Good afternoon, Netizens…
Although not a Christmas story, here is a fantasy fable originally written for Marty Hibbs, who I think understands cats, and for David Elton who has written about his weiner dogs…
The Narft Man
by Dave Laird
It was a snowy winter’s day, and Mrrowzr had just returned indoors from an abbreviated visit to the outdoors. Entering the house from the front door, she shook her paws free of the remaining droplets of snow, while all three other cats sniffed at her as she went by, eager to see if anything were amiss. Although she endured the humility of the three other cats sniffing her behind, as if she were a common street cat, she quickly grabbed a bite of food, a drink of water, and then made straight for the bedroom to rest awhile.
Mrrowzr the cat, a trifle neurotic tabby, doesn’t mind going out in the snow, so long as those horrible dreams of her former narft owner chasing her down an alley, waving a baseball bat in the air, do not come back to haunt her again.
Mrrowzr is actually a very prim and proper cat, preferring to stick very close to home, even in the summer when there are always tempting things to do up and down the street. However, when there is snow on the ground, when she goes outside you can generally find her hiding either inside the garage, behind the giant red toolbox that sits in one corner, or beneath one of the automobiles parked in the driveway. She is content in either place, to tuck her tail just so around her kitty-feet, keeping them warm, and watching the birds, or merely sleeping, at least so long as the nightmares do not return.
Thus far, she has never mentioned a word about the nightmares to any of the other three cats that share the house, how it frightens her so, making her grind her teeth in her sleep, remembering how the narft man kicked her with his boots, beat her with a branch off a tree another time, or how her young, innocent mistress cried so one night when she found Mrrowzr cowering beneath the bed with broken ribs and her fur all bloody from another beating.
Mrrowzr has tried talking about her past experiences, upon occasion, when the cats are sitting in a circle talking quietly among themselves, as cats often do, but kitty-words simply cannot express the horror, the shame of it all. Besides, her present owners are gentle loving people, quite the opposite of the narft man, so the experience she once had in that other bad place would mean nothing to them.
She once tried to speak privately with Chrrlz, the most intelligent of the three cats, about it, but he merely looked at her with such disdain, she quickly stopped in mid-sentence, lest he cuff her for being
insolent. Of course, neither Chrk, a rather large but utterly stupid black tom with a blaze on his chest, nor Seedz, a white female long hair, with a propensity for talking altogether too much, would understand.
Seedz had but one good eye, the other horribly mangled from an incident which took place back in her kitty-hood, involving a rather aggressive dog, but stated she had no memory of such things, and being polite cats, no one ever mentions it in her presence.
There is that word, however — narft—which is there, unspoken among most sophisticated cats. It expresses that which has no meaning to humans, but it implies utter evil to any feline, and thus because it is so patently offensive, it is seldom heard, even among the most loquacious of their species. Late one snowy afternoon, when all four were talking quietly on the goose down bedspread in the bedroom, Mrrowzr mentioned the dreaded word in passing, and the results were quite nasty, indeed.
“If you persist,” Chrrlz whispered venomously in a barely-audible whisper, “in speaking in that way, using that unspeakably foul word in our presence, I shall carve you up in a jiffy. None of us have ever seen proof that the evil of which you speak even exists, and I, for one, am tired of hearing it mentioned.”
“Did someone say food?” Chrk, who had been dozing off during lulls in the conversation, opened his huge yellow eyes to their maximum size, purred, and then stared vacantly at the bedspread, trying to remember what it was he was about to say.
“Yes, food, food, food,” Seedz echoed from the other side of the bed, raising her pretty head, eagerly peering toward the kitchen, where their three food bowls sat neatly in a row. “I think I shall go have a bite of food. Would anyone care to join me?”
Without waiting for a response, Seedz jumped off the bed and wandered off toward the kitchen and the food bowl, where she hurriedly ate two or three bites of the cat food, as if to reassure herself that there was, indeed, still food there. After taking a demure sip of water, she marched back into the bedroom, jumping back up on the bed, and promptly fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
It was quiet for some time. Chrk had fallen back asleep, snoring loudly as always, and Seedz sleeping also, her body curled up into a ball of white fur on the opposite side of the bed. Mrrowzr, without saying another word, closed her eyes, thus acquiescing to Chrrlz, who sat quietly gazing off into the distance.
No one said another word for a long time that snowy afternoon, and soon they were all asleep.
That was, until Mrrowzr woke them all up by crying piteously from within the throes of yet another nightmare, more fierce than any of the others she’d ever had. Fast asleep, her claws digging deeply into the bedspread, her teeth grinding fiercely, she swayed this way and that, crying out between her clenched teeth, “…the narft man comes…the narft man comes…” and “run, kittyfeet, run”.
No one said a word, not even Chrk, who sat quietly watching her, studying her thoughtfully. Minutes later, as the nightmare passed, and Mrrowzr awoke, her eyes filled with tears, dazed and somewhat confused, Chrk quietly walked over to her and licking her gently, whispered soothing words into her ear until she, too, fell deep into sleep again.
Outside the snow, which had been falling all afternoon, suddenly stopped, and to the west, it began clearing off as once more there was silence in the house of contented cats.