It was after Thanksgiving and barely December when I finally asked Mikhel about whether Floggin’ Brews was going to be decorated for the holidays.
“I haven’t discussed it with Boss. What do you think?”
I hadn’t expected to be consulted, but I always have opinions. “I think it would be great. It’s so dark outside, and people get pretty stressed out with family and schedules. It would make the place look like an oasis from all that.”
Boss had heard Her name and strolled over. Turning to Her, Mikhel asked, “What do you think? Decorations?” Boss’ tail went up and She made a little “mrrph” noise and rubbed up against my leg before looking at Mikhel. He crossed his arms. “Do You think You can control Yourself this time? Remember the tinsel incident – if something like that happens again, we’re going to take it all down. I’m serious.” Boss rubbed against my leg again and cocked Her head at Mikhel before turning Her back on him and heading off toward Her perch over the door.
“The tinsel incident?” I asked.
Mikhel sighed. “Don’t ask. It was a mess. She’s lucky it was only family that was involved.”
“So. No tinsel?”
“No tinsel. But go ahead and decorate the place. Let me know what you need. And be sure to have a tree just for Boss.”
“A tree just for Boss?”
“Yes. Trust me, She won’t be satisfied unless She has Her own tree.”
I’ve had stranger requests, so I ordered two trees, in addition to lots of other supplies. By the following Saturday morning I had everything assembled. I’d put a notice near the Munch board that announced that Floggin’ Brews would be decorated on Saturday afternoon, and if you wanted to help, there would be soup and cider and holiday spirits to share. By the time people started to showed up to help, I had cider and tomato bisque simmering in crock pots and piles of supplies ready. And two trees – one large, one small.
We ended up with a great group of volunteers: Wren and Jacky showed up, along with Bean, from the Fluid/Queer/Trans group, Annabel and Jess from AMUSE, Seanie from the new kinksters group, plus Fannie and Scarlett and Lee. Brita showed up too, and brought her friend Dani. I tuned in SomaFM’s Christmas Lounge and we went to work.
Soon there were evergreen garlands draped at the top of the windows and the shelves behind the bar, LED lights under the bar rail, and a big wreath with a bow on the front door. The large tree went near the booths so you could see it from the balcony as well, and the smaller tree was by the front door and Boss’ perch. I’d gotten some red and white lights for the trees and some generic ornaments.
Annabel wasn’t satisfied, though. “Ret? Can we find some more, um, personal decorations for the trees?”
“Personal?” I asked, and then caught on. “Oh, you mean kinky! What did you have in mind?”
“How about some rope?” asked Jacky.
“I know somewhere we can get itty bitty handcuffs,” Seanie added.
Scarlett offered her supply of glitter pasties, and Fannie confessed to making flogger key chains that could be used as ornaments. After everyone had a bowl of soup and some cider, they scattered to gather additional decorations.
We finished around 5, and the place looked spectacular. The big tree was decorated with short lengths of chain that looked like icicles, tiny handcuffs and little suede floggers in a rainbow of colors, and Scarlett’s pasties, which reflected the lights admirably. The smaller tree was draped with yards of beautiful red paracord, complements of Jacky’s ropey friends. A full-sized suede flogger in white and gold was attached to the top of each tree, with the flails draped like flower petals. There was even a bouquet of rose-headed riding crops (thanks, Galactic! — Mikhel) in holiday red and green behind the bar, and a conspicuous ball of mistletoe hanging in the doorway leading to the Theatre.
Boss had watched most of the goings-on from Her perch above the front door, and had closely supervised the decorating of Her tree. She had batted the ends of the paracord happily, and gave the flogger on the top an approving sniff, but She made it clear that She wanted nothing to do with any other ornamentation.
It was the first time any of us had decorated a tree to please a cat. Wren expressed a certain amount of surprise at Boss’ taste. “What, you don’t like dangly ornaments? My cat is crazy about them. I find them all over my apartment. Well, I find them if I’m lucky. I’m still missing a few from last year.”
The decorating crew was seated at one of the big tables finishing up a complementary beverage when Mikhel came in. I was behind the bar taking care of a few customers who had wandered in during the decorating. Brita and Dani, who had each finished a Americana Honey Cream Soda, dashed over to give Mikhel the grand tour. The pasties made him laugh, and he expressed his appreciation of the rose crop bouquet. “That’s Mark’s, right?”
Scarlett answered. ”Yes, I asked him if we could borrow it. He said we could if you would spot him a beer or two.”
“I will do that,” Mikhel nodded.
Brita piped up. “And you have to look at Boss’ tree!”
Boss had been napping on Her perch and popped Her head up on hearing Her name. She stood up and stretched, and then hopped down the ledges that had been built into the wall to act as a ladder for Her. Boss paused on the middle ledge next to the tree and sat there, looking very pleased with Herself.
Mikhel examined the tree from several directions. He nodded thoughtfully, and looked at Boss. “I assume You’ll be able to avoid tipping this tree over? Especially if there is anyone nearby?” I swear Boss opened Her eyes wider and tried to look innocent. Mikhel sighed. “Okay, but only if absolutely necessary. And be careful. Don’t make it look like something You do on purpose.”
The decorating crew had left by the time my shift ended. As I was putting on my coat, I felt something brush my ankle and looked down to see Boss. I reached down and petted Her several times before she ambled off toward Her tree.
“She really likes the decorations,” said Mikhel.
“I’m glad. I wasn’t quite sure what She wanted.”
“The rope is a nice touch.”
“That was Jacky’s idea.” I looked around. “The place looks ready for the holidays now. Celebratory.”
“Well,” Mikhel remarked, “We have lots to celebrate here.”
That made me smile, and I nodded. “Yes, we do.” I put on my gloves and wished Mikhel a good night.
I glanced back at Floggin’ Brews when I reached the end of the block. Snow had started to fall and I swear the bar looked like a Christmas card, complete with Boss in the front window. I gave Her a wave before heading home.