To Beth Christmas eve had long ago become just another night. There was more noise than usual but most of it was from men shouting to be heard in bars, not sweet carolers in a Dickens’ fantasy. This was as far from a Victorian Christmas as one could get. The streets were dark, so dark that any caroler who ventured into them might trip on an irregular sidewalk and fall flat on his jolly face. There were a few street lamps at a factory far down the street but sodium vapor lights on a steel building had none of the prettiness of gas lamps on Christmas cards. Occasionally someone had made a half hearted attempt to recognize the season by stringing a few colored lights around a shop doorway but never on the darkened factory buildings. That would be a violation of company policy to express any notion that the birth of the Christ child was of any importance. Stupid, she thought. Even if you aren’t Christian it certainly mattered. 

The whore continued along Broad street. She could see St. Anthony’s church, a block away. St. Anthony’s would at least have a pretty manger scene if the baby figure had not been stolen again. She walked toward it hoping that she would find some cheer. She could see people arriving for late evening services. There would be some caroling, a nice sweet sermon from the pastor, and midnight mass. Of course she’d not find a customer there but whatthehell. When she arrived she did not go in but looked for a long while at the manger scene. I’ll just hang around awhile and listen to the singing. They’ll be singing real music, not about Rudolph or worse. For most people there had not been a Christ in Christmas for decades. It had become purely a Santa Claus festival and even Santa was no longer Christian, just an advertising character who laughs his fool head off throughout the season.

The whore was certainly not a practicing Christian herself, but Christ was still important to her. He was one thing that made a little sense. For some people he even made life worth living despite its dreariness. The first Christmas had been so long ago and yet it should still be important. It’s about love – so much better than sex. 

But even the good Christians hurrying to get inside the church where it would be warm took no notice of a forlorn cat in the bushes near the creche, Beth did. It was nothing special. It had no collar and certainly no pedigree. But it was a pretty striped animal if no prettier than any other. Beth thought about that and about herself. Much the same as I am she concluded. She stooped to pet it and the cat lowered her head to accept the gesture. Perhaps she felt the same toward Beth or perhaps she was just hungry but she started to rub against the prostitute’s legs.

“No puss. I’m not your mistress. Go home. Get into a nice warm bed with your humans.” But Beth knew that wasn’t possible. 

“Meow.” The cat turned away, rubbing a bushy tail against the plaster Mary with her child. Then it looked back to see if Beth were following. She hadn’t intended to but there was more Christian love here with the creche, the singing from inside the church, and this alley cat than she had seen on that night or any other for a long time. 

“You’re alone too, aren’t you?” Beth stooped to pick up the stray. She slipped it inside her woolen coat. “Now we’re going inside to pray while I decide what to do with you.” 

That, of course, was how Beth got a roommate.