is draped across the fireplace mantle piece and over the doorways and there is a big wreath with golden ribbons floating from its bows hanging in front of the mirror over the fireplace. The eating table has flowers from one end to the other and silver balls drip from the chandelier.
Some of Ella Mae’s church singers are practicing the songs they plan to sing later on in the night. They wear long blue robes and all sing at once but not together. It sounds soothing. They clap and stomp in time to their singing and Mamoo loves it because she dances and claps right along with them. They sing a lot about Baby Jesus. That’s what this is supposed to be all about, but I have never seen him in all the years we have had this party. Mamoo says he comes quietly into the house on angel wings to give good dogs hugs while they sleep. She also said someone called Sandy Claws would be coming by later and I should watch for him.
When it gets dark, the visitors start to come. Some are children who are all dressed up and I have to be extra careful or they take things the wrong way and start crying that I’m doing something to them. Some understand a “hello” lick and others don’t. They are sent to the basement where there are cartoons and peanut-butter sandwiches. I go down there to help keep everything clean. I’m not proud; a peanut-butter sandwich is better than nothing.
Upstairs, the friends of the house are filling their plates with something that smells like deer meat. Mamoo lights all those fires on the table to keep the food hot (that must be the reason). Everyone’s glass is filled with a liquid that looks like ginger ale but smells like vinegar. Even with sour drinks, they all are having a wonderful time.
The most embarrassing moment in my life came. I was only doing my job. I heard someone at the door who simply didn’t smell right and he didn’t wait for someone to open the door. He walked right in. He wasn't dressed like the others and he was carrying a horse harness with hard metal balls which made a harsh ringing noise. And he was screaming, Ho Ho Ho.
He had disguised himself with white hair all over his face which didn't look real and wore a red, woolly suit smelling of mothballs. His big belly smelled like feathers. I knew he was a phony. On his back was a sack big enough to haul away everything in the house. What would you have done? Well, I did it. I backed that sucker up against the wall with my best snarls and grabbed his sleeve with my teeth. I thought I was pretty much of a hero because I had saved everyone in the house from this burglar. Not so. People were grabbing at my collar and yelling at me to back off. It seems this was the guest of honor, Sandy Claws. I tried to apologize but the damage was done. I slunk off to my room, vowing I never would go to another party. It was just as well because they went out at midnight to sing at the praying place and I could be alone with my sins. By the time Mamoo got home, I was sound asleep dreaming about biting a piece out of good ole Sandy Claws.
Christmas Day was an anticlimax. We took a long walk in the park and spent the rest of the day lying around the house eating turkey sandwiches and playing Snoopy and the Red Baron on the music box. P.J. played games on the moving picture box while Mamoo opened her presents. I even got presents: a new Bouda Bone, a box of super dog candy (which I ate immediately), and assorted hair brushes and pillows.
More friends dropped by and drank up the rest of the ginger ale which had lost its bubbles. It was a long day and I am glad it doesn't come too often. In thinking about the whole Christmas scene, it seemed to me that if people spread these good things around all year, they wouldn't have to cram it all in during one week. It certainly would be easier on the nerves.
Mamoo gave me big hugs before she went to bed and told me I had a good nose for bad guys. It turns out the man who dressed up like Sandy Claws had been scamming people for years and it was only a question of time before the law and his wife caught up to him.
Amazing! I could have polished him off if they had let me. Mamoo says he wasn’t the real Sandy Claws. The real one is flying around the North Pole throwing presents down the chimneys to make children happy and is sticking batteries in Rudolph’s nose. It is very confusing. All I can say is, “So long to the season of good will towards men and hello to another year of bite before you get bitten.”

Previous Chapter


Next Chapter