“Ah ha ha ha ha ha!”
“Quick Yehudi, down here,” the big orange cat called over his shoulder to the much smaller tuxedo cat who had been trailing behind him.
“Come back kitty cats! I am sorry!”
The voice was drawing closer and the unease on the two cat’s faces were growing by the moment. The orange feline had recalled Mommy doing laundry earlier this morning, and so knew that the door to the basement would be open at least a crack if not more. The two cats turned the corner into the kitchen. In front of them, much to their relief, it had been left open just a smidge. The tabby forced his way through the gap and hopped down the one step onto the landing.
“Oh no, I don’t know about this Rapi,” the little black cat squeaked.
The sound of thundering paws was just around the corner now. Yehudi’s unease had grown into full-blown panic.
“C’mon Yehudi, it’s our only escape,” the older cat hissed.
Yehudi glanced over her shoulder just in time to see her pursuer. She gasped and her eyes grew wide.
“Is it …” Rapi began to ask.
“Mylo,” the younger cat answered, her voice despondent.
“Why are you guys running away from me?”
The tall khaki-haired lab mix towered over her, his head tilted to one side, his face awash in confusion.
“Yehudi,” the older cat hissed again from the safety of the basement landing.
Mylo’s frustration had finally spilled over. Glaring down at the cat he slammed his paws into the ground, demanding an answer.
That was the only convincing Yehudi needed. Her instincts kicked in and, in a flash, she had managed to do a one hundred eighty degree turn and dash through the opening in one fluid movement. Mylo stood astonished by the maneuver.
“Move, move, move, Yehudi. He will still …”
Rapi stopped speaking and began to follow his own advice, taking the steps two at a time. The puppy thrust his head through the opening and easily threw the door wide open.
“What Rapi, what will Mylo still do?”
Terror-stricken, the younger cat tore down the steps, passing her older more portly stepbrother on the way down.
“He will still come onto the landing!”
“Then why did you bring me down here?”
Once he had reached the cool cement at the bottom, Rapi turned and gazed back up the stairs where Mylo stood, looking down at them, a mixture of anger and pain in his eyes.
“What are you doing Rapi,” the black feline cried from around the corner.
The orange cat looked over at her with a wide grin that spread from one cheek to the other.
“Don’t you see? He is afraid of the basement!”
“But why,” Yehudi asked, feeling a little perplexed.
“Because he found out Cindee is afraid of the monster in the basement, and so, he is afraid of it too.”
Yehudi began to tremble in fear. If that big brown labrador-pitty mix was afraid of the monster, then that was a good enough reason for her to not be in the basement either.
“Why didn’t you tell me there is a monster down here Rapi?”
Yehudi glanced over each shoulder and began to tiptoe towards the stairs as quickly as she could. The thought of being chased around the house by Mylo seemed to be a much better option than being eaten by a monster.
“Relax Yehudi. There is no monster down here. It is just the washing machine and Cindee’s overactive imagination. Here, I will show you!”
Yehudi thought about what Rapi was saying for a minute. It all seemed to make sense. In truth, Rapi was an even bigger scaredy-cat than either Cindee or Mylo, and he didn’t look afraid in the least.
Yehudi watched Rapi disappear behind the furnace, then realized she was all alone.
“Wait for me Rapi,” she squeaked, then took off after him.
“See, the washing machine!”
The older feline held his hand out like one of the Price is Right models displaying a new car!
“I have watched Mommy do this hundreds of times. She lifts the top and puts the clothes inside, then closes the door and turns that knob there. I am not sure, but I think there is a wheel or something inside that spins the clothes, but that is what makes the noise.”
Yehudi’s smile was almost as broad as Rapi’s.
“And the dogs think that is the monster!”
“Right, Yehudi! C’mon follow me and I will show you the rest of the basement!”
Rapi turned and began to lead Yehudi away from the washroom when a loud rustling began to build behind them.
Both cats stopped dead in their tracks.
“Wh wh what’s that,” the tuxedo cat stammered.
“Don’t worry. It’s just the furnace. Air comes out of it when it turns on and it blows some loose insulation see!”
Yehudi was concerned about this theory, mostly because it was an eighty-degree day outside.
The orange cat turned and pointed at the wall. The outer sheet from the insulation hung limply against the cinder block.
“Are you sure there isn’t a monster down here?”
“Don’t be silly Yehudi, I told you, it is the washing machine!”
The orange cat had no sooner finished his sentence when a scraping noise followed by a tumultuous crash came from behind them.
The two cats spun in unison and came face to face with a set of glowing green eyes peering in at them from the darkness beyond the doorway to the fruit cellar.
“Run,” Rapi screamed at the top of his lungs.
“Run for your life Yehudi!”
“Monster,” Rapi screeched when he flew past Mylo, who had been waiting at the top of the stairs.
The cat and dog dashed around the corner into the dining room until they reached the stairs. The cat fishtailed around the corner and Mylo slammed into the wall before regaining his composure and sprinting up the steps and into the bedroom where they found Cindee sound asleep.
“Hey Rapi, where is Yehudi?”
The cat stared back at the puppy as if he had suddenly grown a second head.
“She is right behind me Mylo!”
“No, no she isn’t Rapi,” the puppy answered, concerned about his friend.
“Mylo, stop playing games,” the cat said turning to show the canine that the little black cat was indeed right behind him, but she wasn’t.
Surprised, the cat turned back to face Mylo, only his face had turned ashen and he began to visibly shake.
“You don’t look so good, are you okay Rapi?”
The cat sat still, his whiskers twitching and his eye’s darting around the room.
“Do you think … that um, that maybe the monster ate Yehudi,” the cat asked hoarsely.
It hadn’t occurred to Mylo that this might be a possibility until the moment the words had tumbled out of Rapi’s mouth.
“What are we gonna do?” the puppy whined.
“Let’s ask Cindee,” the cat said, nodding towards the big brown dog napping on the bed.
“Cindee! Cindee wake up,” Mylo whispered hoarsely into the brown dog’s floppy ears.
“Move over Mylo. This is how you wake her up!”
The cat nudged the puppy out of the way and balled up his paw into a fist. He took a deep breath, wound up, and slugged the sleeping canine square in the nose.
The brown dog sat up and shook her head, still a little groggy from sleep, but definitely perturbed.
“Why did you do that, Rapi?” she said grumbling at her best friend.
The cat glanced down at the ground sheepishly for a moment, then raised his eyes to meet hers.
“Sorry Cindee, but it was an emergency. Yehudi and I went into the basement and the monster got her!”
The dog’s eyes bulged, and her ears perked up.
“I thought I warned you about going down there.”
“I am sorry Cindee. I will never do it again!”
Mylo swung his head from the cat to the dog, then from the dog to the cat, all in an attempt to follow the conversation, but now he was feeling a little dizzy and plopped down on the floor.
“What are we going to do Cindee,” the cat asked, his eyes pleading for help.
Cindee thought about it for a minute or two. Mylo and Rapi looked on, growing impatient, knowing that their friend was in danger.
“Cindee,” Rapi prompted the dog for an answer.
“I don’t know. Maybe you and Mylo should go down there and rescue her,” the brown canine blurted out.
“I ain’t going down there,” Mylo objected immediately.
“Well neither am I,” Cindee added.
“What about Yehudi?”
Both dogs turned to face Rapi. The anguish in his eyes was palpable, and they both felt guilt riddled. Finally, Mylo spoke up.
“Yehudi was a wonderful friend for a cat. I will miss her, but, you know, we could always get a cat. I mean I saw tons of them for adoption at the pet store.”
Rapi’s face grew red. Cindee was convinced if you looked close enough you could see steam coming from his ears.
“What is all this racquet?”
The three friends turned to find a grey and white cat standing in the doorway. Her face and her demeanor both told the story of an annoyed feline.
“How is a girl to do her lashes with all this noise,” she bellowed.
“Sorry Bella,” Mylo said apologetically.
“Fine, but just keep it down!”
“Okay Bella, but there is a monster in the basement who has Yehudi and is about to eat her if he didn’t already,” the puppy blurted the words out then sucked in some air.
“Monster? Not this monster business again! When are you guys going to grow up and realize there is no such thing as monsters!”
The three friends watched their nemesis, turn and march down the stairs with purpose. They all looked at one another and shrugged before deciding to follow her through the house and to the basement door.
“No! Don’t go Bella, the monster will get you too!”
“Mylo! Monsters are not real!”
Having made her declaration she began to descend the steps stopping halfway down to glance over her shoulder where she saw two dogs and a cat with their heads stretched out to peer down at her.
“Are you coming or what?”
The three friends shook their heads no in unison.
Horror-stricken they watched their stepsister traverse the remaining steps and disappear out of sight. A minute passed in silence followed by another. Soon ten minutes had gone by and no sign of Bella or Yehudi.
“I can’t take this. What is happening down there?”
Mylo’s words tumbled out in a high-pitched trembling voice. Cindee and Rapi could relate, the anticipation was getting to them as well.
“Rapi, you have been down there, is there really that much to explore?”
Cindee glanced at Rapi, trying to read his features as she waited for his reply to her question. The cat closed his eyes, leaving her to wonder what was running through his mind.
“Washroom … storage room … spare room … fruit cellar … that’s it. Just four rooms,” he answered.
“Ugh, what is taking them so long?”
Not long after expressing her anxiety, Cindee blew out a breath of air at the joyous sight of white paws, but it was only one set that she could see. A moment later, that excitement sank into despair.
It was Bella and she was alone.
The friends watched Bella climb the stairs in intense silence. It wasn’t until she had reached the landing that the stillness was broken.
“The monster got her, didn’t it?”
“Will you grow up,” Bella answered, her body thumping into Rapi and knocking him out of the way.
“Tell us, what happened Bella?”
Cindee had asked the question gently. The sincerity in her words had touched Bella in a way that transcended their usual rivalry.
“Have a seat,” Bella indicated with the wave of her paw.
Cindee chose to sit directly in front of her nemesis and looked directly into her eyes.
“Please, tell us,” the brown dog asked again.
Bella smiled gently at Cindee, then switched her focus to Rapi who sat to the left of the brown canine. His head hung low, and it wasn’t difficult at all to see that he felt responsible and was weighted down by guilt.
Bella reached out and touched the top of Cindee’s paw with hers.
“Everything is fine. The monster that Rapi is talking about is just a homeless cat named Hercules. He had been squatting under the porch and had stumbled upon an opening that lead into the fruit cellar.”
Bella turned her attention toward Rapi.
“If it helps Rapi, he saw you and thought you were a monster too!”
Everyone broke out into giggles except for Rapi.
“What about Yehudi,” he asked, still concerned about his friend.
“She saw that Hercules was just a scared cat and went to calm him.”
The three friends looked at each other, each wearing an expression of relief and wonder.
“What can we do to help,” Rapi asked.
“He just needs space for now. When he is more comfortable, we can tell Mommy and Daddy, they will find him a home!”
Yehudi looked out the tall windows of the enclosed porch at the sun which had already begun its descent beneath the horizon. Thoughts of the day had so engrossed her that she scarcely was aware of Mylo tip-toeing into the room.
“What a day, huh Yehudi?”
“It sure was Mylo.”
Silence filled the distance between them. The cat enjoyed the last rays of the sun, while the dog smiled at the moon overhead.
“I feel strange, Mylo,” the cat confessed.
“Like a part of me has disappeared,” she said, shifting her focus to the silver ball in the purple sky.
“Hmmmm, I think I remember Cindee describing something like that to me once. She called it maturing. She said one day we lose a selfish piece of us, but not to worry about it. She said we didn’t lose anything really. We just changed.”
The cat looked at him, her eyes were awash in confusion.
“A piece of selfishness changed into a piece of compassion. Cindee said being selfish is like being a worm and when you change into someone who is compassionate you grow wings like a butterfly.”
“Do you really believe that Mylo,” Yehudi asked, eying the puppy suspiciously?
“I do … because I see a butterfly when I look at you Yehudi!”
He stood and let the words drift in the air, then ever so gently kissed the cat on the cheek before turning and walking back into the house leaving her to be alone once again with her thoughts,
“Huh! He said I look like a butterfly!”