I was riding down a winding country lane on the back of a bicycle built for two, enjoying the beautiful orange, red and yellow hues bursting out of the trees. I couldn’t help but smile with the breeze blowing in my face tossing my floppy ears to and fro.
I simply adore that smell of decaying leaves. I think it is because I am ready for some cool refreshing air. Don’t get me wrong, summer is simply lovely, but when you have to walk around covered in fur, ninety-degree days can be uncomfortable.
I instinctively reached out and placed my paws on Daddy’s back to steady myself.
“Sorry, pothole,” he called back to me.
“Darned potholes,” I barked back.
All was right with the world. Or so I thought. I turned my gaze from the trees that were flying past us to the road ahead and saw a billowing green cloud begin to develop. Before I had a chance to question Daddy about the fog it had swallowed us whole like a monster from my worst nightmare.
“It’s toxic chemicals,” I coughed and gasped, hoping to warn Daddy before it was too late.
In desperate need of oxygen, I gulped in as much air as I could, but the noxious fumes filled my lungs instead.
“This is it, I am going to die,” I sniffled to myself.
“Anjo, stop farting!” Mommy’s voice cut through the sludge colored cloud stirring me awake.
My eyes popped open, revealing it to all have been a dream, except for the invisible cloud of sulfur that hung suspended over the bed.
I rolled off the mattress and slunk along the ground, just like they always tell you to do in the fire fighter shows. I gasped and crawled along the floor until I reached the safety of the door, where I lay sprawled out for a moment or two sucking in fresh air.
“You should see a doctor about that,” I spat over my shoulder at Daddy my tired body rising up off the floor and continuing down the stairs thinking that maybe I could catch another hour of sleep on the sofa if I was lucky.
I made it halfway down the staircase when I spotted Yehudi, a young slender tuxedo cat staring at the bookshelf in the far corner of the living room. I watched quietly for a moment. She hadn’t moved, rather she sat completely still like a statue in a cemetery.
Curious, I tip toed down the remainder of the stairs as stealthily as possible, coming up behind her so I could look over her shoulder to see what had captivated her.
“Good morning Cindee,” she said looking at the reflection of the chocolate labrador staffordshire mix coming up behind her in the panes of glass that protected the shelf’s contents.
“Good morning Yehudi. Mind if I ask what you are looking at?” I asked in an inquisitive sing songy kind of voice.
“Not at all,” She squeaked.
“I was just looking at Cosita,” she said pointed at a small wooden box made of pine. There was a picture of a small black and tan dog set in a recess on the front of the rectangular block.
“Oh, I see,” I said with a tender smile.
“I like to come here from time to time too. Especially when I have something on my mind or when something happens that reminds me of Cosita,” I said sitting down next to the black and white cat.
“I can relate,” Yehudi said, looking up into my eyes.
“I wish I knew Cosita. I mean I know who she is, but I don’t know anything at all about her, like how did she come to live with us or what does her name mean. Nothing,” a look of concern washed away the inquisitiveness that she had worn on her typically happy go lucky face.
“I can see how that could be a problem. Maybe I can answer some of your questions” I said, brightening the cat’s mood.
“Hey, what are you doing up?” a deep voice with a lively Cuban accent inquired from behind us.
We both turned to look in the direction of the kitchen to find a large orange cat with a white tummy strolling into the room. The cat had an air of confidence and sensuality about him, even though his tummy was swimming from side to side with each step.
“Hey Rapi, I couldn’t sleep,” I greeted my friend.
“Daddy’s farting again isn’t he?” Rapi asked concerned about my well-being.
“He sure is,” I answered with a giggle.
“We were just talking about Cosiita” Yehudi informed her older housemate.
“Yehudi was a little concerned because she doesn’t really know anything about Cosita, so I told her I would answer some questions,” I said bringing Rapi up to date on the situation.
“Oh, well maybe I can help,” Rapi offered, quickly curling up on the other side of me.
“That would be great!” Yehudi squeaked.
The three of us had settled in and were all comfortably curled up in front of the bookshelf, Rapi and I focused our concentration on the little black and white cat who for some reason had chosen today to become curious about the adopted sister she had never met.
“Was there something specific you wanted to know,” I asked, hoping the little black cat would provide a starting point that we could jump off from.
“Yes, there is,” she said, then sat silently.
A minute passed, then another. Rapi and I glanced at each other. His forehead was furrowed up, the expression he wore on his face betrayed the agitation that was building in him.
“What is it,” I asked her gently.
“Why is she in that box?” Yehudi inquired, her countenance oozing confusion.
Now it was Rapi and I who sat speechless, each of us wracking our brains trying to come up with an easy answer to a question that neither of us wanted to talk about.
I looked over at the orange cat and received a shrug as response. I had been hoping for more input than that. With no real options that I could see, I took a deep breath and blew it out.
“You know that Cosita got very sick and that she died,” I reminded Yehudi.
“When we die, that means that our time in this part of our life is over, and it is time to move on to the next part,” I explained.
I looked over at Rapi who was nodding at me in approval. While it was nice to have his blessing, all I could think about was swatting him in the face with my paw for abandoning me like this.
“So, the next part of her life is in the box,” the tuxedo cat inquired further.
I felt my insides begin to shake. Thinking about this was difficult and trying to explain it was even harder. Moreover, I missed my friend and knew that if Cosita was here, she would be doing a better job of this than I was.
“That is just her body in the box. When the cancer got too bad, it just stopped working. Without a working body, you need to move on to the next part of your journey,” I said, taking a different tact.
She looked at me with a blank look on her face. Her eyes blinking.
I watched with some relief when her face began a transformation that said she was processing my words, and had formed some sort of meaning from it.
“Where did she go if she isn’t in the box with her body,” she asked, now deeply engrossed in the conversation.
Rapi’s mouth dropped open and my lips moved but no words came out. I began to think to myself that right about now, the gas cloud in the bedroom was looking like the better option, perhaps I should have stayed there.
“We go to the Rainbow Bridge,” Rapi answered.
I looked over at the orange cat and smiled, thankful that he finally decided to help me out.
“Yes, there is a meadow just before you cross over the Rainbow Bridge,” I repeated what Mommy and Daddy had told me when Cosita had died.
“That is where Cosita has gone. She is there now, running and playing with a whole bunch of new fur friends that she has made,” I explained.
“She is happy there,” Rapi added.
“The cancer is gone, she will never be sick or get hurt ever again,” I continued.
The black cat shifted her gaze back to the box on the shelf, then to a smaller cherry wood box that sat next to it with a plaque that read ‘Bencinha’.
“Bennie is there too,” she asked about the grey tabby cat who had been the first member of our family.
“Bennie too,” I smiled.
“And one day, all of us will journey there,” Rapi added.
I examined Yehudi’s face, waiting to see how she would respond to that bit of information. I remember when I found out that one day, I would travel to the Rainbow Bridge, I was afraid, and couldn’t stop worrying about it for weeks.
“Will we stay there forever?” Yehudi stood and asked, her whiskers twitching a little.
“No sweetie,” I answered softly.
“One day, Mommy and Daddy will join us at the Rainbow Bridge, and then together, all of us will cross over to the other side,” I heard my own voice say lovingly.
Again, silence washed over the room, but this was a different kind of quiet. It was a peaceful solitude. The tension that had been building in my face and body slowly began to recede.
“Thank you,” the tuxedo cat said with a peaceful look on her face.
“I think I will just sit here some more and look at the boxes if it is okay,” she said.
“It’s more than okay,” I reassured her. Rapi nodded in agreement.
“Naptime,” Rapi asked.
“Naptime,” I agreed on my way to the sofa, where I quickly stretched out onto my side allowing Rapi to snuggle up to me in a warm comfy ball. In no time, I was finally back to sleep.
Slowly the pedicab eased its way down the brick lane my ears flopping around as we gently bounced over each little slab. The street was lined with maple trees, their foliage was the brightest autumn tones I had ever seen. I took in a deep breath and enjoyed the aroma that you can only get in the autumn and let the warmth of the sun wash over me.
Out of seemingly nowhere a gentle breeze stirred the treetops and suddenly, it began to rain golden leaves.
“Isn’t it beautiful,” I said to my fellow passenger.
“It most certainly is,” she replied.
I turned to smile, but Cosita was already grinning at me.
I knew this was only a dream, but what is a dream, but another reality, and in this moment, I was content and at peace, happily whiling away some time with my best … friend … ever.