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Each day at dusk, Perry the Raccoon made his way through the city streets. He was very familiar with this neighborhood. He knew exactly which front yards had the best fruit trees and which backyards had the most leftovers from people’s barbecues.
The other animals in town knew Perry too. They admired his fearlessness and strength. Although sometimes they found him rather odd because he preferred to be alone, loved the dark, and didn’t speak very much.
One afternoon in December, it was light for longer than usual. A lot of snow had fallen the previous night and it reflected the low sun’s light, drawing out the end of the day.
Perry was trying to make his way across the slippery sidewalk when he encountered Coby the Fox.
“Hey Perry,” Coby called to him. “Will we see you next week for Christmas?”
“No. I hate Christmas,” Perry mumbled as he pushed past Coby.
He was about to turn into a dark backyard when he met Ozzy the Marten.
“There’s nothing to be found in that backyard today,” said Ozzy. “The garbage cans are covered in ice. It’s impossible to open them!”
Disappointed and hungry, Perry continued down the street. He hoped to find something edible in one of the front yards.
“Darn snow!” grumbled Perry to himself. Suddenly, he heard a light pattering sound beside him.
“Well, you’re in a bad mood!” exclaimed rabbit who had hopped over. “Everyone is happy about snow at Christmas, except you!”
“I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I don’t need snow!” said Perry. “Plus, it’s almost impossible to find something to eat under this layer of ice!”
“Well, we’ve gathered some supplies. Why don’t you come by our house next week?”
Perry just shook his head and kept walking.
As he passed an old garden house, he couldn’t help but slow down. Something smelled delicious and Perry’s stomach began to growl. “Don’t give in!” he scolded himself.
Just then, a hedgehog came scampering out of the old wooden house with her two small hoglets. “Oh, Perry! What are you doing here? Would you like to come in? We just baked some fresh cookies!”
She scurried back inside before he could answer and returned with a cookie jar. The cookies were still warm and Perry couldn’t resist.
“All right, I’ll try one. But just so you’ll leave me alone!” he grumbled.
They were the best cookies he’d ever tasted and he suddenly didn’t feel so grumpy.
He walked with the hedgehog family towards a nearby shed. “We’re going to visit the mice and bring them the rest of the cookies. Would you like to come along?” asked the hedgehog.
Perry was swept up in the moment and to his surprise—he agreed to go with them. Inside, it was warm and sheltered from the wind. He watched curiously as some of the young mice made colorful Christmas ornaments out of rowan berries and acorns and hung them on some small branches in a vase.
Two other young mice were humming merrily as they knitted warm hats and mittens.
“It’s really cozy in here!” Perry accidentally said out loud to the amazement of the mice and hedgehogs. He quickly said goodbye and ran home.
On his way, he noticed that warm light and delicious smells were coming from all the sheds and dens along the street. “Is everyone obsessed with Christmas?” wondered Perry. This time, instead of sounding grumpy, he sounded a little sad.
Perry’s home was in a dark garage in the backyard of an auto repair shop. He liked it because he had it all to himself. Only Ozzy and a few stray cats dared to come back here. As he looked around and didn’t see anything Christmas like at all, he decided to sleep through the next week. That way by the time he woke up, all the hustle and bustle of the holiday would be long over.
Perry actually managed to sleep soundly for a few days. What he didn’t know was that the other animals were starting to worry about him. No one had seen a light in the old garage or seen him out looking for food for several days.
“Come on! Let’s go in there and check on him!” Ozzy said to Coby. The other residents of the neighborhood admired their courage and kept their fingers crossed. They all hoped that Perry was okay and that they would all celebrate Christmas together.
After what felt like an eternity, they finally saw three shadows approaching them from the dimly lit backyard.
Each of the mice shouted Perry’s name in excitement and relief. A young mouse said, “We were so worried. We all came to see if you were alright!”
Still sleepy, Perry mumbled, “It’s okay. I’m here now.”
In no time, all the animals were scurrying around him happily, telling him about their plans for Christmas.
“Ozzy and I will get a Christmas tree,” said Coby. The hedgehog family announced that they would be in charge of the holiday meal and the badger wanted to take care of providing some festive music.
“We’re still missing lighting,” said a mouse, pointing to a beautiful shop window down the street where a twinkling set of lights was part of a beautiful Christmas display.
“That will be the least of our problems,” Perry grinned.
“Now we just need a space to hold our celebration. Where do you think we’d all fit?” the mouse asked.
“Well, I guess we’d have the most room in my garage,” grumbled Perry. The other animals looked at each other in surprise and all agreed to meet there the next day to decorate.
That same evening, Perry set off for the junkyard where he had seen many strings of lights in the past. He picked out the most beautiful one and went home to see if it worked. As the lights twinkled in his garage, he started to feel excited about Christmas.
The next morning, Perry woke up in a good mood. He got out the broom and swept up the garage. Soon, the first guests arrived, bringing tangerines, apples, spices, bread, and all sorts of Christmas decorations. Coby and Ozzy arrived next carrying a bushy fir tree.
“All that’s missing now are the lights!” said the mouse. Perry proudly presented the colorful string of lights he had found as everyone cheered. But there were a lot of little lights on a very long string and it got tangled around Perry’s arms and legs as he showed them off.
“Oh Perry, the string of lights belongs on the Christmas tree, not around you!” said a giggling young mouse. Everyone else began to laugh too—even Perry.