Saving Rufus Johnson

Cindee and Rapi looking out the front window

I sat at the big glass doors in the dining room, looking out into the backyard, but it wasn’t the crescent moon or the twinkling stars that was captivating me, no, it was the big brown dog that was staring back at me in the window that had grabbed all my attention.

Silly, I know, but sometimes I enjoy looking at my reflection.  It just amazes me that whatever I do, that brown dog with the floppy ears in the window does.  Sometimes I wish she would do something different, or that she would simply talk to me and tell me what she is feeling.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to know if their reflection felt the same thing as they do right?  Was “reflection Cindee” checking me out too?  Could she also be fascinated that whatever she does I also do?  I ask the dog in the window all the time, but she never answers.

“Do you think that Rapi is wondering what this Rapi is doing” Rapi asked.

I had become so engrossed in studying myself in the window that I had forgotten about the orange cat with the oversized belly and chubby face sitting next to me.

“Hmmm, I don’t know Rapi,” I answered, relieved to find out that someone else was pondering the same things that I was. 

Rapi’s question had shifted my thinking, and now my main concern was whether I was watching too many classic episodes of the Twilight Zone with Daddy at bedtime.

“Cindee!”

Yehudi came thundering down the stairs calling my name at the top of her lungs.  I turned to see the tiny black cat whiz around the corner of the staircase and leap up onto the table in front of the living room window, knocking over a couple of picture frames in the process.

“It’s amazing such a little thing makes so much noise when she runs,” Rapi said as he too watched Yehudi.

“Cindee … Rapi, quick come look,” she exclaimed, out of breath from her sprint.

“What is it,” I asked rising to my feet and heading off in Yehudi’s direction with Rapi trotting along behind me.

“Behold,” the black cat squeaked, her paw pointing out the window in the direction she wanted me to look.

“We need to take that dictionary away from her,” Rapi groaned.

“It’s good for her to lean new words,” I countered.

“Even you have to admit this is creepy, ‘Behold’” the orange cat said mockingly.

“Be nice,” I said, before sticking my head between the blinds to get a better view. 

“Oh em gee …” my voice trailed off.

Rapi stuck his face in the opening I had created and pressed he face against the window.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see his mouth drop open.

I was dumbstruck.  My mind went completely blank and I didn’t know what to do, besides just stare out the window.

“Cindee,” Yehudi sqeaked again, reminding me that this wasn’t a dream.

I jumped back from the window and ran over to Mommy and Daddy who were snuggling on the sofa watching some lame show about romance, yuck!

“Fire!”

“The Johnson’s house is on fire,” I barked at them.

“Not now Cindee,” Mommy said without removing her gaze from the television.

“You have already been out sweetie,” Daddy reminded me.

I ran over in front of the television to block their view and began to yell even louder.

“Fire!  The Johnson’s need your help!”

“Cindee,” Daddy’s voice said in that tone that told me he was getting frustrated with me.

I looked over at Rapi and Yehudi.  They both wore worried faces.

“What do we do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Rapi answered, his tongue hanging out.

“I have an idea,” Yehudi shouted.

Without running her idea by either of us, the little black cat turned and jumped as high as she could flinging herself at the window.  She hit the glass with a thud and quickly reached her paws out and grabbed hold of the blinds before beginning a slow slide down the window.  That is when I understood her plan.

I spun and began to cry out again.

“Fire,” I barked with urgency.

Daddy’s head swung in my direction, and I could see it in his eyes, he was more than frustrated.  That look would only last a second though, as Yehudi’s plan began to play itself out.  Slowly, the cat dragged the blinds down with her as she slid down the window, at last revealing the big orange ball of flame across the street.  Daddy’s eyes went wide.

“Call 9-1-1,” he shouted to Mommy, who now also saw it for the first time.  She leapt up and grabbed her phone and set to work getting help.

Daddy grabbed his coat and my leash and together we dashed out the front door.

Outside, we heard the crackling and popping of the flames, and the terrible sound of the Johnson’s dog Rufus’s panicked barks coming from inside the house.  The rest of the neighbors were just now coming out of their houses to see what was happening too.

“Rufus,” I said, looking up at Daddy.

“The Johnson’s too,” he answered, an expression of fear etched into his face.

We ran across the street towards the fire.  Mr. Henderson, our next-door neighbor followed quickly behind us.

We wasted no time banging on the front door once we reached it, but no answer.  Daddy dropped my leash and pounded on the wood again, but still nobody came to open it.

“Are they home,” Mr. Henderson asked.

“I think so.  The car is in the driveway,” Daddy answered.

The cries of help coming from Rufus inside were making my tummy feel yucky.  I felt so helpless.  That’s when I remembered, Rufus lived in a house that had a big glass door that opened onto a deck.  I ran as fast as I could around the house and up the three steps that led to the wooden platform and the window.

I peeked in the window and the first thing I saw was “reflection Cindee”, who had a panicked look about her.  Her expression was burrowing its way inside of me, and I froze looking into those wide eyes, wild with fear.

Then to my amazement “reflection Cindee” morphed into a sheep dog, still wearing a terrified face.  The spell was broken when the sheep dog tapped the window right in front of my face.

“My gosh, I am sorry Rufus.  What’s going on?” I asked through the glass.

“There is a fire, and my Mama and Papa are asleep and won’t wake up,” his barks were coming rapidly, his breath drawn and ragged.

I looked beyond the dog and saw the Johnson’s slumped over on the sofa, the flames starting to encroach on them.

“Daddy.  I must get Daddy!  I will be right back Rufus,” I shouted, then returned to the front porch where Daddy and Mr. Henderson were still banging on the door and hollering for the Johnson’s to answer.

“This way,” I barked.

They were too busy to notice.

“Daddy!” I growled.

Nothing.

Time was almost out, this much I knew.  I had to do something dramatic, so I leapt towards Daddy and grabbed his pants and started to pull.  I tugged and growled and yanked until finally, he noticed me, and still I didn’t stop until I had his full attention.

“This way,” I barked again, then galloped off to the back yard.  Thankfully, Daddy understood.

“This way Mr. Henderson,” he shouted, then both men followed me.

We stood gazing in through the back window, the living room was a glowing orange haze, flames lapping away at the curtains and the Johnson’s still in the same awkward position on the sofa.

We could hear sirens in the distance.  Thankfully, help was on the way, but Daddy and Mr. Henderson were worried that the fire department wouldn’t arrive in time. 

Mommy came around the corner of the house just in time to watch Daddy dash over to the Johnson’s garden.  We looked at each other, puzzled about what he was doing, until he found a big rock which he dragged over to the door.  Together Daddy and Mr. Henderson threw the rock against the window and boomie, it shattered into millions of tiny pieces. 

“Can you run home and grab the comforter off the bed,” he asked Mommy.

She shook her head and ran.

“Let’s go Rufus,” I barked, my eyes squinted tightly against the brightness and heat as they scanned the burning building for the sheep dog.

Daddy and Mr. Henderson were just about to dash into the burning house when the fire truck arrived, and four fire men and one fire woman followed Mommy into the back yard.  The nice fire woman led us out of the way while the others went in and rescued the Johnson’s including Rufus.

That evening, after the fire was out and the Johnson’s were safely being taken care of at the hospital, Rapi and I listened attentively as Mommy and Daddy drew up plans on what to do if our house ever caught fire.  From time to time, they would stop, and silence would fill the room and everyone’s attention would be drawn to the white sheep dog that was curled up sound asleep at their feet.

“I’m tired, you ready for bed,” I asked Rapi.

“What about the fire escape plan,” the orange cat asked with a quizzical look and a tilt of his head.

“They will figure it out and call a family meeting tomorrow with all of us,” I said with a knowing smile.

“Too true,” the cat giggled.

The stairs seemed longer than usual this night, and the bed was lonely at first without Mommy and Daddy, but soon, they too grew weary and joined us under the covers. 

Once we were all safe and tucked away for the night, I let my eyes close and my spirit descend into a land where fantastical things happened at every turn, that wonderful world that we call sleep.  A world where I could leave behind the night that the Johnson’s house caught fire and experience only happy things.

Author: H. Scott Moore

I am originally from Western New York, where I grew up enjoying the rhythm of life in the changing of seasons. I am an inquisitive animal lover who enjoys trying to experience and write about life from their point of view. When I am not writing the stories that are inspired by Cindee and her gang, I can be found exploring nature or reading a good book.

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