Father Christmas Talks to the Cat: A story by Rob Mimpriss
For Ben and Siân
It was rather an elegant grey cat, and it was sitting on the roof of the house where children were sleeping. The moon and stars gave a clean light to the reindeer that were drawing the sleigh and the bearded man who was driving them. The reindeer stopped when they drew level with the house, so that the man could rub the ears of the cat and talk to it.
‘I used to bring gifts to the children,’ the man said. ‘When times were hard I brought food and warm clothes, and in good times I brought toys. Now the children are no longer children, and the toys are different, but they are still toys. Tell me,’ he asked the cat, ‘what will do you tomorrow for anyone but yourself?’
The cat licked the base of its tail with a delicate pink tongue.
‘You think me selfish,’ it said, ‘but I have gifts. Tomorrow morning my humans will find a mouse on the doorstep. I left it not dead, so it will be fresh, and because it suffered torment between my claws the flesh will be sweet. That is my gift for the adults who feed me.
‘For the children who play with me I have a gift also,’ said the cat. ‘When evening comes and they are bored of their toys I will roll on my back and show my belly, but when those soft pink hands come in reach I will bite and tear. Then the children will know that beautiful things are not kind. If they remember the lesson they will thank me.’
A look of wonder came over the man. ‘You deal in cruel and terrible truths,’ he said, ‘and I deal in comfort and happiness.’ Then he stepped out of the sleigh and dropped himself down the chimney into the house where children were sleeping.