“Hey Rapi, do you remember the day Cosita caught that bird?” I asked as I leafed through some old photographs.
“I sure do, who could ever forget that day?” the orange cat said, looking over my shoulder from the sofa behind me.
“Why what happened,” Yehudi, our inquisitive little tuxedo cat friend asked.
“Life was joyous and uncomplicated then. Those were the days of Cosita and Bennie. Rapi, let’s tell Yehudi the story!”
“Lets,” the orange cat agreed.
“I will start,” I said.
Bennie was a little grey cat, who thought of herself as the original gangster. That little girl was tough as nails. I still remember the moment I met Bennie. She eyed me up and down.
“Kid, you got potential. With my brains and your brawn, we can take over the world!”
That was Bennies thing. Becoming Queen of the world. On this particular day the Queen of the world was busy napping on the bed, while Bella was under the sofa and Rapi was on the windowsill.
Mommy and Daddy had just arrived home and were getting ready to take Cosita and I for a walk. Cosita was a little black and tan terrier that taught me all the important things in life. Because of Cosita I knew how to bark at other dogs and how to dig holes and most importantly how to have fun. Daddy hooked us up so he wouldn’t get lost and the four of us were off.
“Goodbye cats,” I called out over my shoulder as the door was closing.
“Good bye,” Bella called back.
We were off! We lived in a townhouse that had a big lake behind it. We would walk around that lake every day. Sometimes, on a Saturday, Mommy would pack a lunch and we would have a picnic. That was the plan today.
We had just started down the path when Cosita decided she needed to stop and mark a tree.
I turned to see Rapi looking down at us from the window, a big smile on his face.
“We will,” I called back.
Cosita had finished doing her thing and we were on our way, again.
Shh shh shh shh!
I jumped at the sound of the loud noise.
“Relax, just the wind blowing through the bushes kid,” Cosita said nodding over her shoulder. I turned and looked and sure enough a couple of bushes were rustling. Now that the source of the mysterious sound had been identified, I could go on. I glanced behind me one more time to wave goodbye to Rapi, but he had left his perch and Bennie was sitting in the window now, wearing a wide smile on her face.
Picnic days were great because there was a little beach on the other side of the lake that had a couple of picnic tables. On warm summer days like this one, Mommy and Daddy would let us go for a swim in the lake.
“Let’s swim!” I howled excitedly, but Cosita just looked back at me with that disinterested look that she wore sometimes.
“Okay, your loss,” I barked over my shoulder. That terrier was not going to spoil my fun. I took off running and leapt into the air.
“Cannon ball,” I called at the top of my lungs.
The water went flying everywhere. When I broke surface, I looked over at Cosita only to find her soaking wet and looking perturbed.
“Hump!” With that said, I took off doggy paddling around the lake.
The ducks were even out swimming and having and having a good time. I wanted to chase them around, but it turns out they are much better swimmers that I am. All was right with the world.
“Hey Cindee, watch this,” Cosita called from the shore, her voice mixed with a strange chuckle.
That little black dog went full cheetah mode and caught one of the unsuspecting ducks and began to drag it around by the wing. Mommy screamed and started pulling on the leash and Daddy started yelling too!
“Leave it! Leave it!” he shouted over and over, louder each time.
Cosita just laughed maniacally like a dog possessed by a demon.
I began to paddle back to the beach as fast as I could.
“Drop the birdie! Please Cosita, don’t hurt her,” I begged.
It was as if my pleading had broken some sort of spell and finally, Cosita relented. The duck hobbled off a little way then took flight across the water landing safely on the other side. The birdie was okay, but unfortunately for us, Mommy and Daddy were angry and our day of fun in the sun was over.
“Jesus amado,” Mommy yelled in Portuguese, all the while pointing to the window that was left open to air out the house, but that was now missing the screen.
“Bennie … Bella … Rapi …” she frantically called the cats. Bella crawled out from under the sofa and stretched like a diva doing yoga poses.
“Bennie… Bella … Rapi …” she called again, this time Bennie sauntered out of the guest room and flopped down at her feet.
“Rapi!” she called, her voice starting to crack. I was scared because I could smell mommy’s fear. Daddy checked the balcony, but no Rapi. Mommy raced into the kitchen.
“Raposo!” she shouted using his full name and shaking a bag of treats. One moment passed. Then another, but no Rapi. That’s when we all knew something terrible had happened. The big orange cat would never, ever, willingly pass on treats.
Daddy stuck his head out the open window and looked all around. Mommy collapsed on the sofa and started to cry.
“Raparoo … where are you?” Daddy called out as loud as he could.
“I jumped into the air, startled by the door slamming shut behind you guys as you left. I hated that door,” the orange cat said, continuing the story where Cindee had left off.
Always going kaboom when it closed. Bennie was watching me from across the room, laughing at me that I always got scared by the loud noise.
“Why you always so jumpy? A big cat like you afraid of your own shadow,” she prodded me. Bennie was short for Bencinha, which meant little blessing. I swear most days this cat was more evil than a blessing. She liked to play mind games with everyone and was a master at psychological warfare. I was scared to death of her. When she made her comment to me, I did what I always do with her. I looked away and kept my mouth shut.
I watched out the second story window, following you as you guys walked along the path the runs next to the lake. I sat quietly keeping my eyes on you until Cosita stopped to pee.
“Have fun,” I called out.
“We will,” the big brown dog with the floppy ears called back. I shifted my body inside the windowsill until I could lay my head down, close my eyes, and listen to the birds singing.
I drifted right off into a deep sleep the second my head hit the sill. I dreamed I was in a boat floating on the lake all alone just being pushed along by a gentle breeze. I looked up into the deep blue sky and watched the clouds float overhead. I saw one cloud shaped like a fish and another like a fluffy white cat and even a mouse shaped one.
Everything was serene and perfect, until the boat started to pitch and roll. I swung my head in every direction to see what was happening and quickly discovered that it was a big alligator. My heart was going boom boom boom!
“Goodbye fat boy,” I heard the gators voice say.
My eyeballs snapped open. It wasn’t the gator. Standing over me was the grey-brown outline of Bennies face.
“It’s been nice knowing you,” she cackeled like the witch in the wizard of oz. With one swift push, I found myself falling. I looked over my shoulder and saw the ground fast approaching. I gulped, then screamed like those women in the horror movies.
“Jeepers! Is it true?”
After I said it I felt bad for interrupting his story.
He looked puzzled by my question.
“Is it true that cats always land on their feet?” I clarified.
“It is, I bounced around the bushes below the window and landed on all fours,” he shot me a big smile.
“My gosh, I knew Bennie was mean, but that was a terrible thing to do to someone,” Yehudi spat out, her words tumbling out of her mouth at a mile a minute.
“She could be, but she could be your best friend too,” Rapi said.
A hush fell over the room and lingered for some moments, so I picked up the story from when we discovered Rapi’s disappearance.
Mommy and Daddy closed the window and quickly hooked Cosita and I back up and we went out to search for Rapi. We checked under the patio furniture, the trees and the bushes first, but there was no sign of Rapi.
Tears were running down Mommy’s cheeks and she had a bad case of snot nose. She pointed at the neighbor’s patio. Daddy looked over at it and let out a deep breath.
All the patio furniture was covered with thick brown plastic. Daddy got down on his hands and knees and looked underneath each of the covers. No Rapi though. Mommy dropped to the ground looking like she was going to hyperventilate so Cosita and I went over and gave her kisses.
“It’s going to be alright, we will find him,” Daddy said trying to encourage Mommy, only his voice didn’t sound too encouraging at all.
“Rapi!” Mommy called out while checking the tall grass along the lake.
“Raposo!” Daddy would yell when he wasn’t checking underneath the bushes. Even Cosita and I helped out, by sniffing and barking out his name.
We took the path all the way to the busy street and no sign of Rapi anywhere. Daddy put his arms around Mommy and hugged her and let her cry on his shoulder.
I was so upset. I don’t like when Mommy is sad, plus, there was always concern that the bull terrier down the street would get free and hurt Rapi. You see this Target dog is mean. Whenever we walk along the lake he stands out on the balcony and barks names at Cosita and I. Worse than that, he threatens to do things to us.
Cosita was very concerned too. Rapi was her best friend. She used to talk all the time about how nice it was to have someone to talk to and play with, because Bennie wasn’t into any of those things. While I was a Daddy’s girl, Cosita was a Mommy’s girl. Cosita’s heart was breaking seeing Mommy emotional like this.
Daddy suggested we walk home along the road so we could check the front yards out. His theory was that maybe Rapi had wondered out front and got lost. After checking under all the bushes along the way we arrived home unsuccessfully.
“I got it from here,” Rapi said, nudging me in the side.
“Sorry, it’s your story. I will let you finish,” I said sheepishly while looking over at Rapi.
“No problemo,” he said then continued with the story.
After I landed safely on the ground, I quickly ran for the first hiding spot I could find. Glancing around, I spotted the neighbors patio furniture all covered up. In the distance I could hear the Target dog threatening to rip somebodies head off. Filled with panic, I darted across the small open space and scampered under one of the neighbors covered chairs.
“What the heck is wrong with that crazy cat,” I hissed to myself. In this moment, though, I was too scared to think about Bennies motives. I just hunkered down with my tongue hanging out of my mouth, gasping for air.
“What do I do?” The question raced through my mind. Then I remembered the day last summer when Daddy had his heart attack. I could hear Mommy’s voice saying to him
“Breathe Anjo, deep breathes!”
So that is what I did. I took a deep breath, then let it out. Another deep breath. I could feel my heart calming down. One more deep inhale. My brain was working normal again. Finally, I was relaxed and in control of my thoughts and feelings.
That all changed when I heard footsteps coming towards me, then the crinkle of the plastic on the chair next to me being moved. I stifled a yelp and slid out the other side. I hugged the side of the house as I ran in terror. Behind me I heard the wailing and moaning of some wild creature. I had never heard the sound before, and sure as heck wasn’t going to stick around to see if it liked to eat cats.
Ahead of me was another neighbor’s flower garden. Wasting no time, I dove headfirst into the flower bed. I found the tallest flowers I could and wedged myself between the tall yellow flowers and the house. I lay there with my eyes closed hoping against hope that Mommy and Daddy would rescue me.
I could feel the cooler evening air blowing through my thick ginger hair. I had been hiding underneath these flowers for a long time and I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to see Mommy and Daddy again.
I was still scared to death, but that didn’t stop my tummy from growling. The yellow flowers I was hiding under looked yummy, but I couldn’t risk moving. In fact, it had been hours since I moved a muscle. I tried to stay brave, but a little teardrop would form at the corner of my eye, blurring my vision before finally tumbling down my cheek.
I thought I heard voices calling me.
“Raposo ” I wasn’t imagining it. That was Daddy.
“Help!” I shouted, but it came out sounding like a sad pathetic squeak. I gathered up all my strength, took a deep breath and tried again.
“Over here,” another squeak quieter than a mouse came from inside me.
Feelings of dread and doom coursed through my body. The voices had stopped. I just wanted to jump out and yell …
“Here I am!”
My fear had such a strong grip on me that I was paralyzed.
“We are never going to find him,” I heard mommy say.
“We will,” Daddy told her, but I didn’t feel very good about the tone of his voice.
“We have already looked everywhere,” Mommy said through sniffles.
I can hear their voices, but they were moving further and further away. Then, I was all alone again, my thoughts were my only companion, and they didn’t have promising things to say.
It’s funny the things you think of when you feel like your life is coming to an end. I spent a lot of time thinking about my friends. I was so grateful to have them. Behind me came the sound of grass rustling.
“This is It, I am a goner,” I thought silently. I could sense the Target dog sniffing and tracking me. He was probably thinking about all the ways he was going to torture me.
“Raposo,” I heard a soft voice say. It was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. I saw the shadow engulf me, followed by his strong hands wrapping around my body. I felt myself floating through the air. I was slowly spun around until two blue eyes stared into mine. A smile. An embrace.
“Daddy,” I whispered, my face buried in his neck.
“Little buddy, we have been so worried about you,” he said softly while we walked to our home.
I spent the rest of that evening being loved by Mommy. She wouldn’t put me down for anything.
“Yay, a happy ending,” the little black cat squeaked.
Rapi and I looked over at each other. In that moment we both felt that same sickening feeling in the pit of our stomachs.
“What? What is it guys?” Yehuda asked looking first at Rapi then at me.
“That day didn’t have the happiest of endings sweetie,” the orange cat’s deep latin voice trembled.
“That night Cosita had an accident in the house,” Rapi said, turning his head to look out the window.
“Yehudi, there was blood in Cosita’s pee. That night, we found out Cosita was very sick.”
It was the only thing the little black cat could muster.
A deep mournful silence filled the room.
Life is a mixture of joy and sorrow, sometimes all rolled into one. All we can do is grab ahold of every moment, live it, relish it, because we don’t know what the next moment will bring or when we will run out of next moments. Of all the things Cosita taught me, the most important thing is to make sure that love is in each moment, that way, the last moment, the one that endures … that moment will be love.
Cindee, Cosita and Bennie ,,,