A THANKSGIVING TAIL … ERR … TALE
by JoAnn Baca
In honor of Linda’s Chloe
The fireplace in their brownstone was sending cheery flickers of light throughout the darkened living room. Only one lamp was lit, and Vincent was sitting by it. He picked up the latest Elmore Leonard novel from where he had abandoned it hours before and settled more comfortably into the leather armchair Catherine had gifted him when they had moved in.
Things were just how Vincent liked them, even if it was only the calm before the storm. He’d helped prepare their Thanksgiving brunch and now was rewarding himself with half an hour’s quiet reading time.
Padded steps announced the arrival of Chester, the tortoiseshell mixed breed cat that came with the house when the former owners turned the keys over to Catherine. After he had been captured and returned three times and came back a fourth, everyone accepted the fact that Chester wasn’t moving. For Chester had fallen deep into kitty-love with Vincent, which sealed the deal for Catherine. Her beloved had never had a pet, and had been adopted by this one. She couldn’t deny either of them.
Chester hopped up onto the corduroy-clad legs of his favorite housemate and, after turning a few times, settled his twenty-pound bulk firmly upon Vincent’s thighs. Vincent conceded the space, pulling his book out from under Chester. He stroked the cat with one hand while holding the book with the other. Other than an occasional bat at the book with one large paw, Chester allowed him to proceed.
Catherine stuck her head into the doorway. “I’m going up to change. Everything’s laid out and ready, and there’s room on the counter for whatever those Below are bringing.”
Vincent looked up from his novel and smiled. He didn’t say anything, but Catherine took Chester’s loud purring as a sign that both the men in her household were currently content.
Soon the sound of Catherine singing echoed softly down from the second floor, mixing with the crackle and pop of the fire. Vincent breathed deeply, contentment and the warmth of the fire combining to make him sleepy. Soon his head drooped and the book in his hand fell to the carpet.
Chester noted that he was no longer the object of affection, the hand upon his head still now. Slightly miffed, he slipped down to the floor and quietly made for the now-deserted kitchen. Enticing aromas emanated from counters that he was forbidden to ascend.
His house…his rules.
In his younger days he could have attained the counter in one leap, but he was a prudent old boy now, and took advantage of the barstool, which was a full foot closer to the ground, then leapt the rest of the way.
He sniffed disapprovingly at fruit and cut vegetables, stopping only to test the scent of some smooth, creamy concoction in a bowl beside them. One exploratory lick was all it took to dismiss that as not sufficiently edible.
He skirted a tray that was sitting above a warmer; it exuded too much heat to safely test whatever was on it. But his eyes were already fixed on platters that held greater promise.
Sliced meats and thin slices of a pinkish fish beckoned.
Chester settled in. This was all so much better than the wet mush his housemates normally put down for him.
A few minutes later, Vincent woke from his doze with a start. Something felt amiss. He rose and picked up his fallen book, placing it on the end table. “Catherine?”
She didn’t reply, so she must still be upstairs. But sounds were coming from the kitchen.
Chester didn’t look up as Vincent entered. But the growl he heard caused him to pull back involuntarily, his ears flattening backwards and his back arching as he heard the challenge. “Chester…DOWN!”
Chester dropped to the kitchen floor with alacrity, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to acknowledge the censure in any other way. He merely strode past Vincent and back into the living room…now intent on sharpening his claws on a certain leather armchair recently vacated.
Vincent stared at the counter, noting the cat-tongue-dented dip, and the nibbled salmon and turkey slices. Grimly, he did his best to remove the ruined bits and return the trays to a semblance of order. When he had done all he could, he took the evidence of incursion to a trash receptacle outside of the kitchen, then went back to the living room.
Chester was now sitting on the armchair, engaged in personal grooming, one leg sticking up high and tongue being applied to his nether regions.
Vincent noted the scratch marks near the back leg of his favorite chair.
“Chester,” he rumbled. “You are a very bad host.”
The big cat spared him a brief glance.
“I should take you to the pound right now.”
Another glance, with a slow blink added.
“But I know you’d find your way back here. So…” Vincent picked the hefty cat up and sat down with him, plopping the fat thing back on his lap.
Chester looked up at him with adoring eyes…and definite salmon breath…and began to groom the chin hair of his beloved housemate with the tongue that had so recently been licking his own private parts.
When Catherine came back downstairs, dressed and smiling, she looked in on Vincent. He looked up from his book, Chester on his lap, and smiled at her in return.
There was a knock on the door leading up from their private tunnel entrance.
“Just in time!” she said.
Vincent rose, dumping Chester to the carpet, and joined her at the doorway.
Before she opened the door, she turned to her beloved. “Happy Thanksgiving!” When she kissed his chin, she didn’t understand the choked sound Vincent uttered.
Neither of them noticed Chester making his way back into the kitchen.