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Adso and Rollo: A Christmas Story

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Adso stretched, arching his back before reaching out with his front paws to knead absentmindedly, then curled up for a long overdue nap. Tucking his nose under his tail, he shut his eyes. Napping in the shed was a pleasant change from napping in the Big House. Different scents. Different sounds. Different memories and dreams. As long as he kept to himself and avoided the others, he was fine. He had gotten the distinct impression that the other animals there didn’t particularly care for him, especially the chickens. Whenever he tried to walk past them in the yard, it seemed to him that they always went out of their way to peck at his tail as he passed. No matter. For now, he’d found a warm spot in the far corner, on a lovely smelling pile of hay and was about to drift off when, without warning, the usual sounds of the shed late at night became a cacophony of voices all yelling at once. 

“It’s here!! Oh, I’ve looked forward to this all year!” 

“Should I sing? I think I should sing. My voice is really quite good. Would anyone like to hear me sing?” 

“Clarence, my man!! How you doin’?”

 “Bugger off, that’s my corn!”

Opening one eye, Adso snuck a peek at the other occupants of the shed, each suddenly talking, each trying to be heard above the noise. Oh, it's Christmas, he sighed to himself. I'd lost track of the time.  It was clear that he would not get any rest in the shed tonight, so he gave his fur a few quick licks, then stood up to leave. 

“Well, well…what do we have here?” The rather large rooster stepped in front of him. “Mister Fancy Fur himself. Wasn’t the bed in the Big House comfortable enough?”

 Several of the chickens gathered behind the rooster, each interjecting their own insults and comments in Adso’s direction. 

“What’s the matter? Too good to talk to us?”

 “Spoiled. That’s what he is.”

 “He gets cream from Herself! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Cream! Can you imagine?”

“Maybe he needs someone to show him who’s really in charge here. Teach him some manners.”

 Finding himself cornered by the flock that was pecking more aggressively by the second, Adso hissed. He’d have to make a run for it, but how to do it and still avoid their fierce beaks was the question. As he considered his options, a loud voice bellowed a single word from the entrance of the shed. 



Rollo had been dozing on the front porch. He sometimes liked to sleep curled up next to Ian, but he also liked to come and go as he pleased and didn’t mind sleeping alone. Tonight, he knew the humans were having some sort of party, although he had no idea why. His keen nose picked up the scent of the funny-smelling water in their glasses, the kind that made them stumble and step on his paws whenever they drank a lot of it. He knew they didn’t mean to hurt him. The funny-smelling water did strange things to the humans. Not wanting to risk paws or tail, he had gone out to the porch instead.

 His ears perked up when he heard it—so many voices— strange voices that he’d never heard before. Standing up, he shook his fur, and loped over to the shed to investigate. 

They were all clustered together in a bunch, facing away from him. He realized that the kitten was there, cowering in the corner, hissing as though his life depended on it. They were ganging up on the tiny thing, and the thought of it made him furious. Sometimes he hunted, of course, and ate what he caught, but that was a fair chase. This wasn’t fair at all. He stood at the entrance to the shed and barked his loudest. 




Every head turned toward the entrance to the shed. 

“Small Floof! Come!” 

Wasting no time, Adso bolted past the chickens and out into the frosty December air. He didn’t stop until he reached the porch of the Big House, where he sat down and licked a paw, waiting for Rollo. Sure enough, moments later, Rollo padded up onto the porch, tongue lolling, and plopped himself down next to Adso.

“Thank you, Rollo,” Adso spoke up. “I deeply appreciate it. The chickens around this place really are a gang of hooligans. You were very kind to intervene on my behalf.”

 “Rollo good boy?”

 “Yes, Rollo,” he chuckled, “you are a very good boy.” 

“Why talk now?”

 “Why can we talk?” Adso stretched to lick a spot on his side that demanded immediate attention. “Well, it’s Christmas of course. Every Christmas Eve, animals have the gift of speech for the midnight hour.”

 Rollo scooted down a little lower, stretching out his paws, then resting his muzzle on them, sniffing the chilly air.

 “Rollo good boy.”

 They sat in silence for a few minutes, looking out at the starry sky from the shelter of the porch. Rollo scooted closer to Adso, curling around his tiny body and sheltering him from the cold.

 “Small Floof friend?”

 Adso leaned into the warm bulk of Rollo’s side.

 “Thank you, Rollo. I would love to be your friend. We’re different from the rest of them, you and I. We live close to the humans. We go into their house, eat scraps from their table, and sleep at their feet. They’re special to both of us, I think, and we’re special to them. That’s why the others get jealous, even if it isn’t fair. Thank you again. I don’t relish another encounter with that rooster in particular. I think I’ll stay away from the shed from now on.”

“Rollo keep Small Floof safe.”

 “Thank you, Rollo. Most sincerely.” 

A moment later, the front door opened, and Jamie stepped out. Casting a glance at the two friends, and walking a little shakily, he went down the steps and headed off to the shed, presumably to close it up for the night Adso thought to himself. He watched as Jamie’s tall frame faded into the darkness.

“I knew him in another life…James Alexander,” Adso mused. “Back in Scotland. I was his mother’s cat then. Same name, though. Adso. I was named after a monk.”

 “Small Floof is small. How there long time before?” Rollo tipped his head and one ear popped up from where it had been pinned by Adso’s furry body. 

“Ah… well, of course you wouldn’t know. Cats have nine lives,” Adso replied, leisurely licking the pads of his left paw before using it to clean behind his ear. “This is number four for me. We live and die, reborn nine times, then finally cross the Rainbow Bridge and await our loved ones. I knew James when he was small.”

 “Red Fur?”

 “Yes, Red Fur. I suppose that’s as good a name as James Alexander. Even then, he was kind—always shared his supper with me. He would bring me bits of sausage when he thought his mother wasn’t looking, but she always knew. She didn’t mind. The funny thing is that he still does it. He’s still sneaking me sausage under the table. It really is rather endearing.”

 “Red Fur is friend like Small Floof. Best Friend is best friend.”

 “You mean Ian?”

 “Best Friend.”

The door opened again and this time Claire stepped out. She leaned over the railing and called out into the night. “Jamie, do you need help?”

 A voice answered back from the shed. “Nae, I’m putting out some extra hay so we can sleep in a wee bit in the morning. I willna be long.”

 “All right, but don’t freeze,” Claire replied, then turned and went back into the enticing warmth of the house. The indoor air wafted over Adso and Rollo as she closed the door but neither friend moved to try to follow her.

 “I knew her too…in Paris.” Adso licked his tail. “I was with Master Raymond then. He was a traveler like our Claire Elizabeth. Fascinating humans, travelers… Always interesting. I lived in his shop. I hunted mice, but he would give me saucers of milk too. He never named me, only called me mon amie. I wonder…perhaps that’s why I wound up here…since I’ve seen them both before. It’s interesting to ponder, but I’ll probably never know for sure.”

 Rollo thumped his tail. Once. Twice. Three times.

 “Small Floof forgot fourth. Rollo count three lives. Floof said four.”

 Adso looked up, meeting Rollo’s dark eyes. “That’s right, Rollo. How very clever of you!”

 “Rollo smart boy. Rollo good boy.”

 Adso purred, leaning into the large furry body that sheltered him. “Yes you are, dear friend. Yes you are.”

At that moment, a shooting star blazed a path across the sky, east to west. Both animals lifted their heads and took a sharp breath in at the sight before settling back down into their state of cozy companionship.

 “Yes…the fourth. Well, actually, it was the first. My first life. Seems fitting for tonight. I was there. The first time the animals talked.”


 “Yes, Rollo. The first Christmas.”

 “Baby Jeebus?” Rollo’s ears both perked up and he looked quizzically down at Adso, who, if it was possible for a kitten to smile, was smiling.

 “Yes, Rollo. I saw the Christ Child.”

 “Tell Rollo.” Rollo’s eyes widened, and he rested his muzzle on his paws.

 “I was a stray in Bethlehem. One stray cat among dozens in that tiny backwater town. My first wasn’t the easiest of my lives, but it was blessed that night. Back then, no one snuck me sausages. I had to hunt for my supper. Most of the time I was hungry. And cold. But I digress… I knew of a shelter where they kept the animals of the guests at the inn. Mostly donkeys and goats. Occasionally a horse. No chickens, thankfully. It was warm. I often went there on chilly evenings.” Adso stretched out a paw, then the other, kneading the air with his claws. 

“I walked in like I always did, but this time there were humans. They were huddled in the back, in my spot. Three of them. All spooning together on the straw. He was holding her, and she was holding the baby. They were sleeping. But there wasn’t anything ordinary about them. They were glowing. Warm, clear, white, glittery-sparkling light. It shimmered and danced over the walls. Beautiful sight.” 

Adso looked up at Rollo. “You know how Claire Elizabeth glows blue, don’t you? She’s a healer and a traveler, so she glows blue.”

 “Oh…that why blue. Did not know why Blue Lady is blue.”

 “Right. Well, it was sort of like that. The Christ Child was surrounded by pure, clear sparkling light. It’s impossible to completely describe, and I think I’m not doing a very good job of it. Words just cannot do it justice. It was different. Radiant. Warmed me all the way down to the tip of my tail just to see it. I couldn’t help myself. I walked right in and just sat there, staring at the three of them. I didn’t want to ever leave. I think I would have been happy to spend all nine of my lives just sitting there. Just being there with them.” 

“What do then?” 

“Well, it wasn’t so much what I did as what she did. His mother. She opened her eyes and looked at me. Then she reached out and scratched between my ears, and stroked my head. She spoke to me too. She said, ‘Poor thing. You’re all alone, aren’t you? Come here…there’s room.’ And I understood her. I’d never understood human speech before. I stepped closer, and she pulled me in right next to her and the baby. I tried to purr, but ‘thank you’ came out instead. Then I realized that the other animals were talking too, quietly amongst themselves.”

 Rollo yawned, exposing his cavernous mouth and giant teeth.

"She stroked my fur. Never in all my lives have I felt as much love as I felt in that moment. And that light? I understood what it was then. It was love. Kindness. Hope. Courage. Strength. Trust. Faith. Joy. Every good thing you can imagine all wrapped up into one. I fell asleep. The next morning, everything was back to normal. I could purr again, and the Holy Family had left the stable. But every year since, on the anniversary of that night, all the animals of the world can talk at the midnight hour. And here we are tonight, you and me, carrying on the tradition.” 

“That good story.”

The two friends looked out at the deep velvet blackness of the Carolina night. Orion was high, and Adso noticed a bright object that he presumed to be a planet, but couldn’t be sure which one. A few more meteors flashed through the sky, though none as spectacular as the earlier one.

 “I’m happy to tell it. Most animals nowadays aren’t terribly interested. They’re more concerned with catching up on the latest barnyard gossip or blabbering on about whatever nonsense pops into their heads—acting like humans, really—but I think it’s a story worth sharing. Heaven knows the world needs more light. You have it within you. That same light. Did you know that? Anyone with love in their heart carries a little of it. I can see it on you, a little echo of the Light of the first Christmas.”

“Rollo good boy.”


“Rollo not good boy?”

 “Rollo is the best boy.”

 “Merry Christmas, Small Floof.”

 “Merry Christmas, Rollo.”

Curled up together, the two companions slept until morning, when they were welcomed into the house and given bacon, sausage and bowls of cream for their Christmas breakfast, along with many belly rubs, head scratches and their own special spot by the hearth. 

Every year afterward, Adso and Rollo made a point of spending Christmas Eve together if they could, talking and reminiscing about their life on the Ridge, sharing stories about their humans, and staying as far away from the chickens as possible.