Paddington’s Christmas Tale
My feet barely touched the ground as I flew from the kitchen, out of the door, across the patio and into the garden. I had to get as far away from Sooz as possible. She was voicing her unhappiness at me – loudly – and her tone would send the bravest running for cover.
I took refuge inside the middle of a bush and listened. It sounded like Sooz was demolishing the house. I detected the familiar sound of the broom banging across the floor and the crash of the rubbish bin lid – I knew this because the bin was a constant source of temptation – and the rumble of her voice as she accused me of an unspeakable crime.
How could a day that started upbeat and happy, end with me being threatened with expulsion from the family? I lay down in the leaf litter pondering the possibility of finding a new home. One thing in my favour – Christmas day was only a few days away. Surely, someone, somewhere would adopt a friendly, happy, loving, obedient Bearded Collie – occasionally mischievous – but at all times loyal.
I thought about the series of events that led to my impending banishment. It all started a few hours earlier with a visit to the Christmas tree…
I’d never seen a Reindeer as large as the one sitting under the Christmas tree. When I say big I mean BIG! I conceded that for a stuffed toy it was impressive.
Sooz was busy wrapping gifts and the tree bulged with colourful packages. There was an air of festivity in the air. Nigel, a friend from the UK was listening to Sooz tell her Christmas tale from years ago. Everybody that comes to our house at Christmas is told the tale. Now it was Nigel’s turn, and from what I could tell he was enjoying the heightened drama of her story. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of Sooz’s tale the gist of it goes something like this: Gromit and Lola chased a possum up the Christmas tree that had been erected in the indoor outdoor room and all the precious glass balls and decorations collected over many years were broken and the tree was wrecked. The possum took refuge in the wisteria and was having a nervous breakdown while Gromit and Lola stood beneath, guarding it in case it tried to escape. This is a considerably shorter version than the one Sooz was telling Nigel but pretty well covers it.
I’m sure you understand why I tuned out.
Anyway, that was when I saw it! A large Reindeer at the base of the Christmas tree looking at me with eyes that pleaded my attention.
And so I moved in for a closer look!
I pushed it with my nose. ‘Oui you,’ I said in a superior tone. After all I was head honcho in this household and no fluffy Reindeer, no matter how large it was, was muscling in on my patch.
‘You talking to me?’
My mouth dropped open in surprise. ‘You can speak!’
‘Of course I can speak,’ said the Reindeer. ‘Haven’t you seen a Reindeer before?’
‘Of course I have!’
‘It’s rude to stare,’ continued the Reindeer. ‘Is there something crawling on me or something?’
‘No.’ I couldn’t believe I was talking to a Reindeer. ‘What are you doing under our tree?’
What does it look like? Your mistress put me here as a decoration.’
‘That’s silly. You won’t fit on the tree.’
‘I’m not meant to, you stupid dog. I’m here to add a certain je ne sais quoi.’
‘Whatever you just said I don’t believe a word and watch who you’re calling stupid.’ Who does he think he is talking to me like that?
‘You’re extremely unsophisticated,’ said the Reindeer. ‘Do I detect an odour coming from you?’
‘Not from me you don’t!’ I replied forcefully.
That was the moment I took an instant dislike to that Reindeer.
Sooz interrupted my train of thought…
‘Paddington, don’t you touch these doggie stockings.’ She placed them under the tree. ‘They’re for Aston, Simba and Nelson.’
‘Excuse me, Reindeer; I need to talk to MY Sooz.’ I jerked my head away from Reindeer to look at Sooz and pressed my nose against her bare leg. ‘Sooz...,’ I drew out her name lovingly, ‘…is there one for me?’
‘Remember what I said, Paddington, leave them alone.’ She scratched me behind the ear then walked away outside.
‘I guess that means no then.’ I said despondently watching her go.
The Reindeer laughed. ‘You’re not as important as you thought, dog.’
‘Damn Reindeer,’ I grumbled as I poked him again with my nose. ‘I’m going to teach you a lesson you won’t forget.’
‘I wouldn’t mess with me,’ said the Reindeer. ‘Your mistress won’t be happy if you touch me.’
‘Grrrrrr.’ I snapped my teeth around his arm and dragged him out from the packages and into the middle of the room.
‘Put me down you stupid dog. Let me go…’
I let go of his arm, took hold of him by the neck and carried him into the garden. He could protest all he liked but he wasn’t getting away from me. I carried him to the furthest tree I could find and dropped him on his head under it. ‘You can stay there.’
‘Don’t leave me out here,’ yelled the Reindeer. ‘Paddington, please…’
‘I’m not listening,’ I said trotting back to the house with my head held high. “Sooz is calling me. Sorry I have to go.’ I bounded up the steps and stopped in front of her. ‘I’m here Sooz.’ I smiled lovingly and gave her my award winning dewy eyed stare.
‘I have to pop to the shops, Paddington.’
‘Can I come… please… you know how I love to go out in the car?’
‘You’ll have to wait for me here. I won’t be long.’
I followed her into the kitchen and took the offered biscuit from her hand. Sooz always gave me a biscuit as a treat when she left me behind. I hated her going without me. Why couldn’t I go? It just wasn’t fair!
She picked up her bag and keys and locked me inside. I ran down the passageway and stood with my front paws resting on the window so I could watch her go. She climbed into her little car and it disappeared down the driveway. That was why I couldn’t go; she was driving that toy car on wheels. I’d only ridden in it a couple of times – it was cramped for a big boy like me –she needs to get a big car like Pete’s Jeep. I would talk to her about it when she got back.
I walked back to the kitchen and laid down to wait for her. I drifted into a restless sleep with one ear listening for her return and one eye on the door. Sleep, however, wouldn’t come, so I moved to Sooz’s and Pete’s bed. I scuffed up the duna into a ball and then attacked Pete’s pillow but I couldn’t get comfortable.
‘I’m bored!’ I jumped off the bed and looked down the stairs at the Christmas tree. It looked very pretty with the lights flashing, decorations and presents underneath.
It came rushing back to me. Sooz said something about stockings! For the life of me I couldn’t remember what she’d said as I’d been concentrating all my effort on how to be rid of that ghastly Reindeer.
I wandered over to the Christmas tree and sniffed the packages. The stockings emitted an aroma hard to resist. Beef! Sooz probably put a treat inside the stockings for me to find. Yes, that must be it. Hide and seek. My heart swelled with love as I thought how much Sooz loved me. And to think she’d go to all that trouble and hide treats to keep me occupied. She was the best.
I picked up one of the stockings and tried tipping the contents from it. ‘Darn things won’t come out,’ I worried it with my teeth. ‘I little rip here should do the trick. Oops, oh well, so I tore it more than I intended. Yum, meaty treats and in a box.’ I tore open the package and ate the contents. Blimey that was good. I checked out the stocking for more food and found a chicken hide stick. Not as nice as the beef but quite tasty. ‘Nothing left in there now but a silly ball.’ I tossed aside the ball and walked back to the tree pulling the next stocking from it. This one smelt the same as the first and after ripping it open I found the same box of meaty delights and chicken hide. I flung the destroyed stocking to one side and lay on the carpet to eat the contents of the box.
Time flies when you’re having fun, I thought when I heard the sound of Sooz car roaring up the driveway. She’s back so soon. Wait until she sees I found all the treats she left for me!
I heard the front door bang and then the rattle of the key in the lock. I trotted to the door and smiled up at her as it opened.
‘Hello Paddington,’ she walked into the kitchen and stopped. ‘What the…’ she surveyed the mess over the dining room floor. ‘Paddington, what have you been up to?’
‘Nothing, Sooz.’ I stopped behind her.
‘What’s all this?’ she pointed to the torn stockings, ripped boxes and plastic wrappers.
‘I didn’t know where to put the rubbish.’
She bent forward and picked up what was left of one of the stockings and waved it in under my nose. ‘What happened to this? Is this your work, Paddington?’
‘I’m sorry, Sooz. But I couldn’t get the beef treats out of it any other way.’
‘Paddington, you’re a very bad boy. Out!’ she pointed to the door. ‘Go on… outside before I lose my temper.’
‘But Sooz…’ I whispered my heart accelerating at her tone. ‘…I don’t understand.’
‘Those stockings were for your cousins. Look what you’ve done…’ Sooz might have had an operation on her neck but there wasn’t anything wrong with her tonsils, ‘…I doubt I will be able to replace them now. How could you, Paddington? You’re very bad. No dinner for you tonight!’
‘No dinner! But Sooz, how will I live without food. Please Sooz, I didn’t know they weren’t for me. I thought–’
‘Out, Paddington, before I excommunicate you from this family.’
‘Oh no, what have I done.’ I muttered walking away with my head and tail down.
I jumped around to look at her. I knew she’d forgive me. I wagged my tail but my euphoria was short lived…
‘What’s happened to the Reindeer I put under the tree?’ I followed behind her as she wandered from room to room looking for it. ‘What did you do with it? It wasn’t yours to take… Paddington, I’m very disappointed in you.’
Disappointed! I’d always won Sooz’s praises and now she was disappointed! That was when I realised I’d really done it this time and so I ran into the garden and hid in the bush. I’m not normally a scaredy-cat, I take it on the chin when my misdemeanours are exposed but the look on Sooz’s face was more than I could bear – she didn’t love me anymore.
It seemed an eternity ago since events of the morning saw me hiding and pondering my fate.
What would Pete do when he got home? Would he cast me out? I’d heard Sooz tell Pete a few times that if he didn’t behave himself he could pick up his knapsack and take to the road. Would they give me the dreaded knapsack and tell me to go?
Perhaps if I took the Reindeer home all would be forgiven.
Yes of course… I’d forgotten about the Reindeer.
Time for action!
I crawled from under the bush and sprinted across the garden to the tree where I’d left the Reindeer. He was still on his head and looking decidedly uncomfortable.
I picked him up. ‘Oh so you’ve come back for me then,’ grumbled the Reindeer. ‘Nice of you to remember. It’s not nice to leave me on my head for that long. I could have had a rush of blood – anything could have happened.’
‘Shut up.’ A low guttural growl lifted from my throat. ‘Reindeers like you don’t have blood. I’m taking you home so don’t say another word.’
‘Can you try not to grip so hard with your teeth,’ moaned the Reindeer.
He was getting on my nerves but if Sooz forgave me it was worth being nice to the Reindeer – Christmas, after all was a time for goodwill to all men, animals and REINDEERS – with that thought I went in search of the lady of the house.
I was praised for returning the Reindeer. Sooz forgave me and the day ended on a bright note. The Reindeer resumed his place by the tree, the rubbish was cleared away and Sooz smiled at me, kissed me on the nose and ruffled my coat. It was such a relief to be forgiven.
However, my tale didn’t have a completely happy ending. Sooz made good her promise of no dinner and it didn’t matter how much pleading I did she wouldn’t relent.
‘Fat boy,’ she said. ‘You’ve eaten enough to keep you going a week.’
‘A week,’ I swallowed. ‘No Sooz, I’ll burn off the calories. Please, I can’t go a whole week without food.’
She smiled. It was that smile she used when she was joking. However, I didn’t want to test the theory and so I made a silent vow never to interfere with Christmas stockings or Reindeer ever again!
Merry Christmas from Paddington.