The big brown Labrador shook her head causing her short, yet floppy, ears to flail around sending dust motes skittering into the air. With a stretch and a bound she landed on the soft mattress, waves from the impact rippled across the bed disturbing two sleeping cats. From the bed, the dog had a clear panoramic view of the bedroom, which was spartan in design, only two nightstands and a shared dresser made up the décor. The familiar scent of decaying leaves drifted in through the open window. The lab rotated in a small circle a couple of times before lazily and not so gracefully collapsing into a heap at the corner of the bed.
The room fell into a familiar awkward silence. It had a lot to do with the other cat on the bed, the grey and white feline named Bella. She was very photogenic, and any visiting human that came to the house fell in love with her, thinking she was just the cutest thing, but Cindee and the other cats felt that it was all just a show, a sham put on in front of the human as an attention grab. When it was just the four of them, Bella tended to keep to herself. Sure, she would hang out with the gang from time to time, but really, she looked down her nose at them. Yehudi was sure that somewhere in her family history Bella must have come from the “upper class” because of her deep commitment to snobbery.
“Byeeeeeeeeee” Daddy called from downstairs
“Byeeeeeeeee,” they all answered in the same goofy tone.
The door clicked shut, and moments later a large orange cat strolled into the room. At first glance he seemed pretty imposing, but as he drew closer you could see his face was round, filled with chubby cheeks, and his white tummy was swimming from side to side with each step that he took. He hopped up onto the bed, the shockwave almost as big as the one that was set off earlier by the brown dog.
“Daddy left?” Yehudi asked the orange cat, her whiskers twitching, and her left eye half closed, looking every bit that red laser dot addict that she was.
“He’s gone,” Rapi answered matter of factly while curling into a ball on the one corner of the bed that was still unoccupied.
“Oh, he will be back,” Cindee added skeptically.
Again, silence descended with Cindee, Yehudi and Rapi all staring at Bella, who to her credit, glanced out the window, hoping to diffuse a tense situation.
“Oh, I heard this knock knock joke,” Cindee broke the silence with a giggle.
“Hey Bella, knock knock,” the brown dog said with a smile, trying to pull Bella into the conversation.
“whose there?” she replied brightly.
“Boo!” the lab shouted.
“Boo who?” Bella said, her forehead scrunched up and an expression of deep thought covering her face.
“Didn’t mean to make you cry!” Cindee barked out. The room filled with laughter. Even Bella let down her guard and was squeaking with joy.
Creak! The door opened downstairs. Cindee lept to her feet and was about to warn Mommy that someone was here but stopped when she caught a familiar scent.
“It’s just me, I forgot my lunch,” Daddy called out. They all listened as Daddy grabbed his box and ran for the door.
“Oh, and this came for you guys,” he gasped for breath, taking the steps two at a time.
He quickly strode across the room and handed Cindee a card, then turned and headed back down the stairs.
“Byeeeeeeeeeeee” he sang with such happiness, closing the door behind him on his way out.
The four of them sat quietly on the bed listening to the car door close, then pull away.
“See, I told you,” Cindee reminded them. Giggling and snickering broke out again then like everything, it eventually died down.
“What is it?” Yehudi, curious as she was, wondered aloud.
Cindee plopped the card down on the bed and looked it over.
“It’s from our cousins Jasper and Callie. We have been invited to a costume party for Halloween!” the Labrador squealed with excitement.
“Yay!” the rest of her friends cried out in jubilation, which lasted for a few minutes.
A hush fell over the house until the only sounds they heard were the clicking of Mommy’s fingers on the computer and the sparrows and robins singing a lullibye outside the bedroom window, until at last all four of our friends drifted off into a deep autumn slumber.
We rolled up to the address that Jasper and Callie had provided on the invitation, and found them waiting for us curbside, dressed in pirate costumes. Once we had come to a stop, Daisy, Lucas and I piled out of the back seat of the gray SUV while Mommy opened the back at let Rapi, Bella and Yehudi out.
“Lucas, this is my cousin Jasper, Jasper, this is my boyfriend, Lucas.”
“Pleased to meet you Lucas,” the grey cat purred.
“Likewise,” the golden retriever replied with a smile.
“And this is my other cousin Cassie,” I said introducing the large one-eyed calico, who didn’t reply, but instead nodded to the large dog.
“Are you part Maine Coon,” Lucas inquired, looking the giant fluffball over.
“I am, on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family,” Callie answered, impressed with both his knowledge of cats and his attentiveness, both of which seemed to be lacking in the world, or at least in her opinion, which she felt comfortable enough to express to me many times in the past.
“We will see you in the morning,” Mommy said as she climbed into the car.
“You guys have fun,” Daddy smiled and waved to us.
We stood on the sidewalk watching and waving as the vehicle pulled away and drove off down the street, leaving us to a night of fun and excitement.
“Are ye ready for a spooky sleepover, maties,” Jasper asked in his best pirate voice.
“We are,” we all cried out in agreement.
Callie put her eye patch on, covering her missing eye, then pulled her tricorn hat onto her head and started strolling towards the gate.
“I adore your costumes,” the calico cat said with a smile, eying all our disguises.
I blushed at the compliment. I had dressed as a bumble bee, complete with wings and antennas. I felt so cool.
A looked over at the cats, Bella and Yehudi were dressed in identical witch hats. Rapi, wanting to be part of the magic family, dressed as a magician in a smart top hat, bow tie and cape.
My gaze shifted to my dog friends. Daisy was dressed as a butterfly with beautiful orange and black wings and my sweet Lucas was a captivating vampire.
We were definitely quite the group of tricksters and treat seekers, traipsing through the large wrought iron gate and making our way up the walk towards the party.
“Oh … em … gee!” The letters tumbled out of my mouth and mixed with all the wow’s and ah’s coming from the rest of the gang.
Rising directly in front of us was a towering, dark Victorian structure complete with tattered drapes flapping in the breeze outside of a third story window and a full moon hanging over one of the two chimneys. I could swear I was looking at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
“That is awesome,” Rapi’s voice swelled behind me, awestruck at the scene in front of us.
“Cool right.” Jasper asked, seizing the moment to prance in front of the mesmerized orange cat.
“Way cool,” was all Rapi was able to get out.
“Let’s go,” Callie said, making an abrupt about face and leading us up the walk to the front door, all of us tagging along with huge smiles and grins on our faces.
“How did you find this place,” I asked.
“A friend of a friend of somebody Mama works with got us in,” Jasper answered.
“Mama was here all day working on this place so it would be nice for our party,” Callie explained proudly.
“Please tell Aunt Mary we said thank you,” I said, my eyes taking in the front porch, which creaked and complained with our every movement.
“Let’s go in and get this party started,” Jasper shouted.
The grey cat gave the door a shove, it sluggishly swung inward groaning like a dying man as it crept open. A golden light spilled out into the darkness illuminating the wooden portico, beckoning us to come, enter and partake of the warmth.
Daisy, Lucas and I stood to the side and let all of the cats go ahead of us.
“Wow,” Rapi’s voice filtered out to us. I looked over at Lucas, his gaze met mine, his eyes filled with a mysterious look.
“What the heck?” Daisy mumbled, wondering what was happening inside.
“Ladies first,” Lucas held out a paw, indicating that he would like for Daisy and I to enter. What a gentleman he is.
“Wow,” Daisy echoed Rapi’s earlier exclamation.
My eyes slowly scanned the room, taking in as much information as I could. A large red threadbare carpet covered the center area of the wide-open sitting room. A couple of red velvet Queen Anne style sofas and four matching chairs were strategically placed in the space. A set of side tables with lamps set on top of them were placed on either side of the sofas. These were the source of the light that emanated outside setting the wrap around porch that we had been on aglow.
A fire had been lit and was crackling away in the oversized stone fireplace that sat at one end of the room. The flames danced an intricate tango together that lent warmth to help fight of the chill of the late October air.
I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful this room must have looked once upon a time, but now, everything was worn and lost its luster. Spiders had taken over and made the house their own abode as evidenced by the cobwebs that had overrun the entire estate.
At the end of the room opposite the fireplace stood a plastic fold up table, which looked oddly out of place. It wasn’t the table itself that had captivated me, rather it was the yummy snacks that were laid out on top of it that filled me with longing.
The eerie tones of Bobby Pickett filtered out of an old stereo and danced around the room.
”I was working in the lab, late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab, began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise
He did the mash, he did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
He did the mash, it caught on in a flash
He did the mash, he did the monster mash”
Somehow the song had connected somewhere in the deep recesses of our souls causing our paws to tap and our tales to shake. In no time we had broken up into two groups. The cats were shaking and shimmying to the song in the middle of the room and us dogs were bebopping in the corner by the fireplace. Lucas was even doing the robot.
It was fabulous!
The song came to an end and we all cheered out loud, but the whooping and hollering came to an end when Bette Midler started to put a spell on us. In no time the dancing had begun again.
Not me though. The pizza crusts and chicken tacos started to call to me like Dracula enticing one of his victims. Trancelike, I wandered towards the food table, being drawn by the mystical mind control powers of beef jerky.
A bright flash raced across the night sky and entered through the window, momentarily blinding me. A huge boom elicited a high-pitched scream of terror from Rapi. The music stopped and the lights flickered and died out. Everyone groaned.
Daisy crept over to the window and looked out into the darkness.
“Boomies,” I asked.
“No, it’s beautiful outside,” she said, turning to look at me wearing a bewildered look on her aging face.
“The fire,” Yehudi yelled.
We all turned to look at the fireplace just in time to see the raging fire die down to just a fading flicker. Outside, the clouds passed in front of the moon. I felt like a large inky blob of darkness was surrounding me, suffocating me, trying to find a way inside of me.
“Oh no,” Bella roared like a lion, thrusting her arm out to point at the staircase.
“Aaaaaaaaaaah,” Rapi shrieked in a high trilling voice.
“Run,” Jasper wailed.
All the cats scattered, ducking under the nearest piece of furniture. My head snapped from the cats to the staircase in hopes of discovering the source of all the commotion and caught site of three transparent figures floating down the stairs.
“Ghosts,” Lucas yelled.
It took a moment for the words to register with me. Once I understood what was happening an ear-splitting screech filled the room.
Friends, as embarrassing as it is to admit it. It was I that made the noise.
I peed on the floor and stood there trembling with the specters drawing closer with each passing second.
“Don’t just stand there, run,” Jasper hollered, breaking the trance.
Daisy took off around the sofa and up the staircase. Lucas nudged me in the butt to urge me on. I got the message and sprinted towards Daisy with my handsome doggy Adonis hot on my heels. The spirits saw us and changed course in hopes of trapping my friends and me.
The three of us raced up to the next level and followed the main hallway as it weaved, and zig zagged across the second floor with the apparitions in pursuit. Just when I thought we were goners another set of stairs emerged in front of us.
“Up or down?” Daisy panted.
“Follow me,” Lucas barked out, catching up and passing both of us.
We trailed him down the stairs and across the main floor until we reached the sitting room where the chase had begun to find the cats nervously standing behind a sofa waiting for us.
“Let’s go,” Lucas yelled to them. The cats sprang into action and ran as fast as the could following us to the door. We pushed and pulled, but it wouldn’t open. I glanced over my shoulder looking for our pursuers, but no sign of them yet.
“Rear exit follow me,” Jasper hissed. We all turned and chased him through a series of rooms until we reached a door that exited from the kitchen area. Lucas grabbed the handle and pulled. Nothing. The large oak slab wouldn’t budge one inch.
“In here,” one of the ghosts called to his friends. I gulped, we were done for.
“Look, doggy door,” Yehudi shouted.
We all looked at the small door swinging in the breeze. Words weren’t needed. The cats rapidly exited one at a time followed by Daisy then me. The door was meant for a much smaller dog. In that moment I was wishing that I had listened to Daddy and went on that diet he was always talking about. It took some effort to squeeze through, but I made it. Lucas poked his head into the opening and slowly began to push his way through the small exit halting halfway in and halfway out.
“I don’t fit,” he panted.
“C’mon Daisy, he needs our help,” I howled. Our gazes met and I could see the terror in Daisy’s eyes through the blurry tears that had formed in my own eyes and had begun to stream down my cheeks. We each grabbed hold of one side of Lucas’s collar and began to pull.
“Oh, they have me, they are pulling me back in,” he barked out in panic.
“Harder, pull harder,” Rapi urged us on.
Daisy and I pulled with all our might. Lucas slowly began to edge towards us. Rapi jumped up and grabbed hold of part of Lucas’s collar and began to pull too until the large golden retriever popped free and crashed into us. All four of us tumbled down the stairs and onto the grass.
The ghosts stared at us through the window, anger flashed across their faces, but only for a minute, for then they evaporated in front of our eyes. The cats cheered, happy to have escaped with all nine of their lives intact.
“Okay, let’s go,” Rapi said, eager to get away from the house. We all turned to leave, and that’s when we saw it.
“Oh no, its … it’s a …”
… to be continued next Tuesday.