by Toni Mannell, from Powys
Twas the night before Christmas, and something was stirring that would keep an innocent young kitten awake.
"It's a gentle story" says Toni Mannell of her festive tale that'll stir the child inside us all. It also makes for a great bedtime story to read to the kids to help get them off to sleep on this most excitable of nights.
Toni, who turned 60 in October, has been writing since her mid thirties. Originally from Essex, her link with Wales stems from her late father-in-law, who used to live in Guilsfield, Powys. She eventually bought and renovated a cottage in nearby Llanerfyl with her partner. "We spend as much time as possible there (or as the First Minister will let us, lately) for holidays, weekends and, usually, Christmas and New Year."
Toni is also a keen photographer so you may see some of her work on our new Art & Photography pages as well, soon.
We’ll be posting more of your submissions on these pages in the coming weeks. If you’ve written or are writing a short story - or even a novel we could publish an extract from - and would like to share it with our readers, do get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
CLAUDE AND THE SNOWING
by Toni Mannell
“I’ll get that fairy before Christmas is over, just wait and see,” he thought as the sleepy feeling crept over him.
Suddenly his ears pricked up. He could hear a tinkling noise like the bell on his collar, and was wide awake in a second.
The noise was loud, then quiet, and as Claude was a curious kitten, he gave a long stretch and a yawn, padded across the carpet, jumped under the curtains, and up onto the windowsill.
White stuff was falling down from the sky, and landing on the grass.
“Cor, what’s that?” he wondered, all thoughts of the tinkling noise gone.
“Hey, Bonnie,” Claude called to the dog.
Bonnie opened one eye, raised a grey eyebrow and sighed. She’d been enjoying her dream about a big, juicy bone.
He was always getting excited about things she’d seen before.
“Get down and go back to sleep. We’ve got a long day tomorrow. It’s Christmas Day,” she told him.
Bonnie tucked her nose back under her tail and closed her eyes.
“Bonnie, Bonnie, look, please. There’s something falling down from the sky,” Claude pleaded.
“Oh, if I must,” Bonnie grumbled, “I bet it’s raining.”
She knew she wouldn’t get back to sleep until she looked.
Padding to the window she pushed her nose under the curtains, and looked out. “Oh Claude, it’s just snowing.”
“Snowing, what’s snowing?” Claude asked.
“That white stuff. It’s called snow. When it falls down, it’s called snowing.”
“Oh, snowing.” Claude looked out again. “Will it be there in the morning?”
“I expect so. Get down Claude, go back to sleep.”
After one last look, Claude jumped down.
Back on his blanket, he turned round and round, flicked his tail over his nose, and closed his eyes.
Just as he was drifting off, he heard the tinkling noise again and opening his eyes, he sat up.
The noise was getting louder. Claude had to take another look. As he jumped onto the windowsill, the noise came closer.
“Bonnie, Bonnie, listen,” he called.
“Claude, shut UP!” Bonnie snapped, grumpy at being woken again.
“I told you Claude, it’s snowing. It doesn’t make a noise. Now get down and go to sleep.”
With that, Bonnie turned around in her basket, settling with her back to him and huffed.
Claude turned back to the window. As he watched, a man, dressed in a red coat and black boots walked across the garden from next door carrying a sack. He had a long white beard and wore a red hat. He left big footprints in the snow, and a bell on his hat was making the tinkling noise.
“Bonnie, Bonnie, there’s a burglar outside.”
“Don’t be stupid Claude.” Then she thought for a moment. “How do you know it’s a burglar?”
“Katie and Mummy watched a film. There was a man with a sack stealing things. Mummy told Katie he was a burglar.”
“What should we do?” asked Bonnie, worried now.
“You’d better bark. That’s what the dog did in the film.”
“All right,” said Bonnie. And she did. “Woof, woof, woof.”
They could hear noises from upstairs. Soon Mummy came down, pulling on her dressing gown.
“Bonnie. Quiet, shush now.”
Claude poked his head out from between the two curtains and Mummy went over, pulled the curtain aside and laughed.
“Oh my goodness, what does he look like?”
Pulling the curtain back, she went to the front door and spoke to the burglar.
As they came back into the house, Bonnie started to growl.
“It’s alright Bonnie, look, it’s Daddy,” Mummy tugged down the burglar’s beard.
It was Katie’s Daddy.
Bonnie wagged her tail, sniffing the sack. Mummy opened it to show her, as Daddy took off his boots.
“These are some of Katie’s presents for Christmas. Daddy went next door to collect them. He dressed up to make the neighbours laugh.
“Now we’d better go and leave these where Father Christmas can find them for Katie, and get some sleep ourselves. Back to bed you two,” Mummy told Bonnie and Claude.
Closing the hall door, she whispered, “Merry Christmas.”
THE NEXT MORNING KATIE came downstairs very excited, “Father Christmas has left lots of presents for me, and some for you, look.” Katie showed Claude and Bonnie two brightly wrapped presents.
Bonnie looked at Claude, and winked.
Katie opened one, and gave Bonnie a big chewy bone, and then unwrapped the other which was for Claude. Inside was a catnip mouse, with a long string tail.
Then Katie brought down some of the presents that Father Christmas had left.
“At first I thought the tinkling was the snowing,” said Claude, to Bonnie, as he batted his mouse around.
“It doesn’t make a noise, you silly cat,” said Bonnie smugly, licking her bone.
“I know that now. I think I’ll go and investigate the snowing though. It looks… interesting.”
A bit miffed with Bonnie for calling him silly, Claude stood at the cat flap, looking out at the white, fluffy snow and decided to go and play in it. It looked soft and warm.
Jumping through, Claude expected it to feel like landing on his blanket. It was a shock when his paws got cold and wet, and turning round, he quickly jumped back indoors.
Bonnie was sitting laughing, “Don’t you like the snowing then Claude?” she asked.
“Huh,” Claude said, stalking out of the kitchen, shaking snow from his paws one at a time, and spotted where his new catnip mouse was on the rug.
“That’s what I think about snowing,” he said, as he flung the mouse into the air, turning round fast to pounce on it.
Bonnie ambled back into the lounge, climbed back into her basket, and laughed at him again.
“You’ll learn,” she thought, getting back to the serious business of chewing her bone.