Jessie Templar strolled down the street oohing and ahhing at the beautiful Christmas displays on the front lawns. Almost every house and front yard had bright multi-colored strands of lights turned on. She thought, someone should organize a Christmas lights and display contest, then her thoughts went to Snoopy in A Charlie Brown Christmas and she chuckled remembering Charlie Brown’s reaction to the contest, “My own dog gone commercial, I can’t stand it.”
It was a beautiful evening, crisp and refreshing with light snow falling. Homes were warm and inviting with dining room lights on as families sat down to dinner. It was something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Then again, to Jessie everything in winter was like a Thomas Kinkade painting, she just loved winter time and all the great things that went with it: evening walks in the snow, skating at Gage Park, sledding at Chinguacousy snow hill, and most of all, Christmas.
Christmas was going to be a little lonely this year since her brother Phil had gone back home. She lived alone and didn’t have many friends. She went out occasionally with the girls from work, but other than that she spent her free time staying fit and running errands.
She walked on looking up at the snow falling and thought about her brother and the incident at Churchville Village almost two months ago. She had gone to that park several times after Phil left, but when Daylight Savings Time ended she kept closer to home.
She passed the church and the school and kept walking until she came to the path that circled back to the apartment building. She stopped and hesitated, one of the lamppost lights had blown, but this was her usual route so she went on. Except for the light hum of the traffic, it was peacefully quiet, and if you really listened you could actually hear the falling snow. When she got further up the trail she heard the noise of flowing water and it broke her meditation.
Nearing the end of the trail along the shallow creek she saw two men coming out of the brush. She stopped, took a few steps back, and waited. One of the men started running toward a parked car along the street, got in, and drove away. The other man was walking fast up the trail, and was soon out of sight. She continued on until she came to the spot where the men came out of the woods. For a second she thought she heard something, but that was probably her jittered nerves. Being the curious person that she was, she couldn’t help herself and followed the footprints into the woods. She got to the creek and saw nothing, but then she heard a sound coming from down the creek. She could make out a square shape slowly drifting in the water. She ran to it, forgetting about the newly purchased Uggs on her feet, and grabbed it. At first, she was a bit reluctant to open the box, but when she did, she gasped, quickly closed it, picked it up, and headed back home, her boots sloshing in the snow.
“Emergency, I have an emergency.” Jessie began banging the bell and an assistant came running to see what the fuss was about.
“I found this box by the creek at Crawley Park. I saw two men coming out of the woods so I waited until they were gone and went to see.”
The assistant looked at her as if she were crazy to do such a thing then took the box and placed it on the counter. When she opened it and saw, she quickly went to the back and called the doctor.
As Jessie was about to sit down, four other staff members came out to see. No one could believe it. They took the box to the back and one of the assistants stayed with her to ask questions and obtain her personal information. Jessie knew very little and when they were done, the assistant thanked her and sent her home. That night, Jessie had very little sleep; the image of those little creatures in that box haunted her dreams.
A week later Jessie returned to the doctor’s office to get some information on what she had found. As she walked into the place the same assistant was behind the desk on the phone. She put her finger up to Jessie in a wait-a-minute motion. When she hung up, she smiled at Jessie and said, “I’m so glad to see you. I was just about to call you. An Animal Enforcement Officer is out back looking at what you found and he needed to contact you.”
“Oh, that’s great. But I’ve already told you all I know. I just came by to see if they survived.” Jessie followed the assistant down the hallway to a small room where the Officer had been waiting behind a desk.
“When you’re done here I’ll take you to them,” she said and walked away.
Jessie nodded. She went in and sat down. She answered all of the Officer’s questions and signed the statement. They were trying to find the men responsible, but without a description, it was going to be difficult. All Jessie saw were two black figures coming out of the woods. The Officer thanked her then got up and left the room.
A short time later the assistant came back and took Jessie to another room. There were many kennels with one tiny animal in each. The assistant stopped. On a table, inside a clean, soft, bowl-shaped bed, were the six kittens Jessie had brought in. They were sleeping peacefully, tangled together for warmth and comfort.
Jessie smiled. “They all made it.”
“Yup, thanks to you,” the vet said from behind Jessie. “If you hadn’t found them and brought them in, they would have frozen in less than an hour. They weren't even cleaned. They were barely minutes old when you brought them in."
Jessie turned to face the vet. “I still can’t believe anyone would do such a thing.”
“Yes, I know the feeling. I’ve been working here for the last ten years and I have never seen anything like this before,” she said coming up to take a closer look at them. “You were in the right place at the right time.”
“Yah, and I almost didn’t go into the woods, but I had this funny feeling something was wrong. You know what I mean?”
The vet put a hand on Jessie’s shoulder, “When they’re old enough you should take one home. They’re all spoken for except for one. Think of it as a Christmas gift. My partners and I are taking care of the vaccinations and what-not. All you need to do is give it food, water, and love. What do you say?”
Jessie thought about it. “Well, yah, okay, I’ll take the last one, which one is it and it better be female because I don’t care for male cats,” she said, laughing.
“You’re in luck, it’s this little Calico one,” the vet said, pointing to the kitten. “And it’s female.”
Jessie picked at the little critter until it moved and saw that its eyes hadn’t fully opened. “How are you feeding them?”
“With very tiny bottles,” the vet replied, giving Jessie the phone number for reception. “They will be four weeks by New Year’s Eve. If you have someone who can care for her while you’re at work, you can take her then, but otherwise she shouldn’t be left home alone at that young age.”
The vet smiled and left the room.
Jessie touched the puffs of softness and then realized that she wasn’t going to be so lonely for Christmas after all.