Nature calls early for men of a particular age. I am no exception to that rule. And so in the pre-dawn hours of a Saturday morning, I rolled out of my nice warm bed and shuffled to the bathroom. Between me and the plumbing conveniences of the modern world was one of our dogs, Riley. He is a black dog which can make just a journey treacherous as you paw through the darkness that engulfs your bedroom.

This doesn’t happen often. Riley the Mutt sleeps in an open dog crate.  And he loves his private chamber. He lords this luxury over his roommate, the Golden Retriever, who is forced to snooze on a mere dog blanket. On this particular morning, Riley had left his comfy crib to stand guard at the entrance of the master bath.

I stepped over him and said, “What are you doing? Go back to bed.”

I found a triangle of three cats in the bathroom. Nook, the female and smallest had her back to my wife’s vanity. The other two are a pair of brothers. They were trying to look tough, staring down the little girl with the big eyes and sharp claws. No one was moving. Yes, the boys were bigger but they were in no hurry to have their asses handed to them by Nook…again.

The little cat was hissing and sneering. You idiots want a piece of me?

There was going to be a rumble in the jungle. No doubt about it. I walked in and relieved myself. At least that explained why Riley was on duty. The black dog considered himself to be a secret service agent and Nook was his charge. No one messed with her on his watch. She didn’t need his help. That didn’t matter, Riley needed a job. He was in the doorway, six feet from the action and ready to roll.

Of course, the other dog, the Golden, wasn’t aware of any of this. She was happily snoring in a near coma in her corner of the bedroom. Dreaming of flying tennis balls or giant dishes of food.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed Abbott and deposited him outside the bathroom. Costello was a little tougher to catch. He did not want to go. I insisted. Riley was still there, now functioning as a doorman. I looked back at Nook who flattened her ears and hissed at me.

God, what a bitch.

I had nearly exited the bathroom when I saw movement in the shadows. I turned on the light and there it was. The reason for the ruckus…a country vole, scurrying back and forth along the baseboard of the vanity. How that little fellow was still alive was a mystery. Nook was a hunter. As a kitten, she survived in an abandoned construction shack living on bugs and God knows what else. This was to be her breakfast. The dumb and dumber cats weren’t fixing for a fight. They wanted mouse meat. And so, yes, there was going to be a screaming winner-take-all fight sooner to later leaving behind a bloody pelt. I looked over at the mouse. He was trapped and he knew it. His face was pushed into the corner of the vanity. And he was quivering.

I opened the bathroom door. Riley was right there, blocking the two cats from getting back into the bathroom. Like a bouncer at a high priced nightclub. I stepped over them, made my way to the kitchen, retrieved a couple of paper towel sheets and returned to the soon-to-be murder scene. The bathroom door was open now, just enough for Riley to keep his eyes on the situation. The brothers were still waiting to get in. Inside the torture chamber, nothing had changed. Nook was still in position wondering if it was too early for Saturday brunch and Mr. Mouse was still shaking in his boots.

After a couple of attempts, I caught the little fellow. I was never Nook’s favorite human servant but I was on her shit list…now and forever. The vole didn’t try to squirm out of my grasp. He was enveloped in white and probably thought he had gone to heaven.

Riley, now in the role of drum major, led the cat parade as I crossed to the front door. I stepped out into the frigid night, opened the cluster of paper towel clouds and dropped the little rodent on the porch. He was still for a second, shocked but definitely not disappointed. And then off he went, down the stairs and into the night.

I returned to the bedroom and my now awake wife.

“What’s going on?”

“There was a vole in the bathroom. The cats were at it.”

“Oh no.”

“Don’t worry. I scooped him up and put him outside.” It was good to be back under the blankets. Sweet warmth.

The two knuckleheaded brothers were back in the bathroom, tearing the place up. Where is that juicy tidbit?

“That was nice of you,” Lee said.

“Yes,” I agreed quickly with deep satisfaction. Saved a little life and got bridal brownie points to boot. I was the benevolent king of the castle. The gates of dreamland beckoned.

“Mouse’s Merry Christmas,” Lee murmured as she rolled over on to her side and fell back to sleep.

A festive tale, I thought…especially for the mouse. That was enough to awaken the writer’s brain. I sighed, extracted myself from the comforting covers, put my robe and slippers on and padded out to the kitchen.

The cats came flying out of the bathroom and darted into the dining room.

“Where is the mouse?”

“Maybe she ate him already.”

“Shut up.”

“No, you shut up.”

I made a pot of coffee, fed the disgruntled cats and watched the day come to life in the east. Be careful out there, Mr. Mouse. There’s a hawk watching and waiting. And he has no Christmas spirit.

I poured a cup of java and made my way down to the chilly basement where my magical writing machine sits atop my crappy corner desk. The dogs thought it was time for their breakfast. They were wrong. It was time to write this story.

Merry Christmas to all, great and small!

Christmas Mouse Tale
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