I sat quietly, watching my opponent out of the corner of my eye, wondering what his next move would be. The tan lab mix did his best to look calm, cool and collected. He did, except for the way his lips twitched.
That was his tell, and I knew he was doing everything he could in his control to restrain his tongue, which undoubtedly wanted to droop from his mouth.
“Well, what are you going to do, Mylo,” an orange tabby with a rather robust stomach and a perfect Cuban American accent grunted at the tan puppy.
“Relax, Rapi! I will decide in a second,” the young canine barked back at the cat, taking care to pronounce his name ‘hoppy’.
“Humpf! It’s a pair of twos for crying out loud,” the feline shot back.
“I know, I know, just give me some time will ya,” Mylo answered, now more than a little mildly annoyed at how the cat was pushing him.
You would think Rapi had a stake in the outcome, but the truth is he is just a very impatient cat. Still, I had to put a paw in front of my lips to stifle a laugh.
“Okay, hit me,” the puppy called out, his voice tinged with excitement.
The cat reared up on his back paws, cocked his arm behind his ear, and let go with the full force of his body. Mylo’s nose made a loud cracking noise when the tabby’s paw connected with it.
“Ouch! Why did you do that for, Rapi?” the canine growled.
The cat quickly covered his mouth with his paw, and his yellow-green eyes grew wide.
“I’m so sorry Mylo, I keep forgetting that when you say, ‘hit me’ I am supposed to give you another card.”
You could hear the sincerity in the tabby’s voice. Before Mylo could accept the apology, which he did, Rapi grabbed the top card in the pile with his mouth and flipped it over, so it was face up in front of the puppy.
“Ugh. A three! Let’s see that gives me … um …”
“Seven,” the cat blurted out before Mylo had the chance to begin counting on his paws.
“How about you, Cindee,” the feline inquired of me.
I looked down at the king and the ten that lay on the table staring up at me from between my furry chocolate-brown colored legs. I felt my ears begin to twitch and now it was my turn to fight the urge to not pant like the nervous lab mix that I was. I looked up at Rapi just in time to see him start to open his mouth.
“I’ll stand,” I blurted out before he could pressure me.
A look of disappointment crossed his face as if he took some form of pleasure in annoying dogs even though he considered himself one of us. His demeanor recovered quickly, and he smiled as he turned to Mylo.
There was a gleam in his eyes as he was about to press Mylo for his next move. The cat took in a deep breath and opened his mouth.
“It’s snowing outside!”
We all turned toward the squeaky voice. It had come from the black and white tuxedo cat who had chosen to perch herself on the extra-large windowsill that faced the street. When she wasn’t examining the books in Daddy’s office, she could be found in this spot keeping tabs on the goings on in the neighborhood.
I for one was excited by the news. I could feel myself light up at the thought of snow angels in the morning! Rapi on the other hand was looking very perturbed.
“Thanks, Yehudi, or should I say, Willard Scott!?!”
Now I was going to have to deal with getting the image of the famous weather person out of my head. Rapi does that to me all the time and I don’t like it.
“Just saying is all. I mean, it is snowing really hard,” she squeaked again.
“Humpf,” the male cat grumbled, then turned his attention back to poor Mylo.
A wicked grin spread slowly on his face until at last, it went from one cheek to the other. Again, his mouth opened, and just as he was about to harass the poor tan pooch the lights began to flicker. Rapi’s mouth snapped shut and his eyes darted to the chandalier hanging directly overhead. The bulbs inside went out, then in again, then out once more.
It did not come back on.
Mylo and I had huddled up together on the sofa. We both shivered and our teeth seemed to chatter in unison. I claimed it was to keep us warm, but the truth of the matter was that Daddy had called from work and said that the car was stuck in the parking lot. He couldn’t make it home. Our house is scary in the dark without Daddy to protect us.
Mommy was doing the best she could though, she did get a fire going and now Rapi was lounging around in front of it letting the heat from the flames keep him nice and toasty, while Yehudi kept vigil at the front window.
“How long will this last,” Mylo asked.
It was his first power outage, and the whole thing must have seemed foreign to him. To his credit, he seemed more curious than stressed.
“Dunno,” I answered, my mind focused on the flames dancing around inside the stone firebox.
“Sometimes it is only a few minutes,” the tuxedo cat answered in a soft voice that still had the edge of a New York City accent to it.
“Or sometimes hours or even days,” the chubby orange cat added, as his eyes darted wildly around the room.
“It will be fine, Myl …”
My words of encouragement were cut short by a series of tap… tap … tapping that culminated in a large bang, that was loud enough to make me jump to all fours and sent a certain orange cat scattering for cover.
“Wh …wh … what was that?”
It took a moment, but I soon discovered that what initially seemed like a disembodied voice with a deep Latin accent came from a pair of yellow-green eyes that were peeking out from under the sofa.
“It is probably just Cleopatra Jones,” I said, recalling a prank the chubby-cheeked middle schooler had played on us last winter.
“Cindee, you should see this,” the black and white cat said in a scratchy voice.
My eyebrows furrowed and I tilted my head to one side. This evening was turning into a puzzle.
“Is it Cleopatra Jones?” I asked.
“Look,” Yehudi called back, her white paw pointing out the window.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to look. I knew that it had to be some evil being sent to wreak havoc on us and possibly eat us too. My conscience took over leaving me no choice, I had to look. I took my time padding across the room until at last, I found myself face-to-face with the window.
“What is it Cindee,” Mylo called from across the room.
I turned to look at him and found him hiding beneath a blanket. This was not doing wonders for my confidence, none the less, I scraped up enough courage to gaze out the window.
I could not see a thing. It was a complete and total whiteout.
“It’s not Cleopatra Jones,” I called over my shoulder.
“How do you know,” Rapi asked.
“Because her mother would never in a million years let her go out in such bad weather,” I said, turning and trotting back towards the warmth of the fire.
I had no sooner reached the sofa when a noisy creaking began to surround us from every direction. I closed my eyes and focused my attention on stifling a rising scream. I could not take one more thing. That’s when we heard what sounded like the rattling of chains followed by another crash, which this time echoed through the room.
“I want my Daddy,” I roared at the top of my lungs.
“Snowmen! We are under siege from Snowmen,” the chubby orange cat bellowed, then disappeared completely under the sofa.
Mylo leaped from the bed and tried to join Rapi, but soon found out he was way too large to fit. Thinking quickly, he grabbed the cushions and pulled them down on top of him, completely obscuring him from sight. There was only one minor flaw in his plan. He was shaking so much that all the cushions trembled with him.
With no place left for me, I did the only thing I could think to do. I grabbed the blue throw that was draped over the arm of the sofa and tossed it in the air. Using all the agility that an overweight labrador mix could muster, I nimbly threw myself on the ground where I anticipated the blanket landing. For the most part, I was a good guesser. A second later, I felt Yehudi slide under the blanket and begin to burrow her way beneath me.
We had all managed to find hiding spots, but no sooner had we settled into them than another round of clanging erupted, once again finishing with an explosive bang.
A shriek came from the direction of the sofa and sobbing had begun to spill out from under the pile of pillows. I reached out and draped my arm over the tiny tuxedo cat that was holed up with me under the blanket and held my breath.
Over the din, the distinct sound of a rhythmic thud began. It was an army of snowmen, and they were marching on the house. Soon we would be under assault. If only I had a flame thrower. That would come in handy right now.
Thud. Thud. Ka-thud. Closer and closer it drew. As if that wasn’t enough the doorknob began to shake and rattle. We were done for. I had lived a good life and made many good friends.
“I love you Cindee. Thank you for being my friend,” the deep Latin voice called out.
The door squealed and flew open with a crash, followed by another set of rattling and a huge metal clang.
“I love you too, Rapi,” I blurted out.
A muffled noise came from the doorway, followed by a thump. I felt my tail curl up between my legs. A loud unearthly moan floated through the air, then a second thump.
“Stop! Please stop,” the panic came out in a gasp.
Of course, it did not stop. Instead, there was another muted noise coming from the foyer, then a deep groan and an exhale.
“Oh thank God, you are home!”
My head popped up and I looked around. It was Mommy talking to a dark figure. I could not help but wonder if she was trying to negotiate with the snowmen.
“Yeah, I had to walk home.”
I felt my forehead scrunch up. This was confusing.
“Is that Daddy,” Rapi asked from his safe spot.
I jumped up and began to dash as quickly as I could for the door. Fresh energy surged through my veins. Daddy was home.
Rumble … Rumble …Rumble … Bang!
“Snowmen,” I yelped and skidded to a stop less than ten feet away from him. He looked at me with one eyebrow arched higher than the other.
“Help,” I pleaded with him.
“Is she alright,” he asked, closing the gap between us.
I looked over my shoulder only to find that Mylo had come out of his mountain of cushions and sat nervously with a cat standing on either side of him. They didn’t move, rather they watched and waited to see what happened.
“What’s wrong girlie,” Daddy said, kneeling and taking my face in his hands.
I looked into his deep blue eyes. For the first time tonight, I felt safe.
“They have all been terrified of the wind rattling that flue all night! You would think we were being invaded by snowmen or something,” she said with a deep sigh.
Daddy began to chuckle.
If only they knew.
Somehow the whole family had managed to find the space to snuggle on the sofa. Daddy had me to his left and Mylo to his right. He scratched both of us behind our ears while he told Mommy the story of how he got stuck at work and had to walk home.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Mylo and the cats had already drifted off to sleep. I couldn’t blame them.
As I lay there, curled up next to Daddy, I decided to watch the orange and red flames flicker and dance around inside the fireplace. Soon the rhythmic crackling had relaxed me so much that my eyelids too had fallen shut.
In that singular moment, I set out on a voyage to where only dreams exist and, in that place, I danced, I laughed, and I made snow angels.