The house was quiet, just the way I liked it. I'm not very social, as a general rule. A quiet Thanksgiving was just what I wanted. My mom would be home later. We'd curl up and watch Elf together. We always watched Elf together on Thanksgiving night. It was the best! She would pull out my favorite blanket and make cocoa. But for now, I had the house to myself. All was quiet and I was ready for a nice long nap.
I ate a nice snack. My mom always keeps my favorite snacks available for me whenever I want. My stomach full, I curled up in my favorite nap spot. I was just drifting off when I heard a noise. It was a soft rustling. At first, I told myself I was hearing things. I settled back, in a little crozier this time. But then I heard it again. I peeked around from my spot and checked out the window. I didn't see anything. I snuggled in again, telling myself it was only the wind. I was once again nearly asleep when I heard a tapping at the window. My eyes flew open! I out looked again. This time, I was looking into a pair of black eyes. My own grew wide in surprise. As wide as they would go.
I stood up, not taking my eyes away from the stranger at the window. He had gray hair and long, yellow teeth. But he wasn't scary. He tapped the window again with a long nail. I approached cautiously.
“Hey, mind if I grab some food?” he asked. His speech was a little slow with an accent I never heard before. I couldn't answer him. I was too stunned. “Dude, you okay?” he asked.
“Yes, sorry,” I stammered. “You startled me.”
“No worries,” he replied.
“Where did you come from?” I asked.
“Oh, I live out here,” he said casually. “Look, I didn't mean to bother you. I was just looking for some food.”
“You live outside?” I asked in disbelief. “Isn't it cold and wet and scary out there?”
“Nah man. It's cool,” he shrugged. “I get kind of hungry though.”
“Oh right!” I said, remembering his question about food. “Sure, help yourself.” My mom always left plenty of snacks out for me to share with my friends. And it was Thanksgiving after all.
“Thanks, man! That's cool of you,” he said.
“You're welcome,” I said. “I'm Rochester.”
“Rochester? What kind of name is that?” asked the stranger at the window, eating his fill.
“Yeah, my mom likes someone called Jane Eyre. I've never met her but I guess my mom got the name from her.”
“Oh,” he said. “I'm Max.” He kept chewing. “You always trapped inside like that?” He shoved more food in his mouth. He must have been starving.
“Yeah, I live here with my mom. It's nice. Plenty to eat. It's warm and safe. Lots of good spots to nap.”
“Don't you ever want to come out?” he asked. “I mean I roam wherever I please. It's great, being free.”
“But where do you sleep?” I asked. I had my choice of warm, soft spots to bed down. And sunny windowsills. Those were my favorite.
“This one time,” Max started, still chewing a mouthful of food, “I climbed up this really high tree and I slept in the branches. It was so peaceful.”
“You slept in a tree?!” I exclaimed. “Wow, that sounds so scary.”
“Naw, man,” he said. “It was cool.”
I watched a while longer as he shoved food in his mouth, bits flew out here and there as he chewed with his mouth open.
“This is some good chow,” he mumbled around another mouthful.
“Thanks! My mom always leaves extra food out for my friends.”
“Oh, well thanks for sharing it,” Max said. “I hope you don't get in trouble,” he added, finally taking a breath.
“Oh no. It'll be okay,” I assured him.
We talked a while longer as he went on filling his face. He told me stories about his adventures and about living outside. He had lots of stories to tell me.
“But don't you ever want to live inside, where it's warm and there's a mom to take care of you?” I asked him. “My mom makes sure I have everything I need all the time. And there's always plenty to eat.”
“Sometimes I think being inside would be nice. I tried staying in an attic once when it was really cold out. It was okay. But I can always find a warm place to sleep and there's always food around. I need to be in the open air with room to roam, man. No, I couldn't live inside all the time.”
The light outside was starting to get dim. Then I heard a familiar noise from the other side of the house. I immediately knew what it meant.
“Uh-oh Max. I think that's my mom. You should probably go.” His bushy tail and his ears popped up. His whiskers twitched as he checked the outside. I turned when I heard the door unlock and when I looked back, Max was gone. He didn't say good-bye. I hurried back to my cozy spot. I hoped my mom didn't see him. I curled up and pretended to be napping.
“Hey baby. Mumma's home,” she cooed at me, petting the top of my head. I stretched up to press my head into her hand. She rubbed at the velvet on my nose. “Lazy boy! Have you been napping since I left?” she teased.
I let out a sleepy yawn and arched my back in a stretch as I got up from the top deck of my kitty tower. I hopped down to the lower deck and rolled around as she petted me a little more.
“I’ll go get my cocoa and the big quilt. Are we going to watch Elf?” She glanced out the window at the bird feeder. “Oh, I better refill your feeder for your birdie friends tomorrow. Looks like the squirrels have been in the feeder again.”
I'll never understand how she always knows.