As fits my observer personality, I like to watch Christmas. When I was a reporter, I always volunteered to work Christmas Eve or Christmas Day — ostensibly because I was single and half-Jewish; but really because I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on the holiday rather than participate in it.
My favorite Christmas Eve assignment was the one where I was sent to the local mall to cover the last-minute Christmas shopping. Like the man who dashed into the shoe store and asked the saleswoman for a pair of plush slippers for his wife. "What size?" she asked. "Oh, any size," the man replied as he handed over his credit card. "She'll just return them anyway."
The cafeteria at the newspaper was closed that night, but I'd brought a whiskey-soaked fruitcake to share with the few other folks on duty. I came back from the mall assignment to discover that the fearsome assistant editor, in charge of the newsroom for the night, had eaten more than half of the cake. She was sitting at her desk, looking stunned. I ate the other half, filed my story, and drove home.
On December 26, I arrived at the paper to discover a clipping of the Christmas shopping article on my desk, covered with the distinctive red scribbling of the managing editor. I remembered the fruitcake. I (vaguely) remember writing the story. Expecting the worse, I peered at the scribbling.
"Great story!" it read. I looked over at the assistant editor, who made a "Whew!" gesture at me.
Now, instead of working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my gig is looking after other people's pets. Two families on our street are out of town on vacation. The cat next door helpfully moves into our house when her family is away. But the other household has fish and mice as well as two cats, so I walk across the street to their place once or twice a day.
When the family was leaving Thursday night they told me that one of the mice was seriously ill. A website they had checked said a mouse with its symptoms should go to the vet, but the family decided they weren't going to do that, it being "just a mouse."
The mouse looked slightly better Saturday, and even ran over to its food dish when I poured in the kibble. But tonight I came in to find that mouse dead, with the survivor mouse curled up beside it, trying vainly to keep it warm. Argh.
I went home and got Zorg, who, prior to becoming a cat owner, had extensive experience keeping larger rodents. We went back and he removed the dead mouse from the cage (it's now in our basement freezer), and I am researching online to figure out if the remaining mouse is likely to freak out from loneliness. Not sure if we should go over and pet it and keep it company, or if we need to buy it a companion (even though the companion would need to stay in a neighboring cage until they acclimated to one another).
I asked our visiting cat, Kit-Kat, what I should do. She rolled her eyes. "It's just a mouse; get over it. But that reminds me: I could use a snack."
Cats do seem to lack something when it comes to the compassion department.