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Bilbo and the fireplaceI used to like spending Christmas Eve on the hearth rug in front of the fire. No better place, it seemed to me, once everyone had gone to bed. If the grandchildren were staying with us, Mum put out biscuits and a glass of milk, supposedly for Santa, which I consumed in the wee hours, when I got peckish. I didn’t actually believe in Santa. I mean, think about it: how could he possibly come down our chimney when there’s a log burner full of red-hot wood blocking his way? Still, everyone pretended that he could, and so did I. Why not? Humour the humans, I say.

Late one Christmas night - my family had long gone upstairs - I had just curled up on the hearth rug after polishing off the milk and biscuits when, to my amazement, the door of the log burner opened and out came … a fat little human in a strange get-up with a white beard! I leapt up and stared at him. I’d seen the pictures in the grandchildren’s story books and there could be no doubt; no doubt at all: this was Santa! My first thought was to leg it very fast, but to my horror my legs wouldn’t move. I just had to sit there and watch him heave himself out of the log burner, along with a very large sack in garish red.

Once on his feet, he grinned and winked at me. I winked back; he seemed friendly enough. He began to scan the hearth with a greedy look, and the grin fell right off his face when he saw the empty plate and glass. I gave my leg a little lick; I was going to admit nothing. But it was eerie: as though he’d read my mind, he nodded slowly, pursed his lips and gave me a look I didn’t like at all. I stared him out. This was my house, after all, and he was an intruder. My bravery seemed to please him – or so I thought, because he laughed out loud and began to empty his sack all over the hearthrug.  Parcels large and small scattered around me until I was hemmed in on all sides. The sack held much more than I would have expected. A wall of presents went up on all sides, growing and growing until it almost blocked my view, and all the time the strange little man cackled like an enormous chicken. I began to panic. The wobbling tower of parcels threatened to bury me. Where was the Canine? Surely, from his bed in the hall he would hear the commotion and raise the alarm? He must know I was in danger, at the mercy of a lunatic. Why didn’t he DO something?

BilboThe largest parcel of all landed on the teetering pile with a crash. It split open, and out popped … a giant mouse, the size of a large dog, with huge teeth and sharp claws! Its eyes opened wide in delight when it spied me down in my hole. It bared its teeth, roared with a noise that shook the room, opened its terrible paws wide and reached for me.

I found my voice then and shrieked as I’d never shrieked before, even in the car on the way to the vet, or when Mum gets the flea treatment out; or even that time when I was highjacked by a car. I closed my eyes tight and screamed and screamed until … the roaring suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes and found myself rolling about on the empty hearthrug. No sign of the giant mouse, or of Santa and his horrible sack. No parcels anywhere, just my tail the size of Mum’s feather duster and my heart pounding like a drum in my chest.

I have never told anyone about that dreadful night except you, dear readers, and you can make of it what you will. I still have no idea what happened, and to be honest I’m not keen to think about it. But I can assure you I’ve never spent Christmas Eve on the hearthrug again. Nowadays, I sleep in between Mum and Dad on their big bed, where it’s safest. The nasty man and his giant mouse won’t ever get near me again. I’ve also gone off milk and biscuits.

BilboBut don’t let this ruin your Christmas, by all means! Christmas Day is absolutely fine, in the daylight, when the presents have been safely delivered at some stage by I don’t care whom, and everyone is there, clutching cups of tea, looking drowsy, except for the grandchildren, who are always wide awake. That is all good fun. It’s Christmas Eve you want to watch.

Stay safe and have a happy time!

Bilbo

 

 

In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson