MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
THE CHRISTMAS KITTEN
By: Paul Curran
Christmas Eve, 11:35 pm, Thousand Oaks, California
The faint but strident meowing woke me up. Lying in bed, I opened my eyes and listened: “Meooow, Meooow”. The sound was coming from outside the motel room. It repeated twice more as I climbed out of bed and struggled into my pants in the faint light filtering through the drapes. My friend Elroy was still snoring in the next bed over. The air conditioning was a deep background rumble holding the 90 degree night at bay. I opened the motel door, making sure it was unlocked so I wouldn’t wake up Elroy, and stepped outside into the heat. The meowing got louder.
Elroy’s Kenworth tractor sat parked in front of the motel room, a dark shadow looming in the night. It was alone in the lot, as we were the only guests at the motel over Christmas. We had hauled a flatbed load into LA a few days ago and dispatch couldn’t load us back to Eastern Canada until after Christmas – so we were laid over. My truck was at Caterpillar in Halifax for an engine job, and because of the holidays, it was going to take a week at least. Elroy had been dispatched a hotshot load (a super rush load going directly from shipper to receiver without stopping for anything but food, fuel, and bathroom breaks) going from Halifax to LA and requiring two drivers– 3,600 miles and we had 72 hours to get there. The load was light and Elroy’s engine was large, so we could cruise at the speed limit or a bit above and run 24 hours a day with the two of us. It was a sweet run that paid amazingly, and we actually delivered early.
I walked up the walkway calling out softly for the cat. The meowing got louder, and a small grey kitten appeared around the corner. She was still meowing loudly as she rushed up to me and began to twine around my legs. At what looked to be no more than 15 or 16 weeks old, she was scrawny but her hair was short enough that it appeared neatly groomed. I bent down and picked her up, and talking to her as she meowed with what sounded like happiness, I carried her back to the motel room. She was very light and obviously too thin and hungry. I opened the room door and set the kitten down inside while she still meowed. This woke up Elroy and he turned on the lights and inquired what I was doing. I explained the hungry kitten and asked if we had any food or snacks.
Unfortunately there was no food to be had and I could not let the kitten go hungry. Elroy said he had seen an open fast food restaurant open down the road, so I asked to borrow the truck and made a burger run. The closest they had to cat food was a fish burger so I got two for the cat and a couple of hamburgers for Elroy and me. Returning to the motel room, I opened the fish burgers first, and the young kitten jumped on them as if she was starving, which she likely was. She tore into them, eating the fish patties, which I separated out for her, and then a small amount of the buns and condiments too. Elroy and I watched as we munched our own food and discussed the kitten. There was no way a kitten that small had survived alone – a big bird could have carried her off – and yet she obviously did not have an owner. It was all commercial buildings around here and no homes. There was a 24-hour restaurant next door which had been open until yesterday and then, when we returned from sight seeing in the afternoon, it was covered with a huge tarp marked with poison symbols. Coming from a cold climate, I had never seen this before and so I inquired at the front desk. Apparently, once a year – often round a slow time – many restaurants and food establishments in tropical areas were closed and then tarped and sprayed for insect and vermin control. Elroy and I speculated that the kitten had been either fed by the restaurant employees or had lived off the scraps in the garbage until yesterday.
Meanwhile, the stuffed kitten was looking for company and had jumped up on my bed where she was still meowing and prancing around. We turned out the lights and Elroy wanted the kitten out, but I convinced him to allow her to stay in the air conditioning.
The kitten started burrowing under my blanket and when I set her on the floor she jumped on Elroy. After he set her on the floor and she jumped back on my bed, I finally gave up and put her outside. She meowed for a bit and then went quiet.
Christmas Day, 07:10 am, Thousand Oaks, California
The next morning – Christmas Day – I woke early and checked outside. The kitten came running into the room and introduced herself all over again, rubbing legs and furniture and crawling around under the blankets on the bed, all the while meowing loudly. I got ready first and took the truck to get the kitten some takeout breakfast. Thankfully, there were a few restaurants open on this holiday, and I returned with some eggs and sausage for our furry friend. I gave her a bit of milk and a clean ashtray full of water.
Elroy and I had planned to spend the day at Disneyland – which, for you non-Californians, is not only open Christmas Day, but enjoys its busiest day of the year. So, we put the kitten out and headed off on our adventure.
Returning that evening, we picked up some cat food and some plastic bowls at an open convenience store on the way back. We weren’t back long before the kitten reappeared, meowing at the door. I had opened the cat food with a jack-knife and had filled the bowls with food and water. She partook of supper and then went back outside.
Boxing Day, 08:00 am, Thousand Oaks, California
The next morning the kitten was nowhere to be found. Mid-morning, we received a call from our dispatch that we had to reload oil field equipment in Houston in two days – a 1,500 mile run empty. That meant we would have to leave immediately. The load was going to the offshore oil rig supply boats in St. John’s Newfoundland – 3,400 miles east of Houston. The oilfield paid very well, more than enough to offset the long empty miles. Elroy packed the truck, paid our tab, and hooked up to the trailer while I looked for the kitten. I knew we couldn’t take her with us but I was almost frantic trying to find the little kitten. I had put fresh food and water outside the room that morning for her, but she hadn’t touched it. The thought of leaving the tiny defenseless kitten alone was crushing. I had become very attached to her over the last few days- far too attached.
Eventually Elroy was ready to go, and I had to climb up into the cab. I was broken hearted that the kitten was nowhere to be found. Elroy asked what the problem was, and I told him I was having a hard time leaving the kitten alone – that I was afraid it would get injured or killed, being so young. He pointed out that it was unrealistic to look for a small kitten in Greater LA, one of the largest cities in the world. Then he said something that struck me as very profound:
“Paul, you gave that kitten a chance at life that it would not have had without you. She has a full stomach and a few more days to find a caring home. Without you she would not have had that chance.”