Max gave his paw one last lick and settled deeper into his plush red bed. He had just finished eating a handful of kibble and his morning ablutions, which meant it was time for another nap. He closed his eyes, ready to fall into dreams where he lorded over adoring felines and chased after mice, birdies and bugs, when he felt a presence looming over him. He opened one eye and looked up.
“Hi ya, MaxE. Mama’s gotta run to the store. Be a good boy while I’m gone, okay?” His Mama narrowed her eyes. “No getting into mischief!”
Max rolled-over, contemplating what his Mama said. She wasn’t giggling, which was good sign in his opinion. She had stared a little too intently for his comfort at the stupid commercial shilling reindeer ears for kitties. He decided to take a wait and see approach because he hated to resort to naughtiness this close to Christmas.
He recently had his status upgraded to Best Boy, which was a real honor, and Santa Kitty Klaus would certainly reward him accordingly. His Mama said being a Best Boy was the highest privilege one could bestow on a feline, although sometimes she exaggerated things, like the reasons why he couldn’t have a pet birdie.
Lease, shemease. Why would the landlord care if he had a pet birdie? Did they do anything about those birdies hanging out on his patio? No sir, they did not.
Still, it was risky to make Mama mad so close to Christmas and MaxE was not a foolish cat. As long as he didn’t find any clothes in her shopping bags, he would not stick his paw in her iced tea after using the litter box. With that problem resolved to his feline satisfaction, he dreamt about a gray, plastic mouse with red laser eyes.
A Surprise Visitor
Max stirred. “Meow?” He was pretty sure he had heard a strange noise. He slowly got out of bed and silently crept to the door.
Max knew how to unlock doors, even the front door, which his Mama did not know. This was his special secret. He could sneak out and have outdoor privileges without her knowledge, because sometimes a feline wanted to explore and get into mischief without his Mama knowing.
Knock. Knock. “Max, are you home?”
“Yes, I’m home. Who is asking?”
“It’s me. Lucky.”
Lucky was a small brown mouse that lived near the swimming pool. Max had chased him, but Lucky was … well, Lucky. Fast and small, he could outrun Max and squeeze into places where the big feline could not, to his chagrin.
Still, Lucky wasn’t exactly a friend, so Max was curious to know what the little mouse wanted.
“Please, Max. I need your help.”
This was not the answer Max expected. Mice and felines were natural enemies and he couldn’t imagine how he could help Lucky. Now his curiosity was piqued, and you know what they say about cats and curiosity. He reached up and jiggled the lock until he heard the familiar click, and the door opened to reveal a sad-faced little mouse.
After giving him a hard stare, Lucky scurried in and went into the kitchen. Max followed and sat across from him, with just his water dish separating two should-be mortal enemies. He wondered if he should offer Lucky some cheese. He knew his Mama had some in the fridge. She probably wouldn’t notice if a mouse-sized serving was missing.
“I need your —”
“Can I offer —”
“— help,” finished Lucky.
“Meow?” He had never known a mouse to ask a cat for help. Nor had he ever heard of cat considering helping a mouse. But his Mama raised him to be enlightened and open-minded (except when it came to clothes). Plus, they watched a lot of procedurals on TV, so he knew all about crime-solving.
The Missing Naughty and Nice List
Lucky explained that he was in charge of Santa’s Naughty and Nice List and it was missing. Santa was scheduled to arrive in two hours from the North Pole, and without the list, no animal would receive a Christmas present this year.
This was worse news than the time his Mama told him he was going to be a cowboy for Halloween! Max couldn’t bear the thought of no toys in his stocking on Christmas, especially now that he was an official Best Boy.
“Don’t worry, Lucky, I will help you!” Max meowed. “I deserve … I mean every, good animal deserves a Christmas present. Please take me to the scene of the crime. I need to smell who was hanging around your hiding spot.”
Max was feeling quite excited because he knew that Santa Kitty Klaus would certainly forgive him for his past mischief-making ways if he found the Naughty and Nice list. Plus, he would become more famous than Rudolph and he would use his fame to open a feline-owned and operated private investigation firm. Max, the Cat Detective had a nice to ring to it; although if Lucky kept sashaying down the hallway, he might accidentally eat the little mouse. Max was pretty confident that eating your client was a major no-no.
The Scene of the Crime
Max put his nose to the ground and began sorting out the different scents. He smelled Lucky, of course, suntan lotion, Diet Coke, some chocolate, the dog from 218 but nothing really out of the ordinary. Sniffing out the perpetrator seemed unlikely, which meant he would need to use his deductive skills, like Sherlock Holmes. Thank goodness felines were naturally brilliant.
“Do you have any enemies?” Max asked.
“Well, the dog in 302 chased me the other day, but I don’t think he did it.”
Max knew the dog in 302 and agreed with Lucky’s assessment. Bruno wasn’t known for his brilliance, just his uncontrollable drooling.
“Who would benefit from the list missing? I betcha it was a doggie.”
“All the doggies in the building were on the Nice List.”
“All of them?” Max was shocked. Mama always said that Santa had a big heart. He was, apparently, also crazy.
“Was I on the Nice List?”
“Right, right. We have more important things to worry about.”
Both animals sat quietly, each caught in their own deep thoughts. Max was a little concerned that maybe Santa knew about all those times he got into mischief, while Lucky was really worried about getting permanently placed on Santa’s Naughty List.
“Was there anyone on the Naughty List from the building?”
“Max! I’m not going to tell you what Santa is bringing you.”
“Ah-ha! So I am on the Nice List. I knew it. I’m a Best Boy. Santa’s gonna reward me, big time! But I wasn’t talking about me.”
Lucky glanced at Max and twitched hard.
“No, seriously. Who would have motive to steal the list? Someone on the Naughty List.”
“Everyone was on the Nice List, Max.”
“Everyone? Even Phil from 623?”
“Yup. Like I said … every pet in the building made the Nice List, but … not every animal did! Izzie is on the Naughty List!”
Izzie was a tiny bird who acted like she owned the place. She would circle the building, cackling early in the morning, when everyone was trying to sleep and terrorized all the residents — humans, felines, doggies and even the occasional mouse — with her dive-bombing antics. Max knew she was the culprit, and he swore he wasn’t being racist.
Izzie typically hung out on the west side of the building during the afternoon, so Max and Lucky raced up to the roof and found her strutting around her nest, guarding the missing Naughty and Nice List.
“You give me the list, right now,” Max demanded as he crouched down low.
Izzie laughed and flew up into the sky, hovering a few feet above Max. “I know you. You’re the spoiled brat from the 7th floor. I hear you’re a real Mama’s boy.”
“I am a Mama’s boy! And proud of it. I am indulged. Like all good kitties are.”
Izzie didn’t like Max’s taunts and she dive-bombed him, but Max was ready for her. With his mitts of doom, he knocked her down and ate her in two big gulps.
Lucky looked a nervous but Max was full. He didn’t have room in his belly for a mouse, plus Santa might get upset if he ate Lucky. Max helped the little mouse move the list back to its original hiding spot. He gracious accepted Lucky’s many thanks, then hurried home because Mama would be back from her shopping excursion shortly.
Max’s Christmas Present
“I’m home, Max!”
His Mama came stumbling through the door, bearing lots of bags. She dropped them to the floor and he rushed over to snoop through the bags in search of clothes.
She snatched a bag and held it close to her chest. “No peeking, MaxE. This might have your Christmas presents inside.
Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Max wondered what it might be. A new feather brush? Some treats? A bouncy ball? Maybe, just maybe, a pet birdie named Yum Yum?
Mama stared at him for a long moment, then she shrugged and laughed. “You’re such a good boy, MaxE. Maybe, you can open one present early.”
Max meowed enthusiastically and his Mama slowly took out a squeaker toy in the shape of a birdie. She tossed it on the ground and Max immediately pounced on it and it gave a satisfying squeak of terror.
“I know you wanted a real birdie, Max Man. But the apartment won’t allow us to have one. I hope this is an okay substitute!”
Max rubbed his head against his Mama’s legs and purred. It didn’t matter because he had a birdie earlier and it was a real Yum Yum. Best. Christmas. Ever.
Merry Christmas everyone! Max and I are taking the remainder of the year off but we’ll be back in action on January 4. Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday season, surrounded by good food, family and friends. We hope Santa treats you well!
Tanya & Max