NOTE: Please consider a digital subscription or contribution. For more coverage, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Inky roamed and rested among the barrels and bins of Equalville's General Store and there did give generously, to all, of his purrs and presses.  

He attained, at a young age, fame for predicting the weather with accuracy. This ability was put on exhibition whenever he laid for his noontime nap between the store's potbelly stove and big front window.  

There, as soon as his eyes closed with sleep, his body straightened and moved slowly, as does a clock's hand, until it halts at the appropriate pose and Inky awakens.  

If he sees the stove before him, hot will be the night, but if the window, cold, and if neither, mild. It was an Equalville tradition that Inky, on the day before Christmas, nap at noon near the stove, for an audience of children, who afterward rushed home to tell their parents what treat should be placed out for Santa.  

One Christmas, when he awoke to find himself facing the window and his tail curled into an "O," usually a forecaster of fierce winds, Inky became concerned for those who might be harmed by the coming harsh weather.  

After rolling a small ball of sturdy twine outdoors, borrowed from the store, Inky tied it to his tail and set out for a clearing in the woods where he knew there was a need.  

While still light, he arrived at the clearing's edge and there, halted, bending down to rub the top of his head back and forth against a rock until part of his scalp became exposed. He did this to convince those he intended to help that they had done as much for him as he had for them.  

Proceeding to the much-cracked tree stump in the middle of the clearing, wherein a mother mouse and her six babies lived in the company of drafts and dampness, Inky called out for help. The peeking face of the mother mouse immediately appeared.  

Being told by him that his scalp hurt, she retreated briefly into the stump and reappeared with a tiny piece of root, which after climbing onto Inky's shoulders she rubbed tenderly across his scalp. After expressing gratitude for her nursing, Inky said goodbye and ambled away.  

He had gone but slightly into the woods before returning to call on mother mouse a second time. As she stepped into view, Inky apologized, saying, "I could not leave without doing something for you in return."  

Ignoring her words of decline, Inky surveyed the stump, then untying himself from the twine ball, commenced to fill its cracks with stuffing’s of string.  

At the completion of this task, Inky retied a length of twine to his tail and summoned mother mouse one more time to say before leaving, "I hope what I have done for you is accepted as a fair return for what you have done for me."  

As he made his way in the woods, though cold and wind gave new pain to his scalp, Inky smiled as he to himself spoke, "Christmas spirit, may you never leave my heart." 

Lewis writes from Corbin City. 

Get 'The Wrap', a new way to get the news.

We wrap up the news from the Shore you love, and deliver it to your inbox, weekly.