Scamp's eyes popped open early on Christmas morning, sparkling with a mixture of joy and mischief when a car rattled down the street. He was instantly on his feet and headed for the front door, yipping a happy Christmas greeting.
"Pipe down, son. It's not them. Don't wake the neighborhood." his father's voice called after him, "You ought to know the sound of Aunt Sarah's car better than that."
"Gee, Pop," the puppy slid on the kitchen tiles as he put on the breaks, coming back with a lower head, "I thought you were asleep."
Tramp chuckled softly, "I guess I fooled ya then." He looked fondly at the dogs stirring sleepy around him, then added, "Nobody could sleep through the noise you were making."
Scamp whined his apology, but Tramp just motioned for him to return to the family dog pile, "Don't forget, before your old man had a home and family, he was an old junkie. I had to sleep with my eyes open or the ole dogcatcher would've gotten me."
Scamp's eyes shone and his tail whipped back and forth as he settled in again, sensing a story coming, but Tramp laid his head back down closed his eyes, murmuring to himself, "It's a nice little trick when you have a son too."
"Aww, come on, Pop!" the puppy whined again, cutting a quick glance at Angel. He was amazed at how quickly his mother, sisters, and girlfriend had all managed to settle back into dreamland, "Just a quick one?"
" I thought you had your fill of the streets a few months back…" Tramp raised his head again.
"Well, yeah," Scamp shrugged, "But I still like hearing about all the cool stuff you did out there."
"Go back to sleep, Scamp," Tramp laid his head down again, declining to remind the puppy that surviving to exist another day is not cool, "Si and Am will be here before breakfast."
"How do you know?" Instantly, excitement returned to the puppy's face.
"I heard Jim Dear talking to Aunt Sarah on the phone last night. She's bringing sausage—"
Two short blasts from a car horn abruptly ended the conversation and this time it was off to the races as the whole dog pile exploded to life. Scamp led his sisters and Angel to the door while their parents calmly joined Jim Dear and Darling, holding Junior's hands between them to help him walk, behind them. Barking another Christmas greeting, the puppies put their paws on the door.
"Get down, Scamp!" Jim Dear gave him a light swat on the backside, "You know better than to jump on guests, girls."
"Come on, you heard him." Tramp's voice came next, "Everybody back."
The girls obediently retreated and Lady hauled Scamp away by the collar as her master opened the door and embraced his old aunt with a warm hug around the huge wicker basket in her arms. The next moment, he took the basket and set it aside just in time to catch Scamp in midair just before he collided with their guest, having broken away from his mother, he was on the verge of his own delirious greeting.
"Sorry about the welcoming committee!" Jim Dear threw up an apologetic smile, giving Scamp another swat on the backside, "Come on, Scamp. What did I just tell you?"
Darling eased Junior onto the floor beside Lady and Tramp, then knelt and clapped her hands at the gray puppy. "Are you excited to see Aunt Sarah too, Scamp?" she cooed, "I know it's hard but you mustn't jump on her."
"No problem at all, Jim!" Aunt Sarah laughed heartily, stepping into the cleared hallway. Darling stood up to receiver her then handed over Junior.
"Ewwww!" the toddler screeched, thrashing as the stuffy old woman gave him a nice big smooch right on the forehead, scrubbing the spot with both hands.
"You be a good boy, young man," his mother scolded, frowning as she took him away, "That's your Aunt Sarah, you know."
"Merry Christmas, Jim Jr!" Aunt Sarah smirked with amusement as she appraised the child then looked down when Scamp had the audacity to paw her skirt. "And you, young man," she said, hands on her hips, "Did you want to wish me a Merry Christmas too?"
He whined eagerly, his tail wagging furiously, and she obliged with a few pats on the head. Then, straightening up, she gave Junior a mischievously little smile, "Well, I'm just sure that there has to be someone around here who is as excited as I am to open presents this morning—"
"Me!" the little boy's face lit up.
"So, why don't I go get the oven turned on and warm up these sausage balls so we can eat and then get on to what's really important."
"Yea!" Junior cheered again and everyone turned to follow her into the house.
But Scamp's steps slowed when he remembered the wicker basket by the door and he turned back to investigate, advancing cautiously.
First, he pressed his nose against the side and was greeted with a small bump from within. He recognized the scent immediately and his body quivered with delight as he raised his nose to the top. A single slender black velvety paw greeted him and, for a moment, time stood still. Then sharpness dug into his flesh and he gave a sharp yelp of protest.
"Merry Christmas to you too!" he barked furiously, as two wheaten bodies leapt over his head and escaped down the hallway. He gave chase instantly, protesting all the way, "You know I just wanted to say hi! Hey, you're not being fair!"
"Merciful Heaven!" Aunt Sarah gasped, as they raced passed the kitchen, "My poor little, dears!"
"Scamp!" Jim Dear called sharply, "Don't chase those cats!" Turning apologetically to his aunt, he raced to cut them off, "I'm awfully sorry about this!"
But Angel was quicker than her master; she ran through his legs and caught up with her boyfriend just as he skidded to a stop, staring up at the cats hanging out of the Christmas tree.
"Oh, Scamp," she whined softly, her eyes bulging at the scene, "Jim Dear is coming!"
The next moment their master was on the scene and he too was at a loss for words to describe the formerly pristine room. Once neatly wrapped gifts were shredded and scattered across the carpet. Others were completely caved in after being used as springboards for the cats to launch into the tree. Big glass ornaments lay on the floor; some were broken, others were not. Paintings and photographs were upended on the floor or askew on the walls, the bookshelves were in disarray, and one lighted candle had left a tiny scorch mark when it snuffed out in the thick carpet.
Si clung to a limb, regarding humans and dogs with both curiosity and disdain. She had a strand of red garland draped across her midsection and tinsel stuck to her tail and whiskers. Am had pulled down a strand of lights in an attempt to climb higher and had inadvertently gotten tangled in it. But instead of freaking out, she was lazily playing with the blinking bulbs while she waited to be freed from her predicament.
"Scamp!" Jim Dear growled, gritting his teeth as he hurried to free Am and lift her and her sister to freedom. He returned with both cats under one arm and leaned down to give the gray puppy his third swat of the morning, "Get out of here! You too, Angel. Go on, girl. Darling is dishing up your breakfast." Then, following behind them, he wondered how he might possibly break the news to his family.
"All that money we spent for Junior this year…" he muttered, accidentally letting the cats drop from his arms as he contemplated what to do. They immediately returned to the parlor and quickly began looking for something to entertain themselves.
"Look up there…" Am nodded at her reflection in one of the red balls, "I see someone watching us."
"I see someone too." Si caught her own reflection in a blue ball.
They looked at each other curiously then back at the strangers suspiciously.
"What should we do?" Am asked cautiously, "Maybe they will steal the food before we do."
"Maybe we could climb back up," her sister suggested, "and knock them down."
As he ate his breakfast, Scamp tried to tune out his sisters mocking stares. He couldn't quite believe that Darling and Aunt Sarah hadn't jump up and run to see the damage, but everyone had agreed that since the cats weren't hurt and the house hadn't burned down they were intent to just enjoy a nice Christmas breakfast together.
"Is it bad in there?" Tramp asked as his son as the puppy dipped his head into his little blue bowl; his tone was surprisingly sympathetic.
"Yeah." the puppy grumbled darkly, still seeing the cats smug looks in his mind's eye, "They got in the tree and knocked a bunch of stuff off. Threw presents everywhere. Am got tangled up in the lights."
Lady gasped, "Oh, Scamp! You know better."
"Stupid cats." the gray puppy rolled his eyes, "They know I just wanted to say hi. They just did it to get me in trouble."
Tramp gave him a small shrug, "Cats will be cats." Then he gave his son a pointed look, "But we're dogs, Scamp. Jim Dear and Darling expect more from us. If you know they only want to get you in trouble, then don't take the bait."
"Girls!" Lady growled softly, when his sisters started giggling again, "That's enough."
"You should be more like us, Scamp," Annette teased, her their mother.
"Yeah, we could teach you how to be a good dog." Colette took a jab.
"Girls," Lady sharpened her warning with a snarly bark, cutting in before Danielle could say anything, "You're not being good now."
Seeing his sisters cowed into submission, Scamp sulkily returned to his breakfast, but their taunts remained in his ears and he couldn't quite avoid the look in Angel's eyes. He was pretty sure that she wouldn't understand how difficult it was to obey the rule about not chasing cats. But she was new to this having a family thing so she was self-conscious about doing the right thing and didn't worry about the fact that Si and Am were total jerks.
Finally though, he let them fall out his mind and began concentrating on other things. He listened to Darling rave about Aunt Sarah's sausage balls and listened to Junior's loud lamination about not being allowed to eat sugar cookies for breakfast and the fact that there wasn't any chocolate milk.
Then suddenly there was a tremendous crash.
"Merciful Heavens!" Aunt Sarah shrieked.
For a moment, time stood still again then it was off to the races with Tramp in the lead. Jim Dear and Aunt Sarah were close behind, but the former street dog beat them around the corner into the parlor. All skidded to a stop to stare open-mouthed at the fallen tree.
"Merciful Heavens!" Aunt Sarah shrieked again, clutching her ashen face with both hands as her two cats lazily groomed themselves beside the damage. Broken ornaments and smashed gifts laid in every direction, "My babies! What have you done?"
Si and Am whipped their heads around at the sound of their mistress' voice, then quickly flopped on the floor and yowled like drama queens, writhing on the carpet as if they'd been hurt. But the old woman wasn't fooled; she moved quickly and swatted them both on their backsides.
"Hush," she scowled at them, "You're not fooling anyone. The dogs haven't been anywhere around here." She turned red-faced to her nephew and his wife, "I will be happy to replace everything, my dears. I am truly sorry. I know you had big plans for Junior this year."
"Oh, no, no, no," Darling quickly shook her head, "That's totally unnecessary, Aunt Sarah. We wouldn't hear of it." Then she burst out laughing and, following his mother's lead, Junior let out a cry of delight.
"What?" Jim Dear was surprised, "You're not angry, Darling? The tree-? Junior's presents- I know how much you were looking forward to this year."
"Heaven's no, Jim Dear," Darling shook her head, continuing to giggle, "It's so funny. We had cats when I was a little girl. They did the same thing Christmas after Christmas. Father would always get so mad. But, oh, this brings back so many memories!"
"You know," Jim Dear chuckled too, reaching over to rub the cats' heads, "You're right, of course. There's nothing that can't be replaced. Cats will be cats, after all."
Scamp watched their reaction with shock and horror. Surely they weren't going to let those rascals get away with this! He growled, hoping his plead for justice wouldn't go unnoticed, but only succeeded in earning another swat on the backside when the cats backed their ears at him. Leaping down, they quickly headed up the stairs.
"That's enough out of you, young man," Jim Dear grasped Scamp's collar and removed him to the back room, but he didn't close the door tightly and Angel soon wormed her way through the opening. She told him that his parents and sisters were helping the humans pick up the mess together and thought that if he was quiet for a while then he could get away with coming out. Proceeding cautiously, they headed for the front door with the idea of slipping over to Jock or Trusty's house to see what they were doing. But as they passed by the stairs, Scamp's forlorn head jerked upright. He could have sworn that he'd heard a noise up there! Glancing at Angel, he saw that she had heard something too and both dogs raced upstairs to see what was going on.
Moving cautiously down the hallway, sniffing under each door, Scamp quietly rehearsed what he would say to to Si and Am if they were up here. He definitely wanted them to know that he didn't appreciate their getting him into trouble whenever they came over but then he wondered what he'd do if he found out that they'd done something up here.
"Si, Am," he muttered, "You're both a really big pain in the butt, but I'd like to try and be friends so maybe you could—"
His monologue stopped short when he heard the sound again. It was a very distinct squeak, not the sound a cat would make, and both dogs hurried towards the sound, skidding to a stop in front of Junior's room. The door was ajar so they peered in to see the two cats eyeing a gigantic rat as it nibbled on a piece of candy cane that the toddler had obviously dropped. Scamp's tail wagged a mile a minute at the sight and he couldn't help but burst into the room with a short snappy bark of enthusiasm.
The rat jumped and ran, quickly climbing onto the bed's headboard, but Si and Am didn't go after it. Instead, they leapt forward to cut off the puppy's pursuit, giving him a hard cuff on the nose.
"We're hunting," Am glared, hissing with flattened ears, "and we are not pleased to see you."
"Oh, yeah?" Scamp snapped, going nose to nose with them, "It looked like you were just staring at it. And if you're not pleased with me, you can leave. I live here."
Si swatted him again, "We're deadly assassins; You are foolish."
"Hunting isn't about charging in and making a lot of nose," Am added, her tail whipping back and forth, "It's about killing. It requires stealth, cunning, and surprise; Things that you know nothing about."
"They're right, Scamp." Angel giggled beside him, interrupting before he could argue, "I've caught a few rats in my day, but I've seen how the cats do it and they're way more efficient."
"I don't care about efficiency," he argued, eyeing the rat as it watched them from the bed, "That thing can't be in Junior's room. What would Darling say? Or Jim Dear? Junior is our boy!"
"And we'll take care of it!" she insisted, turning back to the cats, "You girls take the lead. We'll follow you. Whatever you say."
"Angel!" Scamp protested, aghast.
"Scamp…" she gave him a look, half dismay and half amusement, "I've been around a little. They're better at this. Trust me."
Before he could say another word, the two cats intervened, rubbing down the length of his body then flicking his nose simultaneously with their tails. When they turned back, they spoke to Angel.
"You two fall back to the closet then drive it towards us at the door. We'll take the lead and bring it to its knees."
"No!" Scamp stomped his paw, shaking his head, he pushed his nose into their faces, "You two take the left. Angel and I will take the right and then we can squash him in the middle."
"Uh-uh." the cats raised their paws, showing their claws, "This is our sport."
"This is my turf!" Scamp growled softly.
"Oh, my gosh," Angel got between them, looking first at one and then the others, "Look guys, we've got bigger fish to fry. Put your differences aside because right now we're on the same side." She shot Scamp another pleading look and he couldn't help but to give into her.
"Okay, okay," he muttered retreating to the closet as per the plan then edging forward with a hunter's gleam in his eyes, "Fine."
She was right beside him, "Thank you." Then to his surprise, she suddenly dropped into a couch and began growling softly. "Do what I do." she hissed.
The rat's hackles went up as the pair advanced, but it didn't move until Angel was close enough to snap. Then it bolted towards the door, seeming to forget that the cats were under the cover of the table cloth on the nightstand.
The next thing Scamp saw was two sleek wheaten bodies sailing running across the room and then was there was a tremendous crash. The sounds of dogs and human's feet rushing upstairs came next then everyone was crowding into the doorway to see what had happened.
"Is everyone alright?" Tramp shoved his way under Jim Dear's legs, eyes on alert as he gave the scene a quick once over.
"See for yourself, Pop." Scamp grinned widely as Si and Am came out from under the drapes they'd brought down, holding the enormous rat between them, "Si and Am are heroes."
Author's Note: This story is entered into the Fellowship and Fairydust Winter Writing Contest. Judging is ongoing but I will put a link to our website and Youtube channel on my profile so you can read these and other great works.