While the rest of the family played games or watched something interesting on the loud box in the large front room, there he was alone: stuck at the kitchen table, doing his taxes by himself. To be honest, he felt a little sorry for himself. Why did he have to do this awful work alone?
He was late this year. At least, that’s what he had heard.
But what was lateness compared to this wonderful aroma wafting through the house?
Cautiously, he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone else had noticed this wonderful smell.
Nope. It was his alone to savor.
The housekeepers had already eaten, and had started clearing the table, stacking dishes, and throwing garbage into the trash can.
But a warm platter remained on the stove, cooling, along with a few leftovers that were currently too hot to stash in the refrigerator. It was these leftovers that were calling him now.
He had heard his people telling themselves and others that Jesus does not want us to steal from each other. Could this teaching apply here?
Well, he worried it might.
But viewed through a different lens, might this not be a good opportunity for his people to learn to share with a hungry soul in need? His soul was hungry. And he had needs.
Quietly, he began to nonchalantly tiptoe into the kitchen. Where he was greeted by THE SISTER, who saw his eyes traveling upward to the forbidden food that was calling him. Sadly, she shook her head at him, speaking in a low, clear voice the words that stopped him in his tracks: “Cedric, leave it!”
Wrenching his eyes away, he decided he’d better do as he was told. Anyway, if he didn’t get his taxes taken care of soon, he might get into a world of trouble. If the reports he was getting could be believed.
He sometimes wondered about the reliability of these reports. Hammie, his tax preparer, had been treating him in a rather squirrelly manner. Before Cedric even knew what was happening, Hammie had shown up– throwing daggers at Cedric with his eyes– then mentioned in passing that it was now tax time. Past it, in fact. Had Cedric filed his income report for the year and paid his taxes on said income? Cedric was reeling in confusion as Hammie continued, telling him story after story about people who should have paid their taxes on time but didn’t.
No matter. Hammie was here, and he would be more than happy to help Cedric out if he didn’t already know what to do. If Cedric would just start collecting his receipts – whatever those were – and his paystubs (another word Cedric couldn’t yet define), Hammie would gladly do the rest. For a small fee, of course.
Frightened, Cedric started the process to the best of his ability. But he found the whole thing difficult and confusing. Meantime, that shifty rodent, Hammie, had taken several items in trade, but continued to demand more.
When he was honest, Cedric asked himself why he allowed himself to be used by a filthy, outdoor animal whom he’d just as soon eat if ever he had the chance. Yet, here he was, day after day, kowtowing to the creature’s threats and incessant demands.
He had already absconded with several forks while no one was looking—including a solid, sterling silver fork that THE MOMMY had bought for a dollar at a garage sale, and which she loved with a love that was too great for all other utensils—only to give them to that ingrate, Hammie. And who knew what the squirrel was doing with them now? Or if he even knew how to use them.
All Cedric knew was that Hammie wielded a power over him that he didn’t understand. When Hammie said, “Jump!” without even thinking about it, Cedric automatically blurted, “How high?” before he complied. Every. Single. Time.
Oh, don’t you know, he just almost couldn’t stand it! Every time that squirrel showed up, there was bound to be trouble.
These days, it was the worry that if Ceddie didn’t pay his taxes – whatever that meant—on time, that something very, very bad would happen.
Now Hammie hadn’t exactly told him what terrible disaster loomed ahead on his horizon. But his eyes said this was a time for quick, decisive action. Not questions.
Gloomily, Cedric stared at the small stack of papers littered across the large, oak dining table. He could hardly make sense of any of it.
He’d been paid mostly in dogfood. So there weren’t any papers to document exactly how much he had been paid this way. Plus, he’d ended up sharing a good portion of his income-in-dogfood with his sister-dog, Fluffy, who everyone knew ate more than was good for her. Would he get credit for the parts he had shared with her?
Another part of Cedric’s income was a collection of now mostly-defunct plastic toys that lay scattered in various parts of the house and yard. Did those count for anything?
He glanced over at the kitchen clock, alarmed to realize that an hour had passed without his accomplishing anything. Not one single thing!
And there was Hammie now, running along the back fence, chattering the threats that made Cedric’s blood run cold. Hadn’t he done enough?
“Woof!” blurted Cedric, at high volume. “Woof, woof, woof!”
Alerted by his cries, THE SISTER came around the corner to see what was wrong. Kneeling and wrapping her arms gently around his great neck, she whispered comfortably, “Oh, Ceddie! It’s just Hammie! Leave him alone. He’s not a problem to anyone here.”
If Cedric could have found his voice, he might have tried to contradict her. But this hugging business was just too good to turn down. Leaning into the hug, he turned just enough to slap a long, wet kiss across her cheek.
Smiling, THE SISTER pecked one of her own kisses onto his cheek. Hammie and his merciless extortions would simply have to wait. Cedric was otherwise engaged at the moment. And looking to stay that way.
“Would you like to come into the living room and sit with me, Ceddie?” THE SISTER was asking. “We’re watching a movie, and I’d just love a good, long snuggle with you!”
Cedric felt a big smile spreading over his face.
But the good news didn’t stop here. THE SISTER had one of those corndogs that had been calling him earlier right here in her hand. Not up high where he’d have to jump for it. No, sir! Instead, she was holding it down low so that he could reach it. Would miracles never cease? “Ceddie,” she began, “You want part of my corndog? I’m not as hungry as I thought I would be.” She was offering it to him, one delicious bite at a time.
As he tried to chew it slowly and savor the flavor, instead of wolfing it down, as he used to do, he heard the words that always warmed his heart: “Good boy, Ceddie! You know we love you! We always love you because you’re our boy. Nothing bad can happen to us as long as we have you!” This was followed by a gentle hug that he did his best to lean into.
Yep. His was a dog’s life. But it was his life, and he was thankful to have it.
I want to apologize for posting this so late today. A headache yesterday afternoon and evening prevented my finishing this story until just now. If you look in your dictionary under the words “ugly” and “debilitating” you will see a small picture of the headache that slowed me down yesterday.