a few years back, when he was still a wee lad, grandbaby m came all the way from australia to visit for the holidays. we bought a crazy pile of used toys for him to play with, knowing he’d have to leave most of them behind, and planned to donate them back for other kids to enjoy, upon his return home. he was very fascinated by animals – cats in particular, at this stage of his life. while here, he played with real cats, and halloween cats, and we bought him knit cats, cloth cats, stuffed cats, and then – the mechanical cat.
imagine our surprise, after we purchased this cat, when we discovered, it was just not an ordinary stuffed cat, but it had a place for batteries inside it’s belly, hidden under it’s mangy, ratted, orange fur. m took to this cat immediately, and loved to sit with it and play with it and carry it around. the adults, on the other hand, began to become a bit freaked out by it the longer it was around. it had a peculiar habit of moving once in a while, in no particular interval of time, and quite often, it seemed to turn it’s creepy head and stare right at us. (chucky’s feline counterpart in my opinion).
we were all a bit relieved and happy when he took to this creature, figuring it would be traveling home down under with him, never to cross our paths again. imagine our surprise once more, when we discovered they had left it behind, hidden in the house for us to find. we put it back out for a while, under the tree, as it continued to move at will and make eye contact with us from time to time. once the holidays were over, i thought it might be funny to pack it up and bring it out at christmas the next year. i packed it up with the other holiday stuff and forgot about it.
when the next year came, i wrapped it up and offered it as my ‘white elephant’ gift, one that some innocent family member would receive as a lucky surprise. another daughter chose this package, and not knowing, opened it, and there was a collective gasp from the group, as everyone remembered it from the year before. she was a good sport and reluctantly kept it for the year, only to do the same thing to some other unsuspecting relative at our next christmas celebration.
each year now, as is our new tradition, the person who ‘won’ it the year before, brings it back, elaborately wrapped and disguised, waiting to pass it on. each person reports that it does odd and creepy things when they have it – moving at will, making rustling sounds at night, and of course, the staring. each person has used their own strategy to deal with it. one combed its hair out, – trying to get on its good side, some have hidden it, left it in the box, or taken its batteries out. each year, it comes back, rattier, and mangier, and shows its age a bit more, yet it still instills a bit of illogical terror in all of us. this year, it could come back wrapped in a flat-screen tv box, or in a beautiful gift bag, just biding its time, until it once again goes home with someone – and it waits quietly for someone to forget and open it, the year’s winner.