Jeremy was bereft. His feet were cold and he felt the sniffles coming on. And yet here he was on the evening of December 24 standing in a freezing parking lot looking at dying trees. Why? Because his family insisted. He desperately wanted to tell the world to piss off and just go and get drunk in some dive bar.
He hadn’t always been like this. He used to love Christmas. But 11 months and 13 days ago everything changed. The woman who completed him, who made him laugh and more importantly who laughed at his jokes, died. Mattie loved Christmas. She loved life. She loved him. Until some two-bit gangsta’ wanna-be thought it would be fun to drag race on a snow-covered icy street. They said she died instantly. But he didn’t. Jeremy wanted to die or to kill, but instead he lived. He felt the tiny box in his pocket. He had planned to ask her that night. That’s why she was out. They were going to meet.
It had been a horrible few months but everyone seemed to have moved on. Except for Jeremy. Here he was standing in the cold with instructions to buy a lovely full tree for Christmas. He shook his head, was about to turn around and leave when he heard an odd sound.
He looked around the parking lot but he didn’t see anyone. The sound was low, almost frantic. It was a scratching noise with a hiccup and a sigh. It intrigued him. He wanted to know what was making that sound. Jeremy took a step forward and the sound changed. It was a whine now and a huffing noise. It didn’t sound human and yet it didn’t sound animal either.
A back-firing car startled him. He felt silly. It was probably just the wind stirring up some garbage. Jeremy shrugged his shoulders; he knew he needed to get on with his life. He could never forget her but maybe he should put her where she needed to be: deep in his heart where she could be protected, her memory safe. He would start by taking an active roll in this evening’s activities.
In that moment something else happened. Jeremy seemed to swim up from the abyss of grief he had been living in for almost a year. His eyes truly opened. He almost smiled. He was looking for a tree. Now there were tall ones and fat ones and ones that looked a little sad. But he couldn’t seem to find one that he thought needed a home with his family. And then something fell on his foot. It wasn’t very heavy, it was very small and it coughed.
Jeremy peered down at his feet trying to see what this thing was. There wasn’t a great deal of light but he was pretty sure that he saw it move. Without thinking he reached down and scooped up the small ball of something.
The next thing that happened was unexpected. But perhaps given the day, appropriate. With the small black bundle at eye level Jeremy poked it. It poked back! And then it opened its mouth and emitted a rather large meow. It was a kitten. It was a small, black, cold, abandoned kitten. It curled itself into a ball and started to purr. Jeremy smiled for the first time in almost a year. He tucked the sleeping bundle into his pocket and bought the tree it had been hiding under.
He got his tree. He didn’t haggle the price, he just paid it and chuckled. He was taking home more than a tree. He had found the Spirit of Christmas hiding in the small body of a kitten under a tree.