The last rays of the dying day spilled in through the bedroom window, casting an orange haze across the room. Cindee stood in front of the full-length mirror that hung on the backside of the door, admiring her reflection.
She tilted her head to one side, and the brown doggy with the floppy ears in the mirror did the same thing. Cindee slowly turned so that her backside was facing the looking glass. She cast a glance over her shoulder and took a moment to appreciate the image staring back her, then shook her tail and smiled.
“Stylin!” she said nodding in approval.
Rapi’s head peeked around the corner of the slightly ajar door.
“Don’t just stand there peeping, come in,” she said with a giggle.
Rapi slowly squeezed through the opening and stood silently, gazing at Cindee for a moment.
“You look fantastic,” he said in his deep thick latin accent.
Cindee spun around and looked back into the mirror at the brown dog wearing a red one-piece pajama with ankle length pants.
“It is kind of fantastic isn’t it,” her eyes locked with his.
“You know, you aren’t so bad looking yourself,” she giggled again.
Rapi blushed, then walked over to stand next to Cindee so he could gaze at himself too, after all, he hadn’t had the chance to see how his pajama’s looked.
The big orange cat stood there smiling at himself, decked out in a white satin pajama top, his white chest hairs exposed and his tail flipping back and forth behind him.
Ding dong, went the door bell.
“Oh my gosh, Daisy is here!” Cindee barked with glee.
She took off at a sprint down the stair and to the front door, leaving Rapi behind all alone to stare at himself in the mirror. His smile faded a little.
“She’s here, she’s here, Daisy is here!” He listened to Cindee barking from below.
“It sucks being in the friend zone,” he said to his reflection.
Rapi took a few seconds to collect himself. Once more he looked into the mirror at the cat staring back at him, put on a smile, and headed for the stairs.
The front door swung open. Robin poked her head in and called out. Mommy and Daddy came flying down the stairs. Rapi almost got trampled in the stampede.
“Sorry,” Mommy said looking back at Rapi.
Robin opened the door the rest of the way, then stumbled into the living room like a drunk. She hadn’t been drinking of course, it was just Daisy, having grown a little impatient for her to move, pushing her from behind.
The humans hugged and talked for some minutes, while Daisy and Cindee danced around the living room. Daisy was looking stunning in her pink onesie.
Daddy had brought the big mattress upstairs. The one that He and Mommy use when they go camping.
“It wouldn’t be a slumber party without a place so you can all sleep together,” he said when he brought it up earlier. He is such a nerd.
The two dogs plopped down next to each other on the makeshift bed and were immediately joined by Bella and Yehudi, wearing matching New York Mets jerseys as their pajamas.
“Mommy made some yummy snacks for us,” Cindee explained to Daisy.
“I don’t know what it is, but my gosh, my nose and been sniffing it and my tummy has been craving it all day!”
“Daddy bought a scary movie to watch too,” Yehudi interjected.
“This sounds like it is going to be a fun night!” Daisy exclaimed.
“You be a good girl Daisy, I will see you in the morning,” Robin said waving from the door.
“Night night, Little Miss,” Daisy called back.
“Who wants some yummy treats?” Mommy asked.
“I do! I do!,” everyone called out as one.
The room erupted in giggles.
Mommy flipped the light switch off.
“You girls have a good night,”
“uh hmmmm,” Rapi cleared his throat loudly.
“Oh yes, and you too Rapi,” she said from halfway up the stairs.
Stillness fell over the house. The light from the nightlights filtered through the room, casting shadows on the ceilings and wall.
“Look at this,” Daisy called out, holding her paws in the air in front of the night light. The shadow of bird flapping its wings floated across the ceiling.
“Wowwie,” Cindee barked out.
“That was awesome, teach me,” she pleaded.
Daisy showed Cindee the awkward way she needed to hold her paws. After a few tries a disfigured bird appeared on the ceiling.
“You did it!” Yehudi shouted.
“With a little more practice, it will be perfect,” Daisy encouraged her friend.
Cindee laid her head back down on her pillow and Daisy soon followed.
“That was a scary movie,” Rapi finally admitted.
“It was,” Bella agreed.
“Do you think there really are monsters,” Cindee asked.
“I sure do,” Rapi and Bella said at the same time.
“I don’t, I think it is all in our imaginations,” Daisy shared her opinion.
“It was scary how it made the people afraid, then ate their fears,” Cindee said, her voice giving away her nervousness.
“It’s okay Cindee, it was just a movie,” Daisy reassured her.
“I guess,” the brown dog conceded.
A hush fell over the room. Cindee glanced over at the clock. 12:34 it said.
“One, two, three, four, pretty cool,” she mumbled quietly, her eyes growing heavy and finally closing.
The sun shone through the window …
Cindee’s eyes cracked open a little. The sun burned and she felt her eyes water. With a little more effort, she forced her eyelids to open a little. Her head popped up and she looked around. The livingroom and diningroom were empty.
“Oh my gosh, we have been robbed!” she screamed.
“Rapi, wake up, we have been robbed!” she turned to wake her friend.
She looked around. She was all alone in an empty room. She turned and ran for the stairs.
“Rapi, Bella, Yehudi, Daisy?” she called out her friends’ names while racing up the steps.
Her mouth dropped open. Everything had been cleaned out upstairs too. Plus, no sign of the cats or Daisy.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
She heard a car door slam. Then another. She jogged over to the window and looked out. Daddy was sitting behind the wheel of a moving truck and Mommy was parked next to him in the car.
“That’s everything!” he shouted to her, then put the truck in gear and began to pull away.
“Not everything, you forgot about me!” Cindee barked at the window. With her heart pounding in her chest she pivoted and took off for the stairs and down and out the front door. The cars had just started to move down the street. She ran as fast as she could towards them, but it was no use, she wasn’t fast enough.
Cindee collapsed in the middle of the street. Tears pouring down her cheeks.
“They abandoned me,” she sniffed.
She felt a tap tap tap on her shoulder. She turned to look, and found an old man standing there. He reached towards her ear and pulled out a cookie and began to munch on it.
“Mmmmmm, this fear tastes good,” he said with a smile.
“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” Cindee screamed.
Her eyeballs popped open and she looked around the dark room. Her friends were all sound asleep next to her on the mattress.
“Thank goodness, it was just a dream,” she said with an exhale.
Cindee looked over at her friend Rapi, his little legs moving.
“Oh, how cute, he must be chasing a mouse in his dreams!” With that she rolled over and fell back to sleep.
Faster … faster … go faster!
“You can do it go faster,” Mommy enthusiastically encouraged Rapi.
His short stubby legs were churning on the treadmill as fast as they could.
“You gotta lose that weight!” Daddy cheered Rapi on.
Rapi glanced around the room, trying to find a way to safely escape from the spinning tread beneath him. In his mind, he was replaying the last summer Olympics he had seen, trying to mentally calculate the timing and angles he would need to make a dismount similar to one of theirs. The problem was, every time he planned to jump, his tummy would sway the other way, causing him to almost tip over.
The skype call alert went off on the computer. Mommy clicked answer. Doctor Bob, the veterinarian’s face filled up the screen.
“How is our chubby little friend doing?” he asked.
“He’s working pretty hard on the treadmill,” Mommy updated the doctor.
“Hmmm, let me check the sensors. Ah just as I thought, he needs more speed!”
Rapi looked at Mommy with terror in his eyes.
“No more speed, please?” he begged.
Before Mommy had a chance to answer, Doctor Bob remotely increased the speed.
“I will check in later,” Doctor Bob said, then rang off.
Rapi was panting something fierce.
“How you doing Rapi,” Cindee asked from behind, having just entered the room.
“I’m … I’m …” that’s all that Rapi was able to get out.
He was struggling mightily. Now his tongue was swaying from side to side, but in the opposite direction of his tummy.
He stumbled a little, then regained his composure for a moment, before stepping on his own tongue. His body tumbled over on its side coming to rest on the rapidly spinning tread.
“Oh no!” Cindee yelled before dropping to the ground.
The treadmill shot Rapi’s limp body off the back end. Like a heat seeking missile he flew over Cindee’s head and crashed into Daddy. They both tumbled to the ground with a thud.
“Oh, my poor baby,” Mommy came over and picked Rapi up and cuddled him.
“Let’s get you some food!”
“What about me?” Daddy said, still rolling around the floor in pain.
“You can get a snack too if you’re hungry,” she called over her shoulder while descending the stairs.
In the dining room, Mommy had a bowl of food all prepared for Rapi. The orange cat’s eyes were all aglow when he spotted the bowl.
The skype phone rang again.
“It’s Doctor Bob,” Daddy yelled down from upstairs.
Mommy placed Rapi down on the table and ran up the staircase to talk to the old vet. Rapi stared at the bowl for a second with a gleam in his eyes. He licked his lips, then darted over to the bowl and peered over the edge. Staring up at him where three small pieces of kibble.
“They are trying to kill me,” he grumbled.
Rapi jumped, started by the voice. Behind him stood an old man, eating tuna straight from the can.
“This fear is delicious,” he said.
“I wish I could share with you.”
Rapi glared at him for a second.
“Why you son of a …”
His eyes popped open.
“It’s okay, it’s just a dream,” Cindee whispered, trying not to wake the others.
“SSS Sorry,” Rapi mumbled.
“It’s okay, go back to sleep,” she said, then took her own advice.
Rapi looked around the dark room at his friends. Thankful that they were here and that they accept him for who he was.
Daisy was snoring, so he rolled over on his other side to face Bella. He stared at the delicate features on her face. For a second, he admired how beautiful she was. Then that old urge came over him to slap her in the face. He was just about to do it when he noticed her whiskers twitching.
“I wonder if she is getting a cold,” he thought to himself.
Put me down!
Bella screeched at the top of her lungs. She peered down at the floor five feet below her and dug her nails into Daddy. A quick survey of the room gave her hope. Right behind Daddy sat the cat tree.
Mustering all of her strength she wiggled free and leapt for the tree landing gracefully on the second highest platform.
“Ahhhhhh,” she let out a sigh of relief.
Daddy looked at her lovingly and reached out a hand to stroke her head. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her Daddy, what troubled Bella was being so high off the ground. She leaned forward and into his hand and gave her Daddy a look of approval.
A sudden shift in his features alarmed Bella. His smile had vanished and was replace with a look of puzzlement, then shock. The floor disappeared from under Daddy.
“Daddy!” Bella lunged for him.
It was too late; he had already tumbled into the abyss with an ear-splitting scream.
“Oh my gosh,” Bella gasped, tip toeing to the edge of her platforming and peering down.
Not only was the floor gone, but it looked like the entire earth was gone. All that was beneath her was a layer of puffy white clouds skittering across a blue sky. The grey and white cat spun around in a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree circle. Nothing but clear sky as far as the eye could see.
Without warning her cat tree began to shake beneath her paws. Bella lifted each of her front legs to inspect the surface underneath them. All was normal.
“Huh,” she said with a shrug.
Everything changed when she looked back up. The cat tree was plummeting to the earth. Clouds were starting to fly past her.
Bella’s whiskers began to twitch, and her heart was pounding out a rhythm in her throat. She suddenly became aware of a steel rope attached to the corner of the tree. The rope looked like it was connected tightly to something off in the distance just below the clouds, but what it was Bella couldn’t see.
Sensing her impending demise, Bella’s nails shot out. She hooked them abound the metal line and took a deep breath.
“Now or never,” she squeaked. Still holding her breath, she jumped from her perch and began shoot through the sky on her improvised zip line. With her eyes closed she began to pray. All she could feel was the wind whipping though her hair pinning her ears back.
Gradually, her curiosity began to get the better of her. She cracked open one eye. Then two. She was gliding through the clouds with the birds. A little black speck appeared on the horizon and began to grow larger and larger.
“Oh no,” she gulped.
It was a pole with a platform on it. Perched on the platform was an old man. Bella was sure she was going to crash into the platform and tumble to the ground and take the man with her. She seemingly began to defy all the laws of nature. She began to slow down even though she was still on a steep trajectory until finally, she came to a stop and hovered directly over the platform.
The old man was standing next to her, munching on a handful of kitty snacks.
“Scrumptious tasting fear this is,” he said with a chuckle. He started to tickle Bella on the tummy. She couldn’t control herself. It started out with a giggle, then turned into a full belly laugh. She reached down to push his hands away, forgetting for a second where she was.
“Oh no!” she burst out in full panic mode. She bounced off the platform and began to tumble and spin towards the ground.
“Help meeeeeee!” she shouted. Her eyes shot open and darted around the room, which was exactly as it had been when she fell asleep the night before. She was still surrounded by all her friends. Rapi was snuggled up tightly against Cindee. Yehudi was in a ball back to back with Bella and Daisy was in the middle, her tail flailing around.
“She must be dreaming about playing with Cindee!” Bella thought to herself before relaxing again and drifting off into the slumber once more.
Craaaack … Kabooooom!
The lightning flashed across the sky, followed by the boom of thunder that echoed across the valley. Daisy jumped awake just in time to see the lights flicker, then flash off. The storm had cut off the moon and her light, leaving the room in total and complete darkness.
“Momma!” she called out and waited for an answer, but none came. She could feel the strum of her heartbeat throughout her entire body. The big black dog, followed her instincts, choosing to sit and wait, giving her eyes an opportunity to adjust to their surroundings. Daisy’s brain told her it was important to wait. She wasn’t quite sure where she was, and the only thing she was certain about was that she is inside a strange house she has never visited before.
“Look a dog,” came a womanly voice.
“We don’t like dogs,” a male voice said, as if reminding the woman.
Two glowing bodies crept down the stairs, their faces twisted and deformed.
“Shoo,” said the one.
“Git,” said the other.
Daisy was able to tell that these were the owners of the two voices she heard. A flash of light filled the room and dissipated, followed by a loud crash. Daisy saw enough in that split second to realize she was in an old abandoned, cobweb infested, house.
The two bodies hovered above the ground at the bottom of the stairs with glowing red eyes focused on Daisy.
“Out with you, ya mutt,” the man yelled, before charging towards Daisy.
“Oh heck,” Daisy barked, before turning to run. She scrambled around the house with her pursuers floating right behind her. Daisy vaulted onto an old sofa and bounded over the back of it, landing safely on the other side. She turned her head just in time to see the man and woman run right through the davenport as if it didn’t even exist.
Dead ahead sat Daisy’s escape route. A door, with oddly shaped windows at the top stood beckoning her. She could see the dark grey clouds and a flash of lightning through the window.
“Rats!” she shouted.
Being the expert escape artist that she is, Daisy began to work on picking the lock. She cast a quick glance over her shoulder to find the ghosts were closing in on her quickly.
“Oh no, come on!” she shouted at the lock. The big black dog tried every trick she knew but it wouldn’t open.
“My oh my,” came an unfamiliar voice.
Daisy turned to look. Standing behind her was an old man holding a box of dog biscuits in one hand, and a half eating bone shaped cookie in the other.
“Nothing like the taste of ghost fear,” he said with a smile.
Daisy froze in a panic. The only thing she could do was wag her tail, which kept thumping against the old man’s leg.
“Need a little help?” he asked.
Without waiting for an answer, he reached out and turned the doorknob. With a gentle push the door fell open and Daisy rushed out into the night air.
Another flash crawled across the dark sky like a spiderweb of light, striking a tree that sat next to the porch that Daisy was now standing on.
“That was close,” she huffed.
Boom, the thunder rolled at the same moment that a dislodged branch from the tree came crashing down on top of Daisy.
Her body jumped and her eyes opened.
“Sorry,” Rapi’s raspy voice cut through the pre-dawn air. The orange cat was just coming back from the bathroom and accidentally stumbled over her tail landing on her head.
Daisy, looked around, trying to get her bearings. She was at Cindee’s house.
“Oh yeah, the slumber party,” she croaked.
“So sorry,” Rapi mumbled again.
“No problem,” Daisy re-assured him.
Bella snuggled into her. Daisy wasn’t much of a cat person. She kind of tolerated them, but this kind of felt nice she thought to herself. Her eyes began to close. The last thing Daisy saw before nodding off was Yehudi smiling in her sleep.
As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …
Coolio’s voice boomed. Yehudi danced throughout the house shaking and contorting her body in strange ways to the beats of Gangsta’s Paradise. Her little voice squeaked out the words along with Coolio. It was one of Yehudi’s favorite songs. She tended towards music that had a heavy bass influence, saying she liked the way that it felt. It put her into another zone, she liked to say.
Her zone was interrupted by a loud roar coming from a truck outside. Being curious, as cat’s tend to be, Yehudi dashed to the window and peered outside. A big white delivery truck with blue and red letters on the side pulled to a stop right in front of the house. She watched with the same deep intensity she puts into everything. The driver got out of the truck and stared at the address on the house for a moment before grabbing a package and heading for the door.
Yehudi’s mouth dropped open and a tiny squeak emanated from deep inside her.
“Holy guacamole!” her eyes went glassy.
“It’s Noah Syndergaard!” she shouted.
Ding dong, went the doorbell. Cindee came dashing down the stairs.
“The door, someone is at the door,” she barked at the top of her lungs.
“It’s Noah Syndergaard,” Yehudi repeated to Cindee.
“What’s a Noah Syndergaard,” Cindee asked?
“He is the pitcher for the New York Mets,” Yehudi responded, as if everyone should know.
“And he is dreamy,” she added.
“Huh?” was all Cindee could muster.
“I just want to feel his fingers scratching the top of my head,” Yehudi kept rattling on.
Cindee rolled her eyes and went back upstairs.
“Come in,” Yehudi yelled through the door.
“Package,” the delivery guy said.
“Hello Mr. Syndergaard!”
“Hello sweetie,” he said.
“Why are you delivering packages,” Yehudi asked, not once thinking about whether it was polite to ask such things or not.
“Well, um, what’s your name little one?” Noah Syndergaard asked.
“Yehudi,” the little black cat responded,
“Well, you see, with the virus going around, I can’t work as a baseball player, and delivery drivers are in demand, so I applied for a job.”
“Oh, I see,” Yehudi giggled.
“Can you wait here for just a second Mr. Syndergaard?”
Without waiting, she turned and tore up the stairs and into the spare bedroom. The Met’s pitcher turned delivery man gazed around the room while he waited and was quite thankful that the wait wasn’t a long one, after all, he did have a lot of packages to deliver still.
Yehudi returned holding a Noah Syndergaard Thor bobblehead.
“Can you sign this for me?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, taking the bobblehead in his hands and scratching his name across the bottom in the black pen that he carries with him.
“Thank you Mr. Syndergaard,” Yehudi said with a big a smile on her face.
“No problem, glad to do it,” he said
Then he did something that completely shocked Yehudi. He picked the tiny black cat up, scratched her gently on the top of the head and kissed her nose.
“You have a nice day,” he said.
“You too Mr. Syndergaard. I hope you are back playing ball soon!”
With that he was gone.
Yehudi stood at the window and watched Noah Syndergaard, pull away in his big white delivery truck. She was interrupted by the sounds of someone in the kitchen.
Intrigued, she trotted through the diningroom and investigated the kitchen. There rifling thought the cupboards was an old man. Yehudi just watched him for a few moments as he opened and closed each door.
The man turned and looked at Yehudi, his face mired in frustration.
“Your cupboards are empty,” he said.
“So?” Yehudi responded.
“So, where do you keep your fear?”
“What fear?” she asked, but without waiting for a response she went on to tell the man all about Noah Syndergaard.
“Noah Syndergaard was born and grew up in Mansfield Texas. He began to play baseball when he was just a little boy. Did you know he hit his first home run when he was just seven years old …” Yehudi went on and on.
The old man plopped down in the middle of the kitchen floor, put his head in his hands and began to cry.
“ … was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round. He was …”
They stood there shaking their heads…
“That was a rough night,” Rapi said with a big yawn.
“It sure was. I had this really strange dream,” Daisy said, stretching.
“Was there an old man there?” Cindee asked.
“Eating your fear?” Rapi added.
“Yup, just like the movie,” Daisy conceded.
“Me too,” Rapi and Cindee said as one.
“What about that?” Bella asked pointing to Yehudi’
“Should we wake her up?” Daisy asked.
Cindee and Rapi looked at each other, then back down at the little black cat who lay sound asleep with a smile spread from cheek to cheek.
“Nah,” the big brown dog said.
“Looks like she is having sweet dreams,” Rapi said, his paw in the air ready to strike her across the face.
Noah Syndergaard …
“was traded by the Blue Jays to the Mets. Thank goodness for the Mets that those Blue Jays didn’t know what they were doing. After that …” Yehudi kept going without stopping to take a breath.
“What did I do to deserve this,” the old man said, He embraced his legs with his arms and began to rock back and forth desperately.
Yehudi stopped, grabbed a bag of potato chips, and began to crunch on the crispy potatoes.
“Yummy. This fear tastes great. Nothing is tastier than the fear of being outsmarted by a cat!” she said munching away.
“Anyway, back to Noah Syndergaard …”